Practical Applications

This post is to provide a link to Chapter 30, “Practical applications”, the penultimate chapter of my book “Painting with Light and Colour”. As explained in its “Introuctory”, This suggests sixteen exercises: The first eight of these are designed to make clear the practical value of ideas presented in the chapters dedicated to “painting with colour”. The second eight bring in ideas found elsewhere, not only  in the part of this volume dedicated to “painting with light”, but also in the separate volumes, “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain” and “New Perspectives on Creativity”.

Physics books tell us that colour can be defined by the three variable of “hue”, “saturation” and “lightness”. However, as explained earlier, if we are to consider whole field colour relations and their effect tn picture perception, the fourth variable of “texture” must be added. As a result, the definition of “colour” must be stretched to include achromatic elements. The exercises in Chapter 30 keep this fourth variable and its implication for achromatic images in mind.

CHAPTER 30 – PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

Some non figurative images for your enjoyment

Although the exercises in this chapter relate to figurative drawings and paintings, the principles apply equally to non figurative work.

All of you who have come to the Painting School of Montmiral over the last 18 years, will know Sarah Elliott and at least some of her wondeful drawings and paintings.

Here are four of the most recent (two with details), exhibited in May 2021, at her MFA final review  show:

Sarah Elliott

Sara Elliott
Detail of “Green Stripes”: oil on canvas

Sarah Elliott

Sarah Elliott
Detail 1 of “No Title”

 

Sarah Elliott
Detail 2 of “No Title”

Sarah Elliott

The titles of these paintings in order are:

  • “White shadow dyptich”, oil on canvas 32 inches X 64 inches
  • “Green Stripes”, oil on canvas and  48 inches X 60 inches.
  • “No title”, oil on canvas and  48 inches X 60 inches
  • Song lines  32 inches X 64 inches

If you want to see more of the art works in Sarah’s show, I imagine that all of them will be appearing shortly on her website.

Other chapters from the two books contained in “Painting with Light and Colour”:

BOOK 1 : “Painting with Light”

BOOK 2: “Painting with Colour”

Other Posts on colour and light in painting:

Go to list of all chapters and extracts from the books

Go to top

More on experienced reality

The purpose of this Post is to provide a link with Chapter 29 of my book “Painting with Light and Colour“. Its focus is on the nature of I have been calling “experienced reality”. Here I will introduce it with a slightly edited extract from the “summing up” at the end of the chapter.

How far does a combination of this chapter and earlier ones help us to pin down the nature of what I have been calling “experienced reality”? I am afraid the answer has to be,“very little”, for what we mean when we use the word “see”, will always remain inherently elusive. There is no escaping the fact that this intimate aspect of our daily lives is in constant flux. First, we are confronted with one of the most fundamental truths of visual processing, namely that, in order to look at anything, we have to take it out of context. Second, we find that, when we do so, the object of our attention is subject to the ‘constancies’, a state of affairs which catastrophically disrupts whole-scene-relations. Third, the only way of approaching the task of finding out what these relativities actually are is by means comparative looking. True, this provides us with a succession of instances of what, in some senses, can be called reliable information about differences. But it only does so at the expense of finding a new starting point for each comparison, and this is a manoeuvre that entails resetting the whole system to what is almost certain to be a different lightness range.

One thing this inherent instability of visual perception means is that, when we try to analyse a scene (including if it is a painting), we will be facing a problem in some ways analogous to representing running water with a still image. No doubt this is what made Cézanne describe painting as “So damned difficult”.

But, perhaps finding a definitive solution is not what we really want. As Robert Browning wrote, “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?” The advantage to artists of the ideas presented in these books is that they can at least help us struggle fruitfully towards this goal. It may be unattainable but, as many of us can testify, groping our way towards it can be a richly rewarding experience. Maybe, this is why Cézanne followed his statement about the difficulty of painting with the heart felt assertion, “I want to die painting.”

 

CHAPTER 29 – MORE ON EXPERIENCED REALITY

Three portraits of a man who wanted to die painting

 

Experienced reality
Cézanne, the wild and passionate artist

 

Experienced reality
Cézanne making an effort to look presentable

 

Experienced reality
Cézanne just being himself in a not very elegant white hat

 

Other chapters from the two books contained in “Painting with Light and Colour”:

BOOK 1 : “Painting with Light”

BOOK 2: “Painting with Colour”

Other Posts on colour and light in painting:

Go to list of all chapters and extracts from the books

Go to top

 

 

 

A synthesis of previous chapters

Introductory

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”.

CHAPTER 28 – SYNTHESIS OF COLOUR IDEAS

A reminder of “colourists” before and after Seurat

before and after Seurat: a synthesis
Portraits by Titian and Vermeer: No repeated lightneeses

before and after Seurat: a synthesis
Seurat, Van Gogh and Pissarro – The introduction of colour and colour mixtures into the depiction of illusory pictorial space

before and after Seurat: a synthesis
Matisse and Bonnard,  who helped inspire the simple and powerful synthesis of Bohusz-Szyszko

Other chapters from “Painting  with Colour”

Go to list of all chapters and extracts from the books

Go to top

Cast shadows and aerial perspective

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”.

Aerial perspective

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 .
cast shadows
Monet : Woman in garden

Oversimplification

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.

CHAPTER 26-CAST SHADOWS

cast shadows
Down Rue de la Porte Neuve

 

See also the pastel painting of “The esplanade” in the “Introduction to BOOK 2″

Other Chapters from”Painting  with Light and Colour”

Go to top

Go to list of all other contents

Shading and surface form

What colour are shadows and shading?

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 solution

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.

CHAPTER 27 – SHADING AND SURFACE FORM

Two images and a question to consider

surfaces
Cowslips and violets

surfaces
Flowers in a vase

Question: Do all the “mistakes” and inconsistencies in the “flowers in vase” painting matter?

Other relevant chapters from Book 2: “Painting with Colour”

Other relevant Posts on colour and light in painting:

Go to top

Go to list of all other contents

 

Chiaroscuro

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”).

Link to chapter 2

CHAPTER 25 – CHIAROSCURO

Two chiaroscuro masterpices

Chiaroscuro
Sarah Elliott – Figurative charcoal drawing

chiaroscuro
Sarah Elliott – Non figurative charcoal drawing

Chapters from “Painting with Light ” (Part 1 of this volume)

Go to top

Go to list of all other contents

Colour and Surface

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.

CHAPTER 24 – COLOUR AND SURFACE

Space and Surface

colour and illusory pictorial space
One of the eight experimental panels

Other Chapters from BOOK 2 of “Painting with Colour and Light”

Chapters from BOOK 1 of “Painting with Colour and Light”

Other Posts on colour and light in painting:

Go to top of page

Go to list of all other contents

More on viewing conditions

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.

CHAPTER 23 – MORE ON VIEWING CONDITIONS

Reprise of Introductory

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

viewing conditions
Three thin line paintings from the Stirling series. The bottom two are from the first project and the top one is from the second.

viewing

Other Chapters from BOOK 2 of “Painting with Colour and Light”

Chapters from BOOK 1 of “Painting with Colour and Light”

Other Posts on colour and light in painting:

 

Go to top of page

Go to list of all other contents

viiewing

The integrity of the picture surface

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 mentorsProfessor 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 did Piet 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.

integrity

Two paintings that illustrate different meanings of the phrase “integrity of the picture suface”

integrity

picture surface
Cézanne: one of the Fôret du chateau noir paintings

integrity

picture surface
Ellsworth Kelly : Shaped painting on gallery wall – an experience of pure red

 

 

Go to top

Go to list of all other contents

 

 

Thin lines

A confluence of issues

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),
  • The “systems” ideas of Michael Kidner (see Chapter 8 of my book on “Creativity“),
  • My interest in the debates relating to “illusory pictorial space” (see Chapters 7-10 in “Painting with Light”, the first part of this volume),
  • My interest in the Modernist Painters obsession with what they described the “integrity of the picture surface”* and its dynamic implications in the history of “Modernism in Painting**
  • The use of thin lines as a means of exaggerating and, thereby, exploring “simultaneous colour contrast effects” (see previous chapter).

blank

Important warning

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.

blank

An image of a painting with twelve of orange thin lines

Pictorial space

CHAPTER 22 – MORE ON THIN LINES

blank

Footnotes

* 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 mentorsProfessor 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 did Piet 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.

blank

Earlier chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour”: