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bigflea
11-08-2003, 11:23 AM
Hi all,
Have thought about this as a new group of threads for anyone who may be interested in the idea of light keys. While there seems to be a great deal of discussion about color theories and palette choices, and a general understanding of how tonality effects aerial perspective, almost no references to the color differences of light keys and how these relate to the conventional value analysis of a composition is to be found here.

It may not seem to be of much relevance to most, but it makes a great deal of difference in how any painter uses pigment in a compositional arrangement, since there is a difference between pictorializing techniques, and visual color perception. The great majority of paintings done today are using techniques for pictorializing that are based in pre- Impressionist technique, and as a result little emphasis is given to the importance of the color differences the light keys make on the local color of any objects that are in the composition. This is due in part to individual preferences for what is familiar and traditional or conventional, and that is not something that needs undoing if it is what a person enjoys about their work.

So any ideas I may try to express are intended for those painters who see a problem in the conventional manner of pictorializing and getting a real visual expression of the way light appears in nature.

In the conventional academic realist approach to light and form, value gradations of the perceived local color are used as a means to create the illusion of light, and form seen in light. After the acceptance of the Impressionist ideas of color differences between the light and shade planes, academic painters tried to infuse more coloration into their value systems, because the public at the time wanted to see more colorful work, having been inspired by the impressionist vision.

This approach to understanding color is backwards, in terms of how light is perceived in the eye. Generally the difference between dark and light values in any composition is seen as greater than it is in nature, ie. more contrast, unless the painter visually recognizes the color or hue differences between the two contrasting areas. In other words, a painter will make value differences more extreme than they are in visual nature, because they are not able to recognize or attain the color quality of the light and shade planes in their harmonic relationship.

The difference of hue between a mass of light and a mass of shade is the key to the correct value, saturation, luminosity, texture,temperature, and other qualitative characteristics of color in vision. In other words, what the eye sees is a harmonic color relationship, and the hue differences carry the qualitative relationships that we usually rely on to establish the color of a painting.

So the first goal in using a visual color approach to painting is to establish the fundamental difference in hue between the mass of light and mass of shade. This is followed by a careful adjustment of the hues to establish the aerial perspective by the hue differences as they are seen. Value systems rely on darker shades of pigment to indicate a foreground and lighter shades to create aerial perspective or recession of space. While this may create a partial illusion of recession, it may also be untrue in terms of the color relationships that are present visually. The way light behaves and reflects thruout the composition creates a much greater variety of color differences which are all governed by the key itself, and this is the color problem that the light key approach to painting tries to solve.

I intend to add to this as time permits. Thanks for your interest.
bigflea

bigflea
11-08-2003, 08:38 PM
There are many kinds of light keys in nature . All light keys are a result of the kind of sunlight, the prevailing atmospheric conditions, the time of day, and the season of the year in which the painting is taking place. These variable ingredients are seen by the eye as differences of hue corresponding to the unique combinations these variables bring to the local color of all forms in the light key. The differences of hue contain the qualitative characteristics of value, saturation, texture, temperature, and others that we generally associate with painting and pictorializing.

The most recognizable or accessible light keys are those which re occur in almost any region or climate. Some of these are ;
clear sunlight, hazy sunlight, light grey day, deep grey day, twilight, sunrise, sunset, fog.
These 8 light keys are further varied by the 4 seasons, where they occur, and the differences between morning light and afternoon light. This brings the variety of different light keys that anyone can see to as many as 64. This means that for one composition, there are as many as 64 possible unique harmonic color keys solutions, without changing any of the arrangement of the elements or forms in the arrangement.

Someone beginning a color study of harmonic light keys will not see this much differentiation between the local color of forms, except in the most extreme light keys. So a painter begins by trying to show the differences in color between a grey day and a sunny day, and morning light and afternoon light.

By concentrating on the unique differences in the local color of objects from key to key, the painter is able to quickly begin to understand visually what these differences are. So the study of keys is facilitated by doing many small studies of color differences, rather than by doing one or two large developed paintings.

Unless we have been taught, or discovered ourselves, how to recognize and paint a key, it takes a little time to get our mind and eyes to work together in the recognition of them. The eyes will see them, but generally our mind will not, until we over rule what preconceptions we may have about how familiar forms look, in color. This is the greatest problem in the recognition of light keys at the beginning, since most of us have the innate visual tools to make very fine observations of color differences.

The recognition of the change the light and atmospheric key brings to the local color can most easily be seen in a white object, or a black object. A white object, studied at a close proximity, in daylight outdoors, will reveal the unique character of the differences in color between morning light and afternoon light. These differences will be unique to the region and season where the painter is observing them, but in general a morning sunlight will be cooler in character than an afternoon sunlight on a clear or hazy day. Yet this does not mean that morning light is necessarily blue, by comparison to the afternoon light. It may be that the light of a morning key is a pale scarlett /rose by comparison to an afternoon light that could be described as a glowing earth orange. This would depend on the season and the prevailing atmosheric character of the key. It would also vary somewhat from painter to painter, especially when painters are unaccustomed to painting according to the light key and how it alters the local color of any form.

Probably the most well known and accesible examples of these different light keys can be found in the series paintings of C. Monet. He did at least 5 different groups of series painting, including the HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, POPLARS, THE CATHEDRAL SERIES, THE HAYSTACK SERIES. For anyone wanting to gain a greater visual understanding of how the light key alters the local color of objects, these series studies would be very helpful.

bigflea

blondheim12
11-08-2003, 09:00 PM
Bigflea,
I enjoyed reading your Light key information very much. I hope you will continue with it.
Love,
Linda

bigflea
11-08-2003, 10:08 PM
thanks Linda,
I intend to and have some of the ideas worked out. Just want to hit on the general idea of it and some of the pragmatic application. I hope to overlap the ideas in each reply enough for it to be easily understood as a specific starting point and way of developing the color of a painting.
bigflea

JamieWG
11-09-2003, 09:29 AM
Bigflea, thank you for beginning this discussion of light keys. There has been so much mention of them lately and your comments have added to my understanding of their meaning. I hope you will continue on with this, and perhaps even consider putting together a WC article for the Color Theory forum regarding light keys, with visual examples too. If you should decide to do that and need any assistance with the Publisher features, please let us know.

Could you give us an example of a full palette of colors from a scene done in early morning, and the same scene in the late afternoon?

Jamie

bigflea
11-09-2003, 03:20 PM
Thanks Jamie,
Glad you mention the palette since I was thinking just that thought this morning. I have started two wips, which I have to send off to be processed onto a cd from slides, which I hope will make a better jpeg than a cd made from the photo image. I thought to mention the palette choices based on the season and the key situation. I have heard of a very expensive digital camera, a minolta I believe (makes what was called a tif file), that can get a very high quality color image, comparable to a 35mm slide taken in natural light, but don't have one. So this is why I am trying the slide to cd process, hoping for a more revealing result.
The article idea sounds appropriate, and I would definitely need help on that.
bigflea

E-J
11-12-2003, 08:45 AM
Thanks bigflea for starting this exploration of light keys. I read Susan Sarback's book a few months ago and while I was very excited by the concept of 'full-colour seeing', I was disappointed to find that in many of her paintings she didn't in fact seem to be using this way of seeing to render her subjects realistically ... they were full of fanciful pinks and purples and there wasn't much of a range of tonal values within the hues that she was 'seeing'. I like much of Sarback's work but her book didn't lead me very far in the use of light keys. So it's great to find a discussion of the topic here and I'll be following your posts.

bigflea
11-12-2003, 10:16 AM
Thanks for the comments E-J. I enjoy some of Sarbach's paintings. ( I enjoy alot of different kinds of painting for different reasons. ) In my opinion the text of her book and her workshop approach to the ideas developing the color of the light keys are unreliable, and not improvements to the teaching ideas that she claims to have improved. Also, to me it seems that her choices of color relationships are more personal preferences rather than actual key relationships. This relates to what you are saying about the lack of tone/value range in the hues. But to be fair to her I believe she does a better job in some light keys than others, and in some motifs than others. In general, her painting is to me inconsistent, and her illustrations of how to develop the coloring of a form in a light key with the color modeling does not maintain the harmonic quality of the key. This relates to the lack of tone/value range, and the absence of the local color of the form. When painting any object in a light key, the local color is altered by the key, but not obliterated by the key. So we can recognize what the local color is in any key. I find in her work that she is unable to develop the color relationships to express this characteristic of light keys.

Occasionally some of her students have come to workshops that I have conducted and generally they have been unaware of the idea of how to model a form, which is the main feature of the color study approach that Hensche taught to every student. Without that, color study is really not possible, and the development of light keys will always be more of a generalized and subjective preference. However some of the other painters featured in her book show some real understanding of light keys, and I think in that sense the illustrations are more helpful to the painter unfamiliar with this approach than any of the text.

So I hope to get into the idea of color modeling of the form in a light key, and why it is needed for the development of the color harmony of a key in the next installment.
bigflea

Keenataz
11-12-2003, 01:37 PM
Thank you for doing this, BigFlea! I am looking forward to your next installment and your illustrative examples.

Cheers,
Keena

pampe
11-12-2003, 06:46 PM
Originally posted by Keenataz
Thank you for doing this, BigFlea! I am looking forward to your next installment and your illustrative examples.

Cheers,
Keena

me too

THANKS

oramasha
11-12-2003, 09:28 PM
Have you read Lois Griffel's book? If so, what is your opinion on her method? While not ideal, is it possible to learn Hensche's method from her book (and hopefully your discussions)?

I would love to see all this knowledge in an article.

;) Thank you!

bigflea
11-12-2003, 10:39 PM
Thank you Keena and pampe, for your interest and I hope you will find time to explore the idea in your work. And I hope it is helpful in that way.

oramasha,I know both the authors, and also the books, as well as their work. In both cases, the inclusion of work by other students from the Hensche era, who studied with Hensche, is the most beneficial aspect of either book, while the texts, in my opinion, are of little value, and even misleading. In the Griffel book she states very cleary that her approach is based on complementary overlapping colors. She claims she discovered this to be Monet's technique while contemplating one of his works in a museum. In her demonstration she clearly does just that, overlap complements to get a color effect.

Hensche made it very clear the method Griffel is teaching was not related to the color modeling of forms in a light key, and that understanding how complements are used to create color effects was a very limited way to use color. He did not teach what she advocates. He spoke against it and made it clear that he wanted any student to adjust hues to one another in a flat, opaque relationship of hues composed of various pigments, without any overlapping or juxtaposing of two notes to appear as one note. He felt that this was the only way the painter's eye could ever fully understand the relationship of colors in a composition, and that the use of broken color was limited to the finishing process, after the mass, and transitional notes between masses was visually understood.

In my opinion, if any painter uses color modeling in the way Hensche taught for so many years, and develops their color perception by using color modeling, they will learn how the light key alters the local color quality of all forms together to maintain a harmonic unity. I do not see either of these books giving the readers the method that Hensche taught, but instead a kind of coloristic or effect oriented painting that does not lead to real color keys. I could not recommend either of their methods, because they do not take the painter any further than what is possible to learn by simply using primary or secondary colors in an arrangement of your own preference. They do not show the reader a way to get to the unique "colorless colors" in nature, as Hensche used to call them.

Yet to someone who has never seen any work from the Hensche approach, all the work may look the same. So I think by looking at the images of many painters who have tried to apply the approach, rather than reading the text, a reader may get some insight into the idea.

I hope to address the idea of color modeling of form in the light key in the next installment. I appreciate your interest, especially how difficult it may be to find information about the idea.
bigflea

oramasha
11-13-2003, 08:50 AM
bigflea,

Thanks for your response. I"m disheartened that I won't be able to learn these techniques in books; and therefore look forward to your next installments. Yes, the examples from other artists are helpful in her book (I liked the paintings by the Egeli's if I recall), but they still don't answer the "HOw did you do that?".

bigflea
11-13-2003, 09:33 AM
Hi Lisa,
Don't be disheartened since the good news is that you can learn the idea by understanding how to model a form in the light key. By doing that, you begin to recognize what the eye is seeing as a color relationship in the light key. The problem in the book mentioned is she asks the reader to paint by complementaries, rather than what the color relationship is in your eye.

It is not difficult as a process, but what is difficult is seeing what is not obvious. For example the local color of an object may be obvious, like a blue vase. In the beginning it is not obvious how the light and shade areas of the blue vase are changed as color by the light key. Using color modeling to learn what these changes are is the goal. Using complements only confuses the learning process, in my opinion.

You can take a white object and observe these color differences of the light key very easily. Set the object outside in full light, and just observe the differences in color between the different planes in the form of the object, and the cast shadow of the object. It will be easier to see them than it is to paint them however.
bigflea

JamieWG
11-13-2003, 09:49 AM
Originally posted by bigflea

You can take a white object and observe these color differences of the light key very easily. Set the object outside in full light, and just observe the differences in color between the different planes in the form of the object, and the cast shadow of the object. It will be easier to see them than it is to paint them however.
bigflea

Bigflea, this would be a wonderful project for the Color Theory forum. I don't know how many would be able to participate in painting the white object outside this time of year and through the winter, but let's get it up and running in the WC Project System in the spring, okay? (I'll saying this in case I forget by then! Hopefully somebody else will remember. ;) )

Jamie

bigflea
11-13-2003, 11:31 PM
hi Jamie,
Today was cold, cloudy, wet, slushy, with low hanging ground fog. In short, a somber, deep grey day. And quite beautiful. So i know what you mean about going out into it to paint. Nevertheless, I had to.

It sounds like a good idea, but if anyone can set up a simple composition outdoors, with a simple white object, like a block of wood painted white, or an old kettle, and do a winter sunlight study of it, and a winter grey day study of it, then when spring comes they have that to compare to, and it gets more interesting when you begin to see how your eye does see differences, from season to season.

In really cold weather though I try to find a window with direct light. The problem though is having the same amount of light available for the easel that is being seen in the window composition. A room that has alot of window lighting is a good winter set up for very cold places, where being outside can become a health issue for some.
bigflea

JamieWG
11-14-2003, 08:29 AM
Hi Bigflea. I thought about doing this inside with window light, but then I was thinking about the problem of reflected light. Of course, outside, a white object would be affected by all the green surrounding it and the reflected blues from the sky, etc. Inside, the white object would be affected by reflected light in the room. In either case, the morning/afternoon light differences would be modified by the actual location of the object. I don't know if this even matters....'just something I was thinking about. I am eager to hear your views on this as well. I do actually have great north light in my kitchen and could do some studies there....That is a white room. I could put on a white tablecloth in that white room and do the exercise, though the result would be less reflected color than I'd have outside. Maybe that's a good thing. (?)

Jamie

bigflea
11-14-2003, 09:41 AM
LIGHT, REFLECTION AND REFRRACTION
Jamie you have opened up another point to be considered in the character of light and light keys.

No matter what light key we are observing, it will be characterized by the reflective quality of the key and the forms in it. This also includes the refractive quality, as in the study of coloring in water, or clouds, where the light rays are actually bent by the body of water.

On a clear sunny day, the sky color will be reflected on the top of forms as a specific kind of alteration to the coloring of the form, but on a cloudy grey day, the sky reflection on the top of forms will have a different character, and alter the color of the form in that way.

The color of the ground will reflect back up into the shade notes of forms that the ground surrounds, while forms near one another will reflect their colors back upon each other, and this degree of reflection will be modified by the intensity of the light key. Even the apparent local color of any form is the reflected light rays from the surface of the object, with the other rays being absorbed by the molecular structure of the object. In transparent layers of paint, the underpainting reflects back out into the surface of the coloring, creating a particular color quality, for which glazing is intended to express.

In short, it is accurate to say, I believe, that the study of light keys in nature is a study of reflection and refraction of color, since light is color rays, and it is what your eyes see. The study process is a means to become more aware of the way light and forms interact in color to create the harmonic range called light keys.

Interior lighting keys will have their own characteristics, including the reflective character of what is in the room , which is altered by the light coming from the source. North light is a more consistent light source, that is, the directional pattern of light does not change as quickly, the way it does in a south facing window. However for beginning color study, the south facing window gives the painter a very strong light, in whch the color differences between light and shade can be more easily seen. It is more like the outdoor, full light situation, which is what H. Hensche recommended for beginning the study of light keys.

So I think you have brought up an important aspect of the color study problem. What a color study will show the painter is that we are not trying to separate reflective qualities from the key, but to understand how the key is made up out of different reflective qualities, like those we have already mentioned. The prevailing light and atmospheric conditions, and the interaction of light with the forms of the composition, all work together to create a specific harmonic color range, and each key is characterized by these qualities. In this way, all of the local coloring of forms,( which is a term that generically refers to coloring) is altered by the light key, and in painting keys we are working toward the color arrangements that best describe the coloring that the eye sees in that situation.

A white room with a north light source window study of a white object is not closer to the key than the south light window study done in a blue painted room, since both rooms are specific variations of keys. A painter could do a study of both situations, and find that each painting has unique color solutions that characterize the light key, but also the indirect north light character of the key, or the direct light south facing source of the key and the different kind of reflections in it.

The color mixtures that a painter finds adequete for an indoor key study will not be the same as those needed for an outdoor study of the same object. The character of the key wiil be different, and this partly depends on the amount of light in the interior, and the surrounding reflecting color qualities in it. Outdoors, a painter is working without the enclosure of the room to diminish the amount of light available for the study. Working indoors, the painter wants to have enough light to be able to see the easel and painting as well as they can see the composition being studied.

Working in the white coloredwalls with north light with a white object, you will get some very specific colors that are not neutrals, but are very close to neutrals. This partly depends on what other colorings are adjacent to the form being studied, such as the color of cloth that the object is sitting on.

The amount of lighting and character of the key will create a particular mood, and this is characterized in the coloring that is used to depict the key. In a somber grey day, or somber interior , with diminished lighting, the mood of the painting will be somber, and the coloring mixtures will show that character. Instead of bright colors, the pigment mixtures will have more of a somber range, yet still each mixture will be specific in its coloration, rather than shades or tones of grey. This ability to make somber color differences that are not only values of grey or brown grey tonality is what the painter wants to attain in a somber key color study.
bigflea

JamieWG
11-14-2003, 09:54 AM
Originally posted by bigflea


the south facing window gives the painter a very strong light, in whch the color differences between light and shade can be more easily seen. It is more like the outdoor, full light situation, which is what H. Hensche recommended for beginning the study of light keys.


Well, this solves lots of problems, since my studio has three large, south-facing windows with a wide ledge beneath them, just waiting for some white, still life object to come along. 'Guess I won't have to set up in the kitchen after all. ;) Of course, whether I set the white object on the wood, or on a colored cloth on the wood, or on a white cloth on the wood, is going to make a tremendous difference in the colors of the white object. Any suggestions here? Also, does it matter if the white object is shiny or mat?

Thanks, Bigflea!

Jamie

bigflea
11-14-2003, 08:01 PM
For beginning to learn how to see the color changes a light key makes on a white object, I feel a flat or mat white is a better choice, since it is easier to see where the color is. It becomes more complex when a shiney glazed surface is used for a beginning effort. If the object is placed on a cloth, you can take some time to observe how different color cloths become a part of the color change reflecting up into the white surface of the object. You could use a white cloth, and the coloring will be characteristic of the prevailing light outside, with very little reflection from the surrounding objects, unless they too are strong colors. Either situation will make an interesting and worthwhile painting effort.

In beginning the painting, make the color areas, ( the planes of the object and the shelf ) more colored than they appear as the initial statement. Then they can easily be re-stated as colors, to establish the qualitative differences between them, and reduced in contrast value by adding pigment white as necessary. When the initial statements have alot of white in them, it is sometimes more difficult to increase the coloring, than it is to reduce it by adding white.
bigflea

bigflea
11-16-2003, 11:21 AM
Hi all,
Light keys and the study of light keys had a specific meaning to Charles Hawthorne and Henry Hensche, and it was derived out of the Impressionist ideas, but went beyond those ideas toward the description of solid form in a light key. I have tried to cover those ideas in this segment.
bigflea

JamieWG
11-16-2003, 11:58 AM
Well, I'm all set up to go. White mat-finish object in south facing window of my studio, on a white cloth.....just waiting for one of these mornings with cooperating sun and an hour of time. :) I positioned it for what I thought would be the greatest area of halftones, because those are hardest for me. (No sunshine today, as you can see from the photo!)

Jamie

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/16-Nov-2003/13766-light_key_white_object_400.jpg

bigflea
11-16-2003, 01:58 PM
Hi Jamie,
That's a great set up.
Hopefully you will be able to work with it for more than one composition, without moving the setup.
Charles Hawthorne used to take his students to the beach and set up a model backlit, so they could all paint the color changes in the shade plane of the model's head. They were called "mudheads" since alot of the coloring was made of unusual mixtures of pigments that in isolation only looked like earth coloring of some unknown origin. but in a harmonic context of the key, on the painting, looked like a head backlit in strong light with ground reflections from the surrounding sands of the beach.

Ofcourse your set up is a white object and cloth and it will not have the same character of color as the mudheads but something unique to its own key. The difference in coloring between the background, the reflection on the glass, and the objects will be fun and interesting to paint. By using a peripheral observation of all the elements, you can establish the range and difference of color and value easily in the masses. Stick to that range as you make changes to the coloring of variations.
bigflea

JamieWG
11-16-2003, 02:47 PM
Originally posted by bigflea

The difference in coloring between the background, the reflection on the glass, and the objects will be fun and interesting to paint. bigflea

Oh!!! I thought I was only supposed to paint the *object*. Am I supposed to paint the background too? In that case, I might move the object!

Jamie

bigflea
11-16-2003, 04:22 PM
Its a simple background, and if you don't make it the background of the composition, you would have to make one up, and then what would you compare the foreground colors to in the mean time?

You want to study the whole composition of background, midground and foreground as a whole harmonic arrangement. You may want a non- reflecting background, like another cloth drapped vertically behind the set up, and have a side lit composition instead of a backlit one. Either way, it is the same process of making visual color comparisons.
bigflea

LarrySeiler
11-16-2003, 05:53 PM
If you don't mind my saying, bigflea....this sounds like we are trying to take something simple and logical and turn it to be thought as complicated; nearly rocket science.

Perhaps to an instudio painter working with the convenience of an unchanging photograph and limited results of color due to thru the lens metering it might come as major surprise to learn that an object or subject's color appears different bathed in overcast light versus twilight, or sunrise light and so forth.

The thing is...after you've painted 500 paintings outdoors...I think the painter wishes to simplify and forget as much possible rocket science as concerns painting as is possible.

Perhaps if you have to return to the same location day after day for a period of a week or more to complete a larger painting you have to be more mindful of the varying types of light your subject may be under to maintain consistency in the work, and perhaps that is your point.

I perhaps am appreciating the difficulty of this less because of my completing my plein airs alla prima...or in one session. To me, to paint the subject as being bathed in one light condition number one is probably why I stopped the vehicle to pull my easel out to begin with....in that the "ah-Hah!" is locked up part and parcel owing to the drama of the particular type of light.

Its a no brainer it seems to me....that an orange wood block or a red one...is going to look different under an overcast day versus a very sunny day.

So...not to damper the fun of thinking everything thru jot and tittle, but for those that have and are reading along finding their minds spinning, mouths dropping....feeling a bit lost and maybe even dense...I certainly worry that we might make this more difficult than it need be.

Set your easel up and paint from nature. If you don't get it all the first time, you'll get more in the next attempt...and then the next, and the next after that. Five hundred paintings later, people will be asking you for tips on how to paint.

Learn along the way, and yes...ask questions. Be teachable, for when you think you've got all you need you stop learning and stop growing. Just don't fret though. Remember one simple truth, all you can do...is all you can do, and all you can do is enough!

That is...it is enough for now...and your now will change as you do more as will your enough.

I appreciate all you have shared here Bigflea...but I have received a few posts from people basically saying "huh?" and asking me for clarification.

Going back and gleaning from your first two posts of this thread, the light keys are simply the lighting conditions the painter will find him or herself painting in, and judging the subject from.

For myself, rather than thinking the answer is to develop a system for seeing such...I just want to build confidence in my being able to execute what I'm seeing. It isn't that you are advocating a system...but it is easy to miss that and fall into the mistake of thinking so. Any system of course that the painter depends upon removes him or her from the responsibility of simply responding to further surprise from nature.

Naturally...if you start a painting in overcast conditions and the sun suddenly comes out, you will have to decide to pack up and come back on another overcast day...or use reason to maintain the color theme for which you had begun (mindful of the light key).

Larry

LarrySeiler
11-16-2003, 06:15 PM
taking a quote from Henry in another thread, I see something that seems to be a contradiction...perhaps you can explain.

Here is the quote I'm refering to-

Posted by: henry

Hensche taught that when we start a painting, we should exaggerate the differences in the coloration of the masses. if the student steps back and realizes that he has put the same color in two places, he should step forward, look at the motif and make a visual comparison of the two spots, and determine the difference. Hensche hated formula. His painting was NOT about mixing arbitrary colors to make everything different, but was about acute observation so as to truly SEE the difference and note the difference.
His exaggeration of color was done with purpose.



toward the latter part of this paragraph, Henry is saying that Hensche was interest in acute observation so as to truly see so...my question is, then how can you do so truly by "exaggerating the differences" ??? The very word "exaggerate" is to overstate or push beyond that which is true. IN fact, Henry states Hensche hated formula, but if the practice were to exaggerate the difference, that in itself is a convention...or we could say in essence, formula.

I don't understand.

then Henry continues-

He painted knowing
that paintings are seen indoors in subdued light. By pushing the color of the masses apart and to their predominate strength he created paintings that could be "read in normal indoor light.

the only way as I can determine that you paint not what you actually see but how you anticipate a thing will appear (under other inside lighting) would be to place faith upon a convention other than what one is at the moment "truly" seeing. That then is a formula.

I enjoy many diversely aesthetically pleasing works of art and surely agree in their place for humanity to be graced and blessed by them. But I am seeing some inconsistency in what is said of Hensche to have helped his students on one hand truly see and judge a thing under particular lighting conditions...yet anticipate how they will appear hung in not so ideal lighting conditions thus "exaggerated."

In my thinking....it is the burden of the patron to create the proper environment for my paintings to be put on display, and if s/he does not it is not my fault for their appearance. My burden is to see and respond, not anticipate and exaggerate. To paint for me...not for others. It just sounds weird to me.


He also pushed the coloration to accentuate the "light Key". The ability to do this requires the development of the memory of keys, so that they can be compared
and the quality of color of different times of day and lighting conditions can be separated and understood.

the "memory of keys?" I think it is one thing to acknowledge objects will appear differently under varying light....to to commit to memory is to risk ceasing to see and instead fall upon a convention or formula. It is IMHO like presuming that because you understand something of the need for the human body to require and assimilate vitamins and nutrients that all you cram into a multiple vitamin is all that is required for one's daily consumption.

The thing is...we give scientists more credit than they deserve at this point ignoring that there may be many factors, amino acids, and such that we are not yet aware of in a food and thus in living off supplements only would very likely miss what is called the "X Factors"

Thus...a person might consider taking supplements, but rather than skip meals poppin' pills, aim for a balanced nutritious diet as well.

What I mean by this metaphor is...it is good to acknowledge there are varying lighting conditions, but don't make the mistake of thinking Hensche create the idea supplement pill. Keep the awareness in the back of the mind of varying light conditions, but then paint as though a child seeing something for the very first time! Approach nature with inquisitiveness each time anticipating and equipping yourself to be surprised and observe something new. There are I'm afraid, "X-Factors" that will be missed choosing to do what Hensche is prescribing here in Henry's words.

I agree...pleasing works of art. Another way of seeing... the results of some of his student's work though does not convince me of a seeing that represents nature as I see it. I seek a full plate menu....

Larry

bigflea
11-16-2003, 08:02 PM
Hi Larry,
I don't disagree with your points about having done 500 paintings and how this will allow a painter to move into the painting spontaneously, without pulling out the RULE BOOK FOR COLOR MODELING OF LIGHT KEYS.

Painting is based on seeing, but it is a process of learning to see in the light key, and how to make comparisons of difficult to see colorings in the light key, that the thread is addressing. It is not a formula or system to me, but a habit of having learned how to make constructive comparisons of color so I am able to progress as a colorist rather than simply repeat the colorings that are obvious to me. So, for example, the sunlight plane of a tree may appear yellow to me, as the most obvious coloration. But the form requires more than light yellow and dark yellow, if I am trying to use color differences to describe it. The sky reflection on the top of the form will not be yellow, nor will the ground plane reflection into the yellow light plane of the tree be yellow. So by modeling the plane changes of the form with color differences I am able to make the form. I want to make the color differences appear as a single mass of sunlight for the form of the tree. Color modeling is a way to learn to do that.

Someone else, a child perhaps, is not going to care about that. But I do, and in the painting of form in light keys, it is necessary to develop a visual habit of observation to see what is not at first obvious.

In other words, I am talking about learning to expand your visual color perception by relying on color modeling of form. It is a simple process, and it is easy to see some colorings, but not easy to make them.

I will try to explain the contradictions in the henry threads, (altho it would be more fun for me to watch him try to explain them).

By color exaggeration, Hensche meant in the initial statement of color differences, especially for someone just learning to work with color differences, rather than value scales or block ins. Hensche did not have to exaggerate the way I would have when I arrived in his school. He could do a complete painting ,24"x30", in two hours. He had developed his own color perception acutely enough that he saw where he needed to go in the key, and he knew how to get there in pigment. If he worked on paintings longer than that, which he did a great deal, it was to develop more nuance and refinement in forms. and in the atmospheric quality of the color between forms. He enjoyed the greater refinement of work, more than the quick thing, and his heroes were painters like Chardin and others who greatly refined the coloring of their work to express the quality of forms. That does not happen in 1 hour of painting.

Memory of light keys means a working knowledge and awareness of them, not a formula or fixed conception of them. They are too varied and variable to approach that way. It is more like a memory of a feeling, and something that is familiar to you, rather than something memorized in a book. That is the kind of memory that light keys are. Once seen consciously, they are part of a painter's working knowledge. Yet some painter's do try to formularize them in their work, and it shows in the repetition of color solutions, rather than color integrity in the key. Color modeling is a way to avoid using formulas to solve the problems of form in the light key.

Hensche sometimes said things about looking at your work under artificial light to see how well it held up, or was seen. I don't recall him saying that we were to adjust our painting accordingly, so I think that is henry mis-interpretation. What I remember Hensche saying is that if we get the coloring relationships right when we are working on them in the light key they will look right in any lighting. If they look wrong in artificial light we must be getting something wrong in the color relationships. It was a general guideline , since their are all kinds of artificial lightings that can throw subtle color relationships askew.

Modeling in color is about getting volume in form. Alot of color work is flat or two dimensional, altho it has a zing to it, or a pictorial quality to it, it has no depth or volume in the form. This problem is difficult to solve if the painter cannot see the colorings that make the form. Color modeling is a way to see those colors.
So it is not rocket science at all, just a reliable visual habit, that once learned is spontaneous and constructive.
bigflea

ps, I don't know any two painters who see things the same way. so it is no surprise to me that you don't see the work of Hensche's students as the way you see. The point of the approach is not to see like anyone else, but to develop or cultivate your own visual color perception more than it is now. Some of his students do try to do that, but others only try to make coloristic paintings.

LarrySeiler
11-17-2003, 10:59 AM
Originally posted by bigflea
Hi Larry,
Painting is based on seeing, but it is a process of learning to see in the light key, and how to make comparisons of difficult to see colorings in the light key, that the thread is addressing. It is not a formula or system to me, but a habit of having learned how to make constructive comparisons of color so I am able to progress as a colorist rather than simply repeat the colorings that are obvious to me.


oh absolutely...I agree this has value as a process for you, and it is always interesting to hear how other artists work. You understand my point though as concerns Hensche that if you make a point to exaggerate and do so from the standpoint of light keys committed to memory versus simply just seeing and executing that a convention is being implemented. Call it what one may, convention, rule, whatever...it is a formula in that it becomes relied upon as a reliable means to bring about a desired end. My concern is that formula very often causes the painter to cease seeing and implement what past experience has known to work.

Its not that I don't respect your working that way, but for the sake of readers whom are having problems digesting the information and understanding it plainly, I thought I would interject. To be honest bigflea, I had to read thru several posts perhaps five or six times to try and understand the simplicity of what was being said...and the bottom line is things need to appear as though existing in an existing consistent type of light, or "light key".

However...when artistic license enters in to exaggerate for what one knows rather than what one is seeing one is creating a painting, yes undeniably, and an aesthetically pleasing one at that. I question though if the seeing is as true to nature as is being purported.


So, for example, the sunlight plane of a tree may appear yellow to me, as the most obvious coloration. But the form requires more than light yellow and dark yellow, if I am trying to use color differences to describe it.


Isn't that just common sense though bigflea? One spot is darker than another, you make it darker. Another is warmer and purer in color, you paint it so. Since color carries an inherent value...mixing the right color as you see it proper in value can be a brushstroke laid and thereby a brushstroke stayed.

Many factors account for a harmony and a unity of form and composition such as areas that are farther receive less suggestion of detail, frequently are less darker in value, quite often more cooler in color temperature.

Use of variation in shapes and form to create an interesting path for the viewer's eye to follow along, verticals against horizontals, edges broken up and so forth.

Please expound on your need to "use color differences to describe"...are you responding more to the need to get color in there that is not there and thereafter justifying its being there?

Just as there is an overall pervading light, there will be stronger color in form that perhaps requires the downplaying of other colors...perhaps even to the point of eliminating for the sake of maintaining continuity. That can simply be determined by anyone by squinting one's eyes. The dominant color which leads the theme of continuity will be evident, the minor less significant color along with unnecessary detail is eliminated.

I'm not trying to be combative or argumentive simply because of any nature or tendency in my personality to do so. I've been called a colorist by many and so I am getting at the crux of the matter whereby I can ascertain once and for all in my discussions with others that I am, or am not. I know I am no longer a tonalist.

Also...as an instructor...I like keeping it as simple as possible which keeps the fearful intimidating boogey man of failure away long enough for the painter to begin to see some measure of progress.


The sky reflection on the top of the form will not be yellow, nor will the ground plane reflection into the yellow light plane of the tree be yellow. So by modeling the plane changes of the form with color differences I am able to make the form. I want to make the color differences appear as a single mass of sunlight for the form of the tree. Color modeling is a way to learn to do that.

why make a mass appear as a single form? I mean...I teach blocking in masses, then looking for the higher values, the darker within that form, find the warmer and cooler spots of color and negative space for sculpting the shape and character of the tree...but given that trees toss, wind blows, leaves flutter thereby changing their planes within groups of amassed leaves within the single form and so forth...considering shading allows light from above in the sky to bounce into the shadows and so forth...it seems to me to consider the tree or a mass a single form might be convenient for moderling but inaccurate for all that is happening. Guess I'm confused at this point.


Someone else, a child perhaps, is not going to care about that. But I do, and in the painting of form in light keys, it is necessary to develop a visual habit of observation to see what is not at first obvious.

NUMBER ONE...clear one thing up for me, there is in any one painting only necessarily ONE light key, correct? We don't have twilight light appearing with overcast light and sunrise light? Of course not...thus, a painter setting out to do his/her painting is painting in an existing key of light. S/he sees what s/he sees.

Secondly...yes it is necessary to develop a habit of observation...which comes over time. Nothing is fully and completely absorbed at the first...and thus composition, values, form, light, color...all these things are part of that necessary observing.

Thirdly...what am I likely to miss on a scene's location as regards a light key? If I observe the sky is overcast, that colors are more neutral, the mood somber, that distant masses are hazed, that the light is cool and shadows are warmer...what then must I call up from memory? What am I likely to see that is not at first obvious?

Don't we naturally over time approaching nature humbly, maintaining we stay teachable...learn the habit of seeing what is not at first obvious? I guess I'm missing the significance of what you are saying that is not part of my habit which thereafter is called the "Hensche" method of seeing. It still seems that convention is being called to be relied upon...and therefore a systematic approach.

There are those for example wanting a painting that will aesthetically have one mood pretone their support with sepia. Letting sepia come thru in many various parts of the painting as well as work thur transparent layer of color to force/create a unifying harmony.

Myself...I dare not take such a colored panel to the field to force a mood upon nature that is not there. I understand what they are doing, and why their painting works as a painting. Yes, it may be very nice, but tells me more about the artist as a piece of art than about nature. I'm also not saying art ought not or cannot do that. It comes back to that "truly seeing" thing....

A pretoned canvas might help the viewer see into the artist. Might see nature's affect upon the artist. I'm not sure it projects to the viewer what is seen in nature. Seen in the artist, yes. Seen in nature? I think that is confusing to the novice.

You are not advocating pretoning...I'm using that as an example, but by predetermining the need to introduce many colors to model form...is that more accurate to nature, or to the nature of the artist? I'm beginning to see more and more that I must not be a colorist by any measure of the word...


In other words, I am talking about learning to expand your visual color perception by relying on color modeling of form. It is a simple process, and it is easy to see some colorings, but not easy to make them.

By expand....do you mean to see color that is ACTUALLY THERE that others are missing, or to get at that point to wish upon nature color that is not there but color that will make for what is thought in this sytem to arrive at a better painting?

It sounds weird. I know of people in New Age thinking or occult that see spirit guides and what not that advocate rituals, thinking, reading, and practices that defy what the norm would be considered as a means to expand an openness in the mind. With such practices in time...a person too enters into the paranormal, psychic energies and whatnot.

I'm not saying this is by any means like that...but the process of convincing the mind what others cannot see can be seen by the sage has a similiar ring to it. It is as if by regimenting oneself to the routine of Light Key thinking, one will begin to see color that everyone else has not without such training been able to see.

If that is the case...I'm fairly well satisfied to keep and work within my limitations not having such knowledge of color. My work falls in line with my perceptions of nature...and I think it is safe to say that most artists works do the same. Rather than say such knowledge is necessary or essential for the artist...it is more proper to say essential for those wanting to paint the Hensche way. In that I can sure appreciate all that you labored here to present to us. In the least...it is interesting and gives me a new sense of awareness. I might be better to refer to my painting as simply painterly realism with nature as my subject on location.

I'll stop here and respond to your answers of contradictions to Henry's threads separately...and thanks for your patience with me in advance!
;)

Larry

LarrySeiler
11-17-2003, 11:39 AM
Originally posted by bigflea

Memory of light keys means a working knowledge and awareness of them, not a formula or fixed conception of them.


which then any accomplished experienced landscape painter is likely to understand...though having come upon this knowledge perhaps differently.


They are too varied and variable to approach that way. It is more like a memory of a feeling, and something that is familiar to you, rather than something memorized in a book.


can appreciate that...which is like much of what becomes intuitive and second nature after awhile for the painter, and thankfully so that we can expedite and take on the challenges of the moment.



That is the kind of memory that light keys are. Once seen consciously, they are part of a painter's working knowledge. Yet some painter's do try to formularize them in their work, and it shows in the repetition of color solutions, rather than color integrity in the key. Color modeling is a way to avoid using formulas to solve the problems of form in the light key.

I can appreciate the difficulty of that too, because it is a bit like being a nonconformist. Soon, your nonconformity becomes that which you conform to and judge others whom are not as nonconformed as you are. Conformity to nonconformity.

It would be difficult not to fall into some rut or routine no doubt...



Hensche sometimes said things about looking at your work under artificial light to see how well it held up, or was seen. I don't recall him saying that we were to adjust our painting accordingly, so I think that is henry mis-interpretation.


I would hope this is a mistake...and misquote.


What I remember Hensche saying is that if we get the coloring relationships right when we are working on them in the light key they will look right in any lighting.


Yes...that I can agree with. It should be relative.


Modeling in color is about getting volume in form. Alot of color work is flat or two dimensional, altho it has a zing to it, or a pictorial quality to it, it has no depth or volume in the form.

Yes...but emphasis on attaining proper observed values, sensitive to all the devices of illusioary depth perspective and such, focusing on the essentials ignoring what is not necessary, putting texture and suggestion of detail on that which is closer compared to farther away and so forth should and will add up to accomplishing successfully volume in form as well. I submit this sounds like a room with several access and exit doors to enter all with the same concern that a work not appear flat. You're coming in by the Hensche door...I'm coming in a door with a heightened concern for color and what atmospheric light is doing unfamiliar to instudio isolation as a former tonalist. I'm finding my former concerns with value, texture, detailing and so forth is working hand in hand with what I am now observing with color.


This problem is difficult to solve if the painter cannot see the colorings that make the form.


and many would add difficult too if the proper values cannot be seen, the proper comparisons of cools versus warm in color temperature, proper detailing and texturizing in context of surrounding areas and planes and so forth...


ps, I don't know any two painters who see things the same way. so it is no surprise to me that you don't see the work of Hensche's students as the way you see. The point of the approach is not to see like anyone else, but to develop or cultivate your own visual color perception more than it is now. Some of his students do try to do that, but others only try to make coloristic paintings.

THANKS for taking time bigflea to answer...as well as no doubt the drain on your patience! It seems more plain now...as we discuss still more.

I'm still confused about the light keys. The plural of this suggests this changes as one goes about the painting, but really it is about maintaining the content of the work as that which is receiving the existing light of a captured moment...or, am I missing something there? As I said before, all I need concern myself with that is recognition of the existing conditions as I set about my work; inherent with why the compulsion to the scene to begin with no doubt.

take care

Larry

bigflea
11-18-2003, 12:51 AM
Well Larry, I guess it is true that you cannot please everyone, and it is clear from your response that the ideas and my expression of them bring you no pleasure. But in the spirit of inquiry and humor I want to try to address your objections, at least the ones that seem to be real inquiries, and not the ones that really seem designed to suggest that there is nothing here for anyone to take seriously or with any keen interest. I believe Hensche and Hawthorne proved their position to anyone who was willing to investigate their approach open mindedly. I also think it is clear from the history of the use of color in painting that there was a real need and interest in their ideas, if the use of color as a descriptive language, rather than a subjective or elective element, was ever to advance beyond the discoveries of impressionism. You seem to gloss over the historical development of color modeling as a means for impressionist painters to paint solid form, something which was not attained satisfactorily until Hawthorne and Hensche did the developmental study and work to prove that it could be done. It had been attained in the conventions of value modeling, but these were proven to be conventions that did not correspond to the facts as nature presented them. It was a major achievement for painters to find a reliable way to paint both the light key and the solidity and volume of form in the light key. This is what Hensche's color modeling in the light key teaching method intends to show the would be colorist. What I am trying to do here is to fill in the gaps of available information on what we were doing at Hensche's school, and how anyone who wants to could follow his teaching idea to improve their own color perception.

If anyone ever gets to see a Hawthorne painting, which are mostly figure and portrait themes done from the live model, they would be struck by the great number of color notes used to model the plane changes in the head , figure, and hands of the model. Though there are many distinct color note differences, they are so close in value and tonal range that one may not at first realize how intricately painted they are. According to Hensche, no painter ever surpassed Hawthorne in the use of color modeling of the head and figure in an interior lighting key. Hawthorne was the first teacher to take students away from the academic conventions of griselles, and value analysis, and contour drawing as the foundation for painting. Instead, he made students paint with putty knives, like the ones you get for filling holes in the wall before painting. He made them paint very crude shapes of color, and taught them how to refine the color and shape in a grouping of colors and shapes, because to Hawthorne, this was the fundamental problem to be learned for the would be painter /colorist.

You make the point Larry that the use of color exaggeration is nothing more than a convention, but I think you are not looking at the way color perception is taught in the method that is being discussed. No doubt painters can make a convention out of coloring, and I see that when I see coloring that repeats from painting to painting regardless of the key or the region or season or forms being painted. But in the context I am trying to discuss here, color exaggeration is a means for the beginning colorist painter to dive into the deep end of the pool of color head first, and without the security of a value analysis griselle to prop up the visual analysis of one's work.

Exaggerated color notes, crude and oversimplified, give the eyes a feast of color to devour, to savor, to enjoy, and hopefully to wake up to. The point of the approach is to get shocked into a color recognition of the light key, and to begin mixing new color relationships without the comfort of one's drawing and value analysis to fall back on. Hensche felt differently than you about the way color perception is learned, and he developed his teaching approach because the conventional methods for advancing one's color perception in the light key were unreliable.

Your point seems to be that since each hour of the day is a light key, then all painters are painting light keys. By the same reasoning then we can safely say that all people are seeing light keys, and taking note of the wonderful variety of color in them. In fact we can say, by your reasoning, that all painters, from the beginning of time, have been doing nothing but painting light keys. In other words , by your thinking, we can say that the idea of light keys is not really a new development in the perception of humanity. It is the way people have always thought about the green trees and blue sky and the brown tree trunk and the red apple. By your reasoning, I have just described light keys.

So have to disagree with you about painters who paint what they see painting light keys because that is what is here. Hensche's point, and one that science also agree with, is that visual color perception is learned, and cultivated. The capacity to recognize color differences may be a given, but the conscious awareness and descriptive expression of them is learned.

It is true that students of the idea can take this aspect of chromatic effects as the entire course. It is not the course that Hensche recommended or taught however. He first wanted to get the painter to see everything only as coloring. Once the head of the student was in the color noose so to speak. it then became a discipline of making comparisons of hue, shape, proportional size, edges, and othe r refinements that proved to be our undoing. So your criticism of the use of color exaggeration seems to dismiss the entire approach mainly because you do not agree with the colors that certain painters use who cite Hensche as their mentor and inspiration. Yet there are hundreds of painter's whose work you have not seen who diligently studied his approach to its intended end, but who have not made themselves out to be the heir of the Hensche legacy.

In regard to the distinction between value and color as an approach to color, I think your disagreement is with Monet and Hensche, and other colorists who had first studied value analysis as the way to make the coloring of the light key. This was found to be unreliable, and it is also what led me to study at Hensche's school.

Value differences, unfortunately, do not equate to color differences. The proper study of values, no matter how well seen, does not lead you to the perception of color differences. Ofcourse when we do not see a color relationship very well, it is possible to try and analyze our way to the color by adjusting values, but this really does not tell you what the color is.

Light is color, and often in values that are so close, that only the color difference makes it appear as a value shift. Often the value relationships between a mass of light and shade is insignificant once the a true color difference are established. Although our eyes in daylight are built to see color, our mind may override our senses, forming pictures only from generalities or pre conceptions.

Regarding massing and form, a mass of light or shade may be several different forms together or a single form. Massing of a composition into light and shade is the foundation of the entire harmonic range of the key. In a landscape there is a great deluge of visual information which the painter has to select from and compose into a unified whole. Massing of forms, or of groups of forms into the light and shade variations, simplifies the problem of arrangement or composing.

When a painter uses color differences to model any form, it becomes more problematic to get the harmonic relationship of colors to hold together as a form. If you are painting a head with light dappling across it, it still has to look like a solid form, not a head of swiss cheese. So I think you are mis interpreting what is being said in regard to modeling form. Some forms, like trees, have alot of reflecting light in them, as well as air and light at the edges that is a mixture of the tree and the sky and other adjacent forms. The modeling study tries to resolve all of the textural and atmospheric and light changes by making the color variations that characterize the form as it is seen. One tree may indeed appear more patterned and broken up by wind and sky and reflections than another. Yet all of these can be composed out of the color variations in either the mass of shade, or light, or the transitional coloring between them.

Light keys are, as you say, what we are in, but not necessarily what we are aware of when painting. By studying it, from a color difference point of departure, anyone becomes more aware of the distinctions.

How many sunny morning light keys are there? Well how many different color harmonies have you paintied in a sunny morning? Are the color harmonies we use in the morning on a sunny day the same ones every sunny morning? Are they the same harmonies as we paint in the afternoon on a sunny day?

As a beginner I tried to show a difference in my painting of a morning sunny light key and an afternoon light key. I could see a difference, but not much of one, at first. By making an effort to get more specific about the differences in the coloring I saw, I began to understand what I was seeing, at first only in a diminished way, and later, in a very specific way. I knew other painters saw differences, and I learned from them, how to make comparative studies. But I also could not see certain colorings at all. Or I saw them so poorly, that I was virtually blind to them. So, does that mean I am only seeing what I believe, and that the entire learning process of color perception is a subjective hallucination? By the same reasoning, it must be true that the entire realistic school of painting is hallucinating a world of dark values and seeing only what their mind believes to be true, rather than what is "really" true.

So i have to disagree with that line of thinking Larry. By expanding our color perception, I think anyone can understand that we learn as much about color perception and vision as we learn about any field we wish to study. Similarly in music, by studying the relationship of notes, even an amateur muscician gathers new insight and understanding about the world of sound around them. Learning by observation, and by specific disciplines of approach, is not making stuff up, as your criticism implies. It is possible that when a painter follows their mental conception of pictorializing, they really are not making any observations of the light key, in the way that Hensche taught his students to observe them. One can paint an entire picture from the 5 light approach of Sargent, and never make one observation of the light key. The fact that we notice those 5 elements in a form, and use it as a way to pictorialize, does not equate to color observation of the light key. One can make a charicature from the same format as the one Sargent followed, since it is not about observation of light as color differences. So my point is that it is very easy to equate pictorializing conventions and technique with observation from nature, but they are not equivalent. Hensche's color modeling study approach is intended to address specific problems and solutions in color perception and the painting of form in the color differences of the light key. Other pictorial devices may or may not be of interest to a painter, but they do not address the way a color is seen.

But don't misunderstand me here Larry. I appreciate you taking the time to put your waders on an plow thru the thing, and come up with some twisters of your own to fathom. If you can come up with a few slam dunks it would be fine by me, that is I don't mind making fun of this stuff, and appreciate the humor wherever we can find it.

If I am not clarifying the light key reference, let me reiterate. It is the combination of the kind of sunlight, prevailing atmospheric conditions, time of day and season, local color and how it is altered by the key. From what I have seen, although most painters have the capacity for seeing coloring, each painter sees and selects coloring somewhat differently.
bigflea

E-J
11-18-2003, 03:19 AM
I am following the debate ... with a large mug of tea to sustain me :)

It would be interesting to have some images for comparison ... why not a tree, since light falling on a tree has been used as an example here? We could then SEE how bigflea's/Hensche's approach differs from Larry's ... the differences in what each artist is actually seeing and/or painting. I realise we are limited by the colours on a monitor and that subtleties of colour will inevitably be lost, but it would be a help, I think.

Jamie, bon courage with your sunny morning study ... Sunny days have left us completely here now that we're into mid-November so you'll have to do the work for me too :( I find colour very difficult to discern in shadow areas ... this is where I need to develop my seeing.

LarrySeiler
11-18-2003, 08:23 AM
I don't have much time here now....and will respond in a more appropriate way later...but, no...I am not at all displeased.

I think I have tried to make it plain that I appreciate many forms of art and have defended the right of many styles. There certainly is room on this planet for all of us different painters.

I am only trying to clear the fog from my mind to understand you and in the process am better understanding myself and how to answer others in the future concerning that which will more accurately describe what I do with color. I'm trying to see the value of YOUR way of seeing, how it may differ from mine. I don't think anyone here has said there is only ONE way of seeing.

I also have appreciated your patience...and have thanked you for that and do so again.

On the contrary, instead of being displeased, I am most appreciative...thank you.

We are so impassioned as artists with what we do that often we wear our emotions on our sleeves. Please accept my apologies if I have ruffled your feathers. You've been generous with your time.

Larry

bigflea
11-18-2003, 09:58 AM
Thanks for your interest E-J. There are some wips being photographed, then sent into slide to cd, which I hope to post. In other posts a cd has been scanned from a digital image or a 35mm photo image, and the results have been a loss of color relationships. I am hoping a slide to cd process will change that, but it may not.

But it would be very interesting to me to see what anyone could do in a color modeling approach without ever seeing work done by following that approach.

In the wips I am only trying to give an example of how two similar light keys may be developed differently in their coloring. I am trying to clarify what kinds of painting studies were done when a painter went to the school, since those were the prescribed ways of learning how to model form. The student began with solid forms, before going on to complex problems like trees in sunlight with dappling light effects. If a painter could understand the modeling of a solid object, it was then possible to understand how light, air, and form together can make a new combination of colors that your mind believes is a tree. Trees would be modeled somewhat differently than a solid object, since light and air and color reflection is passing through around and over them in a different way unique to the tree being painted. In both cases, the painter is trying to establish and maintain the continuity of the whole volume of air and light as it moves around or through the variable forms in nature. This has been done in monochrome, but to do it in color differences requires a recognition of what the color shifts are through out the forms being painted.

Even with a good quality jpeg however, it has proven impossible to communicate the point of color differentiation.

Right Larry? In your assesment, the work of Hensche, although beautiful as a painted image, is not true to nature. Or, it is not what you see in nature. The conclusion that you draw from this is that since you don't see the coloring the way Hensche does, going by a reasonable facsimili of his work on our variable monitors, that the entire approach is weird . I would prefer the word "kookie" over weird.

Am I ruffled by your comments and observations? Not at all. I enjoyed reading your posts and laughed at the appropriate jabs. I especially enjoyed the way you introduced the New Age conception as an equation for Hensche's approach. Even Hensche is probably having a good belly busting laugh at that, since it would be yet another twist on the simple approach of his ideas. He was such a serious guy, I sometimes just wanted to go pin him down and tickle him.
bigflea

JamieWG
11-18-2003, 10:45 AM
Originally posted by E-J
Jamie, bon courage with your sunny morning study ... Sunny days have left us completely here now that we're into mid-November so you'll have to do the work for me too :( I find colour very difficult to discern in shadow areas ... this is where I need to develop my seeing.

EJ, thank you! I'm so looking forward to this. I know that Bigflea presented this Painting White challenge to understand color in light keys.....but I have my own reasons....which do relate to that also. The truth is, I have always been afraid to paint a snow scene! Okay everybody, stop snickering at me! :evil: Like you, EJ, color in white shadows is something I find difficult. White halftones are most difficult. White light is difficult! I think I have trouble with white objects way more than colored objects, although I can see that one will help the other.

At the end of last winter, I had not one snow scene to show for it. Not even a study from my window. That's a sad state of affairs for a plein air painter. Then something else happened. I went to a juried show with a horse theme in June and saw this painting by Christine Cancelli. It is tiny---just 8X10 I think:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/18-Nov-2003/13766-Christine_Cancelli.jpg
And in the same show, a painting by Patricia Powers...not this exact one (which is also by her), but similar, with more pinks and violets and less white:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/18-Nov-2003/13766-Patricia_Powers.jpg

I fell in love with their use of color in white and I thought to myself, "That's how I want to be able to paint a snow scene!" They both painted white horses. There was no question from the viewer's perspective that these were white horses. And yet, there was so little white and no grey. They had a great sense of light and warmth and I wanted to do that too!

During the summer I only had two opportunities to work on painting white. One was at the Bronx Botanical Gardens in NYC. I only had two hours, but bravely faced the huge conservancy building and went at this one:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/18-Nov-2003/13766-Oil_PA_NY_Botanical_Gardens2_400.jpg

Then a few weeks ago in open studio, instead of doing a nude I asked the model to wear a white gown so I could practice. This one was in pastel, and I think you've seen it, EJ:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/18-Nov-2003/13766-102103_Charlene_Viola_Pastel_detail_400.jpg

So that's the sum total of my white experiments this year. Obviously, I need to do a whole lot more of them before the snow hits, and that's going to be SOON! That's the number one reason why I took on Bigflea's challenge. I'd already collected several white objects to practice with, including the nice plaster planter that I photographed. The fact that the practice I want to do with white could also have such a great impact on painting *colored* objects outdoors hadn't even occurred to me until this thread started.

So, you can see why I'd be so excited about this! :D Even having that plaster planter set up in my studio to look at has been a help. I've been looking at it now and then, examining the character of the light, with the studio lights on, with the studio lights off, in the morning, in the afternoon.......A challenge for sure.

Jamie

LarrySeiler
11-18-2003, 11:39 AM
Originally posted by bigflea

Right Larry? In your assessment, the work of Hensche, although beautiful as a painted image, is not true to nature. Or, it is not what you see in nature. The conclusion that you draw from this is that since you don't see the coloring the way Hensche does, going by a reasonable facsimili of his work on our variable monitors, that the entire approach is weird . I would prefer the word "kookie" over weird.

actually...I think you misunderstand me. Not true to nature for me because of the way that "I see it" ...which I recognize is relative, because I am not transcendent and my standards are not objective. I believe and acknowledge that others will see nature differently which if true to themselves cannot but help then represent it thus. His approach is admittedly something I am not comfortable with. I can't see myself applying color to what I am not seeing...and in being faithful to my own eyesights and judgment can't do it just to ascribe to his methods.

That does not mean I do not respect others that happen to see nature in ways that connect with Hensche. Weird to me, well...perhaps if I were to subcumb simply to subcumb...but not weird to me that others connect with his painting and teachings.

I agree with many things he and Hawthorne have taught as concerns learning from nature. I just don't see nature thru his eyes and don't believe it faults me for that, nor does my seeing things differently fault him.

I don't draw a conclusion that "since" ..."therefore"...to involve anyone but myself.

I don't want everyone painting like me for then there would be no room for me or my work. Not everyone sees like me, and thank goodness for that too.

We tend to draw toward those who's works show a similar vein of thought and response to nature as our own...and pay special attention to those works that appear as a mastery for the directions we are going. Such directions detail a path for ourselves, but not to lord over others or judge others inferior.

As I said...I now have a better understanding of myself...that in the light of what a colorist means when referred to Hensche's thinking, that I must describe myself differently. Again...I appreciate your time, and the value you present to many that will help them better understand. Having better understood I am now free to move on, thanks to you...and better apply myself in more appropriate directions.

thanks...

Larry

LarrySeiler
11-18-2003, 11:53 AM
Originally posted by bigflea
I especially enjoyed the way you introduced the New Age conception as an equation for Hensche's approach. Even Hensche is probably having a good belly busting laugh at that, since it would be yet another twist on the simple approach of his ideas. He was such a serious guy, I sometimes just wanted to go pin him down and tickle him.
bigflea

actually...I was hoping that the suggestion Hensche was doing something mystical and teaching students doing the same wasn't drawn from this metaphor or comparison. I don't suggest something of that nature is happening. My point or perhaps even pondering was if people are not driven possibly to see what is not there by being convinced by a strong persuasion?

On the other hand, I know that a musician is better equipped to hear the going ons of a complicated piece than the nonmusician. Especially enjoyable might be the nuances of a jazz piece...and a guitar playing blues/jazz is more likely to hear the subtle things and appreciate a master. A musician might give a much higher appraisal of a piece performed having heard cleverness and genuis than perhaps the nonmusician whom by an inferior understanding simply missed it.

Thus it is entirely possible that colors exist in a mass that my eyes have not yet learned to see. Being human...I can't help but wonder if Hensche's students actually see such colors existing? If that is the case...either my seeing then logically is inferior to that level, or such colors are not really there but people are seeing them for other reasons. If they are not there, but are painted for other reasons....those reasons are no doubt aesthetic and result in pleasing works of art just the same.

Larry

bigflea
11-18-2003, 09:02 PM
I am not doing very well on using the quote selector, and the thing drives me crazy, so I won't try. But I wanted to respond to your comment about color existing in the light keys that your eyes do not yet see. You question whether some other painters are only making the coloring up, or if they are seeing it, you say logic indicates your color perception is inferior to theirs.

In following Hensche's coaching and example I found that color did indeed exist in the light key that I was unaware of, and it took some discipline study, and alot of frustration to begin to see it well enough to paint it. I would have left Hensche's school had I not seen results in the changing perception of my own vision. I am not the kind of person who would try to learn a technique for coloring in order to make money or to make more colorful pictures. In other words I gave Hensche the benefit of doubt for the period of time between not seeing anything differently, and actually seeing some of what he saw, and referred to in his teaching to us.

Now I realize, that there is even more coloring in light keys that I am probably not yet seeing, or am aware of, and I see continual change in my color perception over each year.

I find that I reach color perception plateaus, from which I can produce a large body of work, which seems to be a harvest of the learning that has preceeded it. Then a new cycle of learning begins, with new color perceptions that have not been explored or seen. I can rely on the color modeling approach to get me through a new learning cycle, since in a way it is like starting over, without any pigment mixtures to use, and having to re-learn what I am seeing , and what pigments will get to that range of coloring.

I don't think any of that means that one level of color perception is inferior to another. It is just that there is always more to learn about it, and when that door is opened, it can change the way we see the relationships that we have grown accustomed to seeing. I think that's a good thing.

I don't think painters from his school are making colors up to be coloristic, but I do not believe some understand the color that they are seeing, or they are seeing it out of the context of the whole key. That is why work can look too colored. It has not been taken far enough, as a harmonic relationship, to reach those notes of color that are so unique in light, which Hensche called the colorless colors. (One painter who has published a book on the topic suggests the use of a complementary system for color relationships and to me that is making it up, rather than seeing)

It is also true I believe that if you cannot see a rose violet note in a light plane, and another painter sees it very clearly, you might come to the conclusion that they must be making it up.
bigfleaOriginally posted by LarrySeiler


actually...I was hoping that the suggestion Hensche was doing something mystical and teaching students doing the same wasn't drawn from this metaphor or comparison. I don't suggest something of that nature is happening. My point or perhaps even pondering was if people are not driven possibly to see what is not there by being convinced by a strong persuasion?

On the other hand, I know that a musician is better equipped to hear the going ons of a complicated piece than the nonmusician. Especially enjoyable might be the nuances of a jazz piece...and a guitar playing blues/jazz is more likely to hear the subtle things and appreciate a master. A musician might give a much higher appraisal of a piece performed having heard cleverness and genuis than perhaps the nonmusician whom by an inferior understanding simply missed it.

Thus it is entirely possible that colors exist in a mass that my eyes have not yet learned to see. Being human...I can't help but wonder if Hensche's students actually see such colors existing? If that is the case...either my seeing then logically is inferior to that level, or such colors are not really there but people are seeing them for other reasons. If they are not there, but are painted for other reasons....those reasons are no doubt aesthetic and result in pleasing works of art just the same.

Larry

LarrySeiler
11-18-2003, 10:23 PM
appreciate your thoughtful response bigflea.

hahaha...I'm going to have to be satisfied for now to work at being me. No one else is perhaps better qualified to do that than me...so paint as I do I must. At this time...rather than worrying about colors I am not yet able to see, I'll work hard at responding to those I can. That in and of itself should probably prove to be challenge enough for quite sometime to come.

It is interesting to have read all this...and gives me some ability to appreciate what you're doing or attempting to do. Continued good luck to you in your endeavors.

Larry

MikLNjLo
11-19-2003, 06:05 AM
I don't know if I understand this approach yet. I am getting there. I need to practice and workout with exercises and feedback for awhile. 15 years ago I took a class with the artist Terry Hogan. What bigflea has been describing is inline with her belief. She did not have time to focus on this type of approach in detail but I remember in essence the significance of depicting color in this manner.

"Flat" painting is usually, if not always, a color problem. This color approach seems to represent the highest echelon of form through color -perhaps the only true path. I would like to paint using this concept but in a more subtle manner. This intent may actually expose a misconception of the approach. If so, I hope bigflea will comment.

I have been assembling a collection of posts on this topic but have not had enough time to read them carefully to contribute questions. I appreciate the time and effort to provide point-for-point clarity by everyone participating especially bigflea of course.

Thanks to all-

bigflea
11-19-2003, 09:28 AM
I think Larry that you have brought up the beauty of the learning process. It is a natural progression to go from what we do understand to what we have not yet been aware of. It gets brought into our attention, I believe, when we have exhausted our supply of knowledge and are genuinely struggling, perhaps working only from a hunch that something more is going on than what we are aware of.

No matter how much Hensche's approach is adhered to, painters cannot escape being who they are. It shows in all of their differences in what color selections are made, and how paintings are developed and what is painted. We are who we are for better, once we understand we are serving a greater purpose by doing what we love.

Thanks for the comments MikLNjLo.
Your comment about subtle use may have to do with the idea Larry has brought out here, which is that we are who we are and even if we adhere to the format of Hensche's approach, our work will reflect our own intelligence and insights. Although our perceptual range of coloring may naturally grow, the individual remains unique, and perhaps even become more so, in a positive or constructive sense, as they become more aware of coloring in their visual world. So it may not be a misconception. Also, some light keys have more subtlety than others. Can the painter develop them in color differences? One may be better suited to do that than another.


bigflea

MikLNjLo
11-19-2003, 06:02 PM
The way things go, I am really only thinking of what I might like to do from where I am looking now. Once I have worked with the approach I will have undergone changes and will be under those influences. Currently I like a certain pictorial character. That could change. I would not ignore this color awareness once it was developed. That seems counter to growth. I would like to have control of it and not be bound to demonstrating the process itself. As mentioned in earlier posts, some of the work available using this approach appears to render the color awareness as the focal point rather than any other element. I may want to do that also. I guess I will just have to wait and see.

bigflea
11-19-2003, 09:02 PM
that all makes sense to me MikLNjLo,
trying to attach some Henry Hensche images that I hope will show different aspects of his idea, or the results he was able to get following the color approach he taught.

bigflea
11-19-2003, 09:35 PM
the first image is a Henry Hensche landscape, a very developed middle of the day light key, of a garden plot and tree in his yard. Probably mid summer. A sunny light key.

the second image is an interior still life painting of a copper kettle and plate, and two other metal vases, with some other objects, like a persimmon and a folded fan, probably done in winter, although he also worked on interior still life in the summer, which surprised me alot.

bigflea
11-19-2003, 09:56 PM
the third image is a demonstration painting, which he always did on Saturday mornings, which lasted for about 2 hours. Sometimes he would do another demo in the middle of the week, but he usually did not want to take time away from his students working on their own studies. In his demos he either did a still life composition or a portrait, and this is a portrait, not a finished portrait, but shows the students how he went about developing the masses of light and shade in the light key. It is interesting to note that the background coloring is still in an overstated and un developed stage, while the shirt, and massing of hair, and the head has been developed into more unusual and convincing coloring. He did not have to overstate color the way he asked beginning color painters. However, he would mix the pigments right on the canvas, by putting the raw color up on the planes of the head, and mixing into it.

The still life painting, which in the jpeg appears a bit flat, shows how saturated the local color of the objects can be in an interior subdued light. The same set up outside, would be seen very differently, depending on the key.

The landscape shows that even in the sunny light key of midday, perhaps a late morning, the coloring can be very somber or subdued.

comments welcome.
bigflea

LarrySeiler
11-20-2003, 12:12 AM
Originally posted by bigflea
the first image is a Henry Hensche landscape, a very developed middle of the day light key, of a garden plot and tree in his yard. Probably mid summer. A sunny light key.

the second image is an interior still life painting of a copper kettle and plate, and two other metal vases, with some other objects, like a persimmon and a folded fan, probably done in winter, although he also worked on interior still life in the summer, which surprised me alot.

I like the first, the landscape It has many subtle colors...however, at least from my experience here in the northern midwest a sunny light key day is anything but subtle color so I have a hard time reconciling it to realism. It seems that it is lacking the chroma intensity of a strong light.

The second is absolutely awesome!!! The stilllife here alone is enviable and certainly sells Hensche by itself. I think much better than the first one. Love it....

the quick portrait demo, very lovely....

Larry

WFMartin
11-20-2003, 02:09 PM
Well, Folks,

Wow! I considered myself a color theorist, until now. I have been desperately trying to keep up with discussions on this thread and finally must admit—I have absolutely no idea just what it is you folks are all talking about!

For this I must claim complete stupidity—no, not ignorance—stupidity! I have read nearly all the comments made here, and but for Larry’s initial comment stating that this seemed like an attempt to turn something simple into something rather complex, I must admit to complete lack of comprehension.

I’ve seen terms such as “light keys”, “harmonic relationships”, “harmonic range”, etc., and believe I must have just been set down on a foreign planet, as I have absolutely no idea what these terms are all about, in terms of color theory.

I’m not taking swipes at anyone, here. I am really having an extreme belly-laugh at MYSELF for gaining so little understanding from anything that has been said, here. Whatever this concept of “light keys” is, it has certainly whizzed WAY over my head.

Sorry, all. Is anyone else as totally confused as I am?

Bill :o

JamieWG
11-20-2003, 03:21 PM
Bill, check this post of Bigflea's. He put in a link to an attachment. Take a look at that attachment and please let me know if it makes any more sense to you then.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&postid=1750591#post1750591

I think these concepts are very hard to understand when explained in words, without demonstration. But in reading that attachment, I think I'm starting to understand where the painting of the white object is heading, for a white object would best show the colors of the light key, without being affected by its own local color. Do I have this right, Bigflea?

Jamie

E-J
11-20-2003, 04:51 PM
Jamie, you are two up on me, then ... in fact I don't think I have ever painted a white object.

Bill, I am only familiar with the name Hensche and the concept of light keys from Susan Sarback's book Painting Radiant Color in Oils and Lois Griffel's Painting the Impressionist Landscape - you might want to check them out.

JamieWG
11-20-2003, 04:59 PM
Originally posted by E-J
Jamie, you are two up on me, then ... in fact I don't think I have ever painted a white object.

LOL, EJ...I've done other white objects before.....just not this year. :) Here's another one....from a few years ago...."Egg and Glass Globs" on a white platter, oil on canvas:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Nov-2003/13766-egg_and_glass_globs_4.jpg

That was done before I banned black from my palette. I should go do it again now. It sure would look different.
Jamie

LarrySeiler
11-20-2003, 07:01 PM
Originally posted by E-J
Jamie, you are two up on me, then ... in fact I don't think I have ever painted a white object.

Bill, I am only familiar with the name Hensche and the concept of light keys from Susan Sarback's book Painting Radiant Color in Oils and Lois Griffel's Painting the Impressionist Landscape - you might want to check them out.

Bill...myself included and a number of others are well familiar with these two books....but appreciate your alerting us. For a number of us...they are not good or shall we say the best references in regard to Hensche and his teachings. Not to say they didn't learn something...but they are off into their own brand, and I'm sure bigflea and Henry could say more in that regard.

Larry

bigflea
11-20-2003, 08:36 PM
Hang in there Bill. It is like another language when compared to color theory in regard to pigment and formulas for color made from specific pigments. It is also different than the pictorial design approach that is sometimes the basis for colorings in a painting. I will try to answer any question you may have, once you realize what it is. At the moment, your first question seems like it might be, " what is a light key?"

Jamie that is right, re. the flat white object is the least colored by comparison to most everything else, and in strong sunlight, the coloring of the light key, and how it alters the coloring of planes on any form, could be seen more easily by someone not familiar with the color of light keys.

I think the illustrations of the other painters in either of the books mentioned is probably a better source of insight than either of the texts. Mainly I think anyone can learn by looking at the pictures, and the texts , to me, are not based on Hensche's complete teaching idea , and also they depart from that idea in a very contradictory way. I cannot recommend the methods that the two authors demonstrate, because in both cases they are unable to show the reader how to develop the modeling of form in the light key. This is the crux of what any student was supposed to learn under Hensche's guidance.

Larry I have not missed your comments re the mid day landscape light key. Response coming.
bigflea

WFMartin
11-20-2003, 09:11 PM
Hey guys/ladies,

I really love ya' all, and don't wish to have anyone offended by what I'm about to say, so please just chalk it up to my complete stupidity.

Jamie, I just now struggled my way through that link to which you referred.

You'll pardon me, but I have to give any artist credit who could have plowed their way through an entire book containing such colossal artspeak double-talk and mish-mosh. I give anyone who could have grasped even one concept of it even MORE credit. It is absolutely inundated with sentences which have to be read and re-read simply to determine the barely significant idea/s contained in each.

However, this experience has done a couple of things for me. One is that I find myself in a situation in which I can read an entire paragraph, and, at the end, to have absolutely no idea of what it was that I just read. (Other than reading some technical computer book recently, I don't remember just when that has happened to me last.) LOL

The other is that someone recently asked me just what I meant when I used the term, "Artspeak". I now have the perfect, classic example, and can even offer a LINK to it. LOL

Sorry guys, but I simply....do....not....get....it...........at all!

On second thought, perhaps the idea desperately struggling its way to the surface, here, is that in every lighting situation there is an overall cast/color of the lighting which should be purveyed throughout every area of all subjects within its scope. Is that the idea? If that is the concept, it surely could have been stated much easier, I would believe.

Don't beat me up too bad, now.

Bill :)

bigflea
11-20-2003, 10:30 PM
oH bILL ,
You're so BAD
That is not quite the idea, but I understand what you mean.
My question for you is, if it is all so much common sense, then why is not so commonly demonstrated in art work?

One possibility is the difference that learning makes in perception.
bigflea

LarrySeiler
11-20-2003, 11:40 PM
Originally posted by bigflea

My question for you is, if it is all so much common sense, then why is not so commonly demonstrated in art work?

One possibility is the difference that learning makes in perception.
bigflea

bigflea...my response is not an attempt to be coy or disrespectful...but in fairness to your question of common sense being demonstrated by others and having painted myself for now near 30 years I will say that-

...I believe atmospheric light, the conditions for which it presents that determine how local color will be affected is that which I seek to observe, is inherent in the mood of nature that is motivating me at any given moment to paint, and is demonstrated in my work. It is demonstrated as Larry Seiler observes light ...and how color acts in light, and also how values, line, verticals juxtaposed horizontals, negative space, all play to have their niche in the moment.

Its not Hensche'ology perhaps...but as well as you have represented Hensche's methods and reasons...I fail to see argument that suggests his methods necessarily must be the pre-eminent objective standard for that which all good painters ought to strive to attain. You have done an excellent job at explaining why this is the method of choice for you and for those that might wish to paint Hensche's way. I believe there are without question great painters using his methods...and equally good painters that are painting with other methods and priorities.

Hensche's concerns might not be evident in other's works because those others more than likely do not carry his aesthetic interests or concerns.

I'm sure there are some that have tried to imitate him and have utterly failed. On the other hand...what of those that have no interest to imitate him? Hensche does not own the corner market on seeing. He has an interesting way of seeing...and a proven system that works for him and those with common interest.

However, just as Terry Redlin does not own the sunset....nor Thomas Kinkade the flowery cottage...Hensche is not the only painter with a good approach to representing nature. There are many painters of light and color....

peace,

Larry

E-J
11-21-2003, 03:55 AM
Originally posted by LarrySeiler
Bill...myself included and a number of others are well familiar with these two books....but appreciate your alerting us. For a number of us...they are not good or shall we say the best references in regard to Hensche and his teachings. Not to say they didn't learn something...but they are off into their own brand, and I'm sure bigflea and Henry could say more in that regard.Larry

I wasn't recommending these books for their reliability - as bigflea agreed, Sarback's colour choices often reflect her own preferences rather than Hensche's teachings - but as an entry point to the subject, which they were for me. They are the reason (the only reason) that I came to this thread slightly more clued-in than Bill, and they're popular, accessible books, so I thought he might find them of interest.

It seems to me that at this point, some clarification of why Bill's understanding here of 'light keys' isn't quite right would be helpful - to me too!

MikLNjLo
11-21-2003, 07:17 AM
You may have heard a similar analogy: Ideas are airy intangibles like clouds. The objective in communication is bridging the gap between the clouds and where we are down on the ground. Nothing is perfect. Using a staircase as a metaphor, the closer you can step down to the ground, the more you will be understood.

I found the linked file to be sufficient in clarifying terms related to this approach. Some artists or colorists might need to suspend preconceived ideas in order to adjust to the terms used in this context. Someone with the knack might describe certain points in a manner appealing to more people.

This approach is visionary (as in ahead of the status quo) rather than obtuse or a specialized niche. This approach is not widely known and even less understood. The arguments against it seem to stem from a lack of understanding rather than demonstrating it to be invalid or unnecessary.

There is more color to see than people are willing to recognize. It's almost being lazy using enough is enough as a reason to discount it. This approach goes further to address the role color plays in our environment and our ability to depict it in art.

Sometimes it is necessary to suspend prior experience to be receptive to new experience. We must play the game by practicing and working actively with an idea in order to see its significance and truth. Until we've tasted vanilla ice cream no words will be adequate.

E-J
11-21-2003, 08:13 AM
Oops please disregard this message - posted too soon!

LarrySeiler
11-21-2003, 08:16 AM
Originally posted by E-J


I wasn't recommending these books for their reliability - as bigflea agreed, Sarback's colour choices often reflect her own preferences rather than Hensche's teachings - but as an entry point to the subject, which they were for me. They are the reason (the only reason) that I came to this thread slightly more clued-in than Bill, and they're popular, accessible books, so I thought he might find them of interest.

It seems to me that at this point, some clarification of why Bill's understanding here of 'light keys' isn't quite right would be helpful - to me too!

EJ...it doesn't hurt looking into ANY book for that matter...but, it was Sarbacks book and the other that more or less forced the hand of bigflea and Henry to become prolific writers themselves. To undo the confusion...and IMO, a starting point of confusion isn't perhaps the best starting point. Now...as interesting art books and how Sarback works...sure its worth looking at.

No offense was intended on my part....your suggestion is the measure of value all enjoy here at Wetcanvas. Artists caring about other artists and offering input. Such is of course appreciated.
peace

Larry

E-J
11-21-2003, 08:21 AM
bigflea, in the document you linked to, the term 'light key' is defined as being "the use of descriptive color that expresses the specific color character of the lighting". I'm guessing you weren't satisfied with Bill's choice of the word 'cast' here because by "colour character" you don't mean a tendency towards a particular hue (eg a bluish cast) but rather a whole scale of colours of various tonal values, brightness, etc. Am I right?

Later in the text it's said that "The shade plane of the tree will differ entirely in color character from the sunlight plane." I understand that the artist must learn to see the specific differences in the qualities of shade vs. sunlit planes, but how is it possible that their colour character will be entirely different, given that "colour character" was previously defined as a quality of the overall lighting conditions? Even the shade areas will contain some light - so shouldn't they fall within the same harmonic range as the light planes? I find the use of the term "colour character" in conflicting contexts a bit confusing and I hope you won't mind taking a moment to answer this for me, as I really do want to understand :)

LarrySeiler
11-21-2003, 08:37 AM
Originally posted by MikLNjLo
This approach is not widely known and even less understood. The arguments against it seem to stem from a lack of understanding rather than demonstrating it to be invalid or unnecessary.

I think part of the resistence is that to have its place suggestion is that others are not seeing rightly, completely, or their ways compared are inferior.

I personally think that is a bunch of bunk. There are ways of seeing. ways

It doesn't take great understanding in the art of communication to recognize when such sentiments are inferred or plainly said. For those looking for a new vision or way of seeing that are growing weary or frustrated of their own...this may offer new hope. For those that are worthy of recognition of their unique and excellent way of working and vision...the implication is insulting.

The argument is more the right to maintain one's vision, and not one that must necessarily be inferior but simply one that has other priorities and purposes.

I myself have pro-offered my problems with the Hensche way as put forth, but have taken care to diplomatically cite it as a problem for me as a working artist but not for me as an art educator or person. I can support its premises and encourage others that are excited about it. Such diplomacy is not usually evidence of lacking in understanding...but in maintaining one's individuality and in protecting one's own vision.


There is more color to see than people are willing to recognize. It's almost being lazy using enough is enough as a reason to discount it. This approach goes further to address the role color plays in our environment and our ability to depict it in art.

Yes...and there is more to a painting that any one emphasis of a design principle or element thereby not making other concerns and vision inferior. Your reference to laziness here...is again my point. It seems that Hensche's way cannot be discussed without suggestion of its superiority. IF it is superior...it is a superior way for the individual in that it is helping that painter find their course of direction aesthetically as a painting. It is defining themselves, and not others.

This heightened ability to detect and depict such new color awareness in art also for many artists would necessarily minimize other elements of design and emphasis to reprioritize, and perhaps calls for a compromise that some are not willing to make. It could equally be inferred that some do not wish to lose the other "mores" of a painting. "Mores" I'm sure others could point to laziness on the part of painters for not having investigated and mastered to a heightened degree!


Sometimes it is necessary to suspend prior experience to be receptive to new experience. We must play the game by practicing and working actively with an idea in order to see its significance and truth. Until we've tasted vanilla ice cream no words will be adequate.

Sometimes...yes, sometimes. When an artist comes to a point in their work and they are ready for change.

For 20 years I painted instudio, winning Wisconsin's Wildlife Artist of the Year...our state's inland trout stamp competition and being a finalist 23 of 33 other competitions, or runner up. From that, I have walked away. I have suspended prior experience to take my easel outdoors and paint plein air. To get back to observing and responding directly from nature.

Because some artists challenge something said does not mean all do not take risks or all do not find receptivity to change and new ideas.

There is also a saying that says "if you do not stand for something, you will fall for everything"

The also comes a time for an artist to go about doing their work. One of course needs at such a time to know what their work is, and then pour themselve into it. At such a time...one learns what their work is not. It is not laziness. It is not lack of understanding. It is faithfulness to their own creative vision.

I do not believe my direction is inferior in any manner or form, nor that my eyes fail to see. Instead...my spirit is faithful to endure the sacrifices mandated to be productive in a time and age where most of modern humanity sails aimlessly on a sea of ideas without a rudder.

Enjoy the Hensche way...and why shouldn't you? It is a "way"... but not necessarily THEE way, or BEST way.

again...a big thanks to bigflea for sharing, being an advocate, being faithful to your own directions.

Larry

Richard Saylor
11-21-2003, 08:54 AM
If the article in that link is any indication, obscurantism is alive and well in the literature of art. To define a new term without explicating the definition with specific, concrete examples may be the norm in mystical writing but it is an extremely poor way of trying to explain what purports to be a practical concept in painting. It makes one wonder whether the terms have any concrete denotation at all. Perhaps they are just expressions of vague, intuitive feelings about the effects of light/environment on color, and thus we are back to the mystical.

Or maybe I'm just hopelessly stupid.

bigflea
11-21-2003, 09:21 AM
E-J,
Bill's description of the idea, his synopsis, sounds similar, and I understand what he is referring to. But the idea being discussed in the thread has to do with the painter's perception of the color differences in the plane changes of form, the color modeling of form in the light key, which are also part of the aerial perspective.

The classical painters, like Da Vinci in the Mona Lisa, were aware of the tonality differences in coloring, both in a form seen at close range, and over distance, and used two techniques to describe these observed changes. But they were not color changes in the way they are being discussed here.

Also, the luminist painters used an overall tonality in every area of the painting to describe the atmospheric effect of a single color tone touching all areas of the composition. Tonalism, as it has been called, is not exactly what the idea is that is being brought up in the thread. Bill's description could be as much classicism or tonalism as it may be simple description of Hensche's idea. From the sound of his replies, I don't get the impression he acknowledges those ideas, not as they have been discussed by Hawthorne, Hensche, Monet, Pissarro, and other painters who have spent time developing the ideas in their work.

I knew you were not recommending the two books. My comments about them come from my own reading of the texts, which I found to be confusing and contradictory to the ideas that they claimed to represent. I've tried to be specific about the ideas as I understood them, to reiterate Hensche's point of view, for anyone interested in it, rather than alter it.

Larry, the reason I give credit to Hensche is that he has preceded all of us in the development of the color qualities of light keys. He and Hawthorne were two of the handful of painters trying to solve some of the problems that arose out of the visual discoveries of impressionism, and the other insights made by painter's following those developments. To the best of my knowledge, Hensche is the only painter who developed a way for the average person to begin to visually understand the impressionist vision. Monet did not. Other painter/teachers did not, and often they only taught a mannerism, which Hensche tried to weed out of his students.

For the sake of the topic, I have tried to avoid discussing how anyone's work demonstrates the various elements we are aware of as light keys. I have looked at alot of work of painters from the last two generations, and seen many who have in different degrees and ways addressed some of the overall idea of light keys and agree with Hensche's idea in their work, although they are not associated with him in any way. I have also tried to find work of painter's of his generation who went as far as he did in showing the differences in light keys. I have seen alot of really great inspiring work, and alot of work addressing light keys. It seems to me that the idea was more understood during his generation than it is today, with the exception of those unfortunate souls like myself who stumbled upon Hensche and were mesmerized by his mystical powers. (Just making a joke here referring back to the newage reference).

In other words, the idea of light keys has been shown in work besides Hensche's, and he referred to painters who were developing coloring by beginning with the light key, or who were excellent colorists, and who he felt could be learned from. For example he greatly admired the Taos painters, such as Blumenshein, and Fechin, and the work of the California Impressionists, like E. Charlton Fortune. He also had great respect for Paul Klee, because the color relationships of his work were greatly refined, even though he was not addressing the same idea as Hensche was.

Alot of those who have studied with Hensche are also very interested in the other aspects of painting to which you refer. So was Hensche, and he stessed the continuing study of these other aspects after a painter had acquired a foundation in color perception of the light key.

So the point of the credit to Hensche is to make his teaching idea, or the pragmatic means for improving our own color perception, available and understood for what it is, and to acknowledge what the work was that Hawthorne and Hensche did. It is also to show that the visual principle is present in our vision, and that it is possible to cultivate our own color perception beyond what it is now.
bigflea

oramasha
11-21-2003, 09:21 AM
Originally posted by E-J


I wasn't recommending these books for their reliability - as bigflea agreed, Sarback's colour choices often reflect her own preferences rather than Hensche's teachings - but as an entry point to the subject, which they were for me. They are the reason (the only reason) that I came to this thread slightly more clued-in than Bill, and they're popular, accessible books, so I thought he might find them of interest.

It seems to me that at this point, some clarification of why Bill's understanding here of 'light keys' isn't quite right would be helpful - to me too!

Exactly. Also, a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is missing here. As long as your painting reads as a specific time of day, with specific atmospheric conditions, and everything feels harmonious, then the means of achieving this is probably unimportant. I will say the examples in the books just seem to vibrate w/ life, which attracts me to them. I don't know what it is, but in those books, none of the colors in the paintings by the other artists feel "dead". All the grays and the muds really look like they belong there; you can't imagine another color chosen.

bigflea
11-21-2003, 09:24 AM
cmyguy,
the terms are defined, and the concrete examples are the images that are in the thread.
bigflea

oramasha
11-21-2003, 09:27 AM
bigflea-

btw-
If I hadn't seen the 2 books aforementioned I would have been totally clueless, too and am still uncertain if I understood everything that you said. But, I'd like to. perhaps it would be helpful to post 2 paintings-- one that is keyed accurately, and one that is not.???

perhaps, we're all making this more difficult than it is.. .

bigflea
11-21-2003, 10:15 AM
Larry,
I think the concept of inferiority is one you have introduced. Even though I have " debunked " that notion, you continue to re-introduce it into the debate. While I have seen perceptual changes in my use of color over the last 30 years of painting, relying on color modeling for the growth of color perception, I don't consider work from 30 years ago to be inferior to what I am now doing, since I am still learning, just as I was then.

So it seems to me your reading of any thing that I have written here is catalogued by whether or not it is already representative of your point of view, rather than as an idea that is being presented for a person to consider.

Lisa both you and E-J make a good point. However now by reading the threads it can be seen that there can be no agreement about the idea that any image demonstrates, since as Larry has pointed out, the landscapes by Hensche do not depict nature as Larry sees it, and therefore, it is not true to nature. Also, the work of painters following Hensche's idea is never satisfactorily representative of the way nature is colored according to the those who have not studied the idea, and therefore the idea cannot be considered as valid.

The problem of perception is demonstrated very well by the response this thread is receiving. In the case of the images of Hensche's landscapes, it can't possibly be true that he was able to see color relationships that the individuals here cannot see, and it can't possibly be true that some perceptual changes in color vision can lead to an entirely different painting solution in the way color is developed in forms. Nor can it be true that color theory does not account for the way color is perceived, since it is really all just a matter of common sense. Logically, since it is already a part of the common painting sense, then nothing is missing from the commonly held sensibilities about color. Trees are green, apples are red, and all is as it should be.

When you try to define anything by taking away the specific distinctive characteristics that it is composed of, so you are left with what is common to all other things, you have only accomplished appeasing all sides and made all things equally without distinction. This is the criticism that is being brought to this idea, that it is not common enough for us all to agree to it.

For that I have no remedy.

But just for entertainment value, it is worth it, as is this Hensche landscape, unrepresentative of nature as it is, (if it attaches).
bigflea

WFMartin
11-21-2003, 10:42 AM
Originally posted by cmyguy
If the article in that link is any indication, obscurantism is alive and well in the literature of art. To define a new term without explicating the definition with specific, concrete examples may be the norm in mystical writing but it is an extremely poor way of trying to explain what purports to be a practical concept in painting. It makes one wonder whether the terms have any concrete denotation at all. Perhaps they are just expressions of vague, intuitive feelings about the effects of light/environment on color, and thus we are back to the mystical.

Or maybe I'm just hopelessly stupid.

cmyguy,

Thank you!

Bill;)

Richard Saylor
11-21-2003, 11:12 AM
Originally posted by bigflea
Lisa both you and E-J make a good point. However now by reading the threads it can be seen that there can be no agreement about the idea that any image demonstrates, since as Larry has pointed out, the landscapes by Hensche do not depict nature as Larry sees it, and therefore, it is not true to nature. Also, the work of painters following Hensche's idea is never satisfactorily representative of the way nature is colored according to the those who have not studied the idea, and therefore the idea cannot be considered as valid.

Our brain controls the way we perceive reality. I'm looking through the window at my front yard. It is a clear day. There are shadows cast by the trees. The shadows are darker than the sunlit areas of the yard. My yard needs raking. My brain erroneously tells me that the leaves in the shadows are the same color as the leaves in sunlight, just a bit darker, so that is the way I see them. However, if I look at the same scene through a red photographic filter, the shadow areas almost disappear in darkness, while the sunlit leaves are very bright, almost white. This is because the filter blocks transmission of the blue parts of the spectrum but freely passes the red wavelengths. Therefore the shadows must be predominantly blue, very blue, in fact. If I painted them blue, I might be accused of being eccentric in my choice of color, yet I would be painting reality as I know it to be.

Once more I casually look out the window at the yard. The shadows don't look blue. Aaaarrrggh!

WFMartin
11-21-2003, 05:33 PM
bigflea,

My simple, untrained assessment of the latest Henche landscape you just posted tells me that it has an overwhelming magenta cast to it. Everything is magenta-colored. The whites are magenta, the browns are tinged with magenta, the greens are being forced closer to gray (by the addition of magenta), the yellows are becoming more orange with the magenta, and all the darkest shadows (which aren't very dark) are magenta biased, as well. Pardon me for my rather slapdash assessment of this rather nice painting, but that's how I see it.

I guess for me, the color of this piece being magenta rather creates a particular mood, but I see no relationship to any sort of "light key" that I've ever experienced in my life. Certainly not one of atmosphere, climate, time of day, season of the year, part of the world, or for that matter any part of the planet, earth. I don't believe that I've ever seen any complete scene bathed in diffuse, magenta light, other than in a scientific color laboratory Certainly not one in nature.

Magenta is a nice color, and it certainly does create a mood, but except for being a pretty color cast with which to have produced a painting, does not otherwise hold much of a realistic fascination for me.

I know mine is always a simplistic approach, and I am not one who often tries to invent things or see effects which aren't there, but when I finally am convinced that certain effects actually do exist (such as the subtle reflection off a blue shirt collar onto a person's neck), I somehow manage to utilize the concept quite readily and effectively.

But, whatever this mystic, ethereal concept is..........I simply don't get it--at least not yet. (Unless, of course, it's just what I have described, above.)

Bill:o

LarrySeiler
11-21-2003, 06:48 PM
that was somewhat my take on it too, Bill.

Mind you bigflea, it is a very nice painting as aesthetics and paintings go. I would love to have it in my home.

With all the years I have been brought up in the out of doors, hunting, fishing....hiking and camping, painting you name it, it does not represent nature as reality. Well...to not offend I'll go so far as to say not the reality known to my eyes.

It creates a mood, does so nicely. It doesn't represent for me someone that really has a pulse on nature if the issue is seeing what is really really really there. If the issue is how to interpret nature in an aesthetically pleasing way....I'd say the work is top notch!

Larry

MikLNjLo
11-21-2003, 08:56 PM
To say something has been written unclearly or that the idea is difficult to grasp because of the terminology is making a point. Throwing out cute labels does not move the dialogue in the direction of clarity. What do you have to offer besides labels of "obscurantism" or "artspeak"?

Why not describe your point of reference with the clarity that you think is missing in this presentation? Calling yourself a color theorist or listing off the number of awards you have won or years you have painted doesn't cut it. Let's see intelligent information countering this presentation so we all can understand.

Granted some people are not interested in this approach. Others do not "get it" for whatever reason. At least Larry has asked questions and described his ideas. You can exit the train at any point along the way. You do not even need to board. What is the motive when you hop on only to call this nonsense?

(The you is a generality)


Originally posted by LarrySeiler
The argument is more the right to maintain one's vision...

To me it is more like not developing drawing skill because you would rather paint.

WFMartin
11-21-2003, 10:09 PM
Originally posted by MikLNjLo


Why not describe your point of reference with the clarity that you think is missing in this presentation? Calling yourself a color theorist or listing off the number of awards you have won or years you have painted doesn't cut it. Let's see intelligent information countering this presentation so we all can understand.

Granted some people are not interested in this approach. Others do not "get it" for whatever reason. At least Larry has asked questions and described his ideas. You can exit the train at any point along the way. You do not even need to board. What is the motive when you hop on only to call this nonsense?

(The you is a generality)

MikLNjLo,

Intelligent information COUNTERING this information? You miss my point. Far from countering it, I'd be really pleased to just, simply UNDERSTAND some of it.

I really don't understand enough of what is being bandied about to even come close to grasping the concept of it.

And, rather than dismissing this semi-hidden, elusive concept (whatever that may be), I'm, instead, attempting to express my utter disappointment in the fact that this concept (whatever it actually is) is being so poorly EXPLAINED, both here in these posts, and in that link to which I was referred a little earlier in this thread.

As an ex-teacher, myself, I see no reason to cloak some undoubtedly simple concept in such a veil of folderol, and gobbledy-gook. THAT"S where the "nonsense" to which you alluded resides. That tends to give the impression of eliteism and snobbery, quite uncharacteristic of this really fine forum, where most of us are here to share ideas, and, I might add, to make those ideas clear as crystal to those who would like to learn.

Well, I, for one, am definitely one of those who simply doesn't get it. If there is something here worth explaining, I am here for the information. As far as I am aware, I have nearly ALWAYS done my best to explain the basics of whatever color knowledge that I possess to others, and to make such knowledge as clear and straightforward as possible, and would respectfully ask that others with any knowledge worth explaining, would do the same.

Now, I realize you may not have been pointing a finger at me, as you explained in your epilogue. However, since you did use a word or two of mine, I felt obliged to explain my position. (I love the work "artspeak", however, for I feel it says a lot!)

Just my thoughts.

And, as Larry often says, Cheers.

Bill:)

MikLNjLo
11-21-2003, 11:54 PM
Originally posted by wfmartin
...some undoubtedly simple concept in such a veil of folderol, and gobbledy-gook. THAT"S where the "nonsense" to which you alluded resides. That tends to give the impression of eliteism and snobbery...

"Snobbery, elitism and gobbledy-gook" - the smug theme has been your take on it. Have you sought out clarification on anything? You have jumped to labeling and accusations. Bigflea has taken a lot of time responding in detail to each point. This bares no resemblance to snobbery or veiling the information.

Perhaps this is maintaining a consistent level on the ladder in my earlier metaphor. Some people cannot get as close to the ground as others. You may be used to explanations that are easier to understand. You may be intolerant of what has not been satisfactorily broken down to a simple explanation. Certainly as a color theorist you can formulate a few questions that might resolve at least one point.

Everyone is free to describe their ideas here. This approach to color is not being presented as a structured course. We are relying on Q&A to convert ideas into print. Please do not discourage people with such a closed attitude. If this is not valuable to you there are other threads or you can start one on any topic that is. :)

WFMartin
11-22-2003, 12:04 AM
Sure....You win....I concede....Have a really good thread!

Yours,

Bill:)

MikLNjLo
11-22-2003, 12:44 AM
I prefer that you stick around and ask questions and/or describe your ideas on color. :(

JamieWG
11-22-2003, 08:13 AM
Originally posted by WFMartin
Sure....You win....I concede....Have a really good thread!

Yours,

Bill:)

Oh no, Bill, please don't go. :crying: I'm trying to understand all of this too, and I know you're one of the people who can ask all the right questions! We need you here. ;)

Jamie

bigflea
11-22-2003, 09:18 AM
thanks E-J, for reading the text and pointing out the apparent contradiction.

I have used the word " character" to try to emphasize the specific qualitative integrity of each note a painting may have. In using it to say the light and shade planes have a completely different character, I have tried to emphasize the degree to which each note of a painting could be considered.

In using the same word to describe the overall harmonic quality of a light key, it refers to the specific range of coloring any light key will show.

So it is intended to mean a specific degree of integrity to any range of color or any color note in a key, either in light or shade.

But it is only a word that seemed to work for me to understand that idea.

Further up in the text I have tried to devise a definition of light keys, and I think this is more to the point.

I think it is sufficient to say that any light key has a specific harmonic range to which all the color differences will adhere. That seems to be your understanding of it, and I think that is enough to clarify the meanings.

The key is the relationship of all color notes to each other and to the whole group of notes. In a "light key" this harmonic range is determined by the change made to the local color of all forms as seen in the mass of light and shade. The "character" of the mass of light and shade is the foundation of the key and of all notes that can be made in the key. Because the mass of light and shade is the whole foundation for the key, it is possible to paint a light key with a few very well seen color notes. This is more to the point than having alot of notes, or information, that does not describe the key.

Does this answer the question?
bigflea

E-J
11-22-2003, 11:59 AM
Originally posted by bigflea
I think it is sufficient to say that any light key has a specific harmonic range to which all the color differences will adhere. That seems to be your understanding of it, and I think that is enough to clarify the meanings ... Does this answer the question?

Yes, this is what I'm understanding (at least, what I think you're saying here is what I'm understanding ;)) However, your statement that "The key is the relationship of all color notes to each other and to the whole group of notes" leaves me alternately almost thinking I understand and shaking my head as I realise I haven't ... and the rest of that paragraph has left me a bit lost. Without wishing to offend, I'm finding some of the explanations and definitions you've given very confusing - BUT I don't believe you are deliberately aiming to be obscure. Your enthusiasm about and commitment to this subject really wouldn't seem to make sense if there weren't something of genuine value in this approach to colour that you wanted to share with us.

Bill, do stay with us to see if we can thrash this thing out!

Richard Saylor
11-22-2003, 01:31 PM
I apologize for accusing bigflea of obscurantism. I was just being flippant, but it was still an unkind thing to say, and I'm really sorry. He does seem to be doing his best to explain his understanding of the theory.

WFMartin
11-22-2003, 04:10 PM
I, too, surely didn't wish to offend anyone. I'll keep monitoring this thread, but will do more listening than talking, I believe.


Bill:)

lorelou
11-23-2003, 02:48 AM
This discussion is way over my head but I think it is really neat that master minds of art are having a meeting and discussing their opinions, to agree or not to agree... Isn't that what Van Gogh and the others did? Real cool. Keep it up......... wrong or right , it's just differences, preferences that sometimes change....I admire all of you!

bigflea
11-23-2003, 10:16 AM
Thanks Lorelou, for your positive approach to the consideration of an idea, which may or may not be familiar to anyone stumbling into this thread.

Part of the reason I have tried to be specific about the topic, about it's history (if any), and it's application for any painter, is that it is a topic that has been ignored and overlooked and dismissed for the very reasons that have been raised in the criticisms seen here. Art history and art education has been divided into two camps, one the school of conventional realism, or what is sometimes called academic realism, and the other the school of contemporary art. Both these groups (in my opinion) dismiss the role vision and perception of the color of the light key play in the way color is used in painting. Impressionism partially addressed this, and demonstrated that the local color of any object is altered by the light key. So the discussion is about the way any painter can apply this to their own painting, in the color modeling of form, and discover new color perceptions previously un seen. Much of the criticism so far has been to say that such coloring cannot exist because " I don't see it".

The first painter to use the word "key" in describing color relationships was Charles Hawthorne. Claude Monet used the phrase "envelope of light", to describe it. Both meant the way the local color is altered by the light and atmospheric quality of the time and season. Henry Hensche was Charles Hawthorne's assistant and then assumed the teaching duties of the Hawthorne school after the sudden death of Hawthorne, at the request of Hawthorne's wife. Henry Hensche continued developing the idea of color modeling of the plane changes in form in the light key, in the way that he and Hawthorne taught it during Hawthorne's career.

Anyone who has read Hawthorne's notes, compiled by his wife, will find the references to the key relationship between notes of color. Henry Hensche's own book THE ART OF SEEING AND PAINTING, addresses this topic thoroughly, and it is also addressed in HENSCHE ON PAINTING, by John Robichaux. However both these books are hard to get, or are not available in the catalogues. So the thread is filling in the gaps in the available information, for those painters who may want to study the light key by using the color modeling method that Hensche taught for about 60 years, to many very enthusiastic students. The idea that this is obscure is really silly when we realize that Hensche had probably several thousand students learn this approach over the 60 years of his career.

Most of what has been submitted by me in the text comes from the idea the way Hensche discussed it in his book or to us as students at his school. In other words, I am trying to not re-interpret the idea, but to re iterate it for anyone who wants to learn it in the way it was passed on to us as students.

Essentially, it is a way for a painter to develop their own color perception beyond where it is now.
bigflea

JamieWG
11-23-2003, 10:31 AM
Originally posted by bigflea
Essentially, it is a way for a painter to develop their own color perception beyond where it is now.
bigflea

This is what I'm hoping to get from this discussion and studies in white.

Bigflea, I have that Hawthorne book of compiled notes (Hawthorne on Painting) and it's like a bible to me. So many pearls of wisdom in those pages. At a price tag of $2, no artist should be without it, IMO.

BTW, I am putting together a WC Project for the Color Theory forum to paint white objects, with no black in the palette. Stay tuned! :)

Jamie

bigflea
11-23-2003, 11:25 AM
E-J it seems to me you have the general idea of the light key clearly in mind, as the harmonic range of color relationships determined by the light key. I think the stumbling begins in our mind when considering to what degree the light key alters all of the coloring in a light key study, or painting. It is easier to see it, or to learn to see it, than it is to actually discuss it in words. Each time the idea is put into words, it becomes a generalization of the idea. If we only used words to describe the color changes, it would still come out in words as a generalization of the idea. And as indicated in the criticisms to this thread, if someone cannot see the colorings in a light key, they assume that they do not exist, and are made up by the painter who sees them. So it really gets down to doing a color study of a simple object in an easy to see light key, and going thru the process of indicating the color modeling in the plane changes of the form in the light key. Then that is compared to a different light key study of the same object. Gradually the eye of the painter begins to see the degree to which light keys differ and the degree to which the local coloring all thru any key study is altered by the key of light. Each light key will have its own distinctive harmonic range of coloring, and each mass of light and shade in a light key will have its own group of colorings.

To develop the mass of light or shade, in any area of a painting, and maintain the light key, the painter has to get very specific about the qualitative character of a color. So for example, let's say I have a mass of shade that has an unusual coloring of blue, red, green, and ocher mixed together with a little white in it. Perhaps in words we are looking at the painting and we say it is a red blue violet note, with a little earthy green tonality in it, by comparison to the light planes around it. Now there are other color variations in the mass that we both see, such as a tree in the shade mass, that has its own color qualities that are distinctly different from the shade mass, but stay in the shade mass as a note. We would have to be very specific, in our mixture of coloring , to hit the right color note to both describe the tree we are seeing, but also maintain the harmonic range of the key already established in the mass of shade. The tree may have a deeper reddish note near the trunk, while the foliage has a blue greenish note where it is closer to the light plane. These two notes could describe the way the tree in the shade mass is seen in the light key, provided the painter gets the specific quality of the notes. They are specific color relationships which carry the qualitative aspects that we need.

In trying to learn this, painters usually can see many variations of coloring in a mass of light or shade. However they cannot make those variations hold the mass of light or shade without alot of practice. The new variations become "over colored" spots of colors that do not relate to the light key as it was established in the mass of light or shade at the beginning of the study. These notes have to be re-considered, or left as a general mass of color for the harmonic range of the key to be maintained.

So this I believe touches on the problem you are bringing up in the wording. I know however that it may not answer your question directly. I think you have the general idea well in mind, and the more specific color relationships found in a key begin to become clearer as we do the color study of two keys to compare the results. It takes a little practice to see what the words do not describe very well.
bigflea

bigflea
11-25-2003, 07:29 AM
Hi Jamie,

I have seen many painters follow this approach and have seen the way color is used differently after they have come to some basic understanding of it. I do not mean it is difficult to conceive, but that it is difficult to go from seeing only value changes of a local color, to seeing the coloring changes that the light key is making in the local color. So the understanding of it is in the visual understanding that the painter gains by doing the color modeling studies. Without that a painter may only have new or different color preferences, that repeat from painting to painting.

Hensche had a specific way of developing the visual ability of all his students. Many of us had already established our own painting habits, and Hensche had to first get us to give them up, before we could begin to move into the color study idea, where it is possible to re-learn how color harmonies are seen.

Before I went to his school, I had been studying his ideas, and had read Hawthorne's book, like many painters I knew. I had seen Hensche's work, and the work of his students, and still when I got to the school, I found that my painting habits were not the foundation that was needed to get to the color modeling study of the light key. Now when I look back into Hawthorne's book, (HAWTHORNE ON PAINTING), I understand what he is saying in his comments. I doubt if I would have understood what Hawthorne is saying without having studied the approach at Hensche's school.

One problem in re-learning anything is that none of us want to give up something that seems to work, even when it does not attain the results we feel are possible. We are reluctant to try a different approach because we don't know where we are going when we do it. For this reason Hensche felt that the most difficult stage of color study was the beginning, or as a new student to the idea. He felt if he could give a student the foundation of the idea, that most of us could progress in our own study of color by relying on the foundation.
bigflea

JamieWG
11-25-2003, 08:25 AM
Thank you, Bigflea. I'm looking forward to learning more about it. 'Hope to try the white study very soon. If anybody else is interested, I put up a project for painting white objects. It is here:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/Projects/browse_details.php?proj_id=588

Jamie

LarrySeiler
11-25-2003, 10:20 AM
Originally posted by MikLNjLo
[QOUTE][B]
To me it is more like not developing drawing skill because you would rather paint.

Don't know if you are directing this to me personally or in general...but speaking for myself, out of respect of many peers I have bested over the spanse of 20 years, and of those whose coat tails I chased for the prize in the wildlife art genre...winning awards that I have as well as they, I can assure you absolutely that the kind of detailing such competitions mandated was more the result of a good eye, a steady hand...and the ability to draw.

Most of my wildlife paintings that required 200 hours or more were the product of perhaps as much as 30 pages of anatomical, gestural, character and personality drawings in sketchbooks.

As an art instructor...I am a taskmaster with my students when it comes to drawing. Most important....

True...I would rather paint, but do so with more childlike and carefreeness because I think at near 50 years of age I've done my homework adequately. I've been schooled enough to warrant giving myself license to approach creating art more playfully. I have learned there is enough cause now to trust myself to do so.

From my own abilities to draw...as an influence on my son, Jason....himself likewise his own rigid taskmaster. Today..he is one of the very best in caricaturing which is an incredible skill of the eye. He is fulfilling a commission job for a restaurant in Chicago right now with 30 works, getting paid quite handsomely. Here are a few of his drawings he sent me of late, and I'm proud to say though he is 26 years of age...he still delights to put them before my eyes for my approval.....

Sometimes to judge a man and what he might have thought important, it helps to look at his children. Drawing is important....

Here is Frank Lloyd Wright-
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Nov-2003/532-wright.jpg

and a couple of his artist friends he did recently. Also...these are done relatively quickly!
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/25-Nov-2003/532-wcsamples1.jpg

as for my own work...I think my work on my website speaks for itself...

Larry

LarrySeiler
11-25-2003, 11:00 AM
Originally posted by lorelou
This discussion is way over my head but I think it is really neat that master minds of art are having a meeting and discussing their opinions, to agree or not to agree... Isn't that what Van Gogh and the others did? Real cool. Keep it up......... wrong or right , it's just differences, preferences that sometimes change....I admire all of you!

hahaha...ya just never know....perhaps had some artists other than Van Gogh's personality meeting with Gauguin's, the Yellow House idea might have taken off.

I often see Wetcanvas.com the virtual form now of that Yellow House.

Imagine the conversations in the cafe's open squares of France with the Impressionists, the talk of the salons and such. I'll bet it got pretty spirited at times.

Because art is our passion, and we attempt to indeed live it and walk the talk....we often wear our emotions on our sleeves....

thanks for your take on it lorelou !

Larry

LarrySeiler
11-25-2003, 11:21 AM
Originally posted by bigflea
Hensche had a specific way of developing the visual ability of all his students. Many of us had already established our own painting habits, and Hensche had to first get us to give them up, before we could begin to move into the color study idea, where it is possible to re-learn how color harmonies are seen.
bigflea

now see....this is where I have a problem, for myself.

Its like studying theology or religion. It is natural born into religion, myth and such because of enculturation and culture to have difficulty seeing other religions objectively.

One...being in its midst makes objectivity difficult.

It comes down to Caesar's old question, "what is truth?"

Recognizing the difficulty, to arrive at truth one might study worldview thinking, how people view and arrive at truth, and so forth. Then, one is perhaps free to look with an overview and separate false ideas to find the right ideas. What will make a right right, and a wrong wrong.

Generalism, Behaviorism, Absolutism, Situation Ethics, Relativism, you name it.

For me to abandon the course of my ship...I have to be first convinced its course is not a good one, or that imminent danger lies ahead.

It is a quantum leap to just assume that another's way of seeing is the right way when you cannot even agree looking at the teacher's work that the works are to be admired as some ultimate standard. It must require assuming that some other authority pointing to Hensche as THEE WAY is right, and that some submission, recantance (like repentance) is necessary.

Again...not to suggest a cultish manner or to wrongly portray Hensche with a new age metaphor, but if anyone has ever worked in dealing with cults...a charismatic leader does just this. He works to convince future followers to give up their ideas, to surrender them before they are able to move on to embrace this promise of a new enlightenment.

I would need more evidence that Hensche is THEE MASTER and his paintings evidence, fruit of THEE WAY. It would require coming right down to truth itself. What makes a work of art better than another? How can we recognize when an artist has discovered THE WAY.

I don't need Hensche to convince me. If his work alone is not convincing, then he would not need to compel me.

Even among those whose works I admire, whose works hint at an understanding greater than mine, my inquiry is a guarded one. Only then can one be sure that ultimately in the end, their work....is their work a product of their vision.

My eyes are focused elsewhere.

When one's eyes are focused on the world, one finds distress; when on one's self obsessively, one often gets depressed.

In the end...the sum total of all my works will not matter. They only matter in how they worked to help build my character. Not what happens to you that matters, but in you. I cannot give the responsibility of control for such therefore to another. AT least not one that is mortal and finite.

If that is what it would take to learn from Hensche, then I could never have been a student of his. Could not be his disciple. What makes seeing and painting in one manner a right right, or a wrong wrong? Can you present us with the ultimate standard of truth so that this can be known? Then, we might know that Hensche is the WAY. That only he as master and his followers see as seeing ought to see.

Not to be disrespectful, but that's the bottom line for me. My freedom and vision exist in another....and it adds up to a joy in painting. A celebration of life....by the vehicle of the act of painting.

It sounds bullheaded on my part...but consider that some know their way. Like a train on rigid tracks that leave no option other than going from point "A" to point "B"....

After a number of years, the train could begin to question, asking things like, "what is purpose in life?" or "what is meaning?" and begin to resent its confinements to the tracks. Another could convince the train that it is imprisoned and ought to seek freedom.

Being so implored, it jumps the tracks and entrenches itself deeply in mud going nowhere.

At first, it rejoices in its freedom and in having made a "free" choice. Then...it takes in its surroundings and realizes though free of the track, it is also now free of the purpose for its making.

Going nowhere.

Tracks might seem restrictive, just as others might assess the directions I am compelled to go, but in those directions I have found my meaning and purpose. I will not jump tracks simply because another might question the quality of where they lead, or point out someone else's train goes to a more pleasant destination.

Vision is like that. It might appear restrictive to others...but for one that has embraced it, those tracks really are that which in the end give opportunity for purpose to be carried out.

So...I don't want to convince anyone they need to run on my tracks. I'll also appreciate someone running on another.

I'll feel a bit of loss though for someone that has tracks laid out for them, but they have opted to have their engine and cars one by one removed to be put on another set of tracks.

they may indeed find their meaning, but it will always be wrapped up in the personage of the master, for whom you serve becomes your master. I would hope the one anyone follows is worthy, whoever it is!

Otherwise...a word to the wise, don't resent your course and path in life. Find where it goes. See it as a unique journey that is uniquely yours. Learn from others....but becareful when it is suggested you jump tracks and disrail. Question. Ask for more absolutes to ascertain what might be the right rights and the wrong wrongs.

I am not certainly addressing this to bigflea. His course may surely be a good one, finding his teacher worthy. I'm just thinking of lurkers to this thread that are at a vulnerable time in their artistic life. IF something doesn't seem right, or feel right do not quickly abandon to another's insistence. Question, even if it makes the questioning uncomfortable and you possibly unpopular.
You have to be the best you that you can be, for no other can do so for you. Yet, it is possible to abandon yourself.

I find my freedom in God above...not to say others do not, but speaking only for myself...as a result I question more, hunger more, but seek to find who I uniquely am in Him. Some will accuse me therefore to be also enslaved, and so again I say to be careful whom you choose to master over you. Hopefully you find a master that gives you great freedom.

IF anything...bigflea, this explains perhaps why I am pigheaded a bit, guarded and protective of my directions, vision, and so forth. I don't think my painting would be more validated adopting to another's way of seeing. I fail to see objective truth that leads to a right right and a wrong wrong in Hensche's way. While I believe I might yet learn to see more, I don't think my eyes are so immature and uneducated to believe that Hensche is seeing some greater reality than I.

For me it is simple. I look out my window...and see. What am I seeing? I see what I see, and when I paint...I attempt in truth to paint truthfully what I see, and either the result is truthful to that which I see or it is not. To borrow another's way of seeing would be to submit to a lie. To that which is false. I would hope that we would all recoil in horror to think that an artist would do such a thing.

take care....I've said more than my share today I'm sure.
peace,

Larry

MikLNjLo
11-25-2003, 05:14 PM
Originally posted by LarrySeiler
The argument is more the right to maintain one's vision...

Originally posted by MikLNjLo
To me it is more like not developing drawing skill because you would rather paint.

Larry-

I was using the importance of sound drawing skill as the factor comparable to the skill and depth with color that this approach represents to illustrate the argument. I do not see it as arbitrary or personal discretion. Drawing skill is a requirement. Color mastery is a requirement. This is a very advanced approach to color perception and depiction. Once you have full control you can choose to bend rules, push the envelope, challenge established practices, etc.

A beginner/student of art has a right to maintain their ignorance by skipping or avoiding certain subjects, dropping out or never attending school. This could be called maintaining one's vision but it is counter-productive and inhibits growth. At whatever point one considers oneself an artist the same condition holds true. The healthy functional decision to maintain one's vision as an artist is only available when one has developed the skill and acquired the knowledge to make the choice. You must be able to perform each alternative for it to be an option. Otherwise it is avoiding what one cannot do or understand and choosing what is familiar or comfortable.

LarrySeiler
11-25-2003, 06:49 PM
I have met on the other hand, excellent painters that are not all that good at drawing.

Drawing...in the sense of seeing contours rightly as line is difficult for them and their lack of good instruction makes the effort seem too difficult. Yet...thru pushing paint around, they are able to judge volume to make correct form, judge spatial relationships, see color, and then in turn shading and such.

I can't really argue the point for them..as that is not my background, but I do know they are passionate about their painting skills and that this issue brings great debate and fiery response.

Speaking for myself, I think drawing is essential or at least is what made Larry Seiler....the artist, Larry Seiler.

Its difficult really to emphatically mandate what is necessary for genius to triumph. One might be an eloquent speaker, but a poor writer. Another a grand speaker that sees preparation in writing their key. I think the human spirit in and of itself is something to observe and enjoy. It is very resilient, and capable of overcoming obstacles.

We've seen people give up in effort thinking something too difficult only for another for example say having lost their legs champion and receive accolade for having excelled beyond others.

I watched the story of a young man that lost a leg injured in a terrible NCAA football incident come back with a prostetic and push himself beyond what is normally considered possible and reasonable.

Drawing is the reasonable course...but it is not likely to keep the human spirit from attaining what is yet possible because we might be skeptical or disapproving.

I will agree with you on drawing's importance only because it was to me...is to my son, and what I would encourage anyone to do.

I believe mastering one skill dynamic is like a key that opens other doors...however, once again the human spirit when absolutely undaunted and unwilling to be held back is amazing.

There are many ways of seeing...line is one of them. Then, there is negative space existing between form and shape. It is possible that shape can be seen simply enough by a person with spatial relationships...yet not be able to draw. This, I have seen and witnessed first hand.

I would not recommend avoiding drawing...so, in part I am in agreement with you. I wouldn't say it necessarily must be a requirement. In my classroom...it is.

Painting is though, more an imitation of shape and form, and as I often tell painters so as to encourage them....a painting simply is one spot of color put down next to another until it is done.

peace

Larry

bigflea
11-25-2003, 11:06 PM
First. let me emphasize that Jason's caricatures are really great. Hes's got spunk, and observation skills. I've done caricaturing myself and his are as good as any I've seen.

Second, I feel I have to re state, for the third time, that your take, Larry, on the ideas that Hensche passed down from Hawthorne, and the study of those ideas, as being some kind of bizarre undertaking is really your own imagination at work. You are really way off base in this attitude you keep infusing into this thread, suggesting to others that this is what the school and idea was and is about. It is up to you to figure out why since it is your peculiar creation or attitude.

For anyone to learn something from any teacher, it is necessary to do what the teacher suggests or asks of you as a student. A student may have theirown ideas as to how to make whatever it is that they want to make, but if you are asking someone to teach you something, your job as a student is to follow the prescribed exercise so that you and the teacher can then communicate on the same format. This is also true in the work place, and in many human learning situations. How you turn this simple premise into the negative image you insist on painting into the thread under discussion is your own concept attitude and has nothing to do with how it was to be a student with a master painter. I have tried to give an idea of what was asked of us as students, in order that others who are interested in those ideas can develop them on their own, without the school to attend.

Anyone who stuck it out with Hensche did so because they saw the improvement in their own color perception and painting that they were looking for when they came to the school. The others either quit or were not looking for that particular approach. Most students realized that the work of the painters coming from the school was moving into the direction they themselves wanted to go, and so they came in order to learn and then to study the idea on their own after acquiring the fundamental color modeling of form in the light key, the foundation I have referred to many times.

If you had stumbled into the school, you would have been free to go any time you wanted.

Hensche would not have wasted any time on a student who obstinately refused to begin the study of color in the way he requested and demonstrated. He generally spent a few days with each student, and if at the end of that time they showed zero willingness to do what was asked, then he spent more time with the ones who were making some small progress. He wanted each student to develop their own vision, and he could show you the way to do that, but the student had to be willing to do the exercises in the way they were suggested. If a student was not, then why waste time and money at the school when you could go home and paint the way you are accustomed to?

Hensche said many times that the process of color modeling any form in a light key could be learned in a short period of time.
With that as a reliable and practical approach for developing your OWN color perception, and your OWN painting ideas, a student could return to their home and develop themselves, without a teacher.

Obviously this is not for you. That does not mean that the other thousands of individuals who felt it was and is for them are in some way misguided, or not capable of describing their own vision. In practice, those painters who developed their own color understanding are able to do more with color in the light key, which was the goal.
bigflea

MikLNjLo
11-25-2003, 11:28 PM
Originally posted by LarrySeiler
Its difficult really to emphatically mandate what is necessary for genius to triumph.

True. Playing the odds by leaving more to chance the world would see even less of it. Picasso explored many styles although he is readily identified with cubism. He did so having the capacity to exploit any number of directions. Whether it is innately raw or expanded and refined through ongoing exploration and training, genius is ultimately limited by one's ability.

LarrySeiler
11-25-2003, 11:40 PM
in lieu of our conversation today...I found it uniquely coincidental that in previewing a video on John Singer Sargent that it mentioned his instructor Carolus-Duran telling him to forget all that he learned in the traditional academies of drawing "antiques" or the bust studies in black and white.

The academies worked their way up to painting, but not until about 3-4 years of working with study busts, charcoal drawing and such. Durrant wanted his pupils painting right away.

He instead of drawing stressed painting tonal values, strokes of values.

Sargent saw something in Duran's work that inspired him, and as the art historians and writers say, he far surpassed the work of his teacher....

So, here we have Sargent that learned to paint from an instructor that encouraged bypassing the rigors of the traditional learning of drawing, and what an amazing painter Sargent was.

I don't know how much if anything that Sargent learned prior to Duran that he agreed and thereby chose to forget or throw out...(and I would even imagine it hard to throw away developed skill!)

Larry

LarrySeiler
11-26-2003, 12:03 AM
Originally posted by bigflea

Obviously this is not for you. That does not mean that the other thousands of individuals who felt it was and is for them are in some way misguided, or not capable of describing their own vision.
bigflea

yes....you have it right, this is not for me. I also recognize others might wish to learn this method. It doesn't bother me that it is not for me...nor that others might wish to learn Hensche's methods. I would not have known or have come to an understanding it was not for me had you not so generously shared your time to explain.

What bugs me about all this dialog, is that an implication if not inferred but stated in so many words, suggests that there are basically two groups of painters. One group that has learned to see what everyone else has been missing. The other group that has less ability to thereby see.

From the finest painters of history...Sargent, Moran...you name them....none could see what they were missing?

Instead of simply saying....this is another painting style, but no- the implication all along is Hensche teaches his students to see, whereas others do not. It simply sounds elitist, supremist...whatever.

You could easily help the rest of us that have followed along and wrestled with some of this by making some things very plain. You could affirm this method is not 'THEE WAY'...but just one more way of seeing. Not superior to other's way of seeing, but simply as unique and perhaps aesthetically interesting as any other.

You could say...a hint of magenta might be seen in the shadows, and that making magenta predominant as a color theme would make an aesthetically pleasing painting. To suggest it was indeed everywhere due to some light key....and that a group of people have been endowed to see it thru a teaching. That's just hard to swallow.

If someone took pills or something, and eveyone saw magenta thereafter that would make sense. On the other hand, there are systems of thinking that can help an artist construct a painting to favor a color theme for effect. Some pretone their canvases and allow this color to come thru transparently and inbetween brush strokes.

Looking out my window I see the early morning sun shining on some brush and branches are sparkling with hints of yellows, pinks and oranges in a high chroma. Behind the background trees are somewhat neutral...but appear to have a bit of violet.

We know that one color often casts its complement to an adjacent area such that we'll feel a hint of its presence. Before the sun popped up...those background trees simply appeared more gray or neutral. Logically..we can sense more violet now that the sun is doing its work on the foreground branches.

To emphasize this effect...one could use grayish violet/magenta as a theme and create an overall mood.

Its not entirely all that I see. But as a unifying harmonic component related to design, it is a no brainer that this would make a painting work as a painting.

To help a theme come to fruition, one uses selective seeing and decisions.

If one enters a choir room, and everyone is singing their own song at the top of their lungs....no two songs alike, one will hear utter chaos; so if every visual voice is given place (be it line, form, value, color and so on) a painting is doomed to fail.

As I look out my window...I have a choice. I could paint this neutral'ish violet/magenta as a theme or I could emphasize the color of the branches by de-emphasizing surrounding competitive color. The unity won't be a harmonic color but the viewer's attention will be drawn to the painting for other reasons.

Unity, harmony, pulling and holding a work together without parts competing so as to create chaos. These are all devices.

I see looking at Hensche's work various devices at play, and they have a harmonic color theme to them. A theme that plays so predominant that it helps the painter be more selective in seeing.

Selective seeing is one thing giving weight to one color for effect's sake....to say that the scene was painted exactly as it was seen by some developed way of seeing. You are right, not for me...I don't buy it.

Painters make choices...often inspite of what they are seeing for the purpose of making their ideal painting work.

Sounds like I've overstayed my welcome...so while the gettin's good I s'pose...thanks everyone for your tolerance and patience....
peace,

Larry

bigflea
11-26-2003, 10:42 AM
Velasquez was a great painter. In LAS MENINAS he painted masses, but without using line as a starting point. He instead showed us how the subject matter is seen from a particular viewpoint. It was an interior light key, but of very subdued and limited color. Rembrandt also showed us how a subject is seen from a specific viewpoint. Both artists gave us examples of how the way the artists vision, in particular the focal plane of vision, alters how the forms are seen. Yet did they see the coloring in the daylight keys ? From the work they have left behind it does not seem so. However they did not have the same range of pigments available since the time of impressionism, and they did not go out and do the landscape painting that Monet, Pissarro, and others, like Hensche, did. So they may have developed work which described the coloring of light keys, had they the pigments and portable tubes to make painting on location in nature a pragmatic possibility. Still they would have had to explore and study the way the eye sees coloring, in a harmonic whole that has been called the light key, in order to begin describing what is present in daylight in nature, rather than simply repeat the subdued value gradations of the local coloring evident in all of their work.

The work of the Impressionists demonstrated that there is coloring present in daylight that was not painted by their predecessors. From this work, and from their statements, we have come to learn that the color vision, or perception, of the variety of color light keys in nature is learned, and cultivated, rather than a commonly held vision. For the painter it means that new coloring can be discovered, provided they have a means to do so, and rely on it.

The color relationships of the light key are indicated in the difference between the color of the mass of light against the mass of shade. This is explored in the color modeling of form in the light key, which is the means Hensche passed on to any student who was interested and willing to follow it as a discipline, which leads to the desired goal of new color perception of the harmonic range of daylight.

So it is not a style, as you wish for me to suggest, in which coloring is added into a painting to please (or displease ) others, or to be different in terms of stylistic taste. It is a discipline of vision and of having learned to see coloring that your eye is capable of seeing, and then to paint it as well as you can.

It is a departure from the historical precedent of value modeling of form, and it is not the complementary system of coloring which you allude to here, which in my opinion is not true. Optical research has indicated that if a color area is stared at for 30 seconds the complement will be produced. This color effect can be verified by anyone who wants to try it in the landscape painting situation. The seeing of a complement is a false reading of the harmonic quality of the color, and results mainly from eye fatigue and staring. It is not the tonal coloring system you suggest here, in which a tone of color is added into all the colorings to create a harmonic unifying tonality.

Color modeling of form in the light key is a reliable means for any painter to study theirown color perception in the light key, and come to new color solutions in their painting. It is what has been stated previously and leads the painter to color solutions that other painters, such as Sargent, may not have been aware of.
bigflea

bigflea
11-27-2003, 07:18 PM
HAPPY THANKSGIVING ALL
Don't forget to take your enzymes.

A study of light keys, by relying on color modeling, begins with color differences between light and shade, and ends when we come to the color relationship between the edges of light and shade, or when we are no longer able to see a color difference anywhere. For a beginning study following this idea, color differences will be hard to see, even if one has strong daylight to work in. Indoor subdued light is not recommended for a beginning effort, simply because it will be an interior light key, where the coloring differences of the light key of daylight has been subdued if not lost entirely by artificial lights.

Any beginning study should be kept as simple as possible, with only a few areas of light and shade, seen as large shapes. These can be stated as color differences only, and kept to very simple shapes. This format is what the student had to work with at the school which Henry Hensche operated for 60 years after the death of Charles Hawthorne.

Why is this approach needed, or why could it be of any interest to anyone today? Is it enough to just paint what one sees, and to produce alot of work, or is there a basis for a study method that anyone can rely on to develop color perception in the light keys?

I have tried to address those ideas in the attachment that follows.
Thanks for your interest.
bigflea

JamieWG
12-01-2003, 09:19 AM
Bigflea wrote:
In beginning the painting, make the color areas, ( the planes of the object and the shelf ) more colored than they appear as the initial statement. Then they can easily be re-stated as colors, to establish the qualitative differences between them, and reduced in contrast value by adding pigment white as necessary. When the initial statements have alot of white in them, it is sometimes more difficult to increase the coloring, than it is to reduce it by adding white.
bigflea

I started this morning, 8am....only had about 45 minutes, then the sky went grey. I exaggerated color for the underpainting. I'll continue on Wednesday morning if there's similar light. This will also be my entry into the Painting White in Living Color project, once it's done. (The black things in the corners are clips holding the unstretched canvas onto a board.)

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Dec-2003/13766-Entry_1_WIP_400.jpg
Jamie

bigflea
12-01-2003, 06:14 PM
Hi Jamie,

The beginning is nicely organized as the big masses of light and shadow, and as differences in color.

Would you care for me to comment more?
bigflea.

JamieWG
12-01-2003, 09:45 PM
Originally posted by bigflea
Would you care for me to comment more?
bigflea.

I sure would! :D

Jamie

bigflea
12-02-2003, 09:39 AM
Thanks Jamie,

The comments I make are in reference to how we were taught by Henry Hensche to develop a color study. Some of these may overlap with other approaches, while others may not. Here I am trying to refer to or clarify what the fundamental approach is, so that anyone can make use of it in their own work.

In developing the painting, put out of our minds what the object and situation is. For example, while working on the study, dismiss the fact of the glass window, and any reflection, and the idea of the object being white. Instead look at everything in the same way, as only colors coming together in a particular way. This is the idea that Harold Speed suggests in the quotes I submitted, and it is the way Hensche had us look at what was in front of us for painting. See it all only as colors of a particular shape and size.

Re-state the masses of light and shade but make the notes more opaque and less transparent. The reason is that a transparent note and an opaque note of the same pigment mixture can be misread as two different notes. Hensche had us mix flat opaque notes of color, which is what Hawthorne taught him, and rely on these to establish the harmonic color range of the light key. This is ofcourse contrary to the convention, but this is what we learned to do.

The light planes and the shade planes have been stated as two different colors, a warm yellow, and a purple, but both are transparent. As you restate them in opaque notes, look for the differences in the light and shade notes that you can see. You have already seen a color difference in the shade notes, where you have indicated a green note near the shoulder of the vase. When comparing the coloring of the shade areas, for example, look for the color differences that can be found between the inside of the vase and the side facing down against the table, and the side facing up. Make the color differences while still holding the mass of shade against the mass of light. Do the same in the light planes. Re-state them as opaque notes, and make the differences of color that occur, while still holding the mass of the light against the shade.

Our initial statement of color for the masses of light and shade may be characterized by the general similarities of the color of each, for example the yellow ness of the light plane and the purpleness of the shade as your statement shows. In the development of the key and form, develop the differences in the coloring of the masses, while still holding the mass. Each color difference will have a shape, and size, and try to make these as you see them.

So I know this may be somewhat repetitious, so let me know if it is clear enuf to work from. Apply the same comparative process of note relationships to the background as you do to the foreground, and disregard the situation of it being seen thru a reflecting glass. All can be developed as a group of color notes coming together in a particular way.
bigflea

JamieWG
12-03-2003, 10:32 AM
Bigflea, thank you very much for the additional information. That was a lot to type! I don't know if I'll be able to absorb it or understand it well enough from the written word to apply it without direct demonstration, but I'm going to print it out and read through it several times before my next attempt at the painting. I was hoping that would be this morning, but I couldn't paint this morning.

Jamie

bigflea
12-03-2003, 11:03 PM
You are welcome Jamie. It is a simple comparison process really but what is not understood is the way of developing the masses of light and shade before trying to complete the edges of the forms. It is in the masses of light and shade and the considered refinement of the coloring relationships in them, that the painter is able to establish the volume of the light key and forms.

So often the effort in a painting is to rush to a completion by indicating the linear drawing of the edges, and no notice is made of the mass of the forms, or the air and light in which the form is seen. So in a color study most of the effort is put into refinement of the coloring within the masses of light and shade, before going to the edges and the color notes that make the transition from light to shade.

Once the visual habit is established, it becomes a simple process of comparing peripherally the color qualities and the variations of color within the masses to state the light key and the form together.

The wip images are not available yet, but i will try to attach a developed color study of a white plaster figure in a south light facing interior window scene. It may give you the general idea of developing the color variety in a light or shade plane as shapes of distinctly different colors, but still holding the mass to which they belong.
bigflea

JamieWG
12-04-2003, 07:58 PM
Bigflea, that is a beautiful study! Thank you for sharing it. Are you having WIP pics developed? I love the angle and composition too....drooling over the color. ;)

Jamie

bigflea
12-04-2003, 08:39 PM
Thanks Jamie. It was a real "study", rather than a quick painting, which I set up for myself a few winters ago to "study". I did not photograph it in developing stages, so it is not possible to see how the color developed into the forms, but I thought it might show some of the way color notes are shaped in order to model forms. Simpler forms, like the large vase you have chosen, are better choices for learning the idea, and the shapes of color notes that make up the plane changes can be simpler in shape.

I have slides of the wip that are being processed for a cd which I hope will turn out well, but we will see. I expect to have something showing the developing of light and shade planes soon.
bigflea

bigflea
12-14-2003, 11:51 AM
Hi All,

The following attachments hopefully illustrate and describe another way Henry Hensche recommended we study light keys at his Cape School of Art, and how the color key sketch approach differs from the color modeling study of form, which was the main emphasis of study at the school. Hensche recommended both approaches, since each differs in their goals, while both have as an ultimate goal the learning to perceive and paint the luminous quality of color present in any light key.

I have tried and failed to use the uploader with much success, so I may have to post these as separate attachments. Thanks for your patience.
bigflea

bigflea
12-14-2003, 11:59 AM
More of the attachments to the above.

The first image in the previous posting is a Henry Hensche color key sketch, completed in about 2 hours as a demonstration for studying the luminous color quality of the reflective character of light as color. The following attachment hopefully clarifies how this is different in an approach than the color modeling of form previously discussed.
bigflea

bigflea
12-14-2003, 12:16 PM
More attachments to illustrate the color key sketch
bigflea

bigflea
12-14-2003, 12:22 PM
More attachments to illustrate the color key sketch
bigflea

bigflea
12-14-2003, 12:33 PM
More attachments to illustrate the color key sketch
bigflea

bigflea
12-14-2003, 08:18 PM
Having more problems getting the text and attachments to come in the same submit reply selection. Have resized two images and hope that allows them to attach, but it may make them less visually enjoyable.

The block color key sketch is one I did for a small art club here in N.M., and it shows the use of luminous color ( reflective color) at the very beginning of the study, over a cursory chalk sketch. The white space is blank between the objects, or the light and shade divisions of objects, for the inclusion of the transitional color note, which is unstated here. The study was done in about 35 minutes, and could be completed in another 35 minutes, if the idea was to keep it as a color key sketch. All tha t is needed is the transitional notes, which are not background or parts of the masses of the forms, but distinct color notes in the air and light around the forms.

bigflea
12-14-2003, 08:25 PM
The following attachment is another Henry Hensche demonstration of the color key sketch, completed in about 2 hours. The compositions are more complex, and the forms more interesting than the simple block study, yet both are following the same principle of stating the luminous color qualities of the light and shade planes as the first notes of coloring. His examples go further toward completion by inclusion of transitional notes and the edges of the forms. Yet neither goes as far as the color modeling study can go in terms of developing more variety of color changes in the masses of light and shade, and more volume of form and aerial perspective.

The color key sketch is meant to be enjoyed for its raw color beauty and its suggestion of forms seen in specific light key.
bigflea

bigflea
12-16-2003, 08:31 PM
COLOR AND LIGHT KEYS.

Here's a few of the wip illustrations for the topic of color modeling in the light key. What is unique about this approach is the color statements themselves, which are more colored at the beginning of the study, than what is generally practiced in art classes and workshops.
The color notes are made by differences between the color of the light and shade areas of the composition, beginning with what is called an overcolored mass. In most other painting techniques or approaches to coloring, the color is kept under control by minimizing the differences between colors in the light and shade areas, and concentrating on the tonality and value relationships of forms as they are seen in a lighting effect or directional pattern.
In this approach, not only are the color differences between light and shade areas stated at the outset, but differences between shade and shade areas, and light and light areas, are also stated as much as that is possible in a short time span. These illustrations attempt to show that, and then to show how the initial statement are re-stated, and the hue, shape and proportional placement of each color note begins to make the illusion both of a light key and forms as they are seen in a particular key.

Still life is an easier way to learn the general process of this approach, since the forms and shapes of color are usually easier to understand, then the more complex problems of doing a portrait or a landscape. Yet all are based on the same principle of color differences which contain the qualitative aspects of visual color, such as luminosity, value, saturation, depth, tone, and others which may be specific to a composition.

In studying your own color perception one might find that an understanding of value, tone, or temperature relationships will not tell you what the color is. Yet if the color relationship is found, which expresses the light key, then the value, temperature, and tonality will generally be correct. It is the color itself which proves the most elusive, if one is attempting to portray the light keys of nature.

The following attachments are the first or second statements of the studies.
One is of a white enameled pan, a pale blue bowl, and off white soapstone figure, in an afternoon south light interior window light.

Two others are of the same composition in two light keys, a morning light and an afternoon light key. The objects are 3 oranges and an old rusted metal can on a wooden table outdoors.

The light keys of winter are short lived, with a painter having about 30 minutes at the most before the sun has moved so much that it is not possible to see the colors any longer as they were. So we do the best we can with what we have. Each short session can improve the key and coloring and form.
bigflea

bigflea
12-17-2003, 09:44 AM
picture attachments;

a morning key and afternoon key study of one composition,

an afternoon interior south light window study of white objects, ( white enameled pan, off white soapstone figure, white cloth, red cloth, pale blue bowl.
bigflea

bigflea
12-17-2003, 09:46 AM
picture attachments;

bigflea
12-17-2003, 09:52 AM
picture attachments;

bigflea
12-17-2003, 10:01 AM
picture attachments;
this last one is the second statement of the morning key study.
all the illustrations were painted in about 30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes the block in of the compositions were completed and i took a picture to compare to the re-statements that followed.
The coloring in the morning key is cooler than the afternoon key, and sometimes this difference is seen when comparing two similar compositions, such as these.
The white pan study shows the first 20 minutes of painting, which is about all the time that was available because of the rapidly moving and changing winter light. In the initial statements the coloring is overcolored, rather than accurate, and the effort is toward establishing what the essential color differences are in each of the major light and shade areas of the composition.

Comments welcome.
bigflea

bigflea
12-17-2003, 10:04 AM
picture attachments;

second statements of the afternoon key study.

Biki
12-20-2003, 02:41 AM
wow - after wading thru all that & not understanding much at all - finally, after seeing the latest pics - something started to click ( i think) :)

thanks for trying to reach some of us dummies with your knowledge.

I wish you were my next door neighbour Bigflea, & I could pick your brains on a daily basis..... that goes for the rest of you too.:D

bigflea
12-22-2003, 11:28 AM
Hi Biki,

Thanks for your comments, and for taking the time to wade through. It takes some consideration, since in most approaches to the use of color in painting, all results are based on applying tonal theory to the changes of local color. While such an understanding is a part of visual color study, it does not truely account for the way color is seen in nature, which is what I am calling the light and atmospheric key.

For example, in color theories relying on tonal shifts of the local color, the color of an object within a few feet of the eye remains a constant, and the tonal shiftsof the local are what describe the plane changes in the form. The shift in value is only seen as the object is put at a greater distance from the eye, and in color theories they call this color perspective, meaning aerial perspective, or value change to the local color as it is seen farther from the eye. None of this accounts for the light key itself, and how the light key actually alters the local color of any object.

The eye can see the color change the light key makes on any local color, both at close range and at middle and far distances, provided the painter has developed their own color perception well enough to distinguishes these differences. Color modeling of the plane changes in form is a means to that goal.

Color study of the light key, through color modeling and color key sketches, as described earlier, leads to the perception of color differences as the essential descriptive qualitative difference of forms in nature. The color differences contain any and all of the other qualitative differences that can be made in pigment

Alot more can be said about this topic especially in regard to the development of color volume of form and light and color composition, or arrangement based on the color perception of the light key. A world of color perception is opened up to the painter who explores this approach in their own vision, and it is often a world others are unaware of until another painter describes it in pigment. Even then some will say it does not exist, because they cannot see it. For this reason the study of light keys has been called a "cultivated vision" or a learned perception. It is present in nature, but requires some visual discipline to begin to see clearly.

Hope you can take the time to do a bit of color modeling, since it will say more than words can in regard to this topic. Let me know if I can comment further on anything that you have a question about.
bigflea

_00_
12-27-2003, 04:03 PM
Hi bigflea,

This is most insightful. It is intriguing how you have sophisticated knowledge yet are humble. The information you are presenting is so strong I don't think it needs anyone to prop it up with credentials or merits. This is great.

I have wondered if man entered a new dimension or level of psyche, spirit or brain activity when perspective was recognized and interpreted in art during the Italian Renaissance. This perception of color has a similar quantum leap to it. I did not realize the world was filled up with as many flat painters. It's kind of like mono after stereo was developed. :)

Carl

bigflea
12-29-2003, 09:25 PM
thanks Carl,

for the kind description. It's important to note that most of the thoughts brought up for consideration here have been brought to our attention by other more gifted or insightful painters or thinkers. The efforts I have made toward understanding any of these things have been motivated in part by the example set by others who in theirown writings have indicated an awareness of a creative force or spirit which when realized introduces realizations and insights that change the way nature is seen and understood. One way we may open ourselves to insights is in painting, especially when trying to visually understand and express the experience of light and color.

Hensche's example for all his students was to try and learn as much as you can from the writing and research of previous painters. He was extremely well read, and I have tried to follow that example, in order to understand what artists in previous eras have already understood and attempted to express. In doing that kind of research it is surprising how much continuity one finds in thought from one age to another. So much of what motivates painters today was at the heart of painting ages ago, yet in our age we have technological advantages which allow for a new range of color expression.

I think you raise a very interesting point about the emergence of color as light, and how such a change in awareness may entirely alter how imaging is approached. One idea which a historical survey seems to dispel is that of an even or linear change. It seems more the case that new insights are stumbled upon, then submerge again, then reappear. An example may be the work of Van Gogh. Most people would dismiss the work of any individual with a psychological dysfunction as if the artist's work must by logical extension be unrepresentative of a greater truth.

The fallacy in such thinking is that the greater truth is known by popular consensus. In reality, truth is rarely attained by consensus of opinion, but by the individual alone who by chance or intention, opens themselves to it. At times when great inventions or discoveries are attained, often only a handful of individuals are engaged in unraveling the mystery that leads to the invention. For those who make these discoverines, it is often the case that only a hunch, or a quiet inner voice, alerts them to something that has been present all along, but overlooked in their awareness. Once an invention or insight becomes accepted as a pragmatic reality, the entire world rushes in to embrace it and profit from it.

The invention of perspective follows that scenario, more or less, for the art of the western world. Yet even as late as the mid 1860's, it is unclear, at least to me, whether or not painters saw the world of nature as a world of color. When we look at the work of Corot for example, we understand the vision of carefully orchestrated value tonalities, to express light. But we do not see light keys. His idea has carried over into our times. When you mention "flat painters", to me you are saying pretty much that without a volume of color which is light, an image appears flat, even when the painter uses line perspective to create an illusion of spatial volume. So your comments really do go to the point about the study of light keys, and of color modeling of form, as a means for any painter to develop the ability to express the world as color volumes. I hope you will comment further on the topic.
bigflea

_00_
12-30-2003, 02:59 AM
Hi Bigflea,

I hope I can maintain the focus necessary to articulate a complete thought or two :). Spiritually there is a delicate layering of realities or dimension....the appropriate word does not come to mind. Some things do not hit you over the head with stark clarity or distinct substance. They are esoteric, subtle and transparent. It takes a peripheral awareness whereby you lose sight the more you attempt to focus directly upon them.

In this same way it is sometimes difficult to determine the shape or form of a concept and therefore it is equally difficult to find a receptive space in which it will fit properly within present systems of beliefs, practices and knowledge. It takes flexing, feeling, inquiry, testing, experimenting and exploration.

I think some of the resistance to this approach you have introduced here is another case where the concept has yet to be universally recognized by people.....mankind. Instead it is in little increments of uncovery (as everything may exist waiting to be noticed in theory). A different idea has to be marketed. This can either be persuasion or activity demonstrating such utter logic that it is accepted as indispensable knowledge.

This being a visual concept associated with art in at least the context you have discussed thus far, the aesthetic aspect could garner enough attention for artists and art patrons to inquire, analyze and dissect the nature that sets it apart. It could also take someone with a compelling gift for words stimulating the minds of people who will investigate the information and plant additional seeds of interest on their quest for support or opposition. Ideally the adoption of this approach would benefit from both.

Hawthorne and Hensche are gone. Unfortunately they did not leave the sizable body of material and influence that would have insured their ideas would be preserved and cultivated in forthcoming generations of artists. There are a limited number of people who were direct students of either and not all of these people have a stage from which to pass information onto other people.

The information needs to be presented with a degree of ownership.....knowledge and wisdom. That individual could be you Bigflea. It is that crucial at this stage because the number is so small. It could end with your peers if no one wants to create a farm to grow a future crop, so to speak.

Importance and priorities fluctuate. If it is a valid principle it will eventually become necessary. Eventually there is a time for everything to blossom. Sometimes these small bubbles of advanced thinkers produce offspring. Other times they die out then pop up here and there until one is strong enough to have the impact to become widely recognized.

The Italian Renaissance was a time when advanced concepts were harvested, relished and feasted upon by relative masses. As you have said those concepts were likely explored in small groups or by single individuals prior to that period of time. When the time was ripe it exploded. As significant and vital a concept as perspective has become this color perception will see its day sooner or later.

One guy invented the wheel but countless people have reinvented it. This time around it looks like this approach could see the bright light of high noon...... :) if it is tenaciously kept alive. If you choose to accept this mission you will be instrumental in establishing a legacy for the advancement of mankind. You are a mystic messenger :)

Carl

LarrySeiler
12-30-2003, 09:50 AM
Originally posted by _00_
I think some of the resistance to this approach you have introduced here is another case where the concept has yet to be universally recognized by people.....mankind.


recognized?... or accepted?


The Italian Renaissance was a time when advanced concepts were harvested, relished and feasted upon by relative masses. As you have said those concepts were likely explored in small groups or by single individuals prior to that period of time. When the time was ripe it exploded. As significant and vital a concept as perspective has become this color perception will see its day sooner or later.

is it possible it will only always be seen by those who only universally accept it while others maintain the value of the modes of seeing of their own preference? Comparing a way to see color to something as universally accepted, proven, tried and true as perspective seems quantum indeed. I doubt that as long as their is artistic freedom and passion to create that any one way of understanding color will take such universal precedence.


One guy invented the wheel but countless people have reinvented it. This time around it looks like this approach could see the bright light of high noon...... :) if it is tenaciously kept alive.

Hhhmm...that's what many of us plein air painters have already been doing.


If you choose to accept this mission you will be instrumental in establishing a legacy for the advancement of mankind. You are a mystic messenger :)

Carl

funny...when I suggested mysticism earlier in this thread only as a metaphor to make another point...I was misunderstood and discussions did not go well thereafter. We'll see now what happens that it has been suggested directly...

Again...I would caution that there are many ways to see, its not just that some don't get it but that many things come down to artistic choices and creative preferences which results in the marvelous diversity we experience. Suggesting one way of seeing color will be as tantamount and fundamental as perspective surely diminishes and demeans many other ways of seeing light and color. It undermines and weakens the important contributions of other schools of thought, other fine teachers and great painters. In fact, it inherently separates itself from the rest of this forum, and may as well have its own sub forum group!

Isn't it enough that folks respond with, "Hhhmm...I like the aesthetics of this. It speaks to me. I'd like to try it. How do you go about seeing in this way? Great, think I'll give it a go!" without exhonorating this beyond logical respectability???

My feeling is the only way this theory or concept will be universally accepted is if the novice or initiate is likely to surrender their eye and confidence to what they see, desiring instead to be embraced by those that represent in their mind those that "get it" just so they can earn the privilege to fit in; (and in fairness this would apply to any theory or concept- so, to be clear I'm not picking on one thing I don't agree with, it applies to all color ideas). This then is the danger of creating a misnotion of some getting it and some not. Those too wet behind the ears wanting to fit in are all too often easily misguided, and it takes a long time for them creatively to recover and find their own aesthetic visual voice and personality. (*note- I'm not suggesting at all Carl, that you are a novice or this applies in any way to you...but we have to be aware of the dynamics of social interplay, what happens when ideas are exchanged and so forth for there will be those seeking to understand having less prior knowledge as a filter to make more mature assessments)

Well...I'll continue with my fog. The work is aesthetically interesting to me...but does not represent things I see in many outdoor lighting conditions. Guess I just don't have what it will take for art to move on and advance.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Dec-2003/532-250-stressed.gif

Larry

_00_
12-30-2003, 08:26 PM
Hi Larry,

Your responses remind me of a stuffy curmudgeony old school geezer that is resistant to anything that you are not accustomed to :). I am not saying this to pick a fight or insult you. I am saying it because that is what your responses remind me of. I doubt that you are anything less than a nice guy ;).

There isn't a choice in how nature (in this case light and color) behaves. There is a choice in how an artist paints it. You seem to want to make that argument justify not acknowledging these concepts. The way it is is the way it is. A painter can paint all of their skies like a checker board if they want to. No one will stop them unless they are creating the image as a representation of life for a science book or something.

People were convinced the earth was flat until someone took a ship off the edge and popped up behind the crowd :) The perception of light and color is at that stage for many people. It does not exist for them because there isn't any evidence as far as they can see. They have never been able to perceive this delicate layer of subtlety in color changes. They are still focused on the more obvious blocks of color. The perception of depth depicted in art can be seen to have a spiritual counterpart in the depths of a human being. When color is expanded those additional hues reflect on the soul and our concept of life however unconscious we may be of the implications. I could take this out of this world as so many think of it and relate this to more supernatural concepts where people are considered insane because they see dead people. But I wont. ;)

This is something that takes a certain kind of focus in order to see it. Until it is recognized (a word I selected) it is not clear what you are looking for or at. You are looking through or past it. Once seen it is as apparent as a tree. Some people are attuned to this already......naturally. Others may have had a better chance before they were distracted with more conventional training on perception or the detour may even go as far back as neglect of such subtle acknowledgements as a child.

There is an exercise that can be dangerous that I will only hint at so as not to send people off trying it out. A lit candle can be held in such a way that the convolutions and blood vessels of your brain can be seen with the naked eye. It is a creepy thing seeing your own brain pulsate as the heart pumps. This is weird because it is seen live with your eyes not through an image on some screen or in a photograph. My point in bringing this up is that in order to see this you need to focus using peripheral vision. If you try to see it directly you will miss it.

I still need to develop my own perception of color and light and my ability to paint it. I recognized what was being discussed here immediately though. I knew what this was even though I am not proficient at applying it. I relate this to spirituality because I believe there are blends and connotations that reflect deeper consequences in all things. When this is being denied it is not only color and light perception. It is the attitude and approach that is taken in other areas of life as well. I am certain I am opening an even larger can of worms making these associations but it is the way I perceive life. I look at everything with a deeply spiritual view.

Carl

MikLNjLo
12-31-2003, 01:17 AM
Originally posted by LarrySeiler

My feeling is the only way this theory or concept will be universally accepted is if the novice or initiate is likely to surrender their eye and confidence to what they see, desiring instead to be embraced by those that represent in their mind those that "get it" just so they can earn the privilege to fit in; (and in fairness this would apply to any theory or concept- so, to be clear I'm not picking on one thing I don't agree with, it applies to all color ideas). This then is the danger of creating a misnotion of some getting it and some not. Those too wet behind the ears wanting to fit in are all too often easily misguided, and it takes a long time for them creatively to recover and find their own aesthetic visual voice and personality. (*note- I'm not suggesting at all Carl, that you are a novice or this applies in any way to you...but we have to be aware of the dynamics of social interplay, what happens when ideas are exchanged and so forth for there will be those seeking to understand having less prior knowledge as a filter to make more mature assessments)

The idea that this is a philosophy is a misconception. The way I am interpreting this "approach" (maybe there is a better term to be considered?) is that there is the physical world including tiny particles of light. This is all about becoming aware of their existence and depicting this in a way that reflects the world truthfully or true to the properties inherent in it. It isn't something that you choose to accept anymore than you would choose to accept that solid mass like a rock is too dense to see through and that it casts a shadow in light. This is just the way a rock is in the world.

People were not always as aware of intricate characteristics in common objects like a rock. After enough time one or two noticed there was more to it. Not everyone started painting realistic rocks. Some kept painting relatively primitive representations. By now we know a rock can include enormous detail and that their shadows are not just consistent flat shapes of darker color. They have multiple colors and gradations in values, etc.

This is about sensing more variation that exists and using that extra information to make your art more volumous and to make it reflect light and color more accurately. Isn't that what the big push is all about for painting plein air? When you are outdoors conditions constantly change. This can be seen as nature reflecting life. Nothing remains the same the only constant is change (familiar cliche). That applies to skill and knowledge in art like everything else. There is always more to learn and it is exciting that there are large revelations and revolutions to be experienced. This isn't a choice deciding how to interpret life. It is seeing life for what it is. Why bother preaching about the benefits of working from life if you are against developing the ability to see what is there?

JamieWG
12-31-2003, 08:22 AM
All this new chat on this thread reminds me of how much I want to get back to that color study I started a few weeks ago. The holidays sure do get in the way. Bigflea, thank you for the advice you gave back then....still looking forward to implementing it imminently!

Jamie

_00_
12-31-2003, 09:01 AM
Hi There,

I feel I need to reiterate a couple of my comments having read them now a day later with some objectivity.

First, I want to emphasize to Larry that I used a multiple worded description including curmudgeon intended to drive the point that this was humor. It may seem excessively negative but it was meant to be so over the top that it could not be mistaken as serious. These things don't always come out the way you think in writing. This is tongue in cheek exaggeration. :)

Second, I have (also with a degree of caricature) suggested Bigflea become a messiah. With my spiritual references this all may conjure ideas suggesting this is of earth shaking proportions. The spiritual thing is far more pragmatic and integrated in everyday life for me than many people can relate. Many people think of religion when they hear spirituality. It is more integrated in my thinking like psychology than exalted.

I hope this clarifies things.

Carl

bigflea
12-31-2003, 11:34 AM
The title refers to a guiding principle that I feel is at work in master paintings from almost any school or genre of painting, including the masterworks from cultural traditions different than landscape, figure, and still life painting, or painting from life, or nature. I am introducing it as a principle to be considered since for the beginning painter, studying the work of master painters to understand how the principle of unity and diversity is demonstrated can act as a foundation and guiding principle to be relied on, and as a means to get beyond the imitation of the mannerisms of any one style of painting or any one individual painter. The principle of harmonic unity and diversity is also present in nature, in the eye of the observer, but it, like the study of harmonic light keys, requires a degree of contemplative attention before we may take notice of it. It is also present in pictorial conceptions which have no basis in natural representation, as well as in music, poetic literature, and most art forms. In other words, it is a broad and inclusive principle that can act as both a foundation and as an exploratory guiding principle, which protects the painter as they attempt to push beyond the conceptual limitations that may act as obstacles to new color realizations.

The discussion and study of harmonic light keys deals mainly with the study of our own color perceptions, which, as I have tried to address it, is what the eye sees, before the mind begins its job of interpreting that color information as particular things. The harmonic unity and diversity of color light keys, as seen in the painter's eye, is a specific visual discipline, a learned or cultivated vision, and as such has, I believe, specific recognizable characteristics, which lead the painter to a different understanding and use of color than what has been the convention since the time of the Renaissance. As suggested earlier, the study of light and of form as it is in visual nature, was approached by the use of chiascuro, or value modeling of planes of form in the local color, and sfumato, or the bluing and greying of tonalities of distant forms, in the local color, to suggest distance. Linear perspective, or scientific perspective, has been a pictorial device to suggest spatial recession, since its invention during the Renaissance. These inventions allowed painters working either from life or in studio from design to portray generic light effects.

The idea of a discussion of a study of light keys pertains to what has been discovered and demonstrated by painters that goes beyond the generic description of light effects. It pertains to the use of color relationships to depict volumes of light, air, and form, which derive their unity and diversity from a specific harmonic color range which is being defined as a light key. It may have been the English painter J.M.W. Turner who first discovered or noticed light keys, as something different than a light effect. But the credit for the discovery and demonstration of light keys is generally given to Monet, who in mid career, began to paint the same motif in different light keys, and showed us how the local color of the objects was altered by the harmonic color range of the key. Monet's efforts were preceded by Constable, Corot, Daubigney, and other painters who were the first true "enplein aire" painters. Unlike the plein aire movement of today, these painters went out and worked for weeks on a single painting in the field. Monet ofcourse is well known for his relentless effort to do entire series of light keys paintings by working in the field, day after day, improving the color relationships of the key, over a long period of study.

Today, unfortunately, the plein aire movement is mainly characterized by work which is completed in a one or two hour effort. While such efforts are not without value for the color development of any painter, it is a true misconception to believe that such a limited effort and study will lead to a realization or demonstration of harmonic light keys. It is possible to study light keys in a limited way by doing what was called the harmonic color key sketch, which can be completed in a short time. But when this is the only way a painter approaches the study of light keys, which is what much of the plein air paintouts are about, it leads to the development of repetitious mannerisms, and a generic color quality in all of their work.

For this reason, and others, the discussion of color light keys is directed at the color modeling of form in the light key. In my opinion, it is the most reliable means for any painter to develop their own color perception and demonstrate a greater color development and understanding in their paintings. This differs from the mainstream of conventional plein aire efforts in the emphasis of beginning with the overstatements of color, and their refinements, as a means to develop or acquire a greater range of color differentiation in our perception.

In the study of light keys, the unifying element is the key of light and atmosphere in which all forms are seen. Within that unity, the color modeling of form attempts to establish the diversity of color varitions that are possible, without destroying or disrupting the key, and without losing the mass of the forms being studied. It requires a patient effort to make the variety of color changes that account for the luminosity of the light key, without losing either the key or the form. The result of such a study is growth and learning, and also a realization of the complex and often subtle beauty present in our vision of nature.

My recommendation for plein aire enthusiates would be to do some color modeling studies in addition to the quick paintings, paying more attention to the way the local color of forms is changed by the key of light and atmosphere. But if a painter is happy with what they are doing, stick with it.

I am happy that Carl, and also MikLnjLo, have introduced the spiritual aspect in such a positive and open way. Any historical survey of painting ought to lead to the conclusion that the originating impetus for art is the presence of the creative force, or spirit. It has been approached by Henri, in the Art Spirit, By Kandinsky, in On the Spiritual in Art, and by the Taoists painters of ancient China, who sought to express the spirit itself in pure form of the brushstroke. Hensche was a very spiritually oriented individual, although not a religious personality, and many painters have implied that the motive for painting goes beyond simple description of facts in nature, as well as beyond simple feeling within natural conditions, to something deeply sensed within our beings. The relationship between consciousness, perception, beauty, and truth is one for which there is no final answer, since each new realization opens another doorway of possibilities to be explored. This is the nature of our being and intelligence, in the most positive sense.

Also happy to know Jamie will do some more work on the start. The color modeling effort addresses all of these issues in a more direct way than my prosaic wordings ever will.
bigflea

Ketze
01-24-2004, 09:36 PM
My recommendation for plein aire enthusiates would be to do some color modeling studies in addition to the quick paintings, paying more attention to the way the local color of forms is changed by the key of light and atmosphere. But if a painter is happy with what they are doing, stick with it.
bigflea


Firstly, thankyou Bigflea for this series of essays. I have found this discussion immensely inspiring! Personally, I only had to look at some of the work of Hensche & his followers to see that there is something to this way of seeing that I very much want to learn. I am planning on doing the painting white objects project but am also wondering about the other exercises designed to cultivate our perception of colour in the plane changes of forms. I am not a plein aire painter (yet at least) & have read of the coloured block exercises & wonder if you would elaborate on this a little? I am assuming it is best to start with white objects or blocks & then move on to coloured blocks as a starting point in training the eye?

bigflea
01-25-2004, 04:22 PM
Ketze,
Thanks for your comments and interest.

As you may know, the study of light keys is not the conventional approach to color in painting, and, speaking generally, began with the discoveries made by Monet, Pissarro, and others who broke with the academic traditions of teaching students to model form in value and tonal changes to a "local coloring". The concept of a local color, for example, the skin tones of a model, came into painting from the practice of studio painting, where artists worked mainly indoors, in diminished lighting, and rarely painted directly from nature, or outdoors, in strong sunlight. Paintings were made from drawings, and backgrounds of a landscape were painted from imagination and sketches done in charcoal and other limited color mediums. In the MONA LISA we can see the use of sfumato in the background where the artist generalized the distant hills and trees as blue and greens compared to the warmer tones of the model. This concept of distance as blue tones and foregrounds as warm tones, and shading in values of the local color to create the volume of the model is still discussed as the correct formula for color in painting.

The Impressionist movement, in part, was the first real outdoor painting movement, preceded by the Barbizon painters, and it is the discoveries made outdoors, in landscape painting, that has changed the way color is understood in painting. Monet referred to the light and atmosphere in which all of the motif is seen as the envelope of light. In his series paintings he tried to understand how the light and atmospheric key altered the "local color" of any object or motif. He showed us that the sunlight planes and shade planes of a form were not value shifts of a "local color" but were actually different colors, and the first goal for the painter was to show the color difference in the light and shade, before the image can be described as it is seen.

Charles Hawthorne was one of the few American painters who understood, intellectually, what the discovery of the coloring of light keys could mean in painting, and he made trips to France to study the idea. Henry Hensche was Hawthorne's assistant, and when Hawthorne was away painting in France, Hensche conducted the color study classes at the Cape Cod School as it was known under Hawthorne's ownership.

Hawthorne used to have the students go outdoors and study the model. Hensche implemented the study of still life outdoors as a means to studying color in the light key. Junk objects were used including bricks, according to Hensche, and later a student suggested to Hensche the use of colored blocks.

Block studies then became an integral part of the learning process for color study at the school, which under Hensche became known and the THE CAPE SCHOOL. Both Hawthorne and Hensche realized that the use of drawing as the foundation of painting was wrong. Instead, they saw from the work of Monet, that color was the foundation for painting. Although drawing is a necessary part of the artists development, no amount of fine drawing leads to fine color description. Color, as taught by Hawthorne and Hensche, was a descriptive language, without which, nothing can be said well, or only in crude generalities.

In HAWTHORNE ON PAINTING, p.21 we read " I don't say much about drawing because I think drawing the form and painting are better separated. Realize that you haven't yet the painting point of view - after you have got the spots of color true and in their proper relations you have something to draw with and you can then consider it." In HENSCHE ON PAINTING, p. 44 we read, "... it was Hawthorne who first realized that color truth is separate from form truth ( the linear drawing of contours). The way you see an object is first by the color, secondly by the shape, and thirdly by the edge." Again in HAWTHORNE ON PAINTING, p. 21, "Remember that no amount of good drawing will pull you out if your colors are not true. Get them true and you will be surprised how little else you will need."

The quotes show the agreement about color study and drawing that Hawthorne and Hensche shared, and their strong feeling about the need to study color separately, as the foundation of visual truth in painting. Hawthorne's continual references to "putting one spot of color next to another" are well known, but little is understood by this statement unless the painter realizes the foundation of color "spots" is in the visual recognition of the color of the mass of sunlight as it is seen next to the mass of shade. It is in the mass of the light and shade notes together where the light key is recognized and painted. All further color development is governed by that key relationship. In other words, any coloring development must belong either to the mass of sunlight or shade, or the transition between them.

Block studies then became the most simplified way to begin studying this visual principle, for the beginning colorist painter. It was helpful in two ways. First, the forms are so simple, that the painter is able to concentrate on simple shapes of color without intricacies of form as are found in vases or other more complex forms. Second, because the blocks are painted with primary and secondary colorings, it is easier to begin using strong color, or overcolored statements of color, as is recommended in the approach. The professional portrait painters were usually the ones who had the most difficultly in beginning a painting with primary or secondary color statements. The academic convention of beginning with diluted tones of a local color, and gradually expanding the value and tonal range, and adding a bit of color into the values, becomes so ingrained in thinking that painters have difficulty recognizing what their eyes can see in broad daylight.

Painting outdoors in strong direct light is the recommended way for beginning color study. Indoor lighting is often so diminished that the painter is not aware of the light key differences in coloring. Outdoors in direct light it becomes more apparent, although still difficult to see if one is not accustomed to it. It is also best to begin with two or three colored blocks, and maybe one white block. The white block ought to show the painter the way color is reflecting and bouncing around in the key very clearly, although it will be difficult to paint those colorings in the mass to which they belong. For example a painter could have a blue, red, and yellow block, of different sizes, and one white block. Instead of doing a careful outline drawing of the blocks, we begin with a somewhat crude sketch of composition, and then immediately begin putting primary and secondary color notes down on the canvas or board to describe the colors we believe we see. We disregard the refinement of drawing, concentrating instead on the strength of the colors, and the clarity of their differences from each other. That is the essence of a block study, and a painter can do 4 or so of these a day, for a week, before then introducing another object. The goal is to make strong color and shapes, showing the strength of the coloring in the light and shade planes.

Color choices are made by picking the most obvious color recognized first. For example, if a shadow appears blue by comparison to the light plane, make it very blue. If a shadow appears red by comparison to a light plane, make it red. Make the colors simple primary colors, or secondary colors, and do not try to mix the correct value and tone quality in the beginning. In the beginning of color study we are only trying to establish the broad color differences that our eye is capable of seeing, without refinements of value and tone. None of the colors will be correct or realisitic compared to what we see, but for the beginning that is not the goal. The goal is to overstate everything we see in terms of its color, and make the coloring so blatant and obvious that we know what the differences are, and we know that one is sunlight and one is shade. That is the first goal.

In the second week of color study, a painter can restate the color notes of these first crude beginnings. Ofcourse we want to have a similar kind of lighting, so a morning study is only reworked on a similar kind of morning. In the beginning it will be hard to see the difference between sunny morning light, sunny afternoon light, and even grey days. So this is part of the goal. On a similar morning, we restate a morning study, trying to keep the strength of the color differences in the mass of light and shade, but making tertiary colorings for each. So the blue shadow may now become a blue green rose shadow, for example, depending on what differences we can see and make. A light plane, begun as a yellow, may now become a yellow scarlet. In each of the large masses of light or shade, we restate the mass by making it a mixture of colors that maintains the strength of the color differences, but changes its color and tone. Cool colors may become somewhat warmer, although still predominately cool. Warm colorings may become cooler. Still we do not try to refine the drawing of the contour, or reduce the value differences, only restate the colorings, trying to get closer to the color relationship that we believe is descriptive of the composition. We can take all the beginning block studies from the first week and restate them in this way the second week.

In making the block studies and the color restatements, we are not glazing or using broken color. We are making an entirely new color relationship, based upon what we have already observed in the overstated colors of the start. The new color relationship can also be a change in the shape of the statement, but still we are not concerned with the refinement of shape or drawing, because we are not trying to make a picture, but to do a study of color, without the illusion of a picture. The illusion of a finished pictorial form can be the greatest impediment to the study of color. When the illusion is completed with refined drawing, it is often difficult to see where or why the color is wrong. Therefore having a crude drawing, and concentrating only on the refinement of the color of the masses, is the most direct way to improve the understanding of color.

If we are able to restate the masses of the color of the light and shade study, we have learned something in the first week or two of color study. This process can then be applied to other forms, being careful to avoid doing refinements of drawing too prematurely. Mainly we want to study the massing of coloring in the large light and shade divisions first, restate them, then improve their shape and their placement. Once we have some consistency in restatements of light and shade masses, we can then introduce variations of color that begin to describe the form or plane changes of direction. In a block study the variations of color on a surface are mostly from reflections of color and we learn to keep these color changes within the harmonic range of the mass to which it belongs. We carry this study further by using round objects like a cup or bowl, and we are trying to apply the same simple principle of relating colors to each other as they are seen in the masses of light and shade throughout the painting.

Each study effort leads to a growing understanding of the light key, and how it is altering the coloring in the light and shade masses, and of pigment mixtures, and what they do in regard to what we are seeing.

So this is the process of color study I was taught and followed in my summers at THE CAPE SCHOOL under Henry Hensche. It is a learning process, which can then be used in painting landscapes en plein aire. Much of the process becomes automatic, in the sense that we develop an instinctive recognition of what pigments to mix together to attain a specific kind of lighting color quality. For example we learn how to mix sky colorings without using a formula, but by observing the gradual shift of color in the sky from horizon to deep sky, and from side to side, making the shift in the coloring by mixing specific pigments together in a specific place in the sky. We develop an awareness of the specific sky reflection on the ground planes of the forms and are able to see the color differences between the surrounding mass of the ground plane and the area where the sky reflection is most apparent. So we are working more from an acquired awareness of color behaviour and observation, with our eye becoming more accustomed to color changes and their importance to the overall compositional arrangement and choices that must be made.

It is true that value and tone is important in coloring. However it is not possible to understand color if we only approach it as a function or result of value or tonality. The color relationships determine and carry the entire value, tone, and luminosity of a composition, and without developing our ability to recognize the differences in coloring in the masses of light and shade, a painter is always relying on values of a "local color" to create the illusion of volume in form and aerial recession.

I hope that clarifies some of the use of the block study approach, and how it serves as a foundation for complex forms and color study in general.
bigflea

dcorc
06-13-2004, 03:43 PM
Having waded through the lengthy descriptions here, I get the impression that what is being described amounts to consideration of the effects of color temperature of light sources and the effects of indirect illumination, which in the 3D computer-graphics world are referred to as modelling radiosity and global illumination, by techniques such as photon mapping. See http://graphics.ucsd.edu/~henrik/images/global.html for example. - also http://www.debevec.org/Research/IBL/ and http://www.richardrosenman.com/global.htm

Dave

bigflea
06-13-2004, 05:26 PM
dcorc,

Interesting correlation. I enjoy the digital reproductions that I have seen, such as TOY STORY, for example, and some of the work in the LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY, and others. In viewing films such as ATTACK OF THE CLONES, particularly the scenes where natural plants and lighting are depicted, I always find myself questioning the credibility of the coloring, since it usually appears digital rather than visual in the way that my own eye sees color. In some respects I find old cartoons like SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS to be more lifelike in coloring, although more limited in terms of the effects that are depicted.

Anyway, to respond to your observation, for me the intent of the preceding is in regard to visual color analysis for painters using opaque and transparent oil paint to depict coloring of daylight across, around and on forms. The plane modelling, which seems analogous to the modelling radiosity term, is a color approach to what was in the old master era a tone and value modelling of the local form color. Rather than a local color of a form, the painter begins with the raw color differences between the light and shade masses of the composition. Simply put, the painter studies the color differences first and the value, tone,temperature, and drawing of the literal details after the color variations are visually understood. There is a need for putting color before value and tonality, since it allows the painter to rely more on pure perception as the foundation for all other refinements of color.

This approach to visual color was taught first by Charles Hawthorne and then by Henry Hensche, at the CAPE SCHOOL in Provincetown, MA., from 1930 to 1987 or so. Hensche died in 1992. Students were taught to study color by making specific color differences and shapes to describe forms. I have illustrated this approach here at the wetcanvas site.

Here are some examples of the color modeling approach by new students to the approach. These were painted last month at a workshop conducted by George Thurmond of Starkville, Ms., by two painters from the Annapolis area. He uses the same approach as Hensche taught us.

An interesting note is that the students used a 25 color palette,which included several earth colors, and the still life compositions were arranged by the teacher. Each painting was developed over a period of 2 to 3 weeks.
bigflea

dcorc
06-13-2004, 05:48 PM
Hi Bigflea - the reason I point out the computer graphics approaches is that they are both means by which coloured light bouncing with varying degrees of diffuseness between objects (picking up "preceding" object(s) colour on the way), and from the wider environment, are modelled in "3D" computer imaging - this is why a "white" object is not simply white. In the computer one can project the bounce light in from the wider environment using global illumination, and one can calculate local contributions from adjacent objects - these provide means for convincingly illuminating synthetic objects for inclusion in real-life photographed backgrounds for example - to me the light keys approach does seem to bear some striking resemblances to examining and heeding these radiosity and global illumination contributions to the total lighting. (it should be said as an aside that for computer animation these approaches are still computationally intense, and much film effects work still only makes partial use of them, a lot of stuff is "fudged" to look good enough rather than being rendered using the most sophisticated lighting models such as these).

Dave

Einion
06-13-2004, 09:04 PM
BF, I must admit to not having grokked what you meant in previous discussions where you use the phrase light keys but I think Dave's input above has finally put it into terms I can grasp easily. So basically this is just a highly-developed eye, by your definition, for colour modelling in a given light, taking into account the reflected light around and between subjects; would that be a fairly accurate summation?

Einion

bigflea
06-13-2004, 10:31 PM
dcorc,
Yes i understood you were saying that indirectly. However, what I am saying is that the computer animation and examples do not look real. That is they do not have the visual light key quality that the human eye can see.

Further, the goal of a color modeling study was never to recreate a photorealist concept using a better modelling system. It is simply to gain a greater visual perception and recognition of what your eye is seeing as color relationships, daylight keys.

The examples are of painters' work who have only the barest beginnings of exploring the approach. A more mature painter's work will have a more developed look, but it may never look photographic. It is an exploration of one's vision, and of developing a visual poetry that is expressed through the color relationships.
bigflea

bigflea
06-13-2004, 10:44 PM
Einion,

Yes. To reach a level of visual color recognition and description, by studying your own color perceptions in a strict color modelling format, that goes beyond what is generally referred to as local color description. Light keys are the specific color harmonies and changes one can see, and hopefully learn to paint. Generally speaking, painters beginning this approach do not see any differences in keys from morning till evening. That is, the same colors are used to show a generic light effect, with a change in the pattern, no matter what the key is. By following the color modelling format, where color differences are required rather than and elective, the painter begins to develop key differences naturally, based on their own perception, without knowing anything about them. They then begin to recognize these differences more readily as they gain experience in them.

Rather than beginning with value and tone variations of a perceived local color, the painter begins with a color difference for every light and shade mass.
bigflea

LarrySeiler
06-13-2004, 11:12 PM
dcorc,
Yes i understood you were saying that indirectly. However, what I am saying is that the computer animation and examples do not look real. bigflea

but...this is where I struggle myself.

When one champions a method so strongly and consistently as you do, inferring it as the more advanced way of seeing...one inwardly expects to be so blown away by the examples that one imagines a compulsion to hereafter focus one's life to a new pursuit. Like a new renaissance.

..I say its a struggle...because that is EXACTLY my reaction when I see most the samples you have shared of students and others. THEY DO NOT LOOK REAL....

Evidently...the only answer then to my dilemma is that either I yet need to develop this highly refined eye, failing to have it...or this color key concept is only one other aesthetic approach to painting and not necessarily better or seeing more rightly.

I do enjoy reading the writings of Hawthorne...but, what I get out of them seems to help me better understand painting the way I already am. Your examples always seem lovely...aesthetically pleasing, graphic...perhaps animated, but...well, just not real.

Larry

dcorc
06-13-2004, 11:45 PM
dcorc,
Yes i understood you were saying that indirectly. However, what I am saying is that the computer animation and examples do not look real. That is they do not have the visual light key quality that the human eye can see.


I was saying stuff indirectly? LOL! :p

A lot of computer animation in movies doesn't look real - there's an explicit cutoff decision taken in terms of time, effort, computational power available, and money as to how far it gets pushed (just good enough to carry the shot for the purposes of the narrative is the usual criterion) - furthermore, the CG characters, sets etc are lit according to prevailing cinematographic staging - three-point lighting setups and so on, hardly natural (eg in the Star Wars movies, digital characters have their lighting rigs attached to them)

Anyway, photorealism in computer graphics has been defined as the absence of clues that something isn't real :)

I'd agree with Larry that the painting examples you've shown don't look real, because to my eyes they severely overstate indirect lighting contributions to the scene lighting.

It's all very interesting, nonetheless. Thank you!

Dave

bigflea
06-14-2004, 09:57 AM
dcorc,
you were saying indirectly, in your first comment here, that you did not believe the approach ( color modelling) was as good as the computer work you were recommending I look through.

Alot of work of painters following the color key and modelling approach is not very developed, as the two examples given here of beginners. However it is shown as a way for painters to approach the development of color without beginning with the description of value and tonal variations of a local color. The overstatement of color is deliberate, and especially pronounced in a beginner's work. As a painter matures in their handling of the approach, the initial statements of color are more accurate in color, and therefore in value and tonality as well. Yet they may appear very colored by comparison to the work of someone who has a traditional realist point of view for painting.

My question about the computer generated work is whether or not the technicians have studied light keys, or are instead working from a photo model or from a traditional realist model of vision.

Larry,

I would agree with you in part, that work does not look "real" in some of the examples I have given. However the approach itself was never intended to recreate " realism". So if a painter looks at painting as a kind of "realist" rendering, they are not going to be very interested in it. It seems to me that you are interested more in light effects that you see in nature, and not so much interested in classical types of realism, at least going by the examples you have posted.

I think if you actually did some color modelling studies, using a fuller palette, you would see the benefit of it. There isn"t much to be gained by debating it. When a painter follows the approach the way Hensche asked us to, they begin to see an expanded understanding or perception of color relationships in nature. Most agree they are not necessarily able to paint the coloring they see very well, and that it takes time to develop the ability to do so. The point is that it requires more time to develop, both one's eye and ability to mix what is being seen.
bigflea

LarrySeiler
06-14-2004, 11:05 AM
I would agree with you in part, that work does not look "real" in some of the examples I have given. However the approach itself was never intended to recreate " realism".

I am interested in painting what I really see, that is...what moves me in nature, and it seems that you have touted this approach for the longest time as an approach to seeing rightly...so it sounds (if you'll pardom me) as though a bit of double speak here.


So if a painter looks at painting as a kind of "realist" rendering, they are not going to be very interested in it. It seems to me that you are interested more in light effects that you see in nature, and not so much interested in classical types of realism, at least going by the examples you have posted.bigflea

I only need a palette loaded with the pigments that will help me create an imitation of what I am seeing...experiencing at the moment. I need no additional pigments than those. IF what I have is lacking...I'll add more.

btw...I'm not painting blocks outdoors...and if I did, and needed to add more paint to imitate what I was seeing, I would. I have a feeling though that my split primary palette could imitate far more accurately. IMHO....

not intending debate...some will agree, which is fine....some not, that too is fine.

I'm also not saying there is no room in art for creating pleasing designs and aesthetics, which these works you share do. More power to anyone that wishes to grace our world with such aesthetics. My discomfort over the past many months is where the suggestion of these pleasing aesthetics is referred to as THEE result of seeing rightly. They might be the result of adhering rightly to a tenet of one approach, but are not definitive of how the eye actually sees. Plus...I simply denounce that not accepting such work as a right way of seeing suggests some ill-equipped inferior ability to see.

Yours is a different way of seeing. Not superior....by no means inferior. Just different...and that makes our world much more interesting.

peace

Larry

Einion
06-14-2004, 01:41 PM
Larry and Dave have already covered the ground that I was going to get into: if the two thumbnails you posted above are exemplars of the technique I find them a quite startling counterpoint to what you've implied about the method and its strength. To me they fly directly in the face of much of what you've said in your posts that I recall, about how inaccurately people unschooled in Hawthorne's teaching tend to depict colour modelling.

A purely tonalist approach to rendering the two setups would actually be far more accurate in terms of recreating how they might look in reality for any natural lighting I've ever seen! You can't successfully argue this point since there are ways of proving that value is a far more dominant force in visual perception to begin with (I can give examples if you like).

Additionally I find it particularly interesting that Larry and I, who are fairly polar in our positions on just how colourfully things should be depicted in painting (with the goal of realistic portrayal) both seem to agree here that there is far too much colour! I would even argue that not only is there too much chroma, but the hues depicted are not accurate either; judging without having seen the subjects in the flesh of course. And as Dave says, they seem to clearly overstate indirect lighting's contribution.

I should perhaps have been cued by the little I've seen of the Cape school's work which, for me at least, had a neo-impressionist (bordering on expressionist) use of colour that I find not in the least realistic. If the level of these two pieces or other examples I've seen isn't as high as it should be to give a good account of the method, could you provide some links to your own work or any developed work of this school that would?

I would agree with you in part, that work does not look "real" in some of the examples I have given. However the approach itself was never intended to recreate " realism".
I may not be remembering what you've said in the past exactly but the gist of your statements seemed to me to be that its strength was in giving the artist the visual language necessary to correctly depict local variations in colour. You keep on stressing how inept or under-developed other artists' work is but I find those two thumbnails to be closer to how colour is depicted in Toy Story and Monsters Inc. than in any painting I would consider even remotely accurate.

Einion

bigflea
06-14-2004, 04:39 PM
Einion and Larry,
I am agreeing with you that the recent illustrations are not "real", but are overcolored. I show them to clarify that the approach itself begins with overcolored statements, which hopefully do approximately what Dave has stated, that is, overstate the reflective color qualities, and in general, begin with raw, very colored color. I hope there will be no confusion that this approach is upside down and backwards from the traditional approach to coloring, which is thru muted tones/values of a perceived local color, or to adding color into a value scale. That is the point of my showing these two beginner illustrations, which when seen with some from students from the 1970's, show that the method of color study is the same now as it was then.

The refinements of the color relationships in the developing work hopefully come to a more lifelike and convincing color quality, but it takes awhile for most painters to make the kind of progress that is possible with it. Hawthorne and Hensche both found that it was virtually impossible to get students to come to color understanding of light keys unless work was begun in this way, and so the idea was studied for the entire time the Cape School was in operation. It does work to attain what I am calling a lifelike color quality, but it depends alot on the students own commitment about how the work is developed.

Up to a point in a painter's development as a colorist Einion is going to right about the tonal sketch being more believable. But if a painter perseveres with the approach in the prescribed manner there comes a turning point in which the coloring itself begins to read as a natural light key, and goes further than the tonal approach in describing specific keys.

Have to continue to disagree with you Einion about the importance of value in the development of coloring. Understanding the value relationships of a group of values does not tell me what the coloring of any of them is, and so I begin with the color first, and arrive at the value and tonality when I get as close to the coloring variations as I am able. But I understand and respect your opinion having once relied on it myself.

Larry we have had the superiority issue enough for both of us probably, and what I am saying about the difference here between one approach or another is that it is a growth issue, primarily, for me. I feel that by following the overcolored modelling approach I am able to attain more perceptual growth each year, and an improvement in my handling of color variety and range each year. I think the only way to understand if this approach has any benefit for anyone is for them to try it in the prescribed way, and see what happens in their own color perception. In particular, does it lead to less repetition of color solutions from light key to light key, and more variety of color development in each painting. Granted much of the work of colorists who promote the Hensche "idea" looks too colored, but to me that is not the fault of the approach so much as it reflects the development and understanding of the painter.

The profile portrait is one done by a beginner in the method, albeit one who has studied the figure and portraiture. I thought it was very good for anyone.
The landscape is a scaled down in size jpg of a recent work of mine. One problem I have found in showing jpgs is the generalization of coloring and the intensifying of colors into generalized colors. It makes it difficult to illustrate the idea well.
bigflea

LarrySeiler
06-14-2004, 08:08 PM
Well....I've already said all I have to on this. I'll give you this....pretty pictures. Nothing wrong with giving the world pretty pictures.

Larry

bigflea
06-15-2004, 09:31 AM
Larry,

a wise deer would expect no less, or more, from you. peace
bigflea

lichi
09-16-2005, 09:09 AM
thanks BigFlea to teach the hensche way but I have to be honest and I dunno how you can see those colors: violet,blue etc..
My english is limited, how can I start to paint and see colors in light?

thanks!
lichi

LarrySeiler
09-16-2005, 10:44 AM
how can I start to paint and see colors in light?

thanks!
lichi

by setting up in the presence of such often and painting what you see. In time you will recognize part of what you see you also feel and confidence will lead to some greater boldness to. Boldness comes with the doing, as light is elusive and often changing, and therein is the challenge.

Hensche and Hawthorne had their students paint colored blocks in light.

Well...just consider the landscape as colored/valued masses in light. You can start there as have many Impressionist and painterly landscape painters.

I paint an average of about 150- 200 plein airs per year and probably will exceed that this year. The numbers are not a goal...but when I go out I paint 2 or 3 per day, and I go out often. Paint small to begin with from 8x10 to 12x16's...increase size later.

Squint your eyes to eliminate detailing...focus on larger shapes, larger brushes, color and value changes.

It takes about 120 bad paintings to learn something about painting. You don't make bad paintings bad on purpose...but the learning you do will look back in hindsight to see where you have come from and you will see how bad they were. One-thousand paintings later you will see how bad your 300th painting was.

You improve with the doing...and the doing is a building of relationships. What I mean by that is...painting is a means of DEEPER SEEING...and its not just Hensche or Hawthorne with the physical make up for that capacity. One need not have instructors to be honest where one looks to nature itself as their teacher. Instructors are facilitators to short cuts, understanding and help from the wheel needing to be reinvented. I'm not saying not to gain instruction or helps, but I'm saying don't be intimidated or put off from making the attempt to learn on your own.

Just get out there and paint.

As painting helps you see deeply...you develop an understanding of nature. Its not just painting that works as a cohesive whole, but you begin to see the order in nature as well...observe what masses do going back into the distance, color and so forth.

This becomes a type of intimacy.

I can write a book, a romance book and have your imagination seeing the kiss between two lovers...but other than some printer's ink perhaps on your fingers from turning pages, you will not have to wipe lipstick off your mouth, or smell cologne from your lover on yourself. To fully experience the romance, you have to engage yourself. Get out there. The seeing will come with the doing...not necessarily at the first but in dogged determination.

Edgar Degas once said, "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do!"

so...if a master says something as this you know the road is not necessarily easy. What is important is asking if the path traveled is worth traveling, and indeed...it is!

Larry

lichi
09-17-2005, 06:29 AM
I want to post this image as a example,some colors that they really seems obvious.

http://fotorack.wickedminds.biz/ist/getimg.php?img=StillLifeSetup_edited1.jpg

the here text is trying to solve which colors are..

bigflea
09-22-2005, 11:53 AM
Hi lichi,

In looking at the photo image, the areas marked as "here" are dark neutrals. If I want to make a dark neutral, I usually mix it out of opaque pigments that when mixed produce a neutral, by cancelling each other out. But in the physical setting, relying on a visual observation and not a photo, I am trying to discern what the color of a near neutral is, if any. By comparing the dark neutrals to each other, it may be possible to see how each is colored, if only slightly, or subtlely, and how they differ from a true grey or black, and from each other, not just in value but in what the hue quality may be.

But I think, if your goal is to learn to see those more colored colors, the set up you have here, in a diminished interior lighting, is not one I would recommend. It is easier to see more color variety where there is stronger direct daylight. Setting the still life arrangement in outdoor light will change the character of all those areas that are appearing as very dark neutrals in the indoor setup.

That is how Hensche and Hawthorne taught their students, ie., by working in strong daylight, or outdoor light. It made it easier for painters to begin to recognize how much differentiation there is in color qualities including hues as the students observed the modeling of forms.

Students using that approach to learning worked on large paintings and developed the color qualities over several sessions, lasting about 1 to 2 hours at a time, since the lighting outdoors changes quickly. Usually most students, (when I was a student with Hensche) worked on 6 to 8 paintings a day. Each panel was 16 by 20 on average. Palette knives were used. We studied the forms and modeling learning to recognize specific differences in hues as well as how to make the specific shape and proportion of a color change. We used large palettes of pigment, including earth colors.

We learned how to mix the colors right on the panel, and how to compare areas of color in order to come to a solution for the form in the light key being painted. We were always to paint quickly, ie., not over analyze the color mixtures, but put them in quickly, and keep our eye moving across the composition. We had to learn to stop working when the lighting changed, since the coloring changes, and is no longer the key first attempted. Hensche worked with most of the students on a daily basis, helping a student understand where they were doing well and where they might need some changes in how they were developing the light and forms as colors.

I had been a landscape painter for several years before I began studying with Hensche. I found his teaching and help made it possible for me to make much greater progress toward the goals I had set for myself before I knew of him. Before studying his approach to color, I was successful in understanding tonal/value painting, and able to produce paintings that would be called realistic. However, in looking at the work of impressionists, I felt it was possible for paintings to have more of a vibrancy of color the way color vision is vibrant. I felt more could be learned.
Ken

lichi
09-22-2005, 12:35 PM
thanks BigFlea for sharing your acknowledges
Painting outdoor,I have not tried that yet,have you any interesting exercise to share?

lichi

bigflea
09-22-2005, 04:15 PM
Hi lichi,
An exercise that I feel is helpful and elemental, which was part of the study of color with Hensche, is to set up simple still life arrangements using colored wooden blocks. Most everyone who studied at his school was already some kind of professional painter; many were portrait painters. But no matter, everyone was given this simple exercise to work with. The major hurdle for most painters, even for those who were accomplished as professional artists, was to begin to recognize a full range of color and how any local color is changed in the lighting being studied. Many painters use a very limited and somber range of tones as a pictorial solution, and the use of the colored wooden blocks was a first step toward getting a greater range of color vision recognition. The rich colors of the blocks, and the simple shapes, made it easier to see the division of colors between the light and shade planes, and the division of color within a light and shade plane.

The exercise was to set up an arrangement of several blocks, which could be studied as a painting problem in several different lighting keys. Morning lighting, afternoon lighting, grey day lighting etc. will all produce different color qualities on the local colors of the blocks. The painter made progress when they were able to see increasing variety in the differences that different lighting situations, (time of day and conditions of atmosphere) made, and gained skill in making pigment solutions to show this variety from one light key to the next.

Most painters would go on from this exercise to using more complex objects or typical everyday objects, but the elements of plane modeling and color differentiation learned in the simple block study format were the same.
ken

Richard Saylor
09-23-2005, 10:33 AM
I've almost given up on trying to perceive colors accurately. In the attached image there are two crosses. The crosspiece of the cross on the left looks gray. The crosspiece of the cross on the right looks yellow. In actual fact, the two crosspieces are exactly the same color.

Richard

bigflea
09-23-2005, 11:56 AM
Richard,
How would you paint these images, presuming for the moment they were real life visual experiences, and not a photo image illustration?
Speaking for myself, the left image represents one particular key or lighting situation and while the right another. Painting them "accurately" would mean painting color relationships that recreate the visual experience as best I could.
So the painting would not be an attempt to determine what the local color of the cross piece is without the changes produced by the lighting situation, but to paint the way it is perceived, similar to the way it is shown here. The illustration shows how local object coloring is changed by the lighting situation, but one that is computor generated(?).
ken

lichi
09-23-2005, 02:40 PM
here comes other pic
http://imageafter.com/image.php?image=b16objects_household011.jpg

Much more difficult to learn how to see painting live but in this picture,you can see different hue because of the lighting..

:clap:

Richard Saylor
09-23-2005, 07:19 PM
Richard,
How would you paint these images, presuming for the moment they were real life visual experiences, and not a photo image illustration?Ken, I would try to paint them the way they appear to me. That probably wouldn't work. I might try once or twice more before throwing my brushes down in frustration. :mad:

Richard