“All colors are friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.” Marc Chagall
Learning to mix colors is important. Limiting our palette helps us get a harmonious and unified composition, but still gives us a large range of colors, when we add their tints, shades, and intensities. Using colors in a harmonious way, helps get our message to our viewer.
If you work best with a sense of excitement and stimulation, you will want to work with warm colors. If you prefer to create a calming effect and serene atmosphere, you will want to work with cool colors.
If you are working abstractly, think about the mood you want to create and go with a limited palette of colors that will reflect that mood. You can later add pops of other colors to emphasize your center of interest, and where you want your eye to travel.
If you paint realistically, you can work with local color; that which you know an object to be. However, if you want to give mood and feeling to your painting, you need to use expressive colors, based on your feelings about the subject, rather than what you know. Who said a tree had to be green with a brown trunk? Was it same Kindergarten teacher that told you, you had to stay within the lines?
If you are a realist, color theory is the best way to achieve good realism and mood. Rather than paint what you know a color is, rely on color analysis or rules for commonly observed experiences. Cool colors recede, and warmer colors come forward. Green is not green, but blue and yellow, so put them in the tree. Brown is a neutral so use opposites to mix it. Formulate your shadows with the color of the object, along with its opposite.
Colors in our environment change constantly, as the light and sky change. Therefore, the colors of what we are looking at, are going to reflect what the atmosphere is. We must also remember that the colors which surround what we are painting, will change the color we put down. An orange next to a blue will look different, than the same orange next to a red. Most of all… remember that value is king.
“Beauty in art is the delicious notes of color one against the other. It is just as fine as music, and it is just the same thing, one tone in relation to another tone… Charles Hawthorne