Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Using Colour to Describe Objects: Theoretical Studies

Itten says that colour can be used in three different ways – to create an impression, for expression or for construction.

Impression – as the impressionists tried to express it. How a scene at a certain moment in a certain light is perceived by a single human through his visual filter. A visual impression of the subject.
Marcus Krackowitzer

The colours are kept more vivid by separating them and letting the eye do the mixing, it has a high emphasis on the light in the given moment.

Monet is of course the most obvious example of an impressionist, Paul Cezanne another.
Is beauty judged by the eye and not the mind? I have believed this to be true, but then how could Monet be received as he was? Most of his canvases today strike us as pleasing to the eye and very naturalistic and beautiful. Yet back then they were classified as monsters. Are we really that influenced by trends in even observing and interpreting beauty? Or was it just the established École des Beaux-Arts that condemned this new movement and nobody dared object?

Expression – a psychological interpretation, expression of a subject. Here the figurative, what is really there takes second place to what the artist felt about the subject. Among famous expressionist are Edvard Munch and Egon Schiele.
Vincent van Gogh

This beautiful painting represents not only how a cornfield looks on a sunny day, but also the feeling of being there. Engulfed in warn colours, you can almost feel the breeze playing with the corn and the warm sun on your face. Harmonious colours along with the spiralling brushwork all serve to uplift the mood of the viewer.

Construction – symbolic use of colour. The objects used and the colours given them speak to the viewer on several levels. The colours carry with them a certain meaning in each culture and the artist uses that to send his message across.

Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt uses more than colour symbolism in The Kiss. Round swirly patterns in lots of colours for the feminine, square sharp forms in black and white to represent the masculine. The couple is completely united in gold/yellow, symbolising happiness, sun, the divine, idealism. Their shapes merge in this colour, showing that their passion and love elevates them to something more than the earthly brown and green around them. In love they are both divine.

While all these three categories are valid, I’m not sure they are the only ones colours are used for, and at any rate they are always closely related. Maybe we should call them aspects instead. Especially symbolism and expressionism seem to be intermingled. When you are trying to depict an emotion through colour, one way to do it is through the associations that the colour carries.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Reply to my tutor, Assignment 1

Thank you very much for your swift feedback.

I think you are right about the composition. I’m afraid I tend to easily disregard my good intentions about the composition once I am drawing/painting. I must confess that while I totally agree that the balance is wrong, I never quite believed the idea of the eye being led around the painting. My eye jumps all over the place, and while there are obvious places where it comes to rest, I never even in good compositions feel like I am being guided properly around. But I will read up on the matter, as I definitely need to improve that skill.

I’m so pleased you like my drawings. Thank you for pointing me towards Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Those are wonderful sculptural drawings. I’d like to get more of that sense of volume into my own.

I’d like to do a few more still lifes, so I might slow down a bit on the projects and let myself investigate more thoroughly. I’ll let you know if this means postponing the next deadline a bit.

Assignment 1, Tutor Feedback

My tutor writes:

Overall Comments
This is a very good assignment. You have a confident and distinct style of drawing and your painting technique is good.  I would be interested in seeing you explore different approaches to drawing.  Look at ways of developing your compositional skills.

Feedback on assignment
I like the objects you have selected for this project and your bold and confident approach to painting. In the colour study I think you need to carry more of the colour of the objects into the blue cloth to hold the painting together.  Scumbling is one of the ways you could do this.  Artists sometimes under paint first and then let some of this colour show through the next layer of paint.  Or you could add some reflected colour from the objects into the tablecloth.
Compositionally I feel the painting is weighted too much on the left hand side.  The jug tends to lead the eye out of the painting.  We tend to scan a picture from the bottom left hand corner across and round towards the right.  The tins are very 3D but the jug looks a bit flat.

I like your idea of painting with ochre as your main colour, this creates a harmonious feel in the painting. Your painting technique is good and I agree that you don’t want to overwork the painting and smooth out every fold, try to keep a more painterly approach.

I feel cropping the painting by 2 or 3 inches on the right hand side would improve the composition, making it feel more balanced. Playing with the image in Photoshop is an interesting idea.  I like the image and I think you made the right decision in lightening the objects.  I am not quite sure about the perspective of the chair; the drawing of it doesn’t quite make sense to me on the bottom left.

The charcoal studies work well; you show a confident approach to drawing.  Your drawings are very animated and you have a distinctive style of drawing.  It would be interesting to see you try different ways of drawing particularly as this is an area you enjoy.  As well as Seurat look at Henry Moores underground drawings and Barbara Hepworths studies of Surgeons hands; maybe these will give you some ideas.

Using emerald green is fine and purple is another useful colour if you like vibrancy, because mixing as you say doesn’t always give you a very bright colour.

Learning logs/blogs/critical essays
I did think of Van Gogh as soon as I saw your chair.  It might be interesting to put the painting by him into your blog with some comments or even make your own copy of it.

Suggested reading/viewing
Look at still life compositions by artists such as Cezanne and Moriandi. 

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Section 3: Using Colour to Describe Objects

Project 3.1: A Colour Study
This was good fun. My kind of thing just splashing the colours on the canvas without much thought about the outcome. I went more or less with the same set up as section 1, I don't think I have exhausted the potential of those objects yet and I still love my green jug.
I did substitute the red apple for an orange, though, as I thought orange would be a milder contrast to the vivid green.

I set up the composition carefully, deliberately placing jug and orange on the diagonal thirds to play of each other. The cloth was arranged to create a nice diagonal too, countered by the slip of cloth going the other way.

I am quite pleased with the result, although I think I could have gone even looser, but I was thinking of the study as a kind of memory map and wanted all the shades of blue to be in there and so on, so quite a bit of the detail had to be there. These are the comments I jotted down just after finishing:
Top left corner is not the right blue; straight ultra-marine tints and shades work better. But overall too bright.
Orange turned out a bit too bright and somehow doesn't look dense enough?
Gold doesn't look gold on the tin.
Love the green, emphasize emerald in the shadow areas.

Looking at it now as this thumbnail I know I will definitely loose that strip of cloth. It's not clear at all what it is, better to make a slightly different shape out of the material to avoid a repeat of the diagonal the jug and orange.
The blue is quite overpowering and I'd rather have the jug in focus, so I think I'll downplay that clean colour in the next version.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Itten's colour squares

The squares illustrate nicely that colours can effect each other. What I find harder to classify is how they affect each other and what quality – hue, saturation, tone or value has the most effect.

I found that subtle values behave like Itten states; darker values come forward, warmer hues come forward. But where the contrast is strong, it can go either way. The two colours fight for attention and will shift backwards and forwards.  Also, when in a figurative context, our brains make logical sense of a picture, and will push objects into their proper place in the context, regardless of hue and value.
James Gurney does a lot of experimenting in his blog about how the eye is tricked in certain situation. One example actually shocked me and really made me understand how relative our colour perception really is.

James Gurney's colour experiment. The two marked squares are exactly the same colour.
Don't believe it? Next only the two squares are shown.

Inducing colours:
Basic experiments like this always fascinate me. It proves elegantly the idea of complementary colours.
Click the image to go to a larger version. Stare at the dot in the red cross for 20 secs. No moving about! Then move your eyes to the dot below.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Colour Theory - Reflections

There is something very slavish about colour theory. I do appreciate that Itten’s classifications are a good place to start understanding colours and the effects they have. I can’t help but feel that he seems to force generalizations through in an attempt to make colour theory teachable. It’s a bit like the Hero’s Journey for writers. It’s a form, a suggestion of how things might hang together and serves as a good starting point. But to say all stories have to stick to 12 predefined stages is just nonsense.
Moreover, there is nothing as uninspiring as strict rules. Trying to adhere to all these rules makes me seize up and not be able to produce anything at all.

Ian Simpson makes the good point that theory like this should not replace actually practising yourself and learning from experience. I totally agree.

Leonardo da Vinci - Madonna of the Rocks
©The Bridgeman Art Library - London, New York, Paris.

Leonardo da Vinci assigned 6 primary colours; white, red, green, yellow, blue and black.
I remember as a kid being very surprised when I was told that green wasn’t a primary colour and that black and white couldn’t be counted as colours at all. Instinctually I agree with da Vinci.
He associated his primaries with elements: Light, fire, water, earth, air, and darkness. Now doesn’t that immediately get the imagination going in a way Itten’s perfect squares cannot?

Colour Theory - Project 2

The colour circle. I like having one of these around.  Very handy when planning colour schemes for a picture. And when you can't quite remember the complementary colour of yellow. According to my newly made circle that would be a muddy Bordeaux :oD
Some of the jumps in this circle are much greater than others which I don't like. Three reds, three blues and three yellows and just one spot between each for the secondary colours. I think it would be better to give those three spaces as well, or maybe mix the two outer blues with green and purple and so on.
That way the circle would be a lot more smooth.
Like this:
Of course, this one is digital, which means I can brighten any colour without loosing saturation. And digitally, because we are dealing with light on the monitors, the colours add up to white, not muddy brown, and yellow is replaced by green in the primary colours. Very confusing.

Colour Theory - Project 1

First project is the basics. Mixing colours from the three primaries. I am always disappointed doing these exercises, because the colours that come out in practice are always more muddy that I anticipate. The purple in particular was very muddy and more a brown-red than any purple I ever saw.
Adding black to the orange of these colours made it not just darker but green.
Very hard to stay pure, which I daresay is why there are so many other pigments on the market. I do feel inclined to buy my emerald green rather than relying on a perfect mix every time. Is that cheating?

It's a very good point about using 2 variations of each primary. That does really improve the mix.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Art mess

I like when my work area is a bit messy.
Doesn't it just give a nice illusion of productivity?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Reflections on project 2

Well, I have got a painting, like it or not. I like the viewpoint I chose to paint in the end, although some of the others had potential too. I like the restriction to paint with only 3 colours, because frankly I am still a bit scared of colours. I tend to go completely over the top and go mad with complementaries screaming at each other. Wasn’t sure when to stop with the painting, so I let the hours estimated in the text be the guide. I could have continued, smoothing out every transition, but I think it really wasn’t necessary for this exercise.
Funny thing, when I was told to use only three colours, Ochre and White and Black, I thought of white and black not as colours I could use in themselves and the shades of grey, but only in terms of what they could do to the Ochre. I kind of like that. I was Restricting myself even more, but I see some of the other students have used the full range of greys. I took care not to blend the ochre with both black and white at the same time as I think that would have made the colour muddier and less vibrant, I quite like the clean ochre shades that came out of that.

I did at first choose a middle ochre for the flat shapes. It was meant as an average of the objects value, but I had a play with a photo of the painting in Photoshop, and thought that since the shapes are abstracts I might as well make them stand out even more, and it added a much needed lighter tone to the painting.

A bit annoyed that I didn’t manage to paint faintly enough with the black at first. Some of the lines show through a bit, but I think I managed to cover it in the end.
All in all a very good exercise and I’m pleased with the result. I would like to do more monochromatic work. I like the way it frees me to concentrate on value and shape, rather than on colour.

Reflection on charcoal drawings

I found it hard to stick to four tones in the charcoal. I felt I didn’t have enough control over the 'dust' to have four distinct shades only, but I think I mostly succeeded. Didn’t manage to stay away from the lines and stick to shades only. That is something to practice.

 I love drawing and I'm especially in love with a quick fluid outline, and this was the opposite. Interesting to move into something else.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Random Sketch

Sketched this guy from a photo found on the web. I often draw from photos, taking pleasure in capturing a likeness as quickly as possible. I start with my trusted blue animation pencil, then go back over with a 2B to add more contrast and definition.
Then I usually leave it. When I do decide to take it further I am often disappointed by the result. The render ends up a bit lifeless and stale and tend to lack the dynamic strokes of the sketch. It is one of the things I hope to learn on this course. To take my work that step further without loosing the energy of the drawing.  A lot of people struggle with this, I think.