Part 2, project 3, exercise 4: Colour relationships – still life with complementary colours

Updated on 28 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

21 May 2016. After having spent some time researching colour relationships I became aware of the fact that complementary colours are not just those lying opposite to one another on the colour wheel. There are a number of interesting combinations, each of which creates a very different harmony and thus atmosphere (Tiger Color, n.d., Decker, 2017).

My intention for this exercise is to use it as a first preparation for my choice of colours for Assignment 2. What I want to test in particular is what happens if certain combinations of complementary colours in their simple forms (i.e. those lying opposite) are used for an identical setup using identical techniques. In order to concentrate on colour effects I decided that I would create a very simple arrangement cocktail glasses and accessories and omit 3D by flattening out forms. The finished studies I would like to put on a larger canvas in a grid, just as in Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) famous Marilyn Monroe prints (Borg, n.d. for an image and explanation). Referring to the latter I found an interactive experiment (WebExhibits, n.d.), which investigates just what I am looking for.

22 May 2016. Today I decided that I would want to carry out the experiments and the finished painting for this exercise with blue and orange, both of which are readily associated with cocktails and are excellent in conveying particular opposite emotions. With my simple setup of cocktail glasses I will try and create a number of identical paintings with the colours distributed in different ways. For this reason I will not need actual cocktails, but will “fill” the glasses with my chosen colours.

27 May 2016. To start with I experimented with the mutual effects the complementary pair have on each other, repeating and extending on the experiments introduced earlier in this part of the course. I put the colours (primary cyan, orange mixed from primary yellow and primary magenta to result in an orange skewed neither towards yellow or orange) through a basic investigation of properties, looking for situations of enhancement and cancelling-out (left image below). Then I went through another mixing experiment, repeating one I had thought I had to end abruptly because of running out of space in row one. I did so, too, this time, but continued by placing the last mix in the first row again as the first mix in the second row so as to allow a more or less continuous flow of information. The choice of colours will not allow a grey to develop halfway through the gradual changes, but rather a full green, which is however much darker in tone than both the starting hues. This effect is something I have not yet fully understood and when there is time I will try and find more information on the physics behind it (top part of right image below).

Next I created three very short sets of mixes containing the following sequences:
original hue -> tint (mix with white) -> shade (mix with black) -> tone (mix with grey)
Following the instructions on p. 69 of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2011) a use of black or neutral grey mixed from white and black does not seem to be allowed, so the only chance of a dark hue for this experiment is the use of green. However, it is possible to mix a great number of pleasing tints, so that the medium dark green available as the darkest tone will of course look darker when next to one of the tints (Fig. 1a-b).


In the next step I had another session on the computer to find out more about still lifes using blue and orange only, and I came up with one (“Still Life with Blue Orange 2” by James Bland (*1979, UK) see Fig. 2 below) I wanted to use as a source of information regarding the available mixed and distribution of colours on the canvas. Besides, I like the brushstrokes, which seem to be rather dry at the edges of colour areas, letting layers of colour shine through. It appears that here also there are no colours other than the ones I chose, while I am not sure whether I would be allowed to use a pink or light yellow mixed from white and the respective primary colours used in mixing orange. I decided that I would not take the risk and stayed with the above mixes.

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Figure 2. James Bland (*1979) “Still Life with Blue Orange 2”, n.d., n.k. Source: James Bland (*1979) via Lilford Gallery

Next I prepared an A2 acrylic paper with a neutral grey ground. While I left this to dry I tried some setups with four different glasses used in mixing cocktails. My intention was to create some movement conveying an indication of a story told. The setup fitting my idea best was the one top right in Fig. 3 below:

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Figure 3. Testing setups

The prepared grey ground I split in four squares and filled them with the following grounds: primary cyan, orange, the darkest achievable green and a bluish green (Fig. 4):

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Figure 4. Prepared split background

On this I drew with a lighter and a darker mix of my complementary colours, then quickly filled the spaces with imaginary “cocktails” (Fig. 5-7):

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Figure 5: Sketches using line and setup with viewfinder
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Figure 6. Intermediate stage
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Figure 7. Filled sketches

I quite like I the overall effect of this study and there is an endless number of lessons to be learned from it. Since I did not refer to my setup closely, but allowed imagination to play a role, these sketch paintings seem loose and full of movement. It was difficult to make a choice for the final painting of this exercise, but in the end to me the top left combination of colours seemed  suitable for the purpose.

After having prepared another A2 ground, this time with primary blue only – so as to avoid mistakes regarding instructions – I made another loose painting in the style of the above (see Fig. 8 below, for which, for some reason, I had to place the painting in a floor area in my workshop fully lit by the evening sun in order to get the colours more or less right):

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Figure 8. First layer of complementary colour painting, ball-like object on the right is an imaginary belladonna cherry to play a major role as an ingredient to Assignment 2
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Figure 9. Tonal contrast

There are some quite nice effects in this first layer of colours (Fig. 9 above) and I want to keep them for later reference, in case I destroy them when continuing to work on the painting. I noticed, in particular, how a lighter layer of a light greenish orange on top of the primary blue, except for the shadows thrown by the glasses, will help to deepen the shadows. With the glass “filled with a white liquid” the effect is particularly noticeable, because both the white and the light blue next to the shadow further heighten the tonal contrast.
Since this way of painting is very new to me I can see that my use of the above effects is still more accidental than deliberate, but I want to know where this road will lead me and I want to work hard to master it.

28 May 2016. Today I finished my painting for this exercise. Here is the result (Fig. 10-13):

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Figure 10. Finished painting, A2 acrylic paper

And here come some details:

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Figure 11. Finished painting – detail of reflections on glass and table
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Figure 12. Finished painting – detail of reflections on stem of tall glass
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Figure 13. Finished painting – detail of blue shadow

It took some getting acquainted with applying the laws governing the use of complementary colours only in a painting. Blue and orange may not be the most convenient pair because of the non-availability of grey or near black tones, but I liked the necessity of having to make parts of the painting lighter instead of darker to bring out the darker tones. It was a totally different experience for me and while I know that my technique is still in its infancy, I want to pursue it further throughout the course.

Resources:

Bland, J. (n.d.) Still Life with Blue Orange 2 [n.k.] [online]. Lilford Gallery, Canterbury. Available at: http://www.lilfordgallery.com/james-bland/still-life-with-blue-orange-2/ [Accessed 21 May 2016]

Borg, E. (n.d.) Andy Warhol and Colour [blog] [online]. Discovering design. Available at: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/emilyborg/andy-warhol-and-color/ [Accessed 21 May 2016]

Decker, K. (2017) The Fundamentals of Understanding Color Theory [online]. 99designs, Oakland. Available at: https://en.99designs.at/blog/tips/the-7-step-guide-to-understanding-color-theory/ [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Open College of the Arts (2011) Painting 1. The Practice of Painting. The Bridgeman Art Library, London, New York, Paris, p. 69.

Tiger Color (n.d.) Color Harmonies: Basic Techniques for Combining Colours [online]. Tiger Colors, Oppegard. Available at: http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-harmonies.htm [Accessed 28 February 2017]

WebExhibits (n.d.) Color Vision and Art: Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Prints [online]. WebExhibits. Available at: http://www.webexhibits.org/colorart/marilyns.html [Accessed 21 May 2016]

 

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Assignment 2, stage 1: Preliminary research – colour and the boundary

Updated on 28 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

19 May 2016. This was another unbelievable day. I only come to realize step by step how some people use their so-called intelligence only to deceive and betray. It makes me physically sick. But it cannot be helped, we need to take care not to swallow too much of the poisonous cocktail, speaking in terms of my next project …

At this point I would like to gain as much insight as possible in the processes involved at the boundaries between colours. As a biologist I am very much aware of the crucial role boundaries have in the formation and existence of life and they are precious things maintained by subtle acts of balance across them. I guess that the boundaries between colours may work in similar ways. If the areas to either side fail to communicate (or avoid communication, that is), a painting or drawing may literally never come to life.

21 May 2016. From the previous experiments I know that both simultaneous and successive contrast work, in different ways, to strengthen existent colour differences. To me this appears similar to solutions of different concentrations separated by a membrane. If left to themselves the initially sharp boundary will become diffuse, because molecules will travel through the membrane from the higher to the lower concentration until concentrations are equal. The more unlike two colours, the larger the “concentration gradient” and the more active the communication across it, if I may say so in lay terms. For examples see e.g. Arend et al. (n.d.).
A number of optical effects is discussed by Grais (2017). Of these I need to remember that a dark background usually serves to enhance the perceived differences between colours, which is very likely the reason why working from a coloured ground is preferred by many artists. Apart from that I continue to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of seemingly similar concepts and technical terms buzzing in my head. As long as I feel I am not standing on solid ground regarding the use of the latter, I will try and keep matters simple and hands-on rather than theoretical. Which is probably, when looking at it, most other artists did and do when trying to make sense of colour relationships:

To start with, I had another look at the work of Josef Albers. Probably I should not say so, but I am not drawn to his squares, no matter how instructive they are. They remind me of the covers of some of the books we used to have at secondary school during the 1970s and 1980s. I remember well that the contents of these books was not made for children and so were those covers. Albers’ squares seem so dry and analytical that I will see whether I can force myself to copy any of them into my sketchbook as I was instructed to by my tutor. There appears to be no communication of the kind I am looking for across the boundaries of his chosen sets of colours. When comparing them to Mark Rothko’s work, I know which I prefer by miles. There is so much to find in his paintings, apart from mere colour relationships, there is tension and space, a feeling of getting drawn into or being repelled by some combinations of colours, so that I cannot help coming back to them. I wish I could put two paintings using the same colours side by side, but copyright restrictions allow only for a tiny public domain selection in both cases. It is mainly from Rothko that I decided to learn, hopefully my tutor will understand. When looking for other sources examining boundaries I also came across the work of hard-edge painter Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015, USA) (The Art Story, n.d.(a)) and Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) (The Art Story, n.d.(b)). For me they help to bridge the gap between Albers and Rothko, see e.g. the wavelike movement in “The Spectrum I” painted by Kelly in 1953. Moving to viewing what more complex boundaries can do in a painting I found the work of Donald Fox (Fox, n.d.) quite intriguing, and also that of Ian Davenport (Jackisnotdull, 2012), and not least Wassily Kandinsky’s (1866-1944, Russia) famous concentric circles (Fig. 1 below). I ask myself why they had not been chosen for the covers of our art books, they are so wonderfully alive. I guess that the overwhelming number of effects to find in Kandinsky’s circles may be hard to teach, but we kill art by wanting to describe it all. I think that we should not tamper with our children’s innate mysterious connection to art. It has been destroyed in so many of us (and me!) that we struggle to regain it for a lifetime.

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1913_-_Color_Study,_Squares_with_Concentric_Circles
Figure 1. Wassily Kandinsky: “Colour Study with Squares and Concentric Circles”, 1913, watercolours, gouache and crayon on paper. Source: Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
When doing some more research on Kandinsky’s work I found his 1927 painting “Molle Rudesse”, which contains some of the “boundary effects” I would like to have present in my next assignment, including some suggestions of how to handle the flattening-out of cocktail equipment (Fig. 2):

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Figure 2. Wassily Kandinsky: “Molle Rudesse”, 1927, oil on canvas. Source: Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
My next steps in the sequence will thus be the following:

  1. Set up a very simple still life consisting of very few items only
  2. Experiment with a chosen pair of complementary colours in preparation for the next exercise in Mark Rothko and Kandinsky fashion according to study guide instructions (p. 69)
  3.  Produce a series of square still life studies as described above and combine on large square canvas
  4.  Repeat the exercise with colours evoking mood, also put on large square canvas
  5. Start preparations for assignment by extending the setup according to intentions

Resources:

Arend, L., Logan, A. and Havin, G. (n.d.) Simultaneous and Successive Contrast
[online]. Colour Usage Research Lab, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field. Available at: https://colorusage.arc.nasa.gov/Simult_and_succ_cont.php [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Fox, D. (n.d.) Portfolio of Windows and Doors [online]. Donald Fox, Texas. Available at: https://donaldfoxfineart.com/collections/65248 [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Grais, S. (2017) Color Context/Simultaneous Contrast [online]. DePaul University, Chicago. Available at: http://facweb.cs.depaul.edu/sgrais/color_context.htm [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Jackisnotdull (2012) Colour: The Language of Ian Davenport [online]. Jack is not Dull, 15 May 2012. Available at: https://jackisnotdull.com/2012/05/15/ian-davenport/ [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Kandinsky, W. (1913) Colour Study – Squares with Concentric Circles [watercolour, gouache and crayon on paper] [online]. Lenbachhaus, Munich. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vassily_Kandinsky,_1913_-_Color_Study,_Squares_with_Concentric_Circles.jpg [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Kandinsky, W. (1927) Molle rudesse [oil on canvas] [online]. Private collection. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Vassily_Kandinsky%2C_1927_-_Molle_rudesse.jpg [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Kelly, E. (1953) Spectrum I [oil on canvas] [online]. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/99.353 [Accessed 28 February 2017]

The Art Story (n.d.(a)) Ellsworth Kelly: American Painter and Sculptor [online]. The Art Story, New York. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-kelly-ellsworth.htm [Accessed 28 February 2017]

The Art Story (n.d.(b)) Piet Mondrian: Dutch Painter [online]. The Art Story, New York. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-mondrian-piet.htm [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Research point: Optical effects

Updated on 28 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

16/18 May 2016. Hard question – what is an optical effect? I had a look on the internet and what came closest to a fundamental definition was “optical phenomenon”. I guess that in the context of this post I will need to address the subject as optical phenomena used to create particular optical effects.
While optical phenomena are good to describe physical and/or chemical realities (for want of other accessible summaries see Wikipedia (2012)), I have to admit that it took me a while to come to terms with “effect”. What effects would I (want to) see on a canvas?

      • the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional support
      • the illusion of illumination without the actual presence of a source of light
      • the illusion of movement in a static image
      • creation of vertigo or being drawn into a painting
      • optical illusions
      • … and no doubt many more which I am not aware of at the moment,

so probably and basically, any interaction between colours and linear elements defined by the sum of all their characteristics (shape, size, relative position, hue, tone, tint/shade, brightness, etc. (WorkWithColour.com, n.d.)) that is not a simple perception of the presence of an element alone.

Optical phenomena need, most of the time, the presence of a minimum of light to fall on the retina. There are, however, effects, which work without light, which are visible with closed eyes or in absolute darkness and which are created by the human mind. Migraine and epilepsy are two conditions, which can evoke visual auras, both unconnected to sensory input from the outside world. Also, daydreaming and mental images might be considered important sources of “visual” information, which can be used in painting.

Even the earliest painters will have observed and put to good use optical effects available to them. A scientific approach, however, with whole artists’ lives dedicated to the exploration of colour and publication of results often as series of painstaking images (see e.g. Josef Albers and his series “Homage to the Square” (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a), started only with an increase in reliable knowledge of colour physics and physiology. Referring to the introductory text of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2011, p. 67) I am expected to specifically refer to the use of optical effects by the Impressionists and their immediate successors, in particular the Pointillists. Since I already wrote an extensive blog post on this subject (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b) and found out that the “achievement of optical mixing” is in fact inexistent due to the low resolution used, I decided that I would take the risk and deviate somewhat from the instructions to see what other optical effects I could find, not limiting my search to the effects of colour alone.
I remember a fascinating drawing or woodcut from a pocket calendar I owned as a child, which consisted of a set of seemingly meaningless bands of varying width when looked at in the usual manner, but which revealed its secret when viewed from a very low position, nearly head on. It was an example of extreme foreshortening called anamorphosis (Kent, 2013). I did not find the particular image on the internet, but came across a great number of fine paintings from historical times and the present day. Among these, the skull on Holbein the Younger’s (c. 1497-1543) “Ambassadors” from 1533 (Fig. 1) is a very famous example. Watch an interesting video discussion by Harris and Zucker (2012).

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Figure 1. Hans Holbein the Younger: “The Ambassadors”, 1533, oil on canvas. Source: Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497-1543) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Having started looking through the subjects on offer by Khan Academy I also came across an introductory article to contemporary art (Spivey, n.d.). The second image shown there, John Baldessari’s lithgraph “I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art” created in 1971, apart from its great message reminding me of Bart Simpson’s writing on the blackboard, is for me a wonderful way of creating vibration by repeating similar structures, in this case the elements of handwriting. The “k” in “make”, for example seems particularly alive across the whole canvas and beyond, in a Rumpelstilzkin manner fitting the rebellious statement.

Julie Mehretu’s 2003 “Empirical Construction” is a good example for a set of optical effects combined to create the illusion of fast movement. Linear elements placed in parallel perspective produce the illusion of a three dimensional space and also force the viewer’s gaze away from the centre by becoming thicker the further away from the centre. At the same time, curved lines surrounding the objects suggest a turning and tangential movement. Both types of elements create them impression of the witnessing of an act of explosive disintegration of variously coloured geometrical elements, which may have been part of a magnificent edifice just a second ago. When looking at the details of the ca. 3 x 4.5 m canvas, they repeat the effects at smaller scale, so that every bit of the construction seems to be in concerted movement, the sum of which produces an explosive whole. In an interview (Caruth, 2013) Mehretu also explains that the layering of a multitude of elements forces the eye to constantly adjust, so that a further illusion of movement is created, this time not only in  space, but also in time.

Op Art, or “optical art” is defined as an art form specialising in the use of optical illusions (Tate, n.d.(a)). It evolved predominantly from the first avant-garde movement of Neo-Impressionism, (Tate, n.d.(b)) which already included the word “optical” in its definition and “promised to employ optical and psycho-biological theories in pursuit of a grand synthesis of the ideal and the real, the fugitive and the essential, science and temperament.” Paul Signac’s (1863-1935) Neo-Impressionist painting below (Fig. 2) is a good example of the above. It illustrates also the point of non-achievement of optical mixing at normal viewing distance. It works only if the image size is reduced to, say, no more than 5 x 5 cm. Since this option was of course unavailable to contemporary viewers, they would no doubt have had to move very far from a well-lit canvas to see the desired effect.

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Figure 2. Paul Signac: “Portrait of Félix Fénélon”, 1890, oil on canvas. Source: Paul Signac (1863-1935) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
The dots and blocks of colour introduced by the Neo-Impressionists to transport a notion of organisation were taken up and developed further by following art movements until they evolved as separate art forms. Op Art painter Bridget Riley (*1931, UK) is famous for her life-long influential investigation of the interaction of form and colour (Riggs, 1998). Her one-of-a-series oil painting “Winter Palace” (1981), as shown on p. 67 of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2011) and e.g. by the National Gallery (n.d.) was influenced by the colours seen in Egyptian tombs. In a description provided by Artfund (n.d.) the effect is described as follows: “Just as in her earlier optical pictures, a vibrant surface is created with vertical bands causing the eye constantly to refocus, moving forward and back in space as one colour then another asserts a pull.”, which is a good description of the created effect and an example of the “disorientating optical effects of geometric forms”. In me, when looking at it for more than a few seconds, it will cause an intense feeling of dizziness, probably due to the mix of phenomena at work at the same time. For easier reference I take the neutral grey lines as uniform background on which the coloured lines operate, e.g. and without doubt missing several more:

  1. Each line, when seen on its own, appears to lie on one plane with the neutral background.
  2. Between each two lines separated by grey there appears the illusion of a narrow darker grey line.
  3. Each line appears to rest, at the same time, both on and above the picture plane, depending on the combination of colours seen together, e.g. in both combinations white and pink as well as pink and black the pink appears to lie above the other colour, but only if not separated by grey.
  4. A black line pulls the eye beneath the picture plane strongly in combination with pink, appears to lie above the plane next to yellow and appears unchanged between two turquoise lines.
  5. The most intense “wave” illusion is formed in the sequence “ochre-turquoise-black-turquoise-ochre-grey-white-pink-turquoise-black-grey-ochre”. To my eye, the sequence containing ochre, turquoise and black appear to lie more or less on the same plane, while the white and pink followed by the turquiose and black stripes appear to lie above it.
  6. When shifting my viewpoint to the left or right to include other combination of lines, the effect is diminished.
  7. There is a huge difference if I look at the painting with one instead of both eyes. In my opinion the effect is more dramatic with one eye closed, probably because compensatory information from the other eye is missing.

In fact, I could go on forever. The more I look, the more effects I discover and there is not a single painting or drawing without any. To me, even Kasimir Malevich’s famous “Black Square” (Shaw, 2013) produced in 1915, sort of flutters both inside and at its edges in the most uncomfortable manner, as if it were trying to move into the white area surrounding it. In fact, a wonderful remark made by Malevich, reinforces my impression: “It is from zero, in zero, that the true movement of being begins.” (Smith, 2003)
Big Bang. Better stop here.

Resources:

Artfund (n.d.) Winter Palance by Bridget Riley [online]. Artfund, London. Available at: https://www.artfund.org/supporting-museums/art-weve-helped-buy/artwork/6966/winter-palace-bridget-riley [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Caruth, N.J. (2013) Julie Mehretu: To Be Felt as Much as Read [interview] [online]. Art 21. Available at: http://www.art21.org/texts/julie-mehretu/interview-julie-mehretu-to-be-felt-as-much-as-read [Accessed 16 May 2016]

Harris, B. and Zucker, S. (2012) Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors [online]. Khan Academy. Available at:  https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/northern/holbein/v/hans-holbein-the-younger-the-ambassadors-1533 [Accessed 16 May 2016]

Kent, P. (2013) Art of Anamorphosis [online]. Philpp Kent, London. Available at: https://www.anamorphosis.com/ [Accessed 27 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016a) Artist research: Edward Burra, James Rosenquist and Josef Albers [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/artist-research-edward-burra-james-rosenquist-and-josef-albers/ [Accessed 16 May 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016b) Research point: Chevreul’s Colour Theory [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/research-point-chevreuls-colour-theory/ [Accessed 16 May 2016]

Mehretu, J. (2003) Empirical Construction, Istanbul [ink and synthetic polymer paint on canvas] [online]. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/91778?locale=en [Accessed 16 May 2016]

National Gallery (n.d.) Winter Palace [oil on linen] [online]. Leeds Art Gallery. Available at: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/initial-teacher-education/primary/learning/briley.aspx [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Open College of the Arts (2011) Painting 1. The Practice of Painting. The Bridgeman Art Library, London, New York, Paris, p. 67

Riggs, T. (1998) Bridget Riley: Biography [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/bridget-riley-1845 [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Shaw, P. (2013) Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square [online]. In Llewellyn, N. and Riding, C. (eds.) The Art of the Sublime, Tate Research Publication, January 2013. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/philip-shaw-kasimir-malevichs-black-square-r1141459 [accessed 28 February 2017]

Signac, P. (1890) Portrait of Félix Fénélon [oil on canvas] [online]. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Available at:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Signac#/media/File:Signac_-_Portrait_de_F%C3%A9lix_F%C3%A9n%C3%A9on.jpg %5BAccessed 16 May 2016]

Smith, R. (2003) Art Review; A Bombshell of Modernism Recaptured [online]. The New York Times, 13 May 2003). Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/13/arts/art-review-a-bombshell-of-modernism-recaptured.html [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Spivey, V.B. (n.d.) Contemporary Art, an introduction [online]. Khan Academy. Available at: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/beginners-guide-20-21/a/contemporary-art-an-introduction [Accessed 16 May 2016]

Tate (n.d.(a)) Op Art [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/o/op-art [Accessed 27 February 2017]

Tate (n.d.(b)) Neo-Impressionism [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/n/neo-impressionism [Accessed 27 February 2017]

Wikipedia (2012) Optical Phenomena [online]. Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_phenomena [Accessed 16 May 2016]

WorkWithColor.com (n.d.) Color Properties/Terminology [online]. WorkWithColour.com. Available at: http://www.workwithcolor.com/color-properties-definitions-0101.htm [Accessed 27 February 2017]

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Square_%28painting%29

Part 2, project 3, exercise 2: Colour relationships – successive contrast

Updated on 27 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

16 May 2016. When writing my last post I came across an old but well-written website on colour relationships, and by coincidence found it would be a very good addition to this exercise as well (Perron, n.d.). If you go to that page, scroll right down to the bright yellow caution sign, stare at it for a while, then shift your gaze to the white area to the right of it, the violet complementary field will appear and stay for a while. What I also think I can see at the same time is another, though much weaker, yellow field above and in response to the violet, but this may be an optical illusion. The effect of such successive contrast on the perception of other colours can also be seen in an example (Miyapuram, 2008), where the staring at the red and green pair of discs will influence the perception of the identical yellow pait of discs below. For a while the yellow discs will appear as if their hues were different, because each is modulated by the respective complementary after-image of the pair above. The effect is transient, however, and will need to be “reloaded” after fading. Following instructions in the study guide I painted a square using my most vivid pigment, again primary yellow. After the brightness of the computer-generated examples of yellow this colour is much softer on the eye, but works just as well (Fig. 1):

1_Yellow_square_16052016
Figure 1. Investigating successive contrast. Complementary violet appears right of the yellow square on gaze shift.

I find it extremely hard to focus my gaze (getting distracted by all the things going on around the point of interest) and so most of my complementary colour experience is random, but by being attentive, the effect is noticeable in a great number of everyday situations. To me, a never-failing fascinating experience is the accidental looking into a bright light bulb. While the eye recovers from the shock, the complementary after-image appears with a visible filament.
Thinking about the effect successive contrast has in paintings I think it is necessary to carefully consider the relative positions of the colours influencing each other. The whole idea makes my head swim with images and after-images and I know that I need to learn stepwise by vigilance and spending a lot of time experimenting.

Resources:

  1. Perron, C. (n.d.) Colour Choices on Web Pages: Contrast vs Readability [online]. Carin Perron Colour Theory and Practice. Available at: http://www.writer2001.com/colwebcontrast.htm [Accessed 16 May 2016]
  2. Miyapuram, K.P. (2008) Successice contrast [online image]. K. P. Miyapuram. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrast_effect#/media/File:Successive_contrast.svg [Accessed 16 May 2016]

Part 2, project 3, exercise 1: Colour relationships – simultaneous contrast

Updated on 27 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

15/16 May 2016. I still had a large part of the neutral grey ground prepared for the last colour experiments, so I used this for my exercise on exploring simultaneous colour contrast, i.e. the effect that colours appear to change relative to the colours they are seen against. Colours, which are close together on the colour wheel, appear more like one colour than when seen separately, while colours opposite to one another on the wheel reinforce each other. In the colours I chose (Fig. 1) the relative strength of this “cancelling out effect” is visible with the colours yellow, and both orange and green, which lie next to yellow on the colour wheel. While, for example, the yellow square inside the yellow-green frame (no. 3) is hardly noticeable as a separate colour, it is relatively clearly visible inside the green (no. 5) or dark orange (no. 2) frame. In producing the squares I had to take care not to leave any of the background colour to shine through at the boundary between each colour pair. The effect on the pair was instantaneous, at least to me. Even in the fourth square from the left, the tiny areas of grey between the yellow and green are so prominent that they shift viewer attention away from the colour relationship I wanted to test. In addition, it was very difficult to take a photo at all that was not either too dark or too bright, but then with shiny brush strokes, all of which have their own influence on the colour relationships explored here.

1_Contrast_similar_colours_15052016
Figure 1. Simultaneous contrast in colours close to one another in the colour spectrum

Next I was asked to produce another (yellow) square, this time with its tonally equal complementary colour added, and to observe the effect (Fig. 2). To be honest, I would not know how to describe the influence. On the one hand, violet being the complementary colour to yellow, the combination works to enhance contrast in the pair. At the same time, making the pair tonally equal seems to work in the opposite direction. Colour contrast and tonal contrast appear to work hand in hand, as I would expect when thinking about it, but I may be wrong with my impression. In addition, I am not sure, whether I was completely successful in matching tonal values in the example below. No matter how much white I add, the yellow always seems brighter and there seems to be a limit regarding the potential of adding white in tonal adjustment (see explanation for this effect below).

2_Complementary_equal_tones_15052016
Figure 2. Complementary pair of colours, contrast with tonal values made equal

Finally I was asked to produce square frames of a complementary pair and to observe their effect on a neutral grey centre in comparison with a white frame (Fig. 3). Since I was already using a neutral grey ground, I did not understand the instruction of having to paint an additional neutral grey centre, so I omitted that step. In order to see the effects the different frames have on their centres, I need to half close my eyes and carefully cover the squares I do not want to look at, since they are a source of distraction. To me, the grey square appears darkest and similar (but not equal) in the tonally similar complementary pair of yellow and violet, somewhat lighter inside the white and lightest inside the tonally unchanged violet frame which I added out of interest. When looking for information on the internet regarding the relative brightness of colours, it is the yellow-green receptors in the human retina that are the most sensitive (Kaye, 2014). Since the human brain tends to reinforce differences in order to separate information, it is to be expected that the brighter the square, the darker the centre will appear, and vice versa. The strongest colour contrast is produced by combining yellow and black (Perron, n.d.), so my observation regarding the white square is correct. This means, however, that no matter how much white I add to a colour, the tonal value of yellow/green-yellow may in the end be unattainable. This is my own interpretation and again I may be wrong, but it tells me that it is necessary to be very careful with the use and placement of yellow in a painting.

3_Complementary_grey_squares_15052016
Figure 3. Complementary pair of colours on neutral grey

I am planning to explore colour contrast for Assignment 2 (separate posts to follow) and will try and keep investigating the subject throughout the preparations.

Resources:

  1. Kaye, T. (2014) What color do humans see as brightest? [online]. Quora. Available at: https://www.quora.com/What-color-do-humans-see-as-brightest [Accessed 16 May 2016]
  2. Perron, C. (n.d.) Colour Choices on Web Pages: Contrast vs Readability [online]. Carin Perron Colour Theory and Practice. Available at: http://www.writer2001.com/colwebcontrast.htm [Accessed 16 May 2016]

Assignment 2: Stage 1 -Preliminary research (colour symbolism)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

14 May 2016. Assignment 2 is still more than six weeks away for me, but there is an idea I would like to pursue in preparation for this assignment. To this end I would like to start now in order to be able to dedicate the exercises to come as preliminary steps towards the final painting.

The story of our fight for our son has been added to by another unbelievable chapter, this time concerning the role, which the public prosecutor assigned to our case appears to play in further hushing up the commited offences. We have turned somewhat numb at the incredible sequence of acts of wilful negligence we have been exposed to in the last nine years, but are determined not to give up. Assignment 2 will be my channel for expressing what I feel and because it is a poisonous cocktail mixed from extreme emotions, this is a wonderful opportunity to indulge in experimenting with the various effects colours have in communication with the human eye. Since we are required to paint another still life, here is some preliminary research regarding the meanings attributed to different colours in the Western world. And talking of cocktails – this could be the first step towards the setup of my still life.

I found an endless number of resources, but there is a limited number of emotions and conditions, and thus colours, I need to deal with in the context of this assignment and decided that staying with one source of information would provide me with reliable cross-connections. The source chosen also deals with colours in painting (Olesen, 2016):

  • red: warm, positive, strong colour, signals “Stop!”, strong emotions, energizing, promotes determination, steals attention, symbol also of war, too much red makes angry, especially dark red (5). This should be my background colour including a black void as in Mark Rothko’s (1903-1970, USA) painting “Four Darks in Red” (Rothko, 1958) and own research).
  • black: symbolizes evil, depressing, hidden, unknown, mysterious things, power and control also over information hidden from the outside world, but also elegance and wealth, protection against emotional stress (maybe use this colour to limit the effect of turquoise and red by painting round them), adds contrast and allows other colours to stick out more (4), use on the black void and where needed in the painting, maybe position the mixing tools and glasses on a black shiny surface or cloth, black should not stand alone. I will need to buy a darker type of black, my ivory black is more like a very dark grey.
  • brown: colour of stability for the family, protects from the outside world, I will need to put this in between the red outside frame and the black void as a protective shield, stays in the background, emphasizes other colours (13), use a brown not too dark, only if I want it to communicate depression, if dark it should also help to enhance the cocktail colours
  • silver: colour of truth of old, sophisticated, visible in the dark, which for my purpose is also true in a figurative sense, however “silver-tongued devil” is someone who deceives and cheats, the colour can also bring emotional, mental and physical harmony, distinuguish between bright silver, which suggests openness and dark silver, which is associated with negative emotions (1)
    Cocktail mixing equipment is silvery and I could make a mirror image of the silver-tongued devil in my cocktail mixer, while the different sorts of brightly coloured cocktails mixed have various meanings associated. The experience gained, by concidence, with the two different types of silver sheen in my still life with man-made objects may not have been a coincidence.
  • turquoise: creates harmony, but must not be overused, because of a roller-coaster effect, which may represent our own attempt to initiate positive communication with the injuring parties, combines blue with a little yellow, “radiates peace, calmness and tranquility through the blue colour, balance and growth through the green colour, with an uplifting energy from the colour yellow. Turquoise recharges our spirits during periods of mental stress and fatigue”, improves empathy, but in the extreme narcissistic, weighs pros and cons, I will need the shade of blue-green, since it promotes engagement and symbolizes credibility and reliability (3) – it is also probably no coincidence that I have always liked this colour, it is one of my favourites. Type of cocktail: Caribbean mist, opaque.
  • pink: unconditional love, understanding, sign of hope and success, relieves anger (6) Type of cocktail: Pink Lady, opaque. Will need to stand next to the red of the Rothko frame in some place to see the calming effect and the cancelling out of similar colours, don’t make a dark line round the glass in this case! Use hot pink, but sparingly like turquoise
  • orange: as a complementary to turquoise, warm, positive, stimulates mental activity, provides emotional strength in difficult times, encourages two-way communication, encourages self-respect and respect for others (7) Type of cocktail: Campari orange, because it contains two shades – dark orange, meaning deceit, and golden orange, which should be positive
  • white: protects and encourages, opens up the mind for something new, sense of peace, comport, hope, but too much can create a cold, isolated, empty feeling (9). Use a bit of it as something in or on the pink cocktail to enhange the meaning, but also to stand in opposition to the red and black
  • yellow: the brightest colour visible, increases optimism and communication, makes nervous, associated with envy, influences head rather than heart (10). This only in context with other warm colours, but not on its own, since it is part of turquoise, I may not need it separately (just as blue)
  • blue: calming, strength, wisdom, trust, do the right thing in difficult situations (14), since it is part of turquoise I may not need it separately (just as yellow)
  • colours not to use in this context: gold (2), purple (8), both have meanings opposite to those I want to convey; green (11) – it takes away the aggression of the red and adds too much hope, which is not true; grey (12) – because it does not convey any of the emotions associated with this context

The colours I would like to use after this initial research will be shades of red, brown and deep black to create a background in the style of a Mark Rothko painting (research to follow). On this I will try and paint a symbolic, weird and aggressive-looking cocktail arrangement of turquoise, pink and orange drinks made in a silver shaker and served in glasses of different shapes. The colour white will only be used to mix tonal values and to add highlights, yellow, blue and green will not be part of the painting as separate areas of colour. Off now to some detailed research on the mechanisms at work in Mark Rothko’s paintings.

Resources:

Olesen, J. (2016) Hidden Meanings of Colour and Art [online]. Jacob Olesen, Copenhagen. Available at: http://www.color-meanings.com/hidden-meanings-of-colors-and-art/ [Accessed 14 May 2016]

Rothko, M. (1958) Four Darks in Red [oil on canvas] [online]. Whitney Museum of American Art,

1. http://www.color-meanings.com/silver-color-meaning-the-color-silver/
2. http://www.color-meanings.com/gold-color-meaning-the-color-gold/
3. http://www.color-meanings.com/turquoise-color-meaning-the-color-turquoise/
4. http://www.color-meanings.com/black-color-meaning-the-color-black/
5. http://www.color-meanings.com/red-color-meaning-the-color-red/
6. http://www.color-meanings.com/pink-color-meaning-the-color-pink/
7. http://www.color-meanings.com/orange-color-meaning-the-color-orange/
8. http://www.color-meanings.com/purple-color-meaning-the-color-purple/
9. http://www.color-meanings.com/white-color-meaning-the-color-white/
10. http://www.color-meanings.com/yellow-color-meaning-the-color-yellow/
11. http://www.color-meanings.com/green-color-meaning-the-color-green/
12. http://www.color-meanings.com/gray-color-meaning-the-color-gray/
13.http://www.color-meanings.com/brown-color-meaning-the-color-brown/
14. http://www.color-meanings.com/blue-color-meaning-the-color-blue/

 

 

Part 2, project 2, exercise 4: Still life with man-made objects (step 2: finished painting)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

10 May 2016. Much happier with this exercise than with the previous two. I have learned from them, changed back to using water only to dilute my paint and painting on an A2 painting carton rather than acrylic paper.
The study guide requires me to comment on a list of aspects, which I will deal with first to then add a photo sequence with some additional thoughts.

1. Planning and working methods

During the last three exercises I finally discovered the sequence of steps required from preliminary research regarding artists and styles, to a selective choice and well-thought-out positioning and lighting of objects. I have now switched from making sketches on larger-scale paper to such in my sketchbook, which results in a much more coherent story and easy reference while creating the actual painting. This time, for the first time ever, I sat down while painting and I found that extremely useful in case of a  still life. However, I have not yet found an ideal place to put the arrangement, which would at the same time allow a comfortable working position with access to daylight. I will probably have to buy a higher than normal table or board for the purpose (Fig. 1).

Workplace_with_viewfinder_10052016
Figure 1: The workplace

2. Choice of format/scale

I spent some time arranging my objects and found that with the most successful setup a portrait format would work far better than a landscape format. The last two exercises I had been experimenting on smaller scale acrylic paper and found this awkward to work with. I prefer larger sizes from A2 upwards, because I tend to paint with a mix of bold strokes with some detail added and found that I was unable to do that on smaller sized supports. This meant scaling up my objects to about two to three times their actual size, which had the positive side effect that smaller details could be added with confidence.

3. Composition

Initially I was not too happy with the composition, since I am not a typical still life painter, but the longer I worked on the actual painting the more I liked what I got. I think that it contains a pleasing mix of materials in positions which allows the viewer’s eye to wander without effort, while not totally devoid of a story.

4. Colour interest

I think that the mix of subdued greys and browns provided by both the piece of driftwood and the blocks of wood went well together with the metallic hues (brushed cool grey stainless steel salt cellar and pepper caster, polished warm grey spoon) and the plastic egg cup, whose colours were complementary. I tried to paint shaded areas using the colours of the respective objects mixed with my background mix of dark brown, bluegreen and a little black in case where there was deep shade.

5. Use of tonal contrast

Careful planning of the lighting conditions allowed strong shadows stand in contrast with a series of areas of lighter tonal values. I took care to cross-check relative tonal values across the whole canvas.

6. Paint handing

I came to appreciate very much the advice of using a coloured background to start with. It is far easier to work out tonal differences from a background, which is not white. Form the lessons learnt during the last two exercises I kept spraying water on my palette at intervals. I tried to produce strong and at the same time loose marks with a larger size flat brush as e.g. in the piece of driftwood, which went surprisingly well. Keeping in mind what I had seen in the work of Cathleen Rehfeld (Lacher-Bryk, 2016), I went over the background with lighter shades of the background mix, painting around the objects in a loose manner and tried to leave some of the dark to define outlines, where I thought it would create a believable addition to the description of an object’s characteristics.

The following photos were quite difficult to take, I did not find a place in our house and even outside where I could avoid all reflections, so unfortunately some areas on the canvas appear foggy (Fig. 2a-b, Fig. 3a-b).


Today I finished the exercise and am quite happy with the result (Fig. 4, Fig. 5a-b):

Finished_painting_10052016
Figure 4. Finished painting, acrylics on A2 painting carton


An important aspect I noticed with the use of acrylic paint is the fact that with my set of standard quality paint the colour of the prepared mix on the palette has nothing to do with the colour of the wet paint applied to the canvas (unless in very thick layers), but interestingly when dry the paint will return more or less to what was mixed. This was extreme with my background mix, which looked dark green when applied, but would dry to turn back to the pleasant dark brown-grey hue mixed. When mixed with white, however, the greenish hue remained. This I used to modify the background according to the different lighting conditions and was very happy with the effect.

Regarding the relative success of each of the exercises in this project I am not really able to compare them due to the problems I caused myself by introducing gloss medium in the second exercise. I think, however, that the third painting is by far the best regarding the choice of subject and execution through the various stages. This is the most intense phase of learning I have had for a very long time and I am pleased that I was able to come through with such a large gain.

Asked to revisit Assignment 1 there is not a lot I would have done differently. I like the viewpoint and idea behind the painting. What I would do completely differently now, however, is the painting of the flower-heads. I remember that each of them was done in a different way as a reaction to a more or less accidental application of paint and when looking closely the different sequences of opaque and transparent layers is quite obvious. If I had to do it again, I would do some preliminary experiments with the layering of paint in translucent objects and then try to work in a consistent way across the whole bouquet.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Part 2, project 2, exercise 4: Still life with man-made objects (step 1: preliminary thoughts, choice of objects and first sketches) [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/part-2-project-2-exercise-4-still-life-with-man-made-objects-step-1-preliminary-thoughts-choice-of-objects-and-first-sketches/ [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Part 2, project 2, exercise 4: Still life with man-made objects (step 1: preliminary thoughts, choice of objects and first sketches)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

3 May 2016. Right. This time I am going to do this properly. Originally I had planned to use soft pastel crayons and sand paper for this exercise, but since there was so much to be explored regarding the behaviour of acrylics after the last two exercises that I could not just leave it as it is.

What I learned from the last exercise:

  • start with a uniform but coloured background, it can always be changed later
  • do not prepare a background with gloss medium, it is awful to paint on without the right type of practice
  • avoid mixing brand of gloss medium and brand of acrylics. They do not seem to like each other.
  • keep diluting with water, just keep spraying water on both support and tray
  • choose SIMPLE objects (I just realised that a reason for my wrong choices may be the fact that I keep returning to the great images in the study guide, but most of them are way beyond what I can achieve at my stage of development)

I had a look on the internet for artists who paint in a way I would like to explore in line with my list and found a number of paintings by Cathleen Rehfeld (Rehfeld, 2016-17), whose style I find appealing. She explains that she uses black gesso to prepare her support, then paints on that with bold strokes, leaving some of the black background to serve as outline of the painted objects. I was also impressed by her daily paintings (Daily Paintwork, n.d.), where the simplest everyday items appear to come to life. Since her style reminds me of that of some impressionists and my all-time favourite Expressionist, Egon Schiele (1890-1918, Austria) (Fig.1), and I think that during the last few exercises I seem to have worked towards, inconsistently and with the wrong colours, a style reminiscent of the above, I am going to do my best to stay with what seems to be developing anyway. So, another attempt at strong lines and “dirty” colours.

Egon_Schiele_004
Figure 1. Egon Schiele: “Old Mill”, oil on canvas, 1916. Source: Egon Schiele (1890-1918) [Public domain] via malerei-meisterwerke.de
When coming to the choice of items, I will try the “less is more” principle, but will be still be looking for unusual shapes and setups. For example, Picasso’s  “Still Life with Pitcher and Apples” (Picasso, 1919) could not be more straightforward in choice, but the shape of the pitcher and position of fruit attract the attention of a viewer because of the unexpected arrangement. The same applies, in my opinion, to his  “Still Life with Skull and Pot” (Picasso, 1943): It is deceptively simple, but catches the light in an admirable way, while knowing skull and cheeky pot appear to be engaged in some act of important communication. What I also found was a still life by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945, USA), from a three generation dynasty of painters, called “Still Life with Bowl, Onions and Bottle” (Wyeth, 1922): again, simple objects, the most straightforward of arrangements, and all the beauty of it coming from the incredible background and use of light on the objects. It seems as if the shape of the bottle consisted of black background only, its outline defined by wall and table, and only a hint of light on its neck.
This is all well, but I think a big point where my planning goes wrong may be the ACTUAL choice of objects. We do not seem to be a household with stuff that lends itself easily to posing for a still life, so I will need to take my time.

8 May 2016. I took my time and finally came up with a driftwood salt and pepper holder made by my sister, a silver spoon and, as a contrast in material and colour my son’s plastic egg cup. I am not too pleased with my choice, because it will not tell a story beyond “waiting for my boiled egg to arrive”, but this is an exercise and I will concentrate on improving my technique to leave the message for Assignment 2.
Bearing in mind the beautiful choice of background by N.C. Wyeth, I used a dark grey wooden board to serve as wall and a piece of dark brown paper taken from a Nespresso bag to cover the table (Fig. 2):

Setup1_08052016
Figure 2. Objects chosen for this exercise (setup discarded later because of weak shadows und unfavourable distribution of darkest tones)

With this arrangement, my viewfinder and a desktop daylight lamp I experimented until negative spaces, distribution of colours, shadows and highlights looked satisfactory to me. In fact the latter did not come true, but after a day I made up my mind to go for the setup which in my opinion came closest to the requirements. For my sketches I used three different ink pens, a fineliner, a calligraphy pen for the darkest tones and a brush-tip one for the mid tones. The latter unfortunately started to run out of ink and so the last, and most interesting, of the following sketches is lighter in tone than I would have liked it to be (Fig. 3-5).

First_sketch_ink_pens_v1_08052016
Figure 3
First_sketch_ink_pens_v2_08052016
Figure 4
First_sketch_ink_pens_v3_08052016
Figure 5

The above sketch I recreated in my sketchbook at a slightly larger scale with a dark watercolour background and soft pastel crayons, a combination which produced some very beautiful effects (Fig. 6):

Sketch_watercolour_pastels_detail_08052016
Figure 6. Watercolour and pastel sketch emphasizing darest and lightest tonal values

With this sketch to work from I decided to choose an A2 painting carton, portrait format and a coloured background. Report to follow.

References:

Daily Paintworks (n.d.) Cathleen Rehfeld [online]. Daily Paintworks. Available at: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/Artists/cathleen-rehfeld-206 [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Picasso, P. (1919) Still Life with Pitcher and Apples [oil on canvas] [online]. Musée National Picasso, Paris. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-14/picasso27s-still-life-with-pitcher-and-apples2c-1919/3664892 [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Picasso, P. (1943) Still Life with Skull and Pot [n.k.] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.pablo-ruiz-picasso.net/work-1594.php [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Rehfeld, C. (2016-17) Cathleen Rehfeld Oil Paintings [blog] [online]. Cathleen Rehfeld. Available at: http://crehfeld.blogspot.co.at/ [Accessed 3 May 2016]

Schiele, E. (1916) Old Mill [oil on canvas] [online]. Niederösterreichisches Landesmuseum, Wien. Available at: http://www.malerei-meisterwerke.de/bilder/egon-schiele-alte-muehle-08818.html [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Wyeth, N.C. (1922) Still Life with Bowl, Onions and Bottle [oil on canvas][online]. Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/eoskins/5598698301/ [Accessed 3 May 2016]

 

Artist research: Edward Burra, James Rosenquist and Josef Albers

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing, some content).

28 April 2016. Following feedback on Assignment 1 I was to have a closer look at three artists.

Edward Burra (1905 – 1976) was an English painter with an inclination to comment on the darker sides of the world. My tutor suggested to have a look at the way he uses negative space in painting around objects. She included in her feedback an image of his watercolour painting “Honesty” showing the gorgeous seed pods of the Silver Dollar plant (Lunaria annua) (Burra, 1965-67), where Burra used nothing but several layers of negative space painting on top of each other, creating a beautiful effect. The painting itself looks almost like a print, but the effect of making negative space a major part of a compositional idea is illustrated here in a powerful way. When comparing this to what Burra used to paint as a keen observer and satirical commentator on city street life, I believe that he was very much aware of the effects of negative space on the overall impression of a painting. In “Harlem” (Burra, 1934), the white pavement is an object, but is at the same time the negative space between the two people in the foreground. I feel that in both ways it helps to draw the persons together.

Since in my report for Assignment 1 I had stated that in my research for artistic inspiration on the painting of tulips I had not come up with anything I wanted to include in my own attempt, my tutor asked me to comment on a work created by pop art painter James Rosenquist (*1933, USA), “Tulips” (Rosenquist, 1987) . To be honest, I am not a particular fan of pop art and I could not see a point in producing a light blue, pink and soft green spring image with a diffuser effect only to superimpose on that sharp pointed bundles of golden rays, which cut through the painting from various angles. There was no interpretation available of the content, but failing to decipher the message I had to assume that the aim was to curtail one kind of common beauty with another. This image would have helped me to decide what I did not want in my painting, in a similar way as “Yellow Tulips” (2014) by Alex Katz (*1927, USA). On one associated website (no longer available on http://www.widewalls.ch/wp-content/plugins/business//server/php/files/3501/1650604429_1448299370.jpg on 28 February 2017) there was an explanation, but to me what is described as “wonderfully bright exploration of the nature and the landscape” looks like something – and no apologies – 3rd grade kids do as their group work in their drawing lessons. The problem with such an approach is, however, that for a beginner like me it would be more important to identify what I like in a painting to then try and work with that. I then went to see what else I could find. The big issue with tulips appears to be that they lend themselves to kitsch or naive approaches all too easily. Here are some examples to illustrate what I mean: “Tulips” (Koons, 1995-2004), a world-famous set of sculptures by Jeff Koons (*1955, USA) , “Morning Tulips” (Hempel, 2015) or “Red Tulips” (Pocisk, n.d.). I could go on like this forever. Try and enter, for example, “tulips painting” in your browser and see whether you can get, for the purpose of learning from other artists, any better than I did.

Finally, I was to do some research on Josef Albers (1888-1976), world-famous art educator, in preparation for the investigation of colour in Part 2 of the course. In particular I am to pay attention to “Homage to the Square” (e.g. Albers, 1965) a series started in 1949 and comprising more than a thousand paintings of various materials, media and sizes “exploring chromatic interactions with nested squares”, in particular in trying to answer the question: “Can an artist create the appearance of three dimensions, using only color relations?” (Roggenkamp, 2017) . In one of the paintings, called “With Rays” (Albers, 1959) for example, the grey centre is explained to appear to float above the more colorful background, while the sequence of colours “encourages the viewer’s eye to move outward from the center of the composition”. It may be the photo on the internet, but I did not see the floating of the grey and in my case the eyes moved from the centre outward only to stop at the darker yellow. Then they were drawn to the darker top edges of that square. The largest square, similar in hue to the second one, went quite unnoticed, until I forced my eye to move there. Another example of the series, “Soft Spoken” (Albers, 1969), makes the appearance of three dimensions in a sequence of colours strongly visible. It may be helped by the position of the squares near the bottom of the largest square, which is interpreted by the human mind as an entrance to something. The series is said to be a clinical exploration of colour relationships and then compared to the more emotional approach chosen by Marko Rothko (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). A video explanation of Albers’ work is available by Nelson (2012). Since his findings are of great importance to both producing and viewing art, I will try and come back to Albers’ work during the course on a regular basis.

References:

Albers, J. (1959) With Rays [oil on masonite] [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/59.160/ [Accessed 28 April 2016]

Albers, J. (1965) Homage to the Square [acrylics on canvas] [online]. Detroit Institute of Arts. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Albers#/media/File:Josef_Albers%27s_painting_%27Homage_to_the_Square%27,_1965.jpg [Accessed 28 April 2016]

Albers, J. (1969) Soft Spoken [oil on masonite] [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/481031 [Accessed 28 April 2016]

Burra, E. (1965-67) Honesty [pencil and wash on paper] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2014/1000-ways-seeing-l14313/lot.68.html [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Burra, E. (1934) Harlem [ink and gouache on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/burra-harlem-n05004 [Accessed 28 April 2017]

Hempel, A. (2015) Morning Tulips [n.k.] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.artworkarchive.com/artwork/anne-hempel/morning-tulips [Accessed 28 April 2017]

Katz, A. (2014) Yellow Tulips [screenprint] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/alex-katz-yellow-tulips-5 [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Koons, J. (1995-2004) Tulips. [stainless steel sculpture, transparent colour] [online]. Wynn Las Vegas. Available at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/59391288809686724/ [Accessed 28 April 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Research: Merging a Limited Colour Range – Mark Rothko and Renny Tait [blog] [online] Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/research-merging-a-limited-colour-range-mark-rothko-and-renny-tait/ [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Nelson, R. (2012) Albers Homage to the Square: An Explanation [online]. Richard Nelson. Available at: https://vimeo.com/25215702 [Accessed 28 April 2016]

Pocisk, R. (n.d.) Red Tulips [acrylics on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/72751686/reserved-red-tulips-painting-16-x-16 [Accessed 28 April 2016]

Roggenkamp, S. (2017) Albers, Homage to the Square [online]. Khan Academy. Available at: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/abstract-exp-nyschool/ny-school/a/albers-homage-to-the-square [Accessed 28 April 2016]

Rosenquist, J. (1987) Tulips [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/james-rosenquist/tulips-wvDVy4oOrVdzt6oOhHYZ-A2 [Accessed 26 February 2017]

 

Part 2, project 2, exercise 3: Still life disaster with natural objects (step 4: finished painting)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

2 May 2016. So, here comes disaster diary for the last step in this exercise.

I think that everything that follows can be pinpointed to my introduction of gloss medium as a diluting agent instead of water. In my previous exercise I had noticed that I was unable to create uniform layers of paint, i.e. such that were not totally opaque to the sides of the brush and totally transparent in the brush track. After having got the advice to use gloss medium to dilute instead of water the first experiments looked quite promising except for the weird bubbles created by mixing more than the tiniest amount of paint and medium. While I thought that the background created in this way looked fine and the surface was smooth and shiny, I will have to work some more on my composition skills (Fig. 1).

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Figure 1. The prepared background, A3 acrylic paper, paint diluted with gloss medium

When next I added another layer of paint indicating the position of my objects and their future colours, I noticed straight away that painting on top of that smooth surface would not be as straightforward as it had sounded on the internet. I found that I was unable to go over areas already covered in wet paint a second time, because this would remove all the paint in an instant and I would not be able to close the gaps produced in this way until the layer had dried completely. This allowed no spontaneity im my use of the paintbrush whatsoever and prohibited the correction of mistakes. Also, and what I did not expect to see to such an extent was the extreme darkening effect. Acrylics become darker on drying, student qualities such as I have been using so far more so than professional quality paint (which I will buy from now on!), but the gloss medium made this far worse. The application of mixed hues became totally unpredictable, since I did not know what tonal value to mix for it to dry up to create the tonal value I wanted. And furthermore, the medium and paint reacted together in a way which produced a fluffy, creamy stuff difficult to apply to the smooth surface, which a second later was dry enough to allow no correcting. I spent two days trying to do my best to finish my painting, but I gave up when I saw no way I could improve what I had (Fig. 2):

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Figure 2. Finished disaster painting, A3 acrylic paper, objects painted with acrylics diluted with gloss medium

While there is no point in wanting to see anything nice in the overall work, I do think that some parts may be worth remembering for later for their effects. If they had been on a separate canvas each I might have been quite pleased with the outcome. So here are the details I liked. The “coral” (or whatever it may be) was believable overall despite the lack of detail provided at closer look. I also want to remember the effect of having outlines contrasting in colour to both the object itself and the adjacent negative space, see top right of following photo (sorry for the poor quality, neither camera nor scanner nor the later removal of highlights on the computer provided a realistic image) (Fig. 3):

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Figure 3. Finished disaster painting, detail: “coral”

In the following two details I liked the texture of the background surrounding the petrified branch (Fig. 4a) and the contrast between the pointed bit of rock and the background, making it look really 3-dimensional (Fig. 4b). These I was also pleased with, because I noticed that for the first time my artist research seemed to have an effect on my style of painting (if one may call that so):

What was impossible to improve in the painting was my piece of pumice. Whatever I tried became so dark in the end that I could only guess at the final colour.
I will resist, however, the urge to apply a pair of scissors to this piece of work and stick the nice bits in my sketchbook. By having it in front of me in my workshop I may learn more from it that I am am aware of at this point.