Color Challenge: Vincent van Gogh, ‘Orchards in Blossom, View of Arles’
Glass is a seductive material and there is a tendency, especially among students new to working with glass, to use the brightest colors and to combine many colors in a single work. This is not always the most effective approach.
Consider this painting, Orchards in Blossom, View of Arles, by Vincent van Gogh. A nearly monochromatic swath of grass sets the stage for a surprising palette of bright and muted hues in the trees, sky, and rooftops. van Gogh uses a complementary pairing of blue and orange to outline the trees against the rooftops beyond. The blue, orange, and light plum color of the tree trunks have nearly the same tonal value. That is to say, they are similar on a scale of lightness/darkness. And, yet, the roofs pop through the branches. Because of this deft use of complements and tonal values, the white and yellow flowers on the tree branches are something of an afterthought, as the entire world seems to be in bloom.
In my own work, I use a lot of glass manufactured by Bullseye Glass in Portland, Oregon, and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to reproduce van Gogh’s palette with Bullseye colors. This is at best an approximation as we are several steps removed from the actual paint and glass, but the exercise is nevertheless revealing.
For the grass I chose Bullseye 1207 Fern Green overlaid with a layer of 1808 Aqua Blue Tint to darken it slightly and reduce the yellowish cast. The trees are 1405 Light Plum. The pale bluish tones in the road and sky correspond to 1408 Light Aquamarine Blue overlaid with 1829 Gray Tint to again darken and slightly mute the color.
Nothing in the Bullseye line quite corresponds to the rooftops that contain both orange and yellow hues. 1025 Light Orange is the closest choice but is too intense by itself. I overlaid it with 1808 Aqua Blue to reduce the saturation. The outlines of the trees are very close to 1464 True Blue. The single darker rooftop near the center of the painting again posed a challenge as reds, oranges, and yellows in glass often do. For this I chose 1305 Sunset Coral.
Obviously there are nuances achievable with paint that are difficult to capture in glass, yet this demonstrates that it is possible to produce a rich color composition with a very restrained and limited palette.
Please let me know how you think I did with this exercise and I welcome any color challenges you would like to submit!