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):

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1927_-_Molle_rudesse
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]

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 3: Still life with natural objects (step 3: sketching of objects)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

2 May 2016. With my newly discovered skill of keeping a sketchbook diary properly, I embarked on the next step of this exercise, making sketches of the objects to get acquainted with their properties and having a look at negative space created by placing them. This was most enjoyable and I think relatively successful (in contrast to the mini disaster to follow …).

My preliminary sketches I did in watercolour with ink pen, on the lookout for chance findings to make use of in my finished painting. I found the somewhat abstracted coloured shadows pleasing to look at, while also object likeness was not bad. The most difficult part was the shiny blackness of the pumice, which I was unable to copy, but since the overall structure of the rock was good and I wanted to keep this as a reference for later, I left the sketch as it was (Fig.1 ).

17_Sketching_objects
Figure 1. Watercolour and ink pen preliminary sketches of my objects

Next I experimented some more with placing the objects on my prepared background and already had a feeling that both ideas would probably not go together: I arranged the objects on the support where I thought they would both connect in their geological context and form an interesting pattern regarding the negative shapes between them. Doing this I could see that the shadows, if they were to be coloured, would clash with the negative space, making its properties less visible.
Since however this is supposed to be an experiment and my tutor advised me not to get distracted by seemingly finished paintings in the mind, I went ahead with my arrangement anyway. I made a rough charcoal sketch to identify the important negative spaces (Fig. 2).

18_Negative_spaces_charcoal
Figure 2. Placement of objects, shadows and negative spaces

Looking at the above sketch I thought the setup looked fidgety, since although everything pointed towards the centre, there was nothing to see there. In order to decrease this effect, I used a bit of beautiful white mesh normally used for decoration purposes and glued it into the sketchbook like an additional page.

19_Negative_spaces_charcoal_mesh
As above, with mesh added

Now the arrangement was more pleasing to look at and I still did not look forward to translating it to acrylics, it was full of foreboding of the weekend to come :o) …