Color Wheel / Painting Experiment by Chris Turney

triad color wheelprimary colors

My basic idea was first to take the color wheel and rotate it 120° , and then to use this new color scheme to create a painting from a photograph. The purpose of rotating the color wheel is to present a plausible new way which one could see colors. It creates replacements as follows: Anything that would be red is now yellow; violet = orange; blue = red; green = violet; yellow = blue; and orange = green. This assigns completely different colors to what one normally sees in the world, but nonetheless is as systematic as the existing color wheel because the only alteration is rotation.

watercolor painting

Watercolor Painting (above) based on the photograph below

My choice of composition was difficult because it had to be centered on ordinary objects that one expects to be a certain color. This prerequisite immediately eliminated most things produced by humans. In the plastic world of today, it isnít shocking to see ordinary objects in new colors. Another condition I used in selecting a composition was to avoid brown. Although there are red browns, yellow browns, and blue browns, I found that most browns didnít change much when the base color emphasis was changed. So many animal pictures were immediately out of the running. What I chose is a simple natural composition, with leaves and berries abound. Most people expect these natural things to fall within a fairly limited color range. Hence, it seemed a change in color would be most noticeable in a subject like this one.


In some ways, the result is definitely different from reality, but in others, it is surprisingly familiar. Initially, this composition looked strikingly different from the original. If in a real woods, in full daylight, it would be breathtaking to see a sea of purple leaves. But, since this is a painting, if one imagines this to be a picture of the woods at dusk, these colors are almost passable as the real world. I wouldnít be surprised to see the leaves in a wood appear purplish at dusk, because in the back of my head I would know they are actually green. In the end, however, the painting does demonstrate a simple point; the color scheme of our world isnít necessary. We could easily have lived in a world where purple represented lush life, in a dense wood.

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