Red, Yellow, Blue Pursuing the true look of nature

“Lemon, Teapot, Blue Velvet”
Oil on panel, 8×8 inches / 20×20 cm
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An old teacher of mine once said that every good painting has some of each of the three primary colors in it- red, yellow, and blue.

Being a contrarian, I immediately started looking for examples where that wasn’t the case – and I found plenty.

But in looking, I also saw the deeper truth to what he was saying – that the colors we see in the world around us are an endless series of variations on those three notes.

And furthermore – that paintings which accept that principle seem to have a depth and richness to them that brings them closer to the natural world.

I don’t treat this principle as a rule, and most of the time I’m not even thinking of it consciously.

But sometimes when setting up a painting, it becomes very clear.

Sometimes – like with this painting, it even becomes deliberate.

An interesting thing about this principle is that the colors need not be the actual three primaries – colors which are simply in the same family will do quite nicely.

For instance – in this painting, there is a clear yellow and a clear blue, but no strong red.

However, the eye reads the orange of the teacup and the brown of the teapot as reds, so the illusion is complete.