Monday, December 21

Using RED in Your Artwork

Today’s Image
A Good Use of Red

I’m seeing red, and you probably are, too. You see a lot, and I mean a lot, of red this time of year. I’m pretty sure you would agree with this.

I like red. I really do.

I don’t paint with it a lot or even much at all--oops, make that any at all—I just checked the paintings I’ve done this year. There are no objects in any of my paintings that are painted red.

I’m talking red-red. I mean red, so that you can’t help but notice that something in the painting—like a rose or vase or a fire truck—is painted RED. That would be something painted straight cadmium red light or medium or some similar screaming red.

Now let me be specific, so you don’t think I’m not telling the whole truth. I actually use red in every painting I work on. However, it’s not the straight red right from the tube. Red being one of the three primary colors, of course, I use it freely and copiously—only it’s mixed in with other colors so that the correct hue and value are achieved.

Red is like the little kid in the shopping cart screaming at the top of his or her lungs for a piece of candy that Mom or Dad refuse to give. Please, would someone just stop him or her from making such a screeching racket.

Red is perfect for attracting attention, but you should—no, you must--use it sparingly; otherwise, if there’s too much of it, it loses its punch, if you know what I mean.

That’s what red is like, a punch. They must have been talking about red when they came up with the term “a punch of color.”

Have you noticed there’s no such thing as a royal red? There’s a royal blue and a royal purple, but no royal red. I think I know why.

Red is not a civilized color. It’s wild and wants to be free. No wonder the Fauves used it.

How about a nice alizarin crimson? Now there’s a civilized shade of red. Then there are all the maroons and the deep, dark cherry reds. Those are wonderful reds.

If you add white to red, which seems like the right thing to do to tone it down--watch out! You get pink, red’s bastard step-child. Pink is a completely different color from red, and it can ruin your painting if you try to mix it.

There’s an old joke you’ve probably heard about how to get your painting(s) selected for a show or juried exhibit. It goes like this—“if you can’t paint it big, paint it red; if you can’t paint it red, paint it big; but you’re better off painting it big and red!”

And that, my friends, is how I feel about red.



  1. This is great advice, and something that I think about in my abstract work. A punch of intense colour is a great way to create a focus.

    Merry Christmas, Byrne!!

  2. Thanks for your comments throughout the year, and same to you!

  3. Merry Christmas all! Thanks for providing this wonderful and inspirational Blog! Wishing you loads of JOY!!