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Painting Project: Opaque Colors

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Instructions for the Opaque Colors Painting Project
Opaque Colors Painting Project Instructions
Photo ©2011 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.
"...in many cases one can gradually find out things by looking for oneself as well, and I’m doing that as best I can."
-- Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo, 25 September 1882

Once again we're starting the year with a project that's focused on color. The January 2013 painting project challenges you to work with opaque colors only.

Paintings can be in any style you like, in oils, acrylic, gouache, or opaque poster paint, and it may be painted from life or imagination. You can use as many colors as you wish, but they must all be opaque; none transparent or semi-transparent. (The paint tube label may tell you, or you can do a test to check).

In addition to your finished painting, submissions must include a color chart showing swatches of the colors used (with the names written alongside) painted over a strip of black (paint or pen) to demonstrate their opacity. Submissions without this will be rejected. (It may seem tedious to do this, but it creates a permanent record and we learn by doing not merely thinking about something. I'd do it in a sketchbook.)

Note: Mixing titanium white or Chinese white or any other opaque color into a transparent color to 'make it opaque' is not permitted for this project. You'd only be cheating yourself from learning.

The aim of this project is to increase your knowledge of the properties of the individual colors and pigments you're using, to familiarize yourself with how opaque colors work. Because such pigments hide what's underneath, you can't work with glazes but will focus more on physical color mixes (mixing on your palette before applying the paint to canvas), blending colors and techniques involving thin layers of paint such as scumbling and velantura.

Take a look at the Impressionist's technique of broken color, where you work with small areas of color (rather than "coloring in" large spaces in a single color), and remember to pay attention to the tones you're using as much as the hues. Getting the tone right is possibly even more important than the color (see Painting Color Class: Tones or Values).

When it comes to choosing a suitable subject for this project, don't think "opaque colors will work only for X or Y". Select a subject as you would normally, work out the composition, but before you start painting sort out your tubes of paint so you've the opaque colors only.

Remember, not to focus solely on producing "a good painting" but to enjoy the exploration of color. When you' finished, use the link below to share photos of your painting and the colors used. Have fun!

My aim is to give some sort of feedback on every submission, but I don't promise it as I have to have time to paint myself! Submissions that don't follow the project's instructions will be deleted, as will any with textspeak, or are without basic punctuation (such as full stops, capitals at the start of sentences and on the word "I", spaces after commas and full stops). If you wish me to spend time looking at your submission, you need to spend the time to write it clearly.

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