Basic factors in painting

The purpose of this Post is to make available “the nature of painting, “Chapter 3” of my book “Painting with Light and Colour”. It provides a quick run through some basic factors, which are so evident that some of their practical implications are too often overlooked. These are presented under four headings:

  • Real surface/illusory pictorial space ambiguities.
  • Whole-field colour/lightness interactions.
  • What paintings can do that nature cannot.
  • The human element.

All the chapters in my books have an “Introduction”. From now on I will be using these to introduce the Posts that provide links to the .PDF version of them. Accordingly, you can choose to read the one for this Post, either immediately below, or when you click on the capitalised link in brown that follows it. The text of these “Introductions” will be italicised.


It is difficult to imagine a more useful first guide to painting than the dogmas of Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko. However, they have their limits. Fortunately, as I believe the remainder of this book will make clear, it is both possible and worthwhile to go much more deeply into the reasons for both their strengths and their limitations. One approach to doing this is to trace the roots of the Professor’s assertions by reference to the work and ideas of his artist predecessors. Another, is to focus on the history of science and how it illuminated the subject of picture perception. Whichever our choice, it is inevitable that there will be much overlapping. The reason is that, in the nineteenth century, a particularly high proportion of the ideas influencing the community of progressive artists were rooted in the new ways of thinking about the world we live in that were emerging from science.

To prepare the way for the combination of theory and practice which provides the subject matter of the remainder of this book, this chapter offers a first introduction to basic factors that are necessarily in play when selections of artists’ pigments, mixed with various mediums are arranged on a circumscribed, flat picture-surface in such a way as to excite the feelings of people. The main reason for starting with these fundamentals is because:

  • Taking them into consideration can help artists to achieve a surprising number of widely sought after goals.
  • They provide reference points and context for so much of what follows.
  • Their importance is too often overlooked by practicing artists.

The basic factors in question will be presented under the headings,“real surface/illusory pictorial space ambiguities”, “whole-field colour/lightness interactions”, “what paintings can do that nature cannot” and “the human element”.



A selection of student work in which all  four of the basic factors listed above have been considered

Notice the range of:

  • Subject matter, on the continuum between abstract and figurative.
  • Depth of illusory pictorial space.
  • Mark-making.
  • Local and whole-field colour relationships.
basic factors
Stefan Rauch


basic factors
Kathy Davis


basic factors
Gordon Frickers


basic factors
Donal Bannister


basic factors
Ken Marunowski


basic factors
Huifong Ng


basic factors
Sarah Moore


For more Images of student work go to the main website and click onstudent work




Posts relating to other chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour”:

Other Posts on light and colour in painting:

List of all Posts so far 

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2 thoughts on “Basic factors in painting”

  1. Je lis toutes ces informations avec beaucoup d’intérêt et chaque fois renouvelé. Merci Francis de ton partage généreux. Marie Thérèse rouffignac

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