The purpose of this Post is to provide a link to “Synthesis of colour ideas”, Chapter 28 of my book, “Painting with Light and Colour”. In combination with the next chapter, its role is to prepare for the practical applications of the ideas presented in Chapter 30. It brings together a number of the more important proposals found in both this book and the book on drawing, “Drawing on the Both Sides of the Brain”. In particular, ones relating to:
The history of artistic thought and practice in Europe, since the Italian Renaissance.
The evolution of the science of visual perception, from its origins in the middle of the Eighteenth Century to the present day.
Venetian Colourists not colourists
Before the arrival of this new science, artists, following the lead of the “Venetian Colourists”, had learnt a lot about introducing effects of light into the illusory pictorial space that they sought to create in their paintings. They had arrived at the conclusion that mastery of this ephemeral aspect of depiction depends on control of “lightness relations”. To do this they adopted the rule that there should be no repetitions of lightnesses across the entire picture surface. Paradoxically, it follows from this that the innovation which led to their being known as “colourists” had nothing to do with two of the three variables that are usually thought to be necessary to define colour, namely “hue” or “saturation”. Perhaps a better name for them would “Venetian lightists”.
The purpose of this POST is both to introduce and provide a link to “Cast Shadows”, Chapter 26 of my book “Painting with Light and Colour”.
A fundamental difference
The book as a whole is full of what both the Impressionists and their academic predecessors called “rules of nature”. However, though referring to the same body of phenomena, these two schools of painting viewed them differently: Whereas the Academies seem to have wanted artists to follow them slavishly, the Impressionists were apt to question their value. For example, a quotation from Claude Monet makes his position clear : “I only know that my aim is to convey what I experience before nature and that most often, in order to succeed… I have to totally forget the most elementary rules of painting, if they exist that is.” Which of the two was right? My answer is “both of them”.
One of the reasons for Monet’s irreverent attitude to the rules was almost certainly a result of being faced with consequences of the “constancies”, those brain-created distortions that mean rules concerning “measured reality” far from always correspond to actual experience. However, the particular focus in Chapter 26 is on the rules of “aerial perspective”, which derive from the fact that the depth of atmosphere between the viewer and the object of interest can influence the way we perceive it. More precisely, they state that the deeper the atmospheric screen between the object and our eyes, the more desaturated the colour of objects seen through it .
However, this rule oversimplifies actual appearances, for in every scene there are a multiplicity of other factors in play, all of which can interfere with it to such an extent that it becomes worse than useless. The only way of finding out the truth in any one situation is to follow Monet’s lead and do your best to find out the actual hue, saturation and lightness relationships in the particular scene you are in the process depicting.
The focus of this chapter
In Chapter 26, the main focus is on one of the multiplicity of “other factors” and the very different rules that apply to it. It relates to our perception of “cast shadows” . What we find is that they regularly influence appearances in ways that run counter to the rules of aerial perspective. As in the previous chapter, an understanding of Mack Bands can help us to discover how and why.
This POST provides a link to “Shading and surface form”, Chapter 27 of my book “Painting with Light and Colour”. It may surprise many that it comes in PART 2, which is dedicated to painting with colour. The reason is that the visual systems that are used to create colour consider blacks, whites and greys to be colours and, accordingly,they treat the blackness, greyness and whiteness of shadows, shading and highlights as colour.
Surface-solidity, spatial-separation and ambient-allumination
However, this fact of visual perception does not mean that the reflected-light does not provide information to other visual systems, working in parallel. In particular, the systems that tell us about surface-solidity, spatial-separation and ambient-illumination continue to perform their function. As explained in PART ONE of this volume, although they enable us to sense these properties, they never make them visible in the way body-colour is visible.
The problem of invisibity
The “invisibility” of these properties confronts artists trying to represent them with the seemingly insoluble problem of deceiving the eye/brain into “seeing” something that they cannot see. Luckily due to the research of Seurat, Cézanne, Bonnard, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko and others, a simple and, accordingly, practical resolution of this seeming paradox is available. Moreover, due to research undertaken by myself and colleagues, its efficacy can be explained in scientific terms (see many chapters in Book One of this volume and Chapters 13 and 14 of “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”)
The practical solution provided to me by Professor Bohusz-Szyszko is to ensure (a) that there should be no repetitions of colour in any part of the surface of paintings and (b) that all the paint that is actually visible to viewers of the painting should be made up of mixtures containing some proportion, however small, of complementary or near-complementary, pigment colours. In this conntext, it is important to emphasise that this solution should be kept in mind when painting shadows, shading and highlights.
The main purpose of this POST is to provide a link to Chapter 25 of my book “Painting with Light and Colour” to which I have given the title “chiaroscuro” (the light/dark dimension). But first a word to explain why this is situated in the part of the book on “Painting with Colour”, rather than the part on “Painting with Light”, as most people would expect.
Black is a colour
The reason for this anomaly follows from the facts of visual perception (a) that colour is made in the brain and (b) that the brain classifies shadows, shading and highlights as colour. This counterintuitive state of affairs is a consequence of the way the eye/brain combination separates out surface-reflection from body-colour. Thus, the neural algorithm responsible for this impressive feat, confounds the sudden changes in reflected-light that occur at the edges of regions of cast-shadows and highlights, with the sudden changes at the edges of regions of body-colour. For similar, though slightly more difficult to explain reasons, it also classifies gradations in the lightness profiles of surfaces as gradations in body-colour (for more on these reasons, see Chapter 9 of this volume and Chapter 14 of my book “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”).
The purpose of this Post is to provide a link to “Surface and Colour”, Chapter 24 of my book “Painting with Light and Colour”. It continues the emphasis of the previous three chapters of discussing practical uses of viewing conditions as a means of extending the range of the experiences available when looking at arrangements of colours painted on flat surfaces. As a means of doing so, it gives a detailed account of how the viewing conditions discussed both inspired and were put to use in the making of one particular nine panel painting. As in all my paintings, a priority was to create an illusory pictorial space, of indeterminate depth, within which the colours are liberated from the picture surface with a view to allowing them to interact more dynamically and in additional ways.
This Post introduces Chapter 23 of my book “Painting with Light and Colour”. It is the second of three chapters that concentrate on “viewing conditions”. Because all three are concerned with issues arising from my own science-influenced researches, you are almost certain to find a lot that is new to you. To give you a bit of a foretaste of what to expect, I have included below a slightly edited a reprise of its “Introductory”. It follows the link to a .PDf version of the chapter.
This chapter continues the story of how my interest in thin lines led to previously unknown, or little explored, ways in which viewing conditions can affect the pictorial dynamics of paintings. Sometimes the changes they bring about are dramatic. At others, they can be extremely subtle or even virtually invisible. Those that influnce the way we experience paintings can be well worth taking into account.
Three paintings that give viewing conditions a dynamic role
Other Chapters from BOOK 2 of “Painting with Colour and Light”
Google says that the “integrity of the picture plane” is a phrase coined by the influential art critic Clement Greenberg in his essay “Modernist Painting”. It concerns the issue as to whether the fact of creating an“illusory pictorial space” interferes with perceptions of the “objectness”of the actual picture surface. This was a question of primary importance to the “Early Modernists” from the late 1860s onwards. For them, as explained in Chapter 6 of my book “Fresh Perspectives on Creativity”, the fact of the possibility of being aware of the actual surface of paintings was one of the reasons for what they believed to be their inherent superiority relative to photographs. Their belief was that, since“deception is immoral”, painters must avoid it at all costs. Despite the difficult-to-comprehend nature of this evidently questionable argument, it stuck for about a century. Thus, in the 1960s, it was still a potent aspect of the teaching of my two mentors, Professor Bohusz Szyszko and Michael Kidner. The difference between the “Early Modernists” and Clement Greenberg was that the former (and Professor Bohusz-Szyszko) thought it possible to depict illusory pictorial space without destroying the integrity of the picture surface. In contrast, Clement Greenberg asserted the impossibility of any such thing, as didPiet Mondrian and a number of earlier painters, plus a whole list of later artists, including Michael Kidner and Ellsworth Kelly.
As those who have read “Painting with Light”, the first Book in this Two Book Volume (see contents list), will realise, the early Modernists and Professor Bohusz-Szyszko got it wrong. The use of unmixed repeated colours did not disrupt the picture-surface, but rather the illusory pictorial space. They do so because our eye/brains read them as being on the picture surface and, consequently, as jumping out in front of any illusory pictorial space. It is thus, the integrity of illusory pictorial space that is disrupted.
Two paintings that illustrate different meanings of the phrase “integrity of the picture suface”
This Post introduces Chapter 22 from my book “Painting with Light and colour”. It uses one of my paintings to discuss many issues that relate to viewing conditions. These all apply to all paintings, but it is difficult to find information about them in other books. Indeed, it was not until I began work on paintings including numbers of thin lines that I became fully aware of many of them. My awakening was a result of the coming together of many strands of the story I have been telling in my series of four books.
The dogmas of Marian Bohusz-Szyszko (see Chapter 1),
In general, whenever images of paintings are transferred to the computer screen, many of their qualities are lost. Sometimes this can be an advantage, but never for paintings that follow the dogmas of Professor Bohusz-Szyszko. This is particularly true for the images using thin lines discussed in this chapter and the next. Often, you will just have to take it on trust that the effects discussed are as described.
An image of a painting with twelve of orange thin lines
* If you ask Google “What is a Modernist painter”, you get the following excellet summary: “Modern art includes artistic work produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the styles and philosophies of the art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation.” However, if you had asked Manet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, etc., etc., whether traditions of the past had been thrown aside, you would find that it was by no means all of them.
** Google says that the “integrity of the picture plane” is a phrase coined by the influential art critic Clement Greenberg in his essay “Modernist Painting”. It concerns the issue as to whether the fact of creating an“illusory pictorial space” interferes with perceptions of the “objectness”of the actual picture surface. This was a question of primary importance to the “Early Modernists” from the late 1860s onwards. For them, as explained in Chapter 6 of my book “Fresh Perspectives on Creativity”, the fact of the possibility of being aware of the actual surface of paintings was one of the reasons for what they believed to be their inherent superiority relative to photographs. Their belief was that, since“deception is immoral”, painters must avoid it at all costs. Despite the difficult-to-comprehend this questionable argument, it stuck for about a century. Thus, in the 1960s, it was still a potent aspect of the teaching of my two mentors, Professor Bohusz Szyszko and Michael Kidner. The difference between the “Early Modernists” and Clement Greenberg was that the former (and Professor Bohusz-Szyszko) thought it possible to depict illusory pictorial space without destroying the integrity of the picture surface. In contrast, Clement Greenberg asserted the impossiblilit of any such thing, as didPiet Mondrian and a number of earlier painters, plus a whole list of later artists, including Michael Kidner and Ellsworth Kelly.
As those who have read “Painting with Light”, the first Book in this Two Book Volume will realise, the early Modernists and Professor Bohusz-Szyszko got it wrong. The use of unmixed repeated colours do not disrupt the picture-surface, but rather the illusory pictorial space. They do so because our eye/brains read them as being on the picture surface and, consequently, as jumping out of any illusory pictorial space, which is allways behind it. It is thus, the integrity of illusory pictorial space that is disrupted.
Earlier chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour”:
As anyone who has clicked on my “Post Page” will know, I have written four books: one on “drawing”, one on “painting”, one on “creativity” and one on “the science of how artists use their eyes”, which underpins much of the originality of the other parts. The volumes on drawing and painting are both divided into two books. The one on painting is divided into “Painting with Light” and “Painting with “Colour”. I have already Posted all the chapters of “Painting with Light”. I am now progressing to “Painting with Colour”. This Post provides an “Introduction” to this second book within a book. It starts with a list of the three subdivisions:
Colour and feeling (Chapter 19).
Local colour interactions (Chapters 20-24)
Shadows, shading and highlights (Chapters 25 -28)
The final section of the book provides:
Concluding syntheses based on both “Painting with Colour” and “Painting with Light”( Chapters 29-31)
Ealier, in Chapters 8, 9, and 10, much was written explaining about how “optical mixing” was central to Seurat’s ideas about “painting with light”. Here it is used to introduce lesser or unknown aspects of the subject of interactions between adjacent regions of colour (the subject of this and the next four chapters). The more familiar aspects have been given less space because they have already been treated authoritatively in books by Joannes Itten * and Joseph Albers** of the Bauhaus,*** as well as in countless other books and magazine articles, with varying degrees of reliability.