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Dominant Color Confusion

Are there certain paintings that stick in your mind which really speak to you? My favorite paintings really speak to me, conveying an emotion and a story. A good painting can penetrate right to your heart, where you suddenly feel something emotionally when you look at it. A common pattern between the artists that are so effective is how in most of their paintings they eliminated many unimportant things and that way only what's important can speak.

 The word decide comes from the Latin decidere "to decide, determine," literally "to cut off," from. So when too many things in a painting speak we need to make some choices and "cut off" from everything else so what matters can speak.

One way this applies is in the area of color, mainly choosing one dominant color in order for it to covey the mood and message you hope for. A dominant color means that one color dominates and is prevalent throughout the painting.

The picture above shows some of the studies I did to work out the design of this watercolor "Token of Honor".

I love to see my favorite artists work and they all tend to use this principle of using one dominant color, one of my favorites is Stephen Scott Young who uses dominant color beautifully in his watercolors of the people in the islands of the Bahamas. 

One day while painting I was really inspired by the color in one of his pieces, what I was painting that day was of a boy in Africa(see photo above). Being carried away by the beautiful color in Scott Young's watercolor I painted this boy in Africa with warm blues closely resembling the colors of Stephen Scott Young's piece (above). 

When I brought this into DiDomizio's studio many of my fellow artists agreed it looked like the painting was from the caribbean Islands! I may have chosen a dominant color but it wasn't the right one to say AFRICA! The painting had to say Africa. That taught me how important it is to choose the right dominant color, to start a paintings with a written message in mind to keep me focused on what the painting is about. That day helped me take a stand against dominant color confusion! 

I'd encourage you to study your favorite paintings and question what each pieces dominant color is, to help get ideas and see how great artists have used dominant color.


My finished watercolor, Token of Honor, 29x36"

All I needed was to use orange as a dominant color to say Africa, Life in the Dirt, and Childlike Joy!    




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