So many times when I was teaching, a student would say that their number one goal in taking the class was to create "better color" in their paintings. It would help of course to define what that means. I won't go into the science of how our eye receives color from the light rays that hit a surface, nor is it necessary to know. The important part is that when certain combinations of colors are placed next to each other our eye knows it's not pleasant to look at. It's the same situation as when someone wears a bright purple pair of pants and a pale peach colored shirt.
The answers are transitions and dominance. We'll deal with the first one now-Let's look at the color wheel
As we look around the wheel all of colors next to each other have similarities.
* They are related by hue (blueish, orangeish etc)
* They are related by value, (how light or dark they are).
Either one of these characteristics makes a desirable transition.
Now let's look at what happens when good color goes bad-
Here are three groups, each one represents a transition- none of them good. See how the colors that touch each other do not have value or hue in common. This makes it very difficult for your eye to appreciate them, like eating a salty potato chip than drinking a fine white wine- they don't do anything for each other. Look at the next group-
Each of these three groups share value or hue or both. So how does this relate to your painting- this happens every time you place a person next to a background or a tree next to the sky, transitions, transitions, transitions! And it does not only apply to primary type bright hues. An example:
Look for all the transitions in these two cropped images from my paintings.
Next we'll look at color dominance.