OCAD Studio: Intro to Broken Colour

If you find that your paintings are lacking in vibrancy, then applying some broken colour is a great way to liven them up.

Broken colour is a reasonably recent development in the history of art. It was first employed by the French Impressionists in the late 19th Century but has been used in many different painting styles since, from abstraction to hyper-realism.

Claude Monet, Grainstack. (Sunset.), 1890-91

If you look closely detail of the image on the left, you will notice lots of short strokes of differing hues placed next to one another. There are yellows, greens, blues, pinks, reds and so on. You would think that so many different hues would confuse your eyes, however, when we look at the whole painting on the right, these strokes merge to form a single colour. So the blues and yellows in the shadows on the grass look green and the dusky oranges and purples in the underside of the grainstack look almost fluorescent.

Whenever our eyes look at this painting they are trying to determine exactly what colour each element is. This is an impossibility because each section of the image is made of lots of tiny shifting hues. Our eyes merge them to form an amalgamated colour but it is just a guess and can quickly shift as we focus on different section or even star at the whole image for a long time.

The whole image vibrates with luminous life as there is no solid block colour to latch onto. Instead we are presented with an image full of constantly shifting possibilities, which in many ways mimic the experience of perceiving light much better than exactly matching a solid colour as we see it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *