Saturday, February 27, 2010

Readable Version of Earlier Post

The post, "The Color of Your Artistic Soul Revealed", was written in one long grunt and is bulky and hard to follow, so I thought I would create a condenced version. This re-write is worth it to me because I have slaved over this stuff for 40 years, and I believe that I have arrived at some important conclusions that apply to all practicing artists--conclusions that I have hacked out on the front lines of art production, in the mud, so to speak. I want to say four things about color that I believe actually help practicing oil painters. If you are not "in the paint", what I say or what anybody says will be to no avail--duh! I am assuming a basic knowledge of color use on your part and have no interest in discouraging your continued study of color from every angle possible. My own ideas are constantly evolving because of new knowledge, but my new knowledge has to do with my interior, my mind and soul--not my wrist or the acquisition of tricks. I don't give a hoot in hell about so and so's tid bits, methods, or recipies unless his paintings knock me flat on my big ass and make me want to cry "mercy!" What I am about to say applies to those who really are interested in taking their art to the next level--it does not apply to those who are satisfied with what they have accomplished so far--in point of fact, those who are lost, confused, frustrated, disoriented and desparate in their art journey are the ones who are most likely to hear this stuff. I have observed that self satisfaction is death in this business--I know from experience that when the money pours in and the legions of men are applauding, growth usually stops. And finally--the great inhibitors to improvement in painting are spiritual, social, and psychological--they have absolutely nothing to do with talent--so here goes.

1. Color apprehension and use in oil painting are instinctual--it is a disposition of the heart, and as such it is a matter of the soul, the gut, the feelings, the spirit, the interior. Accumulating technical information about color may not lead to the ability to use color brilliantly in oil painting. To improve, one must work on his artistic mojo. How do you work on your mojo? This leads to my second point:

2. The oil painter must develop taste--or call is discernment or consciosness. Taste is developed by looking at the great work of great artists living and dead (mostly dead), and by trusting your God given instincts that arise when viewing color in paintings and in nature or maybe even in your dreams. You will know that your taste is developing when you find your self responding from the gut to what you are looking at. You may say "..that color is hard to look at", "that color is beautiful", "that painting has the snap of reality and grabs my senses", "that color harmonizes, it holds together, it sings"--the artist must own these responses and trust them to inform his own artistic journey. You cannot import color taste--though many try--you see this in magazines and on televesion all the time--you see, many who would rather pay for someone else to do their thinking for them rather than listen to their own voice. So then--your own internal responses are the bed rock, the foundation, the core out of which your taste emerges--they are the fuel of your own fire--the fire that drives you as an artist. The limits of your taste mark the limits of your development in use of color.

3. You must hold on to your initial color scheme, your motive, your inspiration, your direction throughout your painting. If you are unsure what moves you or where you are headed when you start your color masterpiece, then stop until you are decided. It helps to ask--is this going to be a red, a blue, or a yellow painting? Is this going to be a warm or a cool color scheme? Is the color going to be rich or grey? If you can answer these questions early in your project, then you may be able to hold on to your initial interest to the end. If your motive, your initial inspiration is not clear to you, then it will not show up in your finished work. Color creates great sympathetic contract with the viewer and is possibly more important than accuracy of drawing or subject matter. If you can attach great color to great design or great story, then that's as good as it gets in paint. I have wobbled through many paintings--drifting from one vague idea to the next, trying to bail out the canvas by rendering the hell out of this or that--not having a clear vision or direction and finally just giving up and submitting to that voice from hell that says...."it will sell--why worry about it!" The terrible truth here is--that voice is often accurate.

4. All answers to color problems are on the canvas--not in nature. While inspiration can come from nature--solutions are arrived at in the paint. Nature provides a point of departure--a temporary reference point for your project. Depiction of nature is not the aim--your sense of nature, your interpretation, your bending of nature is the goal. How I respond to the subject at hand in paint will be the record of my effort for the ages--not that flower, that pretty girl, that landscape out there. So then, we have to make the canvas work. It is the canvas that will finally say: "Hatfield was here, he lived, he recorded, for better or worse he left a record." So be nice to your canvas and let it hold forth on your behalf. Don Hatfield


  1. Don, you're words are banging in my head like a pinball machine!
    Hey, I'm getting most of this!
    I will chew on this post like jerky, you got to
    love hearing, and saying all this!
    I want to paint!

  2. Something must be wrong with me. I understood the first one.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Its a beautiful message your giving everyone. Thanks!

  5. Okay, so this is some of the best stuff I've read in a long while. I'll be ruminating on it for some time to come.

  6. Thanks for giving us something that really gets to the heart of the matter--and that is NOT a comment on this version being "abridged"! Great stuff! I'll be looking at my paintings through new eyes. . .hmmmm, might be painful!