Today’s prompt was “rainbows” and I had every intention of painting an actual rainbow, but got distracted by a photo I found from my trip to the zoo. On this particular trip, you could enter a large cage and as you walked through, rainbow lorikeets flew above you and walked around your feet. It was a stunning display of color and quite a memorable experience. But, I’m not sure I’ve captured it in this quick little doodlewash, as I didn’t so much finish as run out of time. I’m always fascinating with creatures that look like they’ve been painted with a full palette. Though it seems contradictory, these bright colors are actually a well-adapted form of camouflage from predators. The patterns disrupt the outline of the body, much like a zebra, and this makes them harder to spot. Not only that, much of the coloring we perceive is simply a trick of lighting and reflected colors, like the peacock I sketched earlier. But no matter how it happens, subtle and brilliant color combinations always come together perfectly. When it comes to color theory, there’s really no better teacher than nature.
I’ve always loved color and could generally match up colors in my wardrobe to not look apalling, but it wasn’t until art school that I really started studying it. All of the terms from triads to analagous colors seemed a bit too scientific for me though. In the end, I spent most of my time stealing color combinations from flower pots and National Geographic documentaries. After all, the wheel treated all the colors equally, but it’s obvious that nature prefers the color green and it feels it goes well with just about everything. When I started looking around me for my color education, it all made much more sense than wheels. Though the color wheel is a great way to learn about color, of course. I just preferred to absorb ideas about color from the world around me instead. Even the weirdest combinations are somehow pleasing in nature, and that has always intrigued me.
That said, I tend to paint with highly saturated colors that lay somewhere between fact and fiction. I’ve thought about trying a more muted palette, but the truth is, I prefer bright colors. They make me happy. So, in the end, I think the best colors for a painting are the ones that we personally love most. When we love the colors we’re using, it really shows in the paintings we make. And if you ever wonder which colors to combine, just pop your head out the window and have a look around. You’ll see that there are color wheels all around, ready to help things along. At least if it’s natural, of course, manmade structures are still a bit dicey depending on your neighborhood. But everything natural is ready to demonstrate just how glorious the world of color can be. If you just take a moment to stop and notice when nature paints with rainbows.
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!