Kick up the color!

Have you ever met someone who’s relatively quiet, but when they do talk, they’re worth listening to? I think some people intentionally speak less and think more. This gives the words they choose a greater weight, in my humble opinion.

While I wouldn’t describe all of Patti Mollica’s paintings as quiet, I would say they’re humbly bold. She could use all the colors of the rainbow, but instead she goes in for the win by narrowing her choices, coming up with art that speaks volumes. I’ve asked Mollica, who is the featured artist of the North Light Shop exclusive Fast, Loose, and Bold Acrylic Collection (including three books, three DVDs, and three brushes), to share her thoughts on art with you. Below you’ll learn about basic color theory and how to make your work have greater weight.

Also, don’t forget that we’re celebrating 30 years of The Artist’s Magazine with a 30-Day Giveaway! Get more details and enter here daily through June 30. Good luck!

Warm regards,

Basic color theory, acrylic painting by Patti Mollica

NYC Rooftops (acrylic on canvas, 30×30) by Patti Mollica

Kick up the Color! by Patti Mollica

At a certain point in many artists’ evolution, they yearn to start using color in a more personal and perhaps dramatic manner, one that they “own,” rather than one they feel bound to by reality. For many years I steered away from landscape paintings because I felt obliged to paint the colors I saw before me. In most cases, on a summer day my palette mixtures would consist mostly of some shade of green. Now, I love green as much as the next artist, but I was really aching to work with more variety. It wasn’t until much later in my artistic journey that I realized it was perfectly acceptable–preferable even, to work with colors of my choosing. This breakthrough soon morphed into a desire to reinterpret the neutral colors of my urban environment.

As with any type of freedom, there are often parameters that can guide one to making better choices–in this case, more harmonic choices. My first color experiments were very fauvist-looking. It was exciting to use wild, brilliant hues that departed completely from realism. However I soon found that I needed guidelines to “tame” the riot of colors that were competing with each other. Although operating completely intuitively, without reference to any type of boundaries was enjoyable, the end result was often too busy and jarring for my taste. I learned that too many colors start to cancel each other out. The more colors I used, the less impact my painting had.

Basic color theory, acrylic painting by Patti Mollica

City Biker (acrylic on paper, 16×20) by Patti Mollica

My search for the key on how to harness the power of color ultimately led me to using a limited color palette and working in specific color schemes. Many exceptional and famous painters used very few colors on their palettes. Anders Zorn, for instance, was known to use yellow ochre, vermilion, ivory black, and white. It has been said that at times he would add some other colors, such as viridian or cerulean blue, but by and large, he worked with those four. The beauty of working with a limited color palette is “automatic” color harmony in your painting. If every color mixture is created from the same three or four colors, your painting will hold together, from a color standpoint. Rather than diminishing the color effect, a limited palette can be the means to harmonious, yet unexpected, color mixtures that all work beautifully together simply because they’re related. If your preference is for the entire color spectrum, the the primaries–red, yellow and blue–are a must. However if you want to veer from the obvious and create paintings that communicate your personal preferences and style, consider using the color wheel to pick a traditional harmonic color scheme of one or more colors. Some of the most common schemes are monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complementary, and triadic.

Using a limited color palette is a liberating exercise that will open your eyes to a fresh new way of seeing and interpreting your world. Be forewarned, however–you may never paint another building brown or another tree green! ~P.M.

• Learn to paint fast, loose, and bold in acrylics with this new collection featuring Patti Mollica.

• Visit for Mollica’s blog and art workshop schedule.

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