Welcome to

The Painting Lesson

by Linda Carson

big black pig studio
98 King St. N., Waterloo Ontario Canada
www.bigblackpig.com


Saturation or Intensity

One of the characteristics painters use to describe a colour specifically is saturation, how vivid or clean the colour is. This is different from hue (what colour family it belongs to, such as green or yellow) and value (how light or dark it is). Saturation is the difference between a bright orange colour (i.e. saturated) and a burnt orange or terra cotta (i.e. unsaturated colour), between the red of a stop sign or a fire truck (i.e. saturated colour) and the red of burgundy or oxblood.

Saturated colours—also known as intense, or high-intensity, colours—are usually straight out of the paint tube. Unsaturated colours—also known as low-intensity colours—are smoky, muddy, murky or "greyed down."

After Albers; acrylic on hardboard;
6 inches X 6 inches; Carson 2002

For example: The vivid red "frame" is a saturated colour, and the inner squares grow increasingly unsaturated as they approach the centre.

These example paintings also feature saturated (or intense) palettes:

Made-up Bird; egg tempera on hardboard;
6 inches X 6 inches; Carson 2002 Wave; watercolour on paper;
6 inches X 6 inches; Carson 2002 Mitten; acrylic on hardboard;
6 inches X 6 inches; Carson 2002

Who wants muddy unsaturated colours? You do. Unsaturated colours are the olive greens and khakis and mosses and gunmetals and ivories and taupes you need to paint twilight, landscape and flesh tones. The easiest way to make them is by mixing complementary colours.

These example paintings feature unsaturated (or low-intensity) palettes:

Test pattern; acrylic on hardboard;
6 inches X 6 inches; Carson 2002 Hiding a flashlight; acrylic on hardboard;
6 inches X 6 inches; Carson 2002 Now is the time; acrylic on hardboard;
6 inches X 6 inches; Carson 2002 Nautilus; oil on hardboard;
6 inches X 6 inches; Carson 2002

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Art & Text (C) Linda Carson 2002

Loosely translated, that means:
"Please don't copy this material or redistribute it in some other form, for any reason. This is my livelihood."