J. P. Miller has a way of painting warm scenes. By "warm" I don't mean reddish as opposed to blueish; I mean it in an atmospheric way. His scenes are warm and cozy. They invite you into the stories.When talking about color theory, we usually call blueish colors "cool" and reddish tints "warm". Miller can paint blueish objects like the castle above and make them feel warm. His books are great for bedtime stories, because they make you feel it's night and raining hard outside while you are all snuggled up in a million blankets.
How does he achieve this?
HE MIXES BRIGHT COLORS WITH BROWN OR GRAY TO TONE THEM DOWN
The green on this cave is subdued by mixing it with gray. The flesh colors too...and the browns of the bear costumes.
WIDE AREAS OF NEUTRAL COLORSThis Camel painting is mostly made up of neural colors - in this case browns and tans. Even the green foliage is mixed with tan to subdue it, so that it doesn't compete for attention with the camel.
The one bright spot in the scene is the pink saddle. Even the pink is a soft pink.
SOFT GRADATIONS THAT CHANGE TINT SUBTLYIf you look closely at any area of Miller's colors you can see that where he uses shadows or darker areas, that he doesn't just use a darker version of the same color. He tints the darker area.
The overall fur color on this camel is a tan, but the fringe of fur has more red in it. The tint change is very subtle and it warms up the painting.
If he just used a darker version of the same tint as the tan fur, the effect would be monochromatic and dreary.
SAME GENERAL THEORY FOR A MOOSEOverall picture is mostly neutral.
Accents in small areas of blue and pink.
Soft gradations of tints in the fur. Above has grayish brown as main color, but gradually blending into purplish-grayish-brown.
In another area of the moose, the tint changes to a slight greenish-brownish-gray.
Each area of color in the illustrations above have these subtle changes of tint and value. - Even the brighter color areas like the elephant's red coat.
When you use a lot of warm neutral colors in a picture you can make small areas pop out by using brighter colors that contrast against the neutrals. And you don't have to use an absolutely pure primary or secondary color to make it pop. It can be subdued too, but just much less subdued than the natural colors. It's the contrasts that makes the picture colorful.
Very gradual tint changes in the gray (neutral) skin of this hippo...
POP! The pinkish red mouth really invites us into the gaping maw because of the big contrast against the more subtle ever so slightly changing hues of the gray skin.
If you put bright colors right next to other bright colors, you create anarchy and break up the picture.
SIGNATURE J.P. MILLER TRAITS
He loves yellow and pink.
Miller uses a lot of neutral colors in his paintings, but also seems to like pure yellow and pink and uses them in almost all his paintings.
HE DOESN'T PAINT FLESH COLOR "FLESH COLOR"
You can buy "flesh colored" markers, crayons and paint at the art store. It's not really anything as subtle as actual flesh It's basically a light orange and the ease of buying pre-mixed flesh color entices us to be lazy and never observe how many varieties and shadings of flesh color exist even on one single person of any race or complexion.
I've always been attracted to artists who use odd tints for skin, and J. P. Miller is one of them.
HE BREAKS UP NEUTRAL AREAS WITH BRIGHTER AREAS - USING CONTRASTS
To avoid the jarring effects of putting bright colors (primaries and secondaries and pinks) right next to each other, Miller separates the bright colors with neutrals between them.
Grey, purple, brown. The brightest color-the purple is framed by the neutral colors.
He uses this checkerboard pattern a lot.
Go visit Barbie's great Golden Book site for lots more color thrills!