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Fred Herzog

1930 en Stuttgart, Alemania - 

I’m just about settled into my new studio - clearly in need of a taller chair. Lots of big pieces in the queue starting with a big one for my October show at @blackbookgallery

It depends on what you’re doing.

You can definitely pick any color you want and slap it down. They won’t be realistic colors, and if you want realistic colors, that will be a problem, but you can still do it. There are no rules.

But if you want realism, or something close to natural/observable, then you have to study reality. Boo. :[

I can tell you that picking different shades of the same color is not going to work (that is, adding black or adding white). Any palette you pick should have colors that are distinct. The highlights, midtones, and shadows should be distinctly different colors, even if you’re drawing a single red apple:


See how the middle tone is red? But the shadows are not red+black. They’re brown. And the highlights (at the very top of the apple) are not red+white. They’re orange. The apple is three different colors—red, brown, and orange. 

But they’re not that different. They’re congruous. They’re all warm-toned. And that congruousness is what keeps things looking realistic. You can use different colors if you want. You can put a dark green in there for shadows instead of a brown, and it might look cool, but it might also stop looking realistic.

And the reason the colors are related and all warm-toned is because of the lighting, which in this case is warm. If the lighting were cooler, for example coming from a window, the palette would be different…


Here’s an apple in cooler lighting. Instead of warm reds, browns, and oranges, the palette is cooler reds, dark burgundies, and pinks.

If you’re working from observation like this, then the method is pretty straightforward: pick whatever colors you see. It takes practice to see the right colors, obviously, but that’s why people paint simple things like red apples.

If however you’re doing conceptual work, like inventing an OC or something completely new, and you’re not working from observation, then my advice would be to WORK FROM OBSERVATION ANYWAY.

Go find color and lighting references that show how the colors you want to use are affected by lighting situations that you want to mimic. For example, if you don’t know what happens to red in warm light, putting something red in warm light to see for yourself.

All painters do this kind of stuff. Van Gogh did this kind of stuff. Van Gogh understood this basic stuff so well, in fact, that he knew how to bend the rules to better reflect his emotions.

But you have to understand a) what you’re seeing and what happens to color when light hits it, and b) why you’re painting in the first place and what your goals actually are. You have to know yourself.

And that doesn’t change whether you’re working from observation or working from your head. <3




This Must be the Place

In the words of the artist

Audun Grimstad:

I’m a Norwegian painter and illustrator living in Brooklyn, New York. My work is primarily focused on traditional media like oil painting and graphite drawings, but I do digital work as well. 

Images and text via


Some days, I remember Punpun.