Colour in painting

How important is colour?

Below, I attach the first chapter of my book “Painting with Light and Colour“. Its title is “All you need to know about painting“, which was an assertion made to me, during the first weeks of my life as an artist, by the Polish artist, teacher and mathematician, Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko. This fount of knowledge on European art went on to tell me, with equal conviction, that “all good painting is based on colour” and that “the use of colour in painting should be based on colour in nature”. The importance to me of these two dogmatic propositions and the elaborations and explanations he added can hardly be exaggerated, for they provided a basis for my life’s work, not only as an artist and teacher but also as a scientist.

The reason why, what I now refer to as, “The Dogmas of Marian Bohusz-Szyszko” were to prove to be so fruitful, related to their origins in his personal synthesis of ideas that critically influenced his predecessors.  Particularly important among these were Seurat, Cézanne and Bonnard (Bohusz-Szyszko’s mentor). Also important was the fact that these artists and their Modernist Painter contemporaries were so importantly influenced by the revolution in the science of visual perception that took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Figure 1 : Raising of Lazarus by Marian Bohusz-Szyszko


This watershed for scientists and artists alike followed upon the realisation that the colour we see in the external world is not a property of surfaces but a creation of the eye and brain, based on inputs from the amazingly complex patterns of the colourless electromagnetic energy that enters the eyes. From this starting point came realisations about “induced colour” in its various fascinating manifestations. As part of the same revolution came the ideas about the three primaries and optical mixing that led to Seurat’s forging of his pointillist methods to fulfill his ambition to “paint with light”. Little can he have known that he was also bringing about a transformation in the meaning of the word “colourist”. From the time of the so called “Venetian Colourists” to the time of Seurat, the meaning of the word “colourist” centred on whole-field lightness relations (popularly referred to as “chiaroscuro”). As we shall see in later Posts, from now on, being a “colourist” meant being a master of  whole-field colour relations.

I am proposing to write more on all these issues in subsequent Posts. For the time being, as promise above, I want to share with you the first chapter of my book “Painting wth Light and Colour”. It contains an account of:

  • how it came to pass that I encountered Marian-Bohusz Szyszko, the Professor of Painting at the Academic Community of the Wilno* University in London.
  • His dogmas.

Painting with Light and Colour, Chapter 1-The Dogmas


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*The Polish name for the formerly Polish town that, due to border changes that took place as a result of the Second World War, has now become Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania.

The threat posed by Hitler and Stalin was the reason for the fleeing of large numbers of academics from the historic University of Wilno, then in Poland, and their regrouping in London as the Academic Community of the Wilno University in London.

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“At last I don’t know how to draw” : Toulouse-Lautrec the first Modern Painter”

In 1992 I was asked to write an article for “La Revue du Tarn” as a contribution to  the “Year of Toulouse-Lautrec”.  In particular I was asked to give a critique of the big exhibition of his paintings that took place that year in London and Paris. More recently I included an edited adaptation as Chapter 7 of my book “Fresh Perspectives on Creativity“. Click here for a .PDF copy of it.

Apologies for the poor quality of some of the illustrations. They will be better for the published version.

Toulouse-Lautrec drawing-5

Toulouse-Lautrec : Drawing of a woman from the “Artilleur et femme” series

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Why I am a Flat-Earther

“On being a Flat-Earther”, an edited excerpt from Chapter 10 of my book “Fresh Perspectives on Creativity”

A flat-earther is someone who insists that the earth is flat and who is likely to be derided for holding such a factually ignorant view. In this post, at the risk of being laughed at, I claim to be a flat-earther myself. A theme of this chapter is that any starting point, however far-fetched, can lead to creative outcomes, as is proved my the many artists who have painted masterpieces on the basis of crack-brain ideas. My purpose in this post is to emphasise two points, made throughout this chapter, namely that investigating alternative descriptions can unblock stagnant thought-processes and liberate creativity and that they can do it whether the alternatives are sensible or absurd. It is a thought-provoking idea, which is worth expanding on. So here goes: Continue reading “Why I am a Flat-Earther”

Creativity in art, science and all other domains

Future posts on creativity

In the coming months I intend to contribute many posts on the subject of “creativity”. As most of these will be taken from my book “Fresh Insights into Creativity“, it seems appropriate to start with an excerpt from its “Introduction” :

Excerpt from the introduction to “Fresh insights into Creativity”

A need to understand the nature of ‘creativity‘ has been with me since I was a teenager. This volume is the fruit of a lifetime’s search for answers to questions relating to this subject. For those who wish to go deeper into the ideas on offer, I have written three other books.  Two of these provide practical help for people seeking to improve their artistic skills. The third is a scientific book. This describes the research and the ideas emerging from it that are largely responsible for the originality of the other three books. The science concerns how the brain, first, makes sense of and, then, makes use of the patterns of light that enters the eyes. Their titles are: “Drawing on Both sides of the Brain”, “Painting with Light and Colour” and “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”.

An unexpected development

I was fifteen years into my life as a practicing artist and occasional teacher of drawing and painting when, quite unexpectedly, despite my lack of relevant background as a scientist, I was offered an opportunity to become involved in scientific research. After some hesitation, I seized it in the hope that the scientific method might help me make sense of a range of painting, drawing and teaching related questions to which I had been seeking answers in vain.

Continue reading “Creativity in art, science and all other domains”

Accuracy versus expression

Are the accuracy and expression compatible?

I hope you enjoy the attachment below, which is about the accuracy versus expression debate. It is the first chapter of my book “Drawing on the right Side of the Brain“, in which I compare the expressive potential of searching for accuracy relative to that of other artistic goals that lead to different manifestations of inaccuracy,  whether it be in the guise of distortions, abstractions or any other kind of deviation from accuracy.  My conclusion is that not only art history but also the outcomes of my experience as a teacher, as illustrated by the work of my students, show that both have the potential to inspire artistic creativity. The drawing of Durer’s Mother below is one of the six illustrations in the chapter, three of which provide examples of the expressive potential of the search for accuracy, while the remainder provide examples of the expressive potential of researching deviations from it.


An illustration for the accuracy versus expression debate

Albrecht Durer: Portrait of his Mother

Fresh perspectives: “The story of a potato”.

Extracts from my book “Fresh perspectives on Creativity” (1)

My first fresh perspective is an extract from Chapter 10 : “Having Fun with Creativity”. It tells the story of a painting  made by a primary school child with  learning difficulties

The Potato

It is always the case that a great deal of what goes into paintings is hidden and, with it, much of what has been put into them. This point that can be clarified by means of a true story relating to a child with learning difficulties told by his primary school teacher.

George, as I shall call him, was an amiable lad, but never seemed to want to join in what others were doing. One day, during a painting session, the teacher was delighted to see him applying himself with great concentration. She hurried over to see what had caught his imagination and found that he had produced a light-brown oval shape in the middle of an otherwise empty sheet of paper. He was obviously pleased to see her and held up what he had done asking with pride in his voice, “Do you like my potato, Miss?” In itself, George’s production wasn’t very impressive but, sensing an opportunity for a breakthrough in his attitude to school, she enthused about it, suggesting, before leaving him, that he complete the picture.

Continue reading “Fresh perspectives: “The story of a potato”.”

Contents list of available Posts

This website provides a way of making a list of categories. The one I have created can be found at the top of the left-hand side margin, written in brown typeface.  The categories (in upper case) and sub categories (in lower case) are arranged in alphabetical order. They categories are: ‘Creativity’, ‘Drawing’, ‘Extracts from my books’, ‘Miscellaneous subjects’, ‘Painting’, ‘Painting School news’, ‘Science’ and ‘The Glossary’. Click on any of these to access all posts in that category.

Experience shows that many readers find it difficult to find specific Posts by this method. To make it easier, I have created an up to date ‘Contents List’, divided into five categories. Most of the material in the categories “drawing”, “painting” and “creativity” comes from my books on those subjects.

Contents list, listing the five categories and the Posts to be found within each of them:



Chapters from “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”.

Other Posts on Drawing


Chapters from “Painting with Light and Lolour”:

Other Posts on colour and light in painting:


Extracts from “Fresh  insights into Creativity”

Extracts from Chapter 10: “Having fun with creativity”



Your comments on the Contents List page.

I look forward to your comments in the section provided at the bottom of each Post. When you have made them, please leave your email address and tick the box “Notify me of new posts by email.”

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Caladrius bird for the contents list


Horace Lecoq Boisbaudran & Alphonse Legros

by Rodin pupil of Horace Lecoq Boisbaudran
A fast Drawing by Auguste Rodin, a pupil of Horace Lecoq Boisbaudran
Drawing by Degas, friend of Alphonse Legros pupil of Horace Lecoq Boisbaudran
Drawing by Edgar Degas, a close friend of Alphonse Legros,  pupil of Horace Lecoq Boisbaudran

This post on Horace Lecoq Boisbaudran was promised in to the New Year Letter to Students posted in the category “Painting School News“. In this I mentioned the similarities between the teaching methods of Horace Lecoq Boisbaudran and mine. In later posts I will be saying more about these. Meanwhile here is an extract from the “Glossary”  to “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain” that provides an introduction to his ideas and his influence. I have also added the entry for Alphonse Legros, described as his star pupil, who had great success in spreading his ideas to both his own generation and the following ones.

Continue reading “Horace Lecoq Boisbaudran & Alphonse Legros”

Accuracy versus expression debate

Click below for a contribution to the accuracy versus expression debate. It is the first chapter of my book “Drawing on the right Side of the Brain” which is made up of two volumes: “Drawing with Feeling” and “Drawing with Knowledge”.  The drawing of Durer’s Mother below is one of the six illustrations in the chapter used to illustrate the expressive potential of the accuracy aspiration. Please enjoy.




accuracy versus expression debate
Albrecht Durer: Portrait of his Mother

Other posts including chapters from “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”.

Other drawing related Posts

Click here for a full lists of other Posts

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