Purple. Violet. By whatever name, it has always been a favorite color for me. As a child, I begged for a purple bedroom. I have my fair share of purple, lavender and lilac in my wardrobe. More importantly, it is a color that is vital in my palette of colors, regardless of the actual color of the subject I am painting.
If you think back to your elementary art classes in school, you learned that purple could be made by mixing red and blue. Pretty much any combination of red and blue is considered a variation of purple. You also may have learned about the warm and cool colors. Purple is one of the 3 cool colors. (Blue and green are the other two.) Because of its cool visual
temperature, purple is a color that can be suitable for indicating the coolness we as humans associate with shadows. Purple is my go to color when painting shadows. It doesn’t even have to be a dark shade that many associate with purple. Even a very pale lavender in a snow scene, contrasted with a pale peach for a sunlit area, will ‘read’ as a cool shadow to the viewer. I may not paint a shadow pure purple, but there is a good chance you will find some hint of purple if you look closely at the shadows in my paintings.
In pastel, achieving strong dark values in a painting can be a challenge. The use of black can be harsh. Areas of strong dark that incorporate color are far more interesting. The nature of some pastel brands can mean the darks are just not as intense as I would like. I have been lucky enough to discover a set of darks in the Terry Ludwig line of pastels that meet my needs. Several of my very favorite darks are in the purple/violet color family. So, whether I am painting an area of shadow, or just need a very strong dark, I will be reaching for my purples.
Fascinating facts about purple:
The most famous purple dye in the ancient world was Tyrian purple, made from a type of sea snail, found around the Mediterranean.
The process of making the dye was long, difficult and expensive. Thousands of the tiny snails had to be found, their shells cracked, the snail removed. The snails were left to soak, then a tiny gland was removed and the juice extracted and put in a basin, which was placed in the sunlight. There a remarkable transformation took place. In the sunlight the juice turned white, then yellow-green, then green, then violet, then a red which turned darker and darker. The process had to be stopped at exactly the right time to obtain the desired color, which could range from a bright crimson to a dark purple, the color of dried blood. Then either wool, linen or silk would be dyed. The exact hue varied between crimson and violet, but it was always rich, bright and lasting. Purple, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Purple&oldid=777433891 (last visited May 6, 2017).
Because purple dye was so difficult to obtain and expensive to produce, purple became the royal color in many parts of the world and is traditionally associated with royalty, power, and wealth.