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:

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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.

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

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

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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

 

 

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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).

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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.

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An image of a painting with twelve of orange thin lines

Pictorial space

CHAPTER 22 – MORE ON THIN LINES

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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.

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Earlier chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour”:

Painting with Colour: Introduction

The  first three sections:

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)

INTRODUCTION TO BOOK 2 “PAINTING WITH COLOUR”

Light, colour and Chiaroscuro
Figure 1 : Colour, Light and shade : The Esplanade, Castelnau de Montmiral – Chalk pastel

Light, colour and Chiaroscuro
Figure 2 : Colour and Light : Breath Pastel No 18

Light, colour and Chiaroscuro
Figure 3 – Colour only – mixed media – Michael Kidner

List of already Posted chapters from “Painting with Light”:

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Optical mixing and its legacy

Lesser known outcomes

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.

optical mixing
Detail from “La Grand Jatte” by Georges Seurat

CHAPTER 20 – A LEGACY  OF OPTICAL MIXING

Links to the three chapters mentioned above:

Like Chapter 20, these earlier chapters also take “optical mixing” as their starting point. However, their concern is not with contrast effects but with other topics:

Other earlier chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour”.

Footnotes

*      Johannes Itten

**    JosephAlbers

***  The Bauhaus

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Colour contrast effects

Simultaneous Colour Contrast

This Post introduces Chapter 21 of my book “Painting with Lightand Colour”. It focuses on a subject that is dealt within every book, every article and in every classroom in which the subject of colour dynamics is treated. It was first described by Michel Eugène Chevreul in 1839. The name he gave to it was “simultaneous colour contrast“.

Its potential for use in paintings was popularised by Eugene Delacroix. It was picked from him by the Impressionists and many of their Modernist Painter successors. In the twentieth century when so many artists turned to non-figurative productions, it came to be treated as a subject in itself. A particularly influential part in this process was played by teachers at the Bauhaus. Of special importance were Johannes Itten and Joseph Albers, both of whom produced  books exploring the possibilities of colour contrast effects . Both had a widespread and lasting influence on artists and art education. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce their ideas as a preparation for going beyond them. Doing so will provide the subject matter for this chapter as well as chapters 22, 23 and 24.

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CHAPTER 21 – LOCAL INTERACTIONS

Three paintings exploring colour-contrast effects

interaction

interaction
Joseph Albers : from homage to the square series

interaction

interaction
Robin Denny: Baby is three

interaction

interaction
Mark Rothko: Violet Green and red

interaction

A lot more about colour-contrast coming shortly

Chapte 22 : Thin Lines

Chapter 23 : Viewing conditions

Chapter 24 : Colour and surface.

interaction

Earlier chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour”:

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Colour and Feeling

The role of the feelings in creativity

This Post makes available the Chapter 19 of my book “Painting with Light and Colour”. Its purpose is to confront the issue of “feeling” in the appreciation and use of colour in painting.

Although this is the only chapter in this book which uses the word “feeling” in its title, it is far from being the only place where the fundamental importance of the feelings in artistic creativity is mentioned. Even when it is not mentioned specifically, its importance is assumed.

Indeed, one of the key proposals that underpins the series as a whole is that the brain’s “feel system” is essential for ALL “learning” and ALL “creativity” and, moreover, that this is the case in ALL domains of human activity.

While it is common experience that the feelings play a key role in providing the  “motivation” that is necessary for everything we do or avoid doing, few seem to realise just how deeply  embedded it is in the way our brains work.  Above all, it is the arbiter that allows us to use “feedback”, a characteristic that means it is involved in determining the outcome of ALL decision making. Thus, it is inextricably involved in determining judgements between:

  • Each individual’s assessment of what is “Good” and what is “bad”,
  • Degrees of “Similarity” and “difference”.

(For more on this fundamental subject, use the two links at the bottom of this page (below the image of the Patrick Heron painting) to access two chapters from  of two of my other books. Both have much to say about the role of feeling, in all its manifestation, including ways in which the brain’s “feel systems” are involved).

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CHAPTER 19  – COLOUR & FEELING

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Three paintings

Colour and feeling
Francis Pratt : From the “Indian” series

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colour and feeling
Joseph Albers: From “Homage to the square” series

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colour and feeling
Patrick Heron – colour field painting

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Two chapters that focus on the role of the feelings, from my other books

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

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“All you need to know about painting”-2

This Post provides a link to chapter 18 of my book, “Painting with Light and Colour”. It is the last of the chapters in the part of the book dedicated to “painting with light”. Its title, “All you need to know about painting-2” is almost the same as the title of Chapter 1, except for the number 2 tagged on at the end. The grandiose claim was made by my  teacher Professor Marian Bohuz-Szyszko, during a brief encounter on the very first day we met. He asserted that “all you need to know” can be summerised in two simple rules.

The purpose of the chapter  is to consider the plausibility of his assertion in the light of the ideas developed in the Chapters 2 to 17. These not only delve into the historical origins of the rules, but also provide scientific evidence of their power as tools for artists.

After the link to Chapter 18, I have added a slightly edited version of  its “Introductory”, as a means of better preparing you for its contents.

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about painting
An oil painting that follows the rules of Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, by one his students, my friend Stefan Stachowicz.

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CHAPTER 18-ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PAINTING-2

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Introductory to chapter 18 of  “Painting with Light and Colour”

We have now come to the last chapter and the question as to how to make the best use of the information and ideas presented.

The first chapter introduces the five propositions of Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, the ones that according to him constitute, “all you need to know about painting”. The chapters that follow provide an account of their historical and scientific origins and explain why they are so powerful. At the same time they point out some limitations. However, although the avoidance of repetition and the use of complex, complementary-containing colours can transform what artists can achieve, they certainly do not represent “all there is to know about painting”, not even with the modifications and extensions suggested in this book. Most notably, the Professor’s rules give short shrift to two subjects that many artists consider to be of the utmost importance Thus they: 

  • Have no relevance to the kind of “colour dynamics” that can be generated between juxtaposed colours (the subject of the following chapters)
  • Do not address what is perhaps the most important topic of all, namely the role of the feelings.

Although a full discussion of the importance of the feelings as a driving force in all domains of creativity is reserved for “Fresh Perspectives on Creativity”, it would not do at all to neglect them entirely in what follows.

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The  earlier chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour

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Reviewing previous chapters (2)

Preparing for work

This ‘Post’, as well as providing a link to Chapter 17 of my book “Painting with Light and Colour”, concentrates on a number of practical matters that need to be taken into account before starting to paint. Most of the suggestions concern all mediums. Where there are differences, these will be pointed out. As a bonus two highly complex images are used to illustrate practical ways of differentiating a multiplicity of colours.

CHAPTER 17 – PREPARING FOR WORK

Ways of differentiating a multiplicity of colours

The two images below are used to illustrate different approaches to ensuring that no repetition of colour occurs. The first, a pastel painting of a forest scene, was made by means of unaided visual analystic strategies and the second, a constructivist composition using acrylic paint, required the use of systematic mixing procedures.

differentiating
Figure 1 : Forest scene -The challenge was to differentiate by eye between all and every one of the multiplicity of regions of colour, however small. All colours are mixtures containing complementaries or near-complementaries.

differentiating
Figure 2 : 289 orange lines on a graded, blue/grey background. All 289 of the lines have been given a different orientation and each is made of a different mixture of parent colours. All the colours are mixtures containing complementaries or near complementaries.

Differentiating by eye

Figure 1 is a pastel painting.  As explained in Chapter 16, to obtain a large range of subtly different pastel colours, it is necessary to have a sufficiently large number of colours to work with. It is well worth remembering that, just as important as having a sufficiency of pure pigment colours available, is to have each of them represented at a range of lightness levels. Particularly important is to include both the lightest and the darkest possible levels. To make the painting of the forest illustrated above, I probably used something like 16 base colours at 7 lightnesses levels.

I have two complementary approaches to ensuring that no colour  is the same as any other colour:

  • The first depends on the fact that any repeated colours jump out of illusory pictorial space (See Chapter 10). The result is an ambiguity between a real surface and an illusory pictorial space interpretation.  These provide the eye/brain with an insoluble interpretive problem (as explained in previous chapters). The result is both disturbing and attention grabbing.
  • The second depends on the fact that our analytic-looking systems are extremely good at detecting very small differences between any two compared colours.

Thus, the first strategy for ensuring that no colour is the same as any other colour, is first to allow attention to be drawn to the colours that jump out of the illusory pictorial space and, then, to differentiate between them by adding subtle touches of colour. When doing so, it is useful to remember that almost imperceptible differences can have a transformative effect.

The second strategy is to make comparisons between all the regions of colour on the picture surface, however small they may be. In a painting as complex as the one imaged in Figure 1, this means a very large number of comparisons, which is why it took such a very long time to complete.

Differentiating by means of systematic procedures.

Figure 2 is an acrylic painting that posed the problem of creating an array of 289 different oranges that, at first glance, viewers could easily mistake for being the same. This requirement implied, not only that neighbouring colours on the same row would not be perceived as being different but also neighbours from both the row below and the row above. The solution adopted was to premix and store in separate pots, a sequence of oranges, each of which was just noticeably different (JND) from its neighbours. Any mixture between any two in this sequence would produce colours that coud not be distinguished by eye. Accordingly, any progression of mixtures between them, would produce an invisible progression analogous to the progression colours that occurs between any adjacent parts of a uniformly painted flat surface (for example a wall). It is only when you compare colours situated at a distance from one another that the fact that a progression has taken place becomes evident.

Links to earlier chapters

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