Brownstones are NOT Brown

A couple of years ago, one of my collectors said that I should "bottle" my own brand of brownstone color paint - just imagine how many I could sell to all those cityscape painters out there!

I was reminded about this idea as I've been working on three commissioned paintings of brownstones these past few months. While it sounds like a potentially great business idea, the problem is that (at least in historic Brooklyn) brownstone buildings come in a wide variety of colors ranging from reddish-orange to purpley-brown. This might be related to when they were built and what materials were used in construction.  I suspect that a building's age and/or location - close to a highway or former welding workshop,  for example - can also affect how its facade might darken over time. Then, the effects of sunlight can vary widely depending on the season, time of day, and of course, which direction the building faces (north, south, east west). And don't forget that brownstones' architectural details cast all kinds of shadows, too.

Here is the front entrance of a south-facing building that is probably of newer construction. It also got a lot of sunlight because it is located on an extra-wide, 2-way street in Park Slope. 

Bokyun Commission final 500.jpg

This one fairly glows because of the cadmium and napthol reds combined with warm cadmium yellow medium and naples yellow. The other secret ingredient is often raw umber, which is warm but dulls colors that could otherwise appear too intense. As with any "brown", there is also a little blue added, also to prevent the orangey-red from being too glaring. The shadows in this painting were challenging - note that because there is a lot of diffuse, ambient light, the shadowed areas vary in how dark and cool they are. 

Another entry way, but this is a more traditional, older brownstone also facing south. This one is more typical with its cooler, blue-toned color.  The shadows, consequently also have a lot of blue in them.

And, lastly, a whole row! While three are of the same design and coloration, the ones on the ends are quite different. At left, they are are a deeper red, and on the right, a light almost lavender color. While it was a challenge to paint so many in one row (all those windows!), by having different colored buildings in one painting, it helped me to figure out the colors. How a color is perceived depends not only on what different colors were used to mix it, but also what colors are next to it.