Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bill Perkins Color Workshop Notes

Hey just finished up a Bill Perkins workshop this weekend. 2 days - 14 hours - $295. I think it's basically like his CDA class condensed into 2 days. Not a bad deal since I've been trying to accelerate my education and get a concept art job ASAP.

1) Notan vs Form (Chiarscuro)
Bill started off the class by covering this topic. Many art students only learn chiarscuro (still life with a strong light source), so they struggle when they have to do a noton painting (local color on an overcast day). Notan is basically using local colors and blocking in shapes. Bill says that even Sargent was a notan painter. Of course everything is a combination of form and notan. Sometimes one is more dominant than the other - and it's good to keep in mind which one is dominant. Bill had us practice the two extremes first, and had us combine the two ways of thinking in the end.

2) Major Key, Minor Key
The Major Key of a painting describes if it is overall light or dark in value. A very dark painting is considered low key, while a very light painting is considered high key. In the middle is full value.
The Minor Key of a painting describes it's value contrast within the major key. A painting could be either high contrast or low contrast.

If you put it in a matrix - you basically have 4 combinations.
High key, high contrast: Happy and Bright. think Disney
High key, low contrast: Ethereal, think anime
Low key, high contrast: very sad and dark, think emo
Low key, low contrast: very stark and striking, think crime noir

3) Commitment and Mindset
Bill only mentioned this briefly - but I think this is worth a lot. This is a trick to alter your mind and improve your habits. When you mix any color, think: "I'm going to mix that beautiful red," or ""I'm going to mix that beautiful blue," or even "I'm going to mix that beautiful GREY." This way your colors will be beautiful.

I've studied many books on affirmation and the subconscious mind - and this technique have shown to be effective - if you truly believe in it. By have a verbal affirmation, you are triggering your brain to send out positive energy of your intent, and it's likely the color will be more beautiful.

When you are making a painting - write out what you are going to study. For example: I'm going to value to edges. (or value, or color). And SIGN it. I think this is a really good idea. And I'm going to do it every time from now on when I go figure drawing or plein air, or a concept piece. If you've read any articles on weight loss, or books on success - it's always good to have a clear focus of your goal and intent. Unfortunately, Bill have never had his students to actually agree to sign their own contract (losers lol). If you are gung-ho about improving your performance (no matter what you are doing), I'd try it out. :)

4) All day plein air

Bill does this thing where he would paint the same location multiple times in the same day under different light. He would do a 40 minutes color study in the morning that's all foggy, another one at noon when it's all bright, another one at sunset when it's all golden, and one more at night time when it's dark.

When it's dark, you can either take a picture of it and paint indoors, have a night time plein air set up, or use a labtop. I'll be trying this sometime soon. I'll try it next Tuesday. :)

value matrix demo

Bill talking about interlocking shapes.
Notan demo (ambient light)

form demo (direct light)
3 hr bonus demo that I missed cuz i left early.
I'm so sad that I missed out! I love painting asian girls.

workshop photo - bill recommends wearing hats indoors cuz it's gangsta. jk.
wearing hats  indoors cuts down on the glare and improves color perception.


  1. wow! cool tip about wearing hats in doors haha!

  2. rena really? .... -_-T out of all the things i wrote, THAT is wut you picked up?

  3. Wow, great! I'm actually working on (and struggling with) a digital painting right now. I have very little formal training in this sort of stuff and I'm trying my best to use complementary colors to shade but it's just so hard to get used to. I gotta try what you talked about in #3!

  4. yeah good luck robin. i dunno about using complimentary colors to shade though. that doesn't always work out. if you are self taught - i'd recommend doing this exercise. take a pictures (can be masterstudy also) and color pick it and paint it. then do it again - without color picking. then you will know how to paint those colors digitally.

  5. Thanks Chris, very good analysis and information on Bill Perkins approach. I am taking him in the fall so this will prepare me and maybe jump start the class. I love what you say about your intention and state of mind when you work. Affirmations work.

  6. thansk Lynne! yeah - I haven't been doing the affirmation thing in a while. Gotta do it more!

  7. thank you so much chris ... i'm struggle with values lot. Recently was found Bill Perkins name, so now Bill Perkins is "Light tower" for me :).. after reading ur post the i have doubt raise in my mind that "In the midkey is full value" (2).. could elaborate please... we may use 1 to 9 full values scale or is there any break down in value scale ??

  8. 1-9 is full value for contrast. But you can also do 1-4, or 5-9, if you want a limited value range for high key/low key effect..