When I was taking watercolor classes from Gwen Bragg I would often hear her say, “Value does all the work, but color gets all the credit.” Value, or how light or dark a color is, allows us to distinguish between shapes. Changes in value show us form within shapes. Think of looking at a black and white photo. Does your brain know which colors would be there?
Broken color is a technique Gwen taught us to illustrate this principle. Mixing up each color in puddles of different values and then dropping the colors randomly into the shapes while maintaining the correct value gives a painting with lots of color – not the “correct” color for each shape, but the shapes are still recognizable.
This is a one-hour study that I did recently while sitting in my booth at an outdoor art festival. I had a drawing of these barns in one of my sketchbooks, and was able to stop between painting the different sections in order to answer questions or talk to patrons about the art in the booth.