All images of original art by Sandra J. Shaw Copyright © 2014-1985 Sandra J. Shaw. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Color Studies

The color study is a rough, preliminary sketch that emphasizes how objects reflect light. It's primary purpose is to teach the artist to grasp the relative values of light and color in his/her subject. A brief sketch quickly executed heightens the artist's awareness of what he is looking at, and motivates him to commit to canvas the essential elements of the subject. By executing many color studies from nature, the artist learns to grasp the essentials of a subject and establish them as the foundation of his work. This provides invaluable training for all artists, whether they are primarily painters or sculptors.

The artist aims to understand all elements of a work in terms of an over-all standard or key of value. This standard is what integrates the elements into a harmonious totality that looks real. Only with a guiding standard or key of value can a work of art successfully project a unified world of objects in space -- which is true of reality. Without such a standard, the artist's work will remain only a recreation of details, however carefully rendered, but without the integration that light brings to objects, and without the depth that illuminated objects existing in space have.

The samples below show a finished painting (on the left) that has accurate relative values, in contrast with one (on the right) that does not. Notice how successfully objects in the left painting reflect sunlight and cast shadows, while the scene on the right is monochromatic and without the true values of sunlight. Notice how flat and lifeless the right painting is by comparison, even though it is detailed and clear. Notice also that even though both artists use linear perspective, only the left painting truly convinces us of a vast space going off to the horizon. The painting on the left was made by an artist who studied from nature and grasped the relative values he observed in terms of a standard. Such an understanding is achieved only by the making of many color studies in the field. The painting on the right was made by an artist who worked from an idea in his head, without the necessary touchstone of a thorough study of light in nature.
true values
false values

From the Artist's Paint Box
The following are a few color studies of landscapes. They are not finished paintings. Their value for the art student and connoisseur alike is that they show the value foundation for a painting.

(photo: painting north of Lake Superior)

1. 2. 3.
4. 5. 6.
7. 8. 9.

1. Montreal Lake, Saskatchewan
2. Santa Fe, NM
3. Santa Fe, NM
4. Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park
5. Winter skis, N. Saskatchewan
6. Santorini, Greece
7. Elk Lake, Adirondacks
8. Aspens, NE of Santa Fe, NM
9. Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda