"ART is a word which summarizes THE QUALITY OF COMMUNICATION. "
L. Ron Hubbard

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Art and "authority"

Be wary of anyone citing "authority" in the field of art. Art is about creating. So there will always be those who are creating new things, some of which will not be appreciated. Remember that the impressionists, the cubists, the surrealists, the abstract expressionists, were all shunned in their time. And today, there are those who would tell you that there is only one acceptable kind of art.

From my vantage point as an art teacher, often dealing with beginners who would put me on a pedestal because of my greater experience, I find it particularly important to remind myself of this. I am usually teaching "the basics." And the basics are important. But it is also important to validate the creation of the individual artist. He or she may not have the scene exactly right, or the colors, but that creation nevertheless is important.

The field of art is full of authorities. Listen to them, because they have knowledge. But beware of wholesale acceptance.

Here's an example: A student recently asked if she could use a fan brush to make the leaves on the trees. I immediately replied that the purpose of the fan brush was blending. Then I backtracked, because you could use a fan brush for foliage, and many do. It's not its original purpose, but — hey — why not?

Painting About.com website has more on the use of the fan brush.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What hue should you use

Here's some more on color from my book. Please note this is copyrighted.

Traditionally, painters use a color wheel whose primary colors are red, yellow and blue. A very limited palette of red, yellow, blue and white might include just permanent red, hanza yellow medium, ultramarine blue and titanium white. You will find, however, that, because paints are not perfect “primary” colors, you need a limited palette of at least two reds, two yellows, and two blues (one of each hue veering towards the “warm” and other towards the “cool” spectrum. Alternately, you could build your palette around the primary and secondary hues: red, yellow and blue would be the primary and orange, green and violet the secondary colors.

The history of the color wheel is interesting. In the mid-eighteenth century, scientist Isaac Newton’s experiments with prisms resulted in the theory that red, yellow and blue were the primary colors, although color theory no longer supports the concept that all other colors can be mixed from these primaries.

At the time of the Impressionists, some innovative theory on color was being developed.  A Mr. Chevreul was establishing a color wheel and Mr. Rood had just published a work on the theory of color in 1881. The Impressionists (and Neo-Impressionists) adopted these theories and arranged their palettes according to the chromatic tables furnished by the physicists.  "Following the theory that light, broken up in a prism, gives off seven colors, they adopted these seven colors on their palettes."  They excluded black.  Duranty, a prominent writer of the time, felt that they were handicapped by this.  Unlike the "true" Impressionists, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Edouard Manet did not exclude black, but used it richly.  (This last information was extracted from Mary Cassatt 1844-1926, National Gallery of Art, 1970 Exhibition Catalogue)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Some color theory

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book. Yesterday, students my class at ArtSpace Herndon once again voiced a concern about how to mix color. This is a little information intended to help. As I've said before, the best way to help is to put paint to canvas.

General Color Theory

Hue is the property which distinguishes red from green. If you ask “what hue is the sea?” the answer might be: “Aquamarine” or “ultramarine” depending on where you are (and the weather). Hue is determined by the wavelength of the color. The colors of the rainbow are considered hues. Browns and grays are not hues.

Value (lightness-darkness) applies to color as well as the gray scale. Yellow has a naturally light value and blue has a naturally strong (dark) value.

Saturation refers to how much pure pigment of the desired hue is present versus medium or other hue. You can de-saturate a pure color by adding white, gray, black, or the complement of the color. Saturation is often referred to as color intensity or chroma, although chroma has a slightly different meaning to a purist. (Visual artists don’t usually seem to pursue this distinction.)

Temperature refers to whether the color is perceived as warm or cool and is a relative term. Red may seem warm in relation to blue, but may seem cool if placed next to orange.

These attributes (qualities, properties, or characteristics) work together to create depth and composition on the two-dimensional plane.

There are some additional terms, such as “shade” (amount of black added) “tint” (amount of white added, and “intensity” (the brightness or dullness of a hue). But I think the main concepts it’s important for a painter to get are the first four.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Use of reference material in creating "ART"

Often, when teaching a class of students using photos as reference material, I find myself pointing out things that they haven't seen in the photo, or correcting their drawings with reference to the photo.  But the duplication of a reference photo in its exactitude is not precisely "ART" (although it is handy as a tool for learning the basics).

Sometimes I will tell the student to stop(!) painting on a painting in progress, not necessarily because it is "finished" but because it communicates. (Often they don't listen to me, because (after all) it's their painting, not mine.)

But I am indebted to Sherry DeReuter for the above painting, an adaptation of a photo we were using.

it is painted with the palette knife, and it could be more "finished", but this painting communicates a mood. The small bits of light orange coming through the clouds are emphasized by the surrounding dark. The photo below is the one students are working from.