My students often ask me, "How do you see all those colors?" Then they usually follow up with, "All I see is a _______ (fill in the blank: white flower, grey wall, brown mountain, blue sky, green tree, etc.) The truth is the world is made up of mixtures of color.
Students especially seem to struggle with whites. What colors do you use to paint something white? The answer is both simple and complex. Whites have all three of the primary colors in their shadow areas. Look at the peonies above. Can you see areas that are more yellow, more red (pink), and more blue?
What if I do this?
This is the same photo, just with the contrast and saturation levels raised. Now you can see all that color, right? It was there all the time. You just have to look for it. Scroll back up to the first photo and see if you can see the reds, yellows, and blues now.
Artists train their eyes to see color in places other people miss. I don't need to saturate my photos to see the color--it's almost like my eyes have a built-in saturation filter.
Below is my finished painting. You can see that what I paint is somewhere in between the regular image and the saturated one. Nature is masterful at blending and creating complex colors. It's an artist's job to bring out and emulate that complexity so others don't miss it.
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.