Monday Motivator: Intuition vs Logic in Painting

“When dealing with art, intuition is best, but knowledge of physical phenomena enables us to work in a more reasoned fashion. Be tempted to learn about colour. Find out how to gain control of your palette. And then, once you have discovered the advantages of this logical approach, empty your mind and let yourself paint.”

Jean-Louis Morelle, “Watercolour Painting”, page 8

I see “intuitive” as making choices without thinking much about them, making choices without worrying overly what the outcome might be but just to see what happens, and moving forward with whatever does result. The more materials I have to hand when I paint, the more intuitive the choice can be. The more knowledge I have of what my materials do, how they work and interact with one another and different surface, the more intuitive I can be.

If you struggle to make a choice when trying to work intuitively, try this: whenever you hesitate, then it’s time to change medium or technique. Continue working where you were but swap from say watercolour to coloured pencil or graphite, acrylic to oil pastel, using a brush to a palette knife, applying paint to lifting it.

Gaining “control of your palette” is rooted in knowing what the colours you’ve got on your palette do when mixed together. How to get a mixed colour again, and again, as well as avoiding unwanted results. The fewer colours you’ve got, the easier it is to learn this. Then add in another and learn what it does.

A few weeks ago I started using a violet on my oil painting palette, and I’ve had such fun exploring the results of mixing this with my favourites. But it’s done whilst wrapped in the security blanket of my known colours, that any new colour I mix I want to recreate comes from the violet plus one of those.

Detail. Oil paint on wood panel.

My thanks to Sarah W for sending me this quote and a bit about the book it’s from.

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