I first began to create color studies on a regular basis after a workshop given by Jill Carver in Texas in 2015. I'd done them before, but never in the lightning-quick manner Jill had us doing them, and never as my primary means of gathering information outdoors. Jill opened an entirely new practice to me that week, and I owe her a debt of gratitude. Because I often sell my 6 x 8 studies on this blog, I'd always felt decent pressure to make even my studies excellent. Attempting perfection, needless to say, isn't the most productive way to "study."
Above are some studies I completed this morning in my studio using sketches I did outdoors and photo references I took while on site. Notice they're all on one board, which was divided into four sections with painter's tape while I painted (the color difference under the tape is due to the panel I used being an old one that was half-toned). This way I can't sell them--the pressure is gone. (It's certainly possible that I could cut them apart later if one is so amazing I just have to post it for sale). :)
Below are some quick (like stream-of consciousness-quick) thoughts on the value of doing these studies. Color studies are:
*A natural bridge between a thumbnail sketch and starting a refined, finished painting
*A great way to gather lots of information outdoors in a short time (perfect for times when you're painting outside and the light or weather is changing rapidly)
*Practice for mixing the colors you'll eventually use in the larger painting
*A simple, fast way to get accurate color notes when painting en plein air
*An efficient way to "brainstorm" in paint time-wise and space-wise. Set time limits on yourself (no more than 30 minutes to an hour on each). Also, you can easily get four or six on one panel.
*A way to affirm that you're being productive when all else fails!
*A tool for trying various compositions if you can't decide based on thumbnail sketches
*A good way to stay loose and produce the painterly look that you might want to use in your larger painting
*A great exercise in painting quickly if you're trying to get faster
*Perfect for painting a scene you're in love with but only had time for a sketch and a quick photo (like the amazing scene you discovered after you packed up and were heading to your car, or the one you got a photo of while with your family and had only your phone and sketchbook in hand).
*Freedom to relax--you're not aiming for a finished painting, but the bonus is that sometimes you get one!
Color studies work out the kinks, let you know if your idea has the potential to translate into a successful painting, and keep you at ease while accomplishing both.