As the season and sunlight slips away, nature plays its visual tricks of on us. The chemistry of color takes hold and the natural world around us becomes neutralized. But we don’t really notice the loss of color though, because when neutral is played against itself, subtle becomes vibrant and all the negative descriptions of neutral dullness no longer make sense. Why is that?
When all colors grouped together are in the same relative clarity, the individual tonations in each show up.
Display a neutralized color against a fully saturated color and it will fade. Interestingly, the brown above is the same brown as shown below.
Nature knows this trickery; in this season of brownish colors, berries are faded orange and those who turn truly crimson red only do so when they present in the pallete of intense winter contrast. Green leaves fade in autumn only because they fade transparent showing off the layers of singular colors always present, eventually loosing them to death and browning.
Another cause for thought; everything in its time, everything in its season… Beauty is relative.
But what makes a color neutral? The dictionary defines it as “a color that does not alter its surroundings including our emotions.” From a painters point of view, neutral is a color that contains many pigments, technically called a complex color unlike color-wheel colors that only contain 2 pigments.
As an artist I have found this study of neutral to be endlessly fascinating. Which pigment goes into a color in turn decides what other colors look great next to it. What is the perfect beige to paint the wall behind your new burgundy sofa, which off-white is best to set into your quilt block and which shade of nude lipstick is best on your complexion. Once you understand neutral then the world of color opens up.
I am teaching a class on this subject at the end of October this year 2017. Follow this link to my workshop page to read more about it.