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View Full Version : What is a "Working Knowledge" where color is concerned?


LarrySeiler
02-20-2004, 05:48 PM
I'll attempt to be appropriate and begin a new thread with this question, shiftng my promptings from another thread and apologies to those involved there.

As a painter I've been approached a number of times with requests to explain my use of color. Some evidently admiring my work.

When I agreed to become a moderator for this forum, I suppose I felt I had a good sound working knowledge of color. Of course duties to help keep the peace so-to-speak do not necessarily require a moderator to be an expert in the area.

I would say I believed myself to be fairly an expert as an artist, professional even...but suffice it to say perhaps my place (rather than expertise) must necessarily be relegated to the kind of work I do or those that might aspire a close promity to work I do. Perhaps sufficient even to levels which as an educator I teach, which would be K-12 and various adult workshops.

Since this forum has been in existence and having the opportunity to lurk and participate, I realize that my offerings for color understanding are perhaps metaphorically compared to one that might write a comic book versus s/he that would write a novel. The length, breadth, and depth of understanding here shared so generously in this forum is truly a marvel.

So...since what I do seems to work as a painter...well, a painter of my level anyway, and since what I teach to others seems to work for them (at their level anyway) it causes me to wonder what might constitute an acceptable working knowledge?

Is it a feeling that if one is not up on the theories, does not have a collection of color theory books on one's shelves that at best one might be a hobbyist at painting? Is it possible to be a master painter...and not a color theorist? Or, would some say we are all theorists to some degree?

I'm not going to bother throwing up some of my work here to represent what "my level" is...you can do that visiting my website (my past in wildlife art and present in plein air)...but suffice it to say the discussions which get at pigment percentiles, the vehicles that carry them, lightfastness, spectrums, you name it are things I have not labored to understand. In some ways, its like a foreign language being spoken around me...

Again...as I said, initially I thought I knew something of color. In confession I use the RYB model with a warm and cool variant of each. A split primary. I operate simply by judging the appearance of a color and that's about it.

What constitutes an adequate amount of information to respectfully be considered working knowledge? thanks...

In the other thread, I compared it to playing guitar. I do not read music, but have played in bands for years. I fronted a band in the big hair 80's era. I play mostly blues today, and folk. I would imagine someone that reads music can rightly pity that which I do not know. In my thinking if one plays a G7 chord with knowledge of reading music and another without such knowledge, there is a strong possibility the chord might sound the same. If one hears a great deal of music, one might be able to imitate something that sounds like a song.

Can one afford to rest upon visual results of one's efforts alone?

I wouldn't even mind if some folks took paintings from my website and said, "well... this painting could have improved if..." and somehow relate that to what a more indepth understanding of color would mean. That certainly would translate to a lesson well learned for me. I don't think I'm alone. Just how much understanding is enough which then lets you focus on getting about your work?

Not looking for debate, just opinions of various views for me to muse and contemplate over....

thanks in advance...

Larry

blondheim12
02-21-2004, 10:26 AM
Larry,
This is an interesting thread. I tend toward intuitive color choices in painting rather than color theory. Of course we all had to do color mixing and theory in art school but my process relies on choosing color as I paint on location, taking into consideration the atmosphere of the scene in front of me, along with my own interpretation of light, morning, noon or afternoon and evening and of course the weather conditions of the day. I also try to find a cohesiveness to the palette I am using, by incorporating some of the sky color into the land mass and some of the land color into the sky. As I work, I will use dabs of color in mixing which warm or cool the colors.

As an expressionist and spontaneous painter I would never be able to work from tedious color swatches or be interested in the minutia of color mixing techniques as some are, but I do enjoy reading their posts.

Whether one has a working knowledge of color or not depends on whether the viewer or your student likes what they see on your canvas.

Love,
Linda

LarrySeiler
02-21-2004, 11:49 AM
appreciate your being the first to respond, Linda...thanks. I certainly understand where you are coming from.

As I speak with a number of artists that enjoy banter on color theory, it seems the banter is more the interest...the challenge of thinking deeper, and that many if not most do leave room for artists to make independent decisions.

For those new to color theory...lurking a bit can potentially be unnerving to consider participating. The issues of transparency versus opacity, the chroma purity/hue intensity...banter on spectrum and how light differs from actual pigment can become so technical one easily can feel that what they thought they knew about color is suddenly significantly little.

I guess another way of putting my question might be, just how little can one afford to understand about color to be an accomplished painter?

Ever know an artist personally and attend a major art museum show where one of the museum staff giving a tour goes into depth explaining how the artist did a work?

I was at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau one year during the Birds in Art show...and tours were offered to school's bringing bus loads of kids. I happened to know one of the painters/sculptors whose work was in this show and the person went on to discuss how the artist considered all sorts of deeper creative issues, was very orderly and ordered in their manner of work and so forth.

I had all I could do to prevent myself from a good belly laugh. The artist they were talking about had so many years experience that the creation of art was near totally intuitive for them. Visit his studio and in his excitement might want to show you a recent watercolor...and spends ten minutes shuffling thru all kinds of junk everywhere in a total disarray. He tended to go with his hunches...and his hunches were often good ones.

I wonder if we might not develop great knowledge of color and presume that more emphasis was considered on the part of a master than might have really been the case? I wonder how many might be amused or apprentices under them would be fighting to keep from a good belly laugh to hear the width and depth.

So I'm not misunderstood...I think the banter is useful and enjoyable myself. Certainly I would not opt to have it otherwise. I think though that in our zeal to discuss such one could infer it is not possible to be a great painter without this great understanding.

I imagine it is possible to have such a deep insightful mega volume understanding of color theory to silence the voices of inner debate while painting...but it is a somewhat frightening prospect for me to entertain.

In my instudio years...I'd have great time to set a piece on the easel, grab a cup of java....glean thru volumes of ideas, add my own...muse and stroke my beard whilst sitting back looking over a work.

The work could afford to sit 2-3 days and endure such sessions from me. Perhaps those years were instrumental and amounted to dues paid which allow me to work more intuitively today...which would certainly argue for the good of banter and thought.

Yet...you and I know, Linda... that standing with paint at hand before the ever looming possibility of nature's conditions threatening to remove the drama at hand calls upon every faculty of the artist to be posed to react yesterminute. No time to step back, stroke the beard (or chin) sit with coffee and muse over the intellect of the ages.

For some of us...entertaining the idea of endeavoring new concepts threatens to be intrusive to productivity at a moment our directions seem to be escalating forward in our careers.

I've already encountered the dichotomy of irony by those that have enjoyed my use of color only later to attempt to unravel the worth of what they construe to be outdated thinking of the RYB colorwheel model. Were I to be famous...perhaps dead even, with works at a museum...surely some well intentioned staff tour head would be drawing attention to why my color usage works...and certainly it could never do so with my infantile outdated thinking.

I think part of what I hope comes of this thread is that we can agree on the fun of the banter...but also agree that great paintings have been and continue to be created by those not necessarily possessing deep knowledge of theories. This at least offers hope and promise for many.

There are times of course where we all are looking for a breakthru, and often it comes in a small sound byte or baby step. The banter is useful for the one little adjustment we might make. My encouragement goes out though to those that whince at thinking to reveal their ignorance by posting here. Hey...look at me!!!! hahahaha....

thanks Linda....good stuff

Larry

blondheim12
02-21-2004, 12:28 PM
appreciate your being the first to respond, Linda...thanks. I certainly understand where you are coming from.

As I speak with a number of artists that enjoy banter on color theory, it seems the banter is more the interest...the challenge of thinking deeper, and that many if not most do leave room for artists to make independent decisions.

For those new to color theory...lurking a bit can potentially be unnerving to consider participating. The issues of transparency versus opacity, the chroma purity/hue intensity...banter on spectrum and how light differs from actual pigment can become so technical one easily can feel that what they thought they knew about color is suddenly significantly little.

I guess another way of putting my question might be, just how little can one afford to understand about color to be an accomplished painter?

Ever know an artist personally and attend a major art museum show where one of the museum staff giving a tour goes into depth explaining how the artist did a work?

I was at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau one year during the Birds in Art show...and tours were offered to school's bringing bus loads of kids. I happened to know one of the painters/sculptors whose work was in this show and the person went on to discuss how the artist considered all sorts of deeper creative issues, was very orderly and ordered in their manner of work and so forth.

I had all I could do to prevent myself from a good belly laugh. The artist they were talking about had so many years experience that the creation of art was near totally intuitive for them. Visit his studio and in his excitement might want to show you a recent watercolor...and spends ten minutes shuffling thru all kinds of junk everywhere in a total disarray. He tended to go with his hunches...and his hunches were often good ones.

I wonder if we might not develop great knowledge of color and presume that more emphasis was considered on the part of a master than might have really been the case? I wonder how many might be amused or apprentices under them would be fighting to keep from a good belly laugh to hear the width and depth.

So I'm not misunderstood...I think the banter is useful and enjoyable myself. Certainly I would not opt to have it otherwise. I think though that in our zeal to discuss such one could infer it is not possible to be a great painter without this great understanding.

I imagine it is possible to have such a deep insightful mega volume understanding of color theory to silence the voices of inner debate while painting...but it is a somewhat frightening prospect for me to entertain.

In my instudio years...I'd have great time to set a piece on the easel, grab a cup of java....glean thru volumes of ideas, add my own...muse and stroke my beard whilst sitting back looking over a work.

The work could afford to sit 2-3 days and endure such sessions from me. Perhaps those years were instrumental and amounted to dues paid which allow me to work more intuitively today...which would certainly argue for the good of banter and thought.

Yet...you and I know, Linda... that standing with paint at hand before the ever looming possibility of nature's conditions threatening to remove the drama at hand calls upon every faculty of the artist to be posed to react yesterminute. No time to step back, stroke the beard (or chin) sit with coffee and muse over the intellect of the ages.

For some of us...entertaining the idea of endeavoring new concepts threatens to be intrusive to productivity at a moment our directions seem to be escalating forward in our careers.

I've already encountered the dichotomy of irony by those that have enjoyed my use of color only later to attempt to unravel the worth of what they construe to be outdated thinking of the RYB colorwheel model. Were I to be famous...perhaps dead even, with works at a museum...surely some well intentioned staff tour head would be drawing attention to why my color usage works...and certainly it could never do so with my infantile outdated thinking.

I think part of what I hope comes of this thread is that we can agree on the fun of the banter...but also agree that great paintings have been and continue to be created by those not necessarily possessing deep knowledge of theories. This at least offers hope and promise for many.

There are times of course where we all are looking for a breakthru, and often it comes in a small sound byte or baby step. The banter is useful for the one little adjustment we might make. My encouragement goes out though to those that whince at thinking to reveal their ignorance by posting here. Hey...look at me!!!! hahahaha....

thanks Linda....good stuff

Larry

Excellent post Larry. There is so much more to the painting process than a good palette. It occured to me while reading your post that we cannot escape our selves as painters. No matter whose color theory we align ourselves with or whose technique we study or admire, we still paint uniquely as ourselves. Yes we can improve and better our technique through study and try to be the best within our own limitations. I realized quite some time ago that I would never be as good as some others, no matter how much I study and paint, but I can be the best I can be and that is good enough.
Love,
Linda

WFMartin
02-21-2004, 01:29 PM
Larry,

To me, a "working knowledge" of color theory can be described quite simply in one analogy. An artist with a working knowledge of color will, for example, rather than reaching for Cadmium Red Deep and French Ultramarine Blue and expecting that mix to produce a clean "purple", will, instead reach for a magenta and a cyan paint, knowing before the tubes are squeezed out on the palette, that he stands a really good chance of making the clean purple he needs.

To me that represents the "working knowledge" of color theory which satisfies my needs. I don't get very involved with spectral response curves, and the knowledge of all the chemicals and their inherent characteristics in producing colors. In my opinion, that actually goes quite far beyond that of a "working knowledge", and is more related to the paint/pigment manufacture area of color. I worked in the lithographic trade for over 40 years, and as long as ink manufacturers could furnish me with the cyan, magenta, and yellow inks that were as close to "ideal" as possibe, I don't remember ever having much concern with what pigments it took them to accomplish that end. I left that to the ink companies' chemists.

I seldom read the little numbers on a paint tube, as they seem to be misleading. But, I'm fully capable of doing a color densitometer analysis of any color in question of my own, making some comparisons, and selecting my paint based upon my requirements.

While I was painting just yesterday, I wanted a color (sort of an off-gray) that I had produced the day prior, and realized that I did not have the same paints on the palette that I had on the day in question. Rather than go to the effort to squeeze out all those other colors, I simply mixed two or three OTHER colors that I had on my palette at that moment in different proportions, and produced the same color. That, in a nutshell, represents to me a "working knowledge" of color theory.

In short, a "working knowledge" in most any endeavor, is simply knowledge which helps you get your job done quicker and more accurately, without requiring a lot of "paying your dues" time in trial and error wasted effort.

Bill ;)

Marc Sabatella
02-21-2004, 01:39 PM
I have a few observations here.

I don't even remember what first got me thinking about color theory issues above and beyond the RYB primary system & color wheel we're all taught as artists - I think it was just curiosity about why I also hear talk of CMY. I do remember my first reaction on seeing just how much there is to all this was amazement that the color wheel model works at all. But as I've been spending more time thinking about this stuff, that amazement has changed focus to a deep appreciation for how practical it really is. Plus, I know have a basis for understanding how two colors of what appear to be visually the same hue can behave entirely differently in mixtures. Of course, I don't need to understand color theory to see this or even take advantage of it, but it always baffled me before, and doesn't any more.

Anyhow, to address some of your points:

Looking on what I thought I knew, what I have learned, and what I realize have yet to learn, I think I can pretty safely safe that none of this is in itself making me a better painter, although as I mentioned elsewhere, it has led to a five color palette that works pretty well for me that I doubt I'd have settled on otherwise. Realistically, though, I could also be happy with your palette, or a CMY palette, and could learn to make art with just about any collection of pigments.

The music analogy you make seems attractive, but as someone with basically the opposite background as you (professional musician, dabbler in art), I think the analogy ultimately fails. The problem is that you are absolutely right regarding the role of color theory in art - I don't think learning any theory beyond a "working knowledge" of the basic color wheel model actually opens any artistic doors that you couldn't have opened anyhow. Whereas in music, I think there are some pretty clear distinctions, and you have already hit on some of them. For instance, you mentioned playing in a pit band where you were able to play along without reading music, and the others were amazed at this. But consider - if the whole band were not able to read music, what would there have been to play along *with*? Assuming, as is typical in these sorts of environments, you didn't have months to rehearse and work up arrangements, but had to work on short notice from a score, without a core group who understood how to interpret that score, the music you came up with might have been nice on its own terms, but how well would it have matched the intent, fit the choreography, etc? I don't know the show, of course, so maybe that one would have worked OK. But I can tell you I've been hired to play shows where the first rehearsal was just days before the first performance and the music had just been composed during the preceding weeks so there was no actual recording to listen to. If you couldn't read, there was no way you would be able to cover the part that had been created; this was some complex music with lots of time signature changes. Sure, there were a spots here and there that were just about jamming on a chord progression, and those spots required different skills. Realistically, the core of the band had to be really strong in both areas to hold the music together, although we were able to get by with a percussionist and guitarist who didn't read well (their parts didn't require much) and a string section that couldn't improvise (their parts didn't require this).

Of course, reading music isn't exactly deep theory; it is something many learn as children, so in that sense, it is almost comparable to the basic color wheel. The deeper points of music theory are what enable you to compose certain types of more complex music, or to improvise convincingly over certain complex structures. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose this is pretty marginal - the sort of music I am talking about is maybe 0.5% of what's out there, but it's still a lot of music, with a lot of fans. I suppose it is possible a simialr situation exists in art - there is a certain type of art, a very small percentage, that can only be created well with a deep understanding of color theory - but I tend to doubt this is as significant as in music.

LarrySeiler
02-21-2004, 01:41 PM
Excellent post Larry. There is so much more to the painting process than a good palette. It occured to me while reading your post that we cannot escape our selves as painters. Love,
Linda

yes...simple, yet at the same time profound! :clap:

Might as well be me when I paint, for no one else is more qualified to paint like me than myself. In attempting to be the best me I can be...I'll have to be aware when I'm trying to be somebody else! hahaha...

peace

Larry

LarrySeiler
02-21-2004, 01:53 PM
Larry,

To me, a "working knowledge" of color theory can be described quite simply in one analogy. An artist with a working knowledge of color will, for example, rather than reaching for Cadmium Red Deep and French Ultramarine Blue and expecting that mix to produce a clean "purple", will, instead reach for a magenta and a cyan paint, knowing before the tubes are squeezed out on the palette, that he stands a really good chance of making the clean purple he needs.

To me that represents the "working knowledge" of color theory which satisfies my needs.


Very good Bill...
and it dawned on me here that for whatever reason why what works for me works...what I use to get the violet I need for what I see will then be working knowledge for my needs. On the same page there...!


In short, a "working knowledge" in most any endeavor, is simply knowledge which helps you get your job done quicker and more accurately, without requiring a lot of "paying your dues" time in trial and error wasted effort.

Bill ;)

Bingo....
anything more painting directly from life as I do, and nature laughs that I would think myself able to do more than what is possible.

I know some have asked of us plein air painters what all the hullabaloo is over our sharing time painting with each other, as though speed were the only goal. For those that do not paint plein air, I suppose it is difficult to understand. Time is indicative to the pressures and conditions we well understand, of things nature throws at us which must be brought under command to execute our impressions or response to the aesthetic/drama which grabbed us by the jugular and screamed "PAAAAAAAaaaaaint MEEEE!"

I remember in my heavier martial arts years in college...that the Tae Kwon Do style utilized a two step reaction counter to a punch throw. One arm held in an "L" position would swing up inside out to block the punch, while the other hand inside would thereafter counter with its own punch.

Wing Chun demonstrated however, that ONE move could accomplish both things, thus overwhelm the opponent. The same arm blocking could be the same arm delivering the punch. By just slightly bending the arm down at the elbow, the opponent's punch glances off the upper outside area of the forward moving arm. It glances the offending blow just enough to miss, yet stays online and target with enough force to deliver a surprising punch to the opponents jaw.

The issue speed? Well...no, it happens quicker naturally than one..two, but the result which proves ideal is that you did not get hit, the opponent did.

Speed for the plein airist means getting on top of your game and not missing any important essential. It is delivering the visual winning blow and not being overtaken by nature.

So...having as little to think about with your learning behind you becoming in essence intuitive prepares one to be successful again and again with a plein air alla prima composition.

Tell a Wing Chun fighter he now has to learn two or three moves to execute that punch, and he is likely to get a little unnerved. Why risk getting hit or blindsided when one move will do?

This is what scares some of us painters a bit with extended deeper considerations of color theory. It is like being told to counter in three moves instead of holding to the confidence and effectiveness of that which has proven time and again to work with one move.

(I know....I know...me and my metaphors!)

Again though...those that have spent years laboring over color understanding prior to something like plein air, perhaps slip into this one punch counter easier and can afford to trust their hunches.

Larry

Marc Hanson
02-21-2004, 02:10 PM
Larry,

theory-1. Systematically organized knowledge applicable in a relatively wide variety of circumstances; especially, a system of assumptions, accepted principles, and rules of procedure devised to analyze, predict, or otherwise explain the nature or behavior of a specified set of phenomena. 2. Abstract reasoning; speculation....(American heritage dictionary)

To continue your topic, and I think that it's a good one, I think that when students ask about color theory, what they are really asking for is a set of rules that will make everything OK. The only rule I think applies is that if all you have is a primary red, yellow and blue, and you understand that combinations of these three pigments(plus a white) will allow you to mix virtually any color, you have a lifetime of exploration in front of you. Too often we get caught up in the 'eye candy' at the art supply store and think that the tube of 'aquamarine quinacraglitter spotted yellow-purple' will paint the perfect mountain instead of spending the time in front of the mountain asking "Is it a red,a yellow or a blue? Is it a cool blue, how much yellow is in it...and so on!"

Almost anyone who has gone far enough to spend the money on painting supplies($$$whew!), at least knows that red, yellow and blue are the primaries, and probably alot more about color than just that. A lot of people are looking for someone to give them the quick route to that intuitive sense of color that only comes from many, many hours of observation, analysis, and mixing. Each of us develops our own taste for color and that is in part what distinguishes one painter from another. For all of us there are books, classes, etc. full of excercises, and those are good things and should be explored. I spent one entire semester in art school in a class called 'Color Theory'. Even with all of the thousands of color swatches, Munsell books of chips and lectures, it still boils down to starting with the primaries and building from there.

If there were just one good answer, then Sorolla, Monet, R. Schmid, Larry Seiler would all use the exact same pigments in the same way !

Great topic! :clap:

-Marc

LarrySeiler
02-21-2004, 02:12 PM
For instance, you mentioned playing in a pit band where you were able to play along without reading music, and the others were amazed at this. But consider - if the whole band were not able to read music, what would there have been to play along *with*?

well....you just pretty much described the fairly successful and popular band I played with in the mid big hair 80's era in the Minneapolis/western Wisconsin area for three years. Our bass player might have been the only one that read music, and then in our third year when our guitar prodigy joined us...he too read. We wrote originals, only lyrics actually written out. Yet thru practice and feel we played flawless sets. Our live performances had an energy that was a breeze, our practices harder.

No doubt...this would describe my son's two bands he played with out of Chicago traveling the country...lucky enough that his band was nominated for a Dove award 3-4 years ago in the Grammy's. He has no idea what the name of the note combinations he is using. I don't know how he plays. Listening to the three cd's he's on...I am amazed and only know I could never play to his caliber. When I ask him how it goes on guitar...he can only say..."like this....!" and show me by playing. He cannot express in terms of music knowledge. Yet he developed amazing talent. I myself don't get it...


Assuming, as is typical in these sorts of environments, you didn't have months to rehearse and work up arrangements, but had to work on short notice from a score, without a core group who understood how to interpret that score, the music you came up with might have been nice on its own terms, but how well would it have matched the intent, fit the choreography, etc? I don't know the show, of course, so maybe that one would have worked OK.

Pea and the Mattress....


But I can tell you I've been hired to play shows where the first rehearsal was just days before the first performance and the music had just been composed during the preceding weeks so there was no actual recording to listen to. If you couldn't read, there was no way you would be able to cover the part that had been created; this was some complex music with lots of time signature changes.

well...I did find that very odd about plays and pit music. Ssheesh you guys are nuts with all the changes, but somehow and for some reason I had no problem. Our director is himself a musician with the Army Guard, playing bassoon and is excellent. Guess you have to be to hold his position. Many want it and it opens only due to retirement or death. He was the one that insisted I play. I really had no intention. Thought it was weird really...a guitar player from a rock n roll/blues background? Worked out though, and surprised me!


Of course, reading music isn't exactly deep theory; it is something many learn as children, so in that sense, it is almost comparable to the basic color wheel.

Ahhh....but therein is the example demonstrated why they say it is easier to introduce a second language to a child than when older. Being as easy as you suggest...I wish I had that when younger. Just too difficult for me now. Old dog...as they say.


The deeper points of music theory are what enable you to compose certain types of more complex music, or to improvise convincingly over certain complex structures. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose this is pretty marginal - the sort of music I am talking about is maybe 0.5% of what's out there, but it's still a lot of music, with a lot of fans. I suppose it is possible a simialr situation exists in art - there is a certain type of art, a very small percentage, that can only be created well with a deep understanding of color theory - but I tend to doubt this is as significant as in music.

I'll take your word on that...and mean no insults of what being an informed musician means. All I know is I have a couple cd's out, built up a recording studio for our highschool and teach how to record using Sonar 3 and instrument peripherals.

I hear a thing...put a guitar or harmonica in my hands, and step out of the way...I want to fly.

I'm the same when it comes to painting. Sit down with coffee and we can talk and talk. Comes time to capture the sun, get me my paints and get out of the way. If I'm in the zone....don't ask what I'm doing, you'll wake up my left brain that has gone off to a slumber.

Appreciate your taking time...it adds much to chew upon for me, and no doubt others....
peace

Larry

LarrySeiler
02-21-2004, 02:20 PM
Too often we get caught up in the 'eye candy'
-Marc

love the analogy here of "eye candy"...and as one that has lost 30 lbs since last year June avoiding extra unnecessary carbs (ie.."sugar"), makes even more sense to me!!!! hahahha...

thanks....

Larry

WFMartin
02-21-2004, 02:30 PM
Larry,

I think you and I usually agree on the practical items. I have always been rather a results-oriented person, and what it often boils down to is that whatever gets you to your goal without undue time being spent is well worth it, provided that quality is not sacrificed, of course.

I am really enjoying the "music" analogies that you and Marc are discussing. As one of those fortunate musicians who can both play by ear AND read music (or COULD, that is, until I went deaf in one ear), I can readily recognize the advantages of both. A country band that I used to play in kept getting requests for a particular waltz with which we were not familiar. Now, keep in mind, we played by ear in this little band. None of us had ever heard this piece, and our leader, out of desperation asked me, "If I went out and bought sheet music for this doggone waltz, could you learn it on any of your instruments, and then simply teach it to us?" I said that of course I could do that, and I did. Then, of course, once I learned it, there was no problem teaching it to the rest of the "play by ear" people in the band.

It seems to me there is a need for both, and I've known musicians who were quite talented when it came to reading music, but were not worth a hoot when it came to "winging" anything by ear. That, too, can be a handicap, believe it or not. Larry, let's hear it for improvisation! Right?? LOL And, y'know what? The most fun I've ever had was the playing by ear, I believe, as it rather leaves the door open for being more creative. FWIW, I used to play the musical saw! Try doing THAT with sheet music. Haha

What a good thread! Very good thoughts being discussed.

Bill :cool:

Helen Zapata
02-21-2004, 11:14 PM
This is a really interesting thread. Thought I'd throw in a couple of cents too.

I am certainly no Color Theorist! But, like you Larry, I believe I have a good basic sense of color. I paint intuitively, and I seem to pretty much be able to look at a color and figure out what I need in order to mix it. Kind of like playing music by ear. I always sang and played (guitar) by ear. BUT.. when I was thrust into a situation for a period of time where I was asked to sing with another woman, who played piano beautifully, it was discovered that I could look at any piece of music she put in front of me and sing it perfectly. It came in especially handy when they needed me to step in instantly to cover for her usual partner not showing up.

But I digress... :)

First, I wanted to mention that although the folks here that are SO experienced in color theory are awesome. And I've never felt that other artists who are NOT versed in this stuff are treated as being any LESS than the ones who are. I enjoy watching you guys talk about it all, even though most of it "is Greek to me!"

I think color theory is interesting. I don't feel that I NEED it especially for my painting. But it's interesting. Sort of like finding out what causes thunder. Finding out that there are REASONS that my mixes do what they do. Understanding WHY I could never get a decent purple out of Cad Red Deep and Ultra Blue. I knew I couldn't, but I didn't know why. :D

And Larry, I love this quote...

When I ask him how it goes on guitar...he can only say..."like this....!" and show me by playing.

Helen

DuhVinci
02-22-2004, 12:45 AM
I think the prime basis of a good painting is composition and that the elements (shapes) of the composition are defined by value. The common advise is to start a composition with a value study -- colorless.. So however important a working knowlege of color theory is, it is not the most important thing. I really think that if the composition is sufficiently strong (in black and white) it is hard to hurt it no matter what colors are used. At an extreme, one might decide to use hot pink and electric blue. But remember, if the composition defines a dark value the color must be dark and so neutralized, and if the value is light the color is also neutralized. So even inappropriate colors are not free to destroy a good composition. Of course colors are important in defining the mood or reality of a painting. I'm just saying that a (really) good composition will lead to a good painting in spite of the colors used. The painting may say something different than the artist intends if the "wrong" colors are used, but it will still be a good painting from the viewpoint of an observer ignorant of the artist's intentions. I don't think this works the other way around -- good color choices cannot save a poor value composition.

Coming full circle: If composition is the all important beginning of a good painting, then a knowlege of how to use colors to achieve the values required by the composition is important. Each color has an inherent value and this should be understood. Also, how to use white, black and compliments to neutralize and adjust the value of colors should be understood. "Compliments"... that brings us back to the color wheel and the can of worms that keeps getting opened (to my delight).

The discussion of color so often centers on how to mix them to achieve a certain hue. I think that the more important knowlege is how to mix them to achieve a certain value.

LarrySeiler
02-22-2004, 08:45 AM
Thanks Helen...

I like your comparing deeper understanding of color Helen to wondering how thunder works. Not knowing, or even knowing how and why thunder happens does not diminish one's walk in the rain regardless.

Yeah...my son's a trip too. Neatest kid....can't believe his guitar playing actually sets a standard in his genre...that other bands sought him out, offering him anything to leave bands he was working with. Yet...he is more or less clueless to music theory, names of chords and any appegios. He's simply gifted.

In junior high...all students were required to take piano where he went to school. We attended the parent's night where the kids came out and played their individual pieces. AT the end of the night, we thanked his teacher for a wonderful evening and work with the students. The teacher refused credit for where our son was concerned and pulled us aside to share her shocking discovery. Jason would sit the music in front of him on the piano...but had no idea whatsoever what the notations/symbols meant. The one hope that my sons would learn music where I did not was dashed. Jason had duped not only us practicing at home...but his own piano teacher. It had been only of recent she discovered he would hear the song...and somehow figure out the keys and play it perfectly!

Now...if someone can learn to do that....some can learn to use good color without the theory behind it. Just as his piano teacher felt she had failed and was frustrated, I know the theorists do not want to believe one can paint color well without such emphasis on theory. Perhaps more...they fear those that might assume they have this gift without theory when really the painter does not. I can appreciate that.

Larry

LarrySeiler
02-22-2004, 08:48 AM
The discussion of color so often centers on how to mix them to achieve a certain hue. I think that the more important knowlege is how to mix them to achieve a certain value.

Duhvinci-

my 20 years instudio painting from reference and experience away from plein air was no doubt fundamental and instrumental to the ease with which I see color and paint from life today. I was a tonalist all those years, but would not have known it. A camera's lens would diminish color in shadows in its film reporting to blacks....and thus, black was a mainstay on my palette. The photo as a resource emphasizes values...and I learned to render well. Here is one of my pieces from those years to demonstrate with about 250-300 hours effort into it-

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Feb-2004/532-snowyowl_partridge2.jpg

I did have an actual snowy owl mounted in my studio to work from and Hungarian partridge on a plate I kept in my wife's refrigerator...but my methods were so strongly attached to thinking what a thing should look like painting from photos that it somewhat prevented me from seeing rightly.

I would have to agree that a strong foundation to value is fundamental. It is that which gives solidity to form and depth.

the next step for me was getting outdoors and seeing that subjects from life are nothing like photo resources. Color exists where photos do not allow us to imagine. It was no quantum leap for me I guess to realize that color inherently possessed value and I could make it work for me.

What was a renaissance and revolution is that I did not see the black where I used to imagine it, nor does black appear in nature (other than in pure absense of light) as black. Optical color bounces atmospheric light everywhere, and now while value is as essential as you say it is...I can usually spot a painting that was painted indoors the moment I see one.

The exception to that as a rule is when I see works painted from an artist that spent years painting many many paintings outdoors. Clyde Aspevig is one such example. He has painted so many plein airs or pochades from nature that he is able to create a landscape almost from his imagination indoors and it appears as though he might have painted it outdoors from life. He made himself a very good pupil from life and natural light.

While folks argue for the use of black on their palette...I've seen very few that do use black use it in a way that fools the eye. Well...at least my eye, can't speak for everyone else. In my opinion, Singer Sargent having painted much outdoors was one of the few who did not give up black to paint from life or outdoors and used it convincingly. Again though...he was a student of painting/sketching from life which no doubt made the difference.

but...to make it short...I agree that values are so so important. Oh..and if I were to do this snowy owl work today...I'd not be able to do it with the use of black. This painting (which won me a $5000 award and title) of mine no longer presents itself as realistic to me anymore today. Classical perhaps, but not true of life as how one would see or witness the event.

Larry

Marc Hanson
02-22-2004, 09:03 AM
Vital to any painting is CONCEPT. Your knowledge of color, design, brushwork, drawing...and everything else related to your craft...only help to support your CONCEPT. Everything that goes into your painting is or should be part of the concept.

If you stand an accomplished painter in front of the Grand Tetons, antelope playing in the foreground, blue sky...etc., without a concept/idea, the painter isn't going to produce work that is meaningful. He/she will probably make a nice, well executed 'picture', but chances are that it won't hold up against a painting by the same person that started with a strong concept.

Marc

Originally posted by DuhVinci
Coming full circle: If composition is the all important beginning of a good painting, then a knowlege of how to use colors to achieve the values required by the composition is important.

blondheim12
02-22-2004, 11:09 AM
For my own understanding, please define "concept" in relavence to our conversation here. Do you mean "idea", "plan", "Composition"?
Thanks,
Linda

LarrySeiler
02-22-2004, 11:51 AM
For my own understanding, please define "concept" in relavence to our conversation here. Do you mean "idea", "plan", "Composition"?
Thanks,
Linda

good question Linda, and I'll be curious too...

I would imagine based on my own discussions of this with others that "concept" is probably similar to what I often tout as the "ah-HAH!"

From experience we (you and I) know the necessity we feel to respond to a scene and paint can be attributed to a few essentials that harbor the mystery that speaks beauty. Often offending details, structure and such that we did not at first notice prior to painting would send the novice off in a tizzy to get it all down...but we know that our concept (if I'm understanding Marc right) or "ah-hah!" must with integrity be held to sometimes in affirming our suspicions of nature's secret...more times with experience revealing for others what that might be.

The thing is...the more I paint outdoors with optical color as my objective to this time of my painting career (optical meaning to see a color as it really is in relationship to other colors as they really are) the more that color impresses me as the more important. To be honest...since I am responding to the drama of light (yes...I know that is value) that drama is told thru the acting participants of color.

I don't give thought to value much...because as I've said before I feel I can assume my tonalist years are deeply ingrained and now part of my hunches and intuition...but because I believe color inherently carries its assigned value. I look for what color is there. A dark forest green looks different AS a COLOR than a light green, and by mixing the right color...I inherently produce the right value.

Every artist needs to get in touch with themselves for why and what they respond to...and I know that the secret "ah-Hah!" behind a scene nine times out of ten for myself is a result of juxtaposed verticals and horizontals, incidence of edges (variation), intriguing negative space playing with the masses and the play of color, which reveals the nature of light.

Thus...concept is going to differ from one artist to another.

I don't care how well the values or the composition alone is considered... if the color is not telling of the light and conditions of the day, I'll miss the "ah-hah!"

the question is though....do I wrestle with color? and the answer is, no... not in the least. For that reason...I have confidence to slide into my zone and respond to a scene. Theory, while interesting, if allowed to wrestle with my creative moment would interfere and battle my chances of getting the thing down before the light changed....

interesting stuff to all chew on....

so, Marc...?

Larry

Marc Hanson
02-22-2004, 12:39 PM
Linda,

Exactly...Your 'idea or theme or plan' for what you want to do with the subject matter in front of you. If painting is our language, then we have to say something about the subject other than just copying it as is. What makes a Repin or a Sargent portrait so astonishing, beyond their mastering of the medium, is what they've told us about the subject that only they saw. But they did it so well that the door was opened for us to have a look too.

The reason that I responded to this conversation in this way is because I think that all of the elements that go into a painting...color/value, edges, composition and drawing...are the tools to used to support the 'concept, theme, idea, plan...'.

Without concept artists wouldn't have anything to do. Viewers want to see more than just 'great paint application', they want to see what Monet or Picasso or Rauschenburg have to tell them about the world as they see it. Illustrators, product designers, graphic designers,etc., all start a job for their clients by doing 'conceptual' drawings, mock-ups and so on. That way the clients' 'idea' of what the work should say to sell the product, and the illustrators 'idea', will be in sinc. How the work is rendered is important, but it doesn't matter unless the 'concept' has been agreed upon.

The way to test this is to paint something that ordinarily you just wouldn't have any interest in painting. For me it would be a lemon and a spoon! Promise yourself that you'll do at least five paintings of this thing. The first one will probably be a pretty direct rendering, after that you'll have to start coming up with different 'concepts/ ideas' or you'll bore yourself to tears. It might be texture or color or compositon that you are most interested in dealing with on the next one but whatever it is ...is your concept for that piece. The interesting thing about this is that if you think more in this way, first have a concept, more subject matter will open up for you.

I teach workshops and classes near a major Metro area here in Minnesota. Consequently we are limited to meeting in a couple of parks nearby with great wild landscape. Week after week in the same place, no matter how nice it is once or twice, forces you to have to look at the subject in different ways each week. I stress to my students to have a theme in mind before they even start, it's the heart of what we do.

Sorry for the wind bagging...but this is a great topic.

Marc

For my own understanding, please define "concept" in relavence to our conversation here. Do you mean "idea", "plan", "Composition"?
Thanks,
Linda

DanaT
02-22-2004, 12:55 PM
Hi all.

I've been lurking here on this intriguing conversation. I don't have Larry's years of experience working in tones so I still see myself as a tonalist. Portraits, my main subject, seem to have a lower tolerance for value mistakes than color mistakes.

But your discussion of the concept, or the ah-ha experience is similar to what my oil teacher called the initial breath of inspiration. We're painting two week poses and its vital to keep in mind that initial thing that struck us about a pose in the beginning. I've found that colors get brighter and more saturated the longer I look which may be fine to a point but putting in the full saturation and value I see after 3 hours of looking may dilute the impact of the first inspiration. Carry that over 2 weeks and you can see how the initial impression can be easily lost. As a class we're learning to weigh the additional information we get from looking longer on a subject with that of the initial impact. Stepping away from the painting, getting out of the classroom on breaks, are ways to pull ourselves from our habituated ways of looking at the subject and give us a chance to reconnect to that initial breath of inspiration.

bigflea
02-22-2004, 01:11 PM
It's a worthwhile question, but one that has variable answers in consideration of who is asking it, or in regards to their own work.

The more anyone practices painting, in any discipline or along any lines of color development, the more working knowledge they will acquire. However that body of knowledge may not be adequete for understanding other color experiences that do not follow the conception of color that is relied on in practice.

If a painter cannot see a color , in nature, in daylight, then they will not be able to paint it, nor will they believe that such a coloring exists. No amount of color theory, or working knowledge of color, can compensate for the painter's inability to see coloring where it exists, but subtlely.

Painter's may pride themselves on their non theortical, gut level response to painting in front of nature, when in fact they are relying on a preconceived idea as to how a visual experience of coloring ought to be pictured. This can be seen in the picture making formulas and concepts that are preached as if they are visual truths, when experience can show they are a method for sign painting that has some connection to seeing color, but in a pre-conceived way that repeats the same coloring concepts form one painting to the next, as if nature had only one color theme.

Painter's may mistake facility and ease of execution, and quickness, with visual knowledge and insight, when in truth it may only be the repetition of rehearsed responses to familiar situations, and an indulgence in what is comfortable and safe for the painter.

Working knowledge of color implies that color is understood as not knowable except by direct observation and in opposition to colors around it, or as color in a harmonic grouping. Observation of coloring in nature ought to show us that our mental conceptions of color are far more predictable and less interesting then what we may discover by scrutinizing the harmonic range of coloring in a particular lighting situation. We are not necessarily scientific in our efforts, but we can discover new coloring relationships in nature if our working method allows for discovery rather than emphasizing predictable results. It is the discovery in our own work that, in the long run, makes for fulfillment, rather than repetition of the rehearsed.

The value of trial and error, and failure is in the growth that is hidden in our efforts. We are led to believe, falsely, that the great paintings, such as the work of Monet done from nature, was arrived at quickly and without much deliberation or consideration of the color qualities they contain. It is nonsense. Further we are led to believe they cannot be improved upon, also nonsense.

A working knowledge of color will show that there is no end to visual color perception and growth provided the individulal is willing to open their consciousness, and their vision to what is unknown, to what is unfamiliar to them.
bigflea

Marc Hanson
02-22-2004, 04:06 PM
bigflea,

It's a worthwhile question, but one that has variable answers in consideration of who is asking it, or in regards to their own work.

Your comments are obviously carefully considered and I can agree with what you say for the most part. What do you mean by "other color experiences"? After all, as a fulltime practicing painter, my concern with color is completely about how I use it in my "practice". There are many excercises to help a painter of any kind or even a non-painter to 'see' color better(outside of being color blind). For any serious student of this art there should be a curiousity about the theories but it doesn't have to get in the way of the work that they do. I agree with you about the formulas and pre-conceptions that are all too prevelant. Those sell books and videos and will probably never end. If every painter should always remain a student, then every painter should continue to observe, compare, decide and apply.

The more anyone practices painting, in any discipline or along any lines of color development, the more working knowledge they will acquire. However that body of knowledge may not be adequete for understanding other color experiences that do not follow the conception of color that is relied on in practice.

There is another thread here that covers the scientific nuances of this topic, and it is interesting to read and learn, but it isn't practical for my purposes. And I agree with you again that there are "variable answers depending on who is asking it."

I don't know any "painters who pride themselves on their gut level response". They've worked and studied too long and hard to only give credit to a gut level response. That response has hundreds and hundreds of hours of observational study and practice behind it.

Painter's may pride themselves on their non theortical, gut level response to painting in front of nature, when in fact they are relying on a preconceived idea as to how a visual experience of coloring ought to be pictured.
Exactly!

Painter's may mistake facility and ease of execution, and quickness, with visual knowledge and insight, when in truth it may only be the repetition of rehearsed responses to familiar situations, and an indulgence in what is comfortable and safe for the painter.

Marc

Marc Sabatella
02-22-2004, 04:41 PM
well....you just pretty much described the fairly successful and popular band I played with in the mid big hair 80's era in the Minneapolis/western Wisconsin area for three years.


Yes, but presumably then you got to rehearse to work up your original material and covers - had you taken that same band band, thrown them in the pit of a show with nothing but a score to guide you, how would that band have coped? That's my point - not that there isn't great music to be played by ear, but that there is very definitely a significant chunk of music you *aren't* going to successfully play that way.

Another interesting difference betwene the music and art worlds in this respect is that realistically, as you observed about the other musicians in the pit band, it is entirely possible to play this music that requires reading *without* the sort of "working knowledge" of theory that you possess. Even if it were true that there exists a type of painting that requires a deep knowledge of color theory to execute well, I can't imagine that it could be executed without the "working knowledge" to go along with it.

Anyhow, I point out these differences in the anlogy not to disagree your main thesis, but just to make a hopefully interesting observation to foster further thought.


I'll take your word on that...and mean no insults of what being an informed musician means. All I know is I have a couple cd's out, built up a recording studio for our highschool and teach how to record using Sonar 3 and instrument peripherals.

I hear a thing...put a guitar or harmonica in my hands, and step out of the way...I want to fly.


Again, I mean no disrespect to this manner of music making either - as a jazz musician, I am in that sort of world often enough. But is this method going to allow you to play, say, a classical guitar concerto?

Marc Sabatella
02-22-2004, 05:08 PM
let's hear it for improvisation!


This reminds me of another thought I've had about how art and music relate, or in particular how they don't. In music, we have this big distinction between reading music versus playing by ear, and hand in hand with playing by ear is the notion of improvisation. This is a huge deal in music, but there is practically nothing remotely like it in art. In music, it is extremely common to find classical trained musicians who are great at playing from a written score but are practically unable to play by ear or improvise. The closest thing to this in the art world would be someone who excelled in completing paint-by-numbers kits but had no concept of how to do a painting from his own sight or imagination. Such people exist, to be sure, but they are not the given the same respect that the aforementioned classical musicians routinely receive.

The reaosn for the disparity is that in music, there are essentially two different roles: the composition of a piece of music, and the performance of it. When playing by ear or improvising, these roles are performed by the same person at the same time, but there is a heck of a lot of music out there in which these roles are completely disjoint. The act of composition and performance may be separated by *centuries*, as in a performance of a Bach piece. In art, this happens only, again, in paint-by-numbers, or in attempts to copy a masterpiece, which are pretty marginal activities compared to how significant this is in music.

This may speak to the idea of what a "working knowledge" of color theory should entail, what it is good for, and what its limitations might be.

BTW, I find it somewhat ironic that on this thread, we've had some very different expressions of what this working knowledge is. One says it is knowing that to get a particular purple, you need to mix magenta and cyan rather than ultramarine and cadmium, but I think others would observe that a working knowledge could also imply realizing that ultramarine and alizarin or quinacridone will do at least as well. Also, there was the comment made that anyone who knows anything about color knows red, yellow, and blue are the primaries, when of course there are others on this thread who will argue strenuously that this is not true - the primaries are cyan, magenta, and yellow. To me, what "working knowledge" of color theory means is having some idea of how to create useful mixtures from either set of palette colors.

One final note - in case it isn't obvious, there are two different people named "Marc" on this thread...

LarrySeiler
02-22-2004, 05:10 PM
Yes, but presumably then you got to rehearse to work up your original material and covers - had you taken that same band band, thrown them in the pit of a show with nothing but a score to guide you, how would that band have coped? That's my point - not that there isn't great music to be played by ear, but that there is very definitely a significant chunk of music you *aren't* going to successfully play that way.

True...putting something to practice is important...just like allowing one's sense of color to grow thru the doing. Thing is...I wasn't overly impressed with the skills of the musicians as a whole...other than a few. With the same amount of practice my band might have done rather well.

I imagine you are right about not being able to play certain music. Though, when I've put my mind to what interests me I've not struggled to hard. Bought my wife a black mountain cherry wood dulcimer two years ago. I picked it up...and three weeks later was playing it live. Folks came up to me wanting to know what the instrument was and how long I was playing. I gave them some background on it...but then told them..."oh about three weeks now!" mouths dropping...



Another interesting difference betwene the music and art worlds in this respect is that realistically, as you observed about the other musicians in the pit band, it is entirely possible to play this music that requires reading *without* the sort of "working knowledge" of theory that you possess. Even if it were true that there exists a type of painting that requires a deep knowledge of color theory to execute well, I can't imagine that it could be executed without the "working knowledge" to go along with it.

you are most definitely right about that. That the other musicians were playing was of a particular benefit and convenience to me. Gave me much freedom perhaps due to their own sense of confinement.

Metaphorically I suppose, that is like the convenience of nature's scene and mood sitting right there before me inviting me to play along, put forth a solo.



Anyhow, I point out these differences in the anlogy not to disagree your main thesis, but just to make a hopefully interesting observation to foster further thought.


You certainly accomplish that...thanks!


Again, I mean no disrespect to this manner of music making either - as a jazz musician, I am in that sort of world often enough. But is this method going to allow you to play, say, a classical guitar concerto?

I love playing jazz....

I've actually got a regular gig startin' up that does, well for lack of a better phrase "dinner music"... playing 'till about 9:30pm while folks are eating, and then will do one or two sets of my originals to finish the night out.

My band, "Beggar's Joy" ejoyed a keyboardist who like myself would improvise. Hear a thing...play endlessly. Why, we could jam for two hours in one key alone...I miss that now being four hours away from those guys. I was thinking of putting an add in the local/regional paper to see if some rusty has been wishin' he could still play keyboardist isn't sitting around with cabin fever somewhere interested in gettin' together to do a bit of playing.

take care

Larry

bigflea
02-22-2004, 05:35 PM
to Marc (paintbox 1),
By other color experiences I mean the color insights and vision of painters who are more aware of the color qualities present in nature but do not fit your own conceptual approach as to imagery and its look. Painters who rely on conventional picture making devices and techniques often do not see what is present in nature because their conceptual format dictates what must be present in order for the image to be real, or "reality".

A great number of the most successful painters today, such as those always referred to here at this site, are relying on picture making conventions, which are based on contour drawing, value, and tone rendering, as their method for color development. No matter how many hours one acquires in practice at this approach to color in nature, it will not tell you anything beyond generalities about the color harmonies that are present visually and some, if not all, of these generalities about color are misleading if not wrong altogether.

So all of the acquired skill at rendering a gut level response to the scene, which seems to be the main emphasis of the plein aire societies so prevelant today, may have very little to do with color as it is in nature, or a great deal, depending on the starting point and insight of the painter. From what I have seen re color in nature, it does not follow the conventions of picture making that are so popularly promoted as truth in vision. While such conventions may be a starting point by default, one also has to be willing and able to toss them out when they are proven to be inadequete to the cause.
bigflea

JamieWG
02-22-2004, 05:37 PM
Again, I mean no disrespect to this manner of music making either - as a jazz musician, I am in that sort of world often enough. But is this method going to allow you to play, say, a classical guitar concerto?

Exactly. Well, I'm really late into this thread and haven't even read the entire thing yet. But Larry and I were previously discussing the analogy of reading music to learning color theory, and even though I've been busy elsewhere on the site and haven't had a chance to check into this thread, I've been thinking about the subject a lot in the last day. My conclusion is....there really is not an analogy to be had. Failure to learn color theory in terms of knowing the principles of additive mixing, etc. are really not that important, as long as one knows how to mix what they want. Essentially, they already know all the color theory they will need for painting purposes. Color theory in itself is not a painting; but a musical score is very much a piece of music.

Reading music opens horizons in music. I have no doubt that Larry is a phenominal blues player, just as he is a phenominal painter. There are also many graduates of Berklee who are phenominal blues players, even though they read music. I don't think reading ever prevents anyone from reaching their potential, either in literature or in music.

Marc's comment about the guitar concerto brought up an issue I have to deal with all the time; that is adult guitar students who decide they want to enroll for the semester in the Guitar Orchestra I direct, or take the Guitar Technique class I give, or play a piece they heard on a Julian Bream CD. If they can't read music, they can't do any of those things, just as I cannot learn about Russian history without being able to read English. Sure, I could learn about it by watching a movie or documentary instead, but it is limiting to not be able to read, as one must find other means to learn, which may or may not be available. In music, they can pick out the piece Julian Bream played note by note by ear, or they can try to find a tablature version (and please, don't even get me started on the consequences of becoming dependent on tab!), or they can find somebody who can teach it to them by rote. For some things, it's fine, but then all of a sudden you can find yourself in a situation where you've hit a wall, and are unable to break through the barriers to do something new. Literacy always opens new horizons. Whether one will want to venture into those horizons or not, and where they will go when they open those doors, is something each person must answer for themselves.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now!
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Feb-2004/13766-soapbox.gif

<Ducking for cover>

Jamie

LarrySeiler
02-22-2004, 06:31 PM
to Marc (paintbox 1),
By other color experiences I mean the color insights and vision of painters who are more aware of the color qualities present in nature but do not fit your own conceptual approach as to imagery and its look. Painters who rely on conventional picture making devices and techniques often do not see what is present in nature because their conceptual format dictates what must be present in order for the image to be real, or "reality".
bigflea

still...as pertains as to what is relative to these limitations or conventions of painters having a routine or system, a "working" knowledge of color by their methods serves their needs. Might not serve your interest to wish to paint like them, nor your needs as a viewer to be satiated and satisfied. Yet on the other hand might be just the ticket other viewers are longing for.

Larry

Marc Hanson
02-22-2004, 07:29 PM
[Also, there was the comment made that anyone who knows anything about color knows red, yellow, and blue are the primaries, when of course there are others on this thread who will argue strenuously that this is not true - the primaries are cyan, magenta, and yellow. To me, what "working knowledge" of color theory means is having some idea of how to create useful mixtures from either set of palette colors.

Hi Marc...this is the other Marc (we're rare),
Isn't this great, all of this banter back and forth really causes one to think about what they're doing instead of doing it in a vacuum.
Here's my actual quote,
Almost anyone who has gone far enough to spend the money on painting supplies($$$whew!), at least knows that red, yellow and blue are the primaries, and probably alot more about color than just that.
...meaning that for all practical purposes, people who are in the process of learning to paint through study with a school or instructor probably have some basic insight into this topic of 'primaries'.

I was an illustration major in art school and we did almost all of our work in gouache, and you can buy a tube of Winsor & Newton cyan and magenta gouache. They translate well into the printing industry where cyan, magenta and yellow is the correct terminology for those hues.( I hope I'm not, inviting those 'real' color guys in that other thread to flog me)
However, try to tell a student to go buy a tube of the primary hues, 'cyan' or 'magenta' oil paint. I can send them off to buy some other version of a blue pigment, but (unless there's one out there now) not 'cyan'. You can find some tubed versions of 'magenta', but in reality they are a red leaning towards blue(W&N for one,even says that it is made from a mixture of violet pigments). I'm speaking from the point of view of both teaching and what works on my palette.
For my use, a red, yellow or blue used on the palette as a primary hue is a hue that is independent, doesn't have any other hue in it and cannot be mixed from any other hues.
'Magenta' on the palette is a cool red hue, it's a tertiary hue. Cyan, by definition is a 'greenish blue', and on the palette, is also a tertiary hue. Yellow isn't even easy, depending on the manufacturer, cad lemon yellow has blue in it, cad yellow deep is heading towards the red.
Aside from all of this, in the end it is the image that counts, no matter what you use or how used it.


To me, what "working knowledge" of color theory means is having some idea of how to create useful mixtures from either set of palette colors.

I am definately with you on this one. In my case I would change "from either set of palette colors ", to 'what ever set of palette colors you understand and are comfortable with'.


Marc H

Marc Hanson
02-22-2004, 07:57 PM
big flea-

By other color experiences I mean the color insights and vision of painters who are more aware of the color qualities present in nature but do not fit your own conceptual approach as to imagery and its look.

I can accept part of your statement,"color and insights and vision of painters......but do not fit your own conceptual approach as to imagery and its look". But come on "...who are more aware of the color qualities present in nature..." You are making a lot of assumptions about what is in the head of a lot of other painters on any side of this issue.

Painters who rely on conventional picture making devices and techniques often do not see what is present in nature because their conceptual format dictates what must be present in order for the image to be real, or "reality".



A great number of the most successful painters today, such as those always referred to here at this site, are relying on picture making conventions, which are based on contour drawing, value, and tone rendering, as their method for color development. No matter how many hours one acquires in practice at this approach to color in nature, it will not tell you anything beyond generalities about the color harmonies that are present visually and some, if not all, of these generalities about color are misleading if not wrong altogether.

So all of the acquired skill at rendering a gut level response to the scene, which seems to be the main emphasis of the plein aire societies so prevelant today, may have very little to do with color as it is in nature, or a great deal, depending on the starting point and insight of the painter.

I mean this in all honesty without meaning to belittle what you are saying. I would love to have you post examples of what you mean because I'm beginning to hallucinate.
From what I have seen re color in nature, it does not follow the conventions of picture making that are so popularly promoted as truth in vision. While such conventions may be a starting point by default, one also has to be willing and able to toss them out when they are proven to be inadequete to the cause.
What cause?
Good Luck
marc

LarrySeiler
02-23-2004, 10:11 AM
to Marc (paintbox 1),
No matter how many hours one acquires in practice at this approach to color in nature, it will not tell you anything beyond generalities about the color harmonies that are present visually and some, if not all, of these generalities about color are misleading if not wrong altogether.

Actually this requires a fairly low assessment about humanity itself. That the mind has no further personal inquiry beyond convention, not able to use such as a springboard for further investigation; that the suggestion people unfortunate not to be among the properly enlightened are reserved therefore to be kept in the dark rings of elitist intellectual bigotry.

No matter how many hours? So...its not possible while people are painting to experience their own moment of enlightenment? That is pure bunk!

Next you need only convince the public that all artists other than yourself and your ideological camp are indeed insufficient so you might thereafter create your perfect niche. Unfortunately for you...your work is cut out because the public is even less educated in aesthetics than the artists you demean.

If the goal of art is one of visual communication as a language, and it speaks even with its inferior sense of color knowledge as you purport such that public Joe feels impetus to acquire it...you will have to educate and convince Public Joe as well as the artist who touched Joe's soul.

You insult the facility of all that it means to be human by insisting a whole group of artists are incapable of being enlightened or grow from observation, as though earnestness in such observation has no degree of empowerment.


So all of the acquired skill at rendering a gut level response to the scene, which seems to be the main emphasis of the plein aire societies so prevelant today, may have very little to do with color as it is in nature, or a great deal, depending on the starting point and insight of the painter.


so...painters might have insight? Hhhmm...
One conqueors strength of form on this day. A month later realizes the importance of incidence of edges and variation to create interest and adds that to his arsenal. Two months later how negative space works easier to suggest form and adds to more convincing depth. Perhaps he spends a year working out his gut level responses.

In time...his creative spirit becomes harder to juice up. He needs something more to fuel his drive feeling he has somewhat exhausted the subject to evolve to where he has. If he is going to evolve further he needs a sense of what's next? This is when many begin to peruse book stores looking for some insight. Perhaps hangs out at more galleries, goes to museums.

For Pete's sake we all have the potential of coming to the end of ourselves. Spend 20 stinkin minutes on my own website. I went from instudio 200-300 hour labored paintstakingly tonalistic realistic works to painterly more impastoish color emphasized plein airs. I walked away, abandoned a 20 year effort to establish reputation in the northern midwest as a premier wildlife artist. I had no guru...to hope in and lead me thru all this. I believe I was grateful to God that my pride was able to endure embracing what became apparent to me, for giving up one's reputation is not an easy thing.

Don't tell me what can or can't be learned at a gut level response. Ridiculous!

When I set up outdoors to paint from nature directly after 20 years instudio I felt like a novice all over again. I was seeing something new, so I needed fresh eyes. Some conventions needed to be put aside for a season. Optical color was showing me color in places I did not know existed. Oh sure it was always there while enjoying the outdoors...but it is different when your easel is set up. The task is more revealing.

You worry too much about the insufficiencies of nature to be revealing and the lacking of human nature to learn from observing.


From what I have seen re color in nature, it does not follow the conventions of picture making that are so popularly promoted as truth in vision. While such conventions may be a starting point by default, one also has to be willing and able to toss them out when they are proven to be inadequete to the cause.
bigflea

..and toss I did!

First of all...truth is discovered, expounded upon, never created and thus requires no promotion. If truth is true truth...the conventions will be discovered out. It might take time...in my case 20 years instudio, but one is ready when one comes to the end of themselves. Existing for me was a whole public, the galleries, the competitions that related to a tonal careful rendering, jot and tittle detail, impeccable attention to anatomical accuracy.

I would still be in that...but were it not for insight able to come my way without the help of strong outside persuasion. In my case...black in the shadows turned out not to be the true truth, and integrity was cause enough for me to make that adjustment. Not convention. Not gut level response. I N T E G R I T Y to a thing observed!

I cannot paint your way....for that would necessarily require me to embrace what is for me a lie. I would lose integrity. I do not see your way which is why my paintings appear as they do to represent my way. My whole life has been spent in the northwoods, on the open water, as an outdoorsman, a sportsman and I simply have never seen anything remotely close to the color you suggest.

I will however absolutely most adamantly defend your right to paint as you do as well as applaud your commitment to hold to how and why you see as a thing of integrity for you. It would be a great tragedy, as long as we are talking about truth here...for me to convince you to abandon your conventions with notions that you must learn to see as I do in order to see color correctly. I would be asking you to surrender your integrity. I would be shortsighted in seeking to cut you off as a human being capable and able to enjoy your own enlightenment to get your thru one breakthru for yourself to another.

My ideas might inspire you...but should never lord over you.

Many people are at crossroads, they experience moments of weakness and become easy prey when strong personalities come around and insist that the breakthru they hope for, their "truth" awaits them if they will but be willing to toss out what they have known as truth to this point. That is the earmark of a cultish preying to create a following rather than to gently nudge or teach. I don't need anyone following my manner of painting to affirm that directions I am going are proper for myself.

You paint as you do...and that is wonderful. I see and paint as I do, and there is room in this world for my particular visual communication. IT is part of what makes us human and what makes humanity of interest. That we all see potentially a bit differently with no one absolute system suggesting superiority over all others.

Making art is also a vehicle of truth seeking for people. A self-discovering, and a discovering of their world around them. Artists learn things about themselves as they create...and they develop a language to share what they have learned about their world to others. It is a violation to strip that of people, for it is what makes them unique. To yield to suggestions of one's inferiority to a better way of seeing is to adapt another's vision and uniqueness thereby giving up their own.

If there is merit...truth has the ability to speak on its own. Promotion of a truth as you suggest, is more a crusade pointing out inferiority of other ideas.

Everyone is not ready to embrace an idea...not because of a weakness in their not tossing out conventions or former ideas, but because of their STRENGTH of character consumed to work a present thing thru. Your ideas of color might prove to be a wellspring of fresh air, life itself....but it should come simply because that will prove to be a truth to the seeker, not because one has been badgered or manipulated to seek when seeking was not necessary.

"Badgering?"....not saying you are intentionally doing that, but psychologically we are geared to loathe people that are unwilling to change. When you describe artists as such, it is a subtle manipulation that serves to make ready others that your ideas are perhaps superior after all.

Truth needs no promotion. Easiest thing to do...is simply put your website link out for everyone to see your work. When people are ready..they seek. They need not be convinced they ought to be ready. If your work speaks to their aesthetic and they see something in it that is lacking in their own work, then truth has emerged of its own. There needs no judgment to be made about inferior this or that...

I'll admit what was inferior in my own life. I will applaud and even admire those that are committed to a thing, even though I myself FOR MYSELF walked away from it. I am no longer able to commit to a tonalistic rendering, but that is me. Bravo to you if that speaks to your aesthetic!!!!

IF someone asks me why I paint as I do, it will not be a tearing down of tonalism to give a testimony. I can only witness to the truth as it applies to me. Truth is...I probably would not see color and be as confident were it not FOR ME those long many years of prior tonalistic manners.

We are so complicated as artists let alone as human beings. Care needs to be taken when assessing too quickly the potential of others to grow.

Larry

LarrySeiler
02-23-2004, 11:14 AM
was thinking a bit more too on the way to my classroom...

what is a convention? Is a convention the same as truth? Is a convention harmless or instrumental in the development of the artist?

As for promoting truth...I guess as concerns artists, that is what our body of work does, does it not. We stand under judgment of our work. We can talk and talk and talk such that we sound as the most knowledgable, but the work we produce in the final anaylsis is that which promotes the truth we purport to be speaking. It either does put to silence the boasts of other ideas, or shames us into humility. Of course, humility going either way wouldn't be a bad thing. Good actually.


As for convention...we humans are like a book where one chapter does not ultimately define the whole writing or course the writer will take us. To see an artist in one chapter of his or her life concerned with contour, value and such is not proof that he will fail to wrestle with issues of color. That might come in chapter 11 as he embraces the many narratives of color.

A convention, pure and simple is the conveying of an idea, and sure that idea may or may not be true.

Yet even what is not true for one might yet be for another...for example, having a drink or two may not be detrimental for one person...but it would be the slippery slope of self-destructive behavior potentially for the alcoholic.

To say that contour, value and such are as conventions not worth status of truth is to assume to know best what path should carry a person in their life.

Furthermore it is to say one style or outcome of art work is the ideal and all others are imposters.

People see in different ways. That is what makes going to an art museum especially enjoyable.

Larry

bigflea
02-24-2004, 09:04 PM
In this context I am using the word convention as meaning " following custom, but not nature " which is the dictionary definition. It clarifies my meaning in regard to the reliance on conventional picture making devices, and the assumption that these are a representation of what is visually true. This is what is promoted today in the popular plein aire societies as the sum total of understanding re. color knowledge. That is, color is approached as a bi-product of contour, value, and tone analysis. Color theory is applied as a way to understand why pigments behave the way they do, but little or no effort is given to the study of color as perception. When I have presented this idea here, in other threads, it has been pronounced to be bunk, as it is again in one of the responses above.

However the study of color in perception will reveal that value and tone analysis is inadequete as a means for understanding color in perception, and that it is color differences , not value and tone differences, which create the illusion of volumes in light. If a painter cannot see color differences where they exist, the effort toward lifelike volumes in daylight is relying on conventional value and tonal shifts which are not present in nature., not in the way they are conceptualized according to the conventions of picturing and imaging. The question was about the adequecy of a working knowledge of color and my response is pointing out that the answer depends on what the goal of the painter is.
bigflea

bigflea
02-26-2004, 10:27 AM
For what it's worth Larry, I doubt that, had you stumbled upon my teacher,at sometime in your last 20 years of color development, he could have been of much help to you. It seems reasonably clear from your hyperbolic response to my suggestions about color perception and learning that your personality and temperment would have made it impossible for you to accept the wisdom of someone who could have taught you something that would have been helpful to your own efforts to become more of a colorist painter.

Since you suggested it I did take a look at your images. I think your work in general illustrates some of the problems that develop when conventional academic realism standards are followed while also trying to become more of a colorist painter.

In regard to color development, while I would agree that your images are very colored, and chromatically intense, to me the colorings are saturations of the local color of the objects rather than harmonic color keys as present in daylight. They are descriptions of the local color, rather than a description of how the light and atmospheric key has altered the local color of the forms. In general most of the images to me look "bright and black", i.e. bright in the light planes and black in the shade, rather than harmonically keyed.

The images emphasize the contour drawing of the forms, and rely on linear perspective to describe spatial recession, but there is little or no modeling of recessional form or planes. As a result of the approach there is a two dimensionality overall, a sense of colored cutouts pasted against one another, instead of a sense of an aerial volume of light and enveloping air.The forms or objects seem to exist in isolation from one another rather than occupying the same space.

You seem to be interested in lighting situations that have alot of glare from the bounce of light off the water, yet you do not show the way glare reduces the chromatic saturation of color while heightening the value contrast. In other words you want to have it both chromatically saturated and high in value contrast.

Although you have taken black pigment off your palette, you still insist on making virtually black shadow contrasts to your saturated light planes. Instead of modeling the color variations that occur between the light and shade plane, you establish a value separation between them that is as extreme as it can be without being white and black in value.

It seems to me that your images rely on linear perspective and contour drawing, and value contrast for their color development. While you are quick to sermonize and dismiss the comments I have made regarding the problem of color development following conventional pictorial conceptions, I think you overlook how your own work is undermined by them. While you seem to delight in denouncing the ideas that were taught about color development at the Cape School under Henry Hensche, which I have tried to represent in my postings here, your own images show typical misunderstandings regarding the harmonic color relationship between light and shade masses.

Making your work more chromatically saturated and intense may be a step toward understanding color, but it is not a complete resolution to the problem of color development. While you claim you have grown by tossing out the conventional concepts of picture making, to me it seems you have only added chromatic intensity to them. By studying the massing of the color relationship of light and shade more , and developing the color modeling of the volume of air surrounding forms, rather than trying to finish the contours of forms so quickly, your work may take another step in color development.

Or you can continue to sermonize since that seems to be what you enjoy doing.
bigflea

Richard Saylor
02-26-2004, 04:23 PM
bigflea, I certainly appreciate your ideas on color, but please tell me who has decreed that you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong? It seems to me that the perception of color is extremely subjective as is the use of color in representational art.

Marc Hanson
02-26-2004, 04:49 PM
For what it's worth Larry, I doubt that, had you stumbled upon my teacher,at sometime in your last 20 years of color development, he could have been of much help to you. It seems reasonably clear from your hyperbolic response to my suggestions about color perception and learning that your personality and temperment would have made it impossible for you to accept the wisdom of someone who could have taught you something that would have been helpful to your own efforts to become more of a colorist painter.

Since you suggested it I did take a look at your images. I think your work in general illustrates some of the problems that develop when conventional academic realism standards are followed while also trying to become more of a colorist painter.

In regard to color development, while I would agree that your images are very colored, and chromatically intense, to me the colorings are saturations of the local color of the objects rather than harmonic color keys as present in daylight. They are descriptions of the local color, rather than a description of how the light and atmospheric key has altered the local color of the forms. In general most of the images to me look "bright and black", i.e. bright in the light planes and black in the shade, rather than harmonically keyed.

The images emphasize the contour drawing of the forms, and rely on linear perspective to describe spatial recession, but there is little or no modeling of recessional form or planes. As a result of the approach there is a two dimensionality overall, a sense of colored cutouts pasted against one another, instead of a sense of an aerial volume of light and enveloping air.The forms or objects seem to exist in isolation from one another rather than occupying the same space.

You seem to be interested in lighting situations that have alot of glare from the bounce of light off the water, yet you do not show the way glare reduces the chromatic saturation of color while heightening the value contrast. In other words you want to have it both chromatically saturated and high in value contrast.

Although you have taken black pigment off your palette, you still insist on making virtually black shadow contrasts to your saturated light planes. Instead of modeling the color variations that occur between the light and shade plane, you establish a value separation between them that is as extreme as it can be without being white and black in value.

It seems to me that your images rely on linear perspective and contour drawing, and value contrast for their color development. While you are quick to sermonize and dismiss the comments I have made regarding the problem of color development following conventional pictorial conceptions, I think you overlook how your own work is undermined by them. While you seem to delight in denouncing the ideas that were taught about color development at the Cape School under Henry Hensche, which I have tried to represent in my postings here, your own images show typical misunderstandings regarding the harmonic color relationship between light and shade masses.

Making your work more chromatically saturated and intense may be a step toward understanding color, but it is not a complete resolution to the problem of color development. While you claim you have grown by tossing out the conventional concepts of picture making, to me it seems you have only added chromatic intensity to them. By studying the massing of the color relationship of light and shade more , and developing the color modeling of the volume of air surrounding forms, rather than trying to finish the contours of forms so quickly, your work may take another step in color development.

Or you can continue to sermonize since that seems to be what you enjoy doing.
bigflea

bigflea,

Dogmatic religion...dogmatic views on color. No better, no worse. You don't help any one except your own close minded ego! I am extremely glad that I have decided that never again will I waste the time to respond to your sanctimonious drival. Hopefully others will follow. Funny that you don't even list a web site or post pictures for us to view. I'm sure that we'd all become 'right' and paint just like you from that point on! Goodbye.

Marc H

LarrySeiler
02-26-2004, 05:14 PM
well..hee hee...since others responded, I feel no need to. We can just move on...as there is merit in what others think and I think plenty of room to keep the thread alive and legitimate.

You know...I wonder this, and do so aloud. Many art historians and fine art's experts talk about an artist peaking at a particular part of their career.

Often you see someone of name and style suddenly changing directions. Now...approaching 50 years of age...either I have evolved becoming lazier, or lacking strength of commitment to continue on with a good thing (my tonal wildlife art) or perhaps we become more comfortable with our skin as we get older and impressing and having others looking up to us means much less than what it used to. Has anyone else entertained such thoughts?

Perhaps as one chapter closes in our lives...we are ready with less prior resistance and biase to see other possibilities creatively, with themes, color, manners of working and so forth.

Now...does such have to be the result of age and peaking???? hahahah.... I'm too close to have an objective answer on this one...perhaps history alone can render such judgments.

peace

Larry

Helen Zapata
02-26-2004, 05:42 PM
Perhaps as one chapter closes in our lives...we are ready with less prior resistance and biase to see other possibilities creatively, with themes, color, manners of working and so forth.

Hmm.. you may be right. All my life I painted as I wanted to, and didn't give a hoot what anyone else thought. But as I grow older, I find myself more open to other possibilities. Learning how to use new palettes, new sizes, new subject matter. New to me that is. Realising.. HMMM! Maybe I DON'T know it all after all! ;)

Helen

Marc Hanson
02-26-2004, 05:43 PM
well..hee hee...since others responded, I feel no need to. We can just move on...as there is merit in what others think and I think plenty of room to keep the thread alive and legitimate.

You know...I wonder this, and do so aloud. Many art historians and fine art's experts talk about an artist peaking at a particular part of their career.

Often you see someone of name and style suddenly changing directions. Now...approaching 50 years of age...either I have evolved becoming lazier, or lacking strength of commitment to continue on with a good thing (my tonal wildlife art) or perhaps we become more comfortable with our skin as we get older and impressing and having others looking up to us means much less than what it used to. Has anyone else entertained such thoughts?

Perhaps as one chapter closes in our lives...we are ready with less prior resistance and biase to see other possibilities creatively, with themes, color, manners of working and so forth.

Now...does such have to be the result of age and peaking???? hahahah.... I'm too close to have an objective answer on this one...perhaps history alone can render such judgments.

peace

Larry
Larry,

I for one, being of the same 'nearing 50' age, realize that the eyes, back, brain,and other parameters of youth, are only going to give me that peak performance for a limited amount of time...there is still so much to learn!

Even J.S.Sargent decided that there comes a time to get off of the horse and take a look around.

Good paintin'
Marc H

LarrySeiler
02-26-2004, 09:33 PM
Larry,


Even J.S.Sargent decided that there comes a time to get off of the horse and take a look around.

Good paintin'
Marc H

that's a wonderful example to bring up...!

As far as the fine art world was concerned....Sargent's peak was his oil portraiture, and he decided thanks to becoming financially independent because of portraiture that he could afford to walk away from it to pursue painting plein air landscapes, architecture and so forth in oils and watercolors. The fine art world thought him to have lost it...deciding such.

Sargent perhaps grew comfortable in his own skin...and though his portraits are unbelievable in my mind...I think what he did post/portraiture in his older years more significant.

His bold direct methods with watercolor are unequaled.

Larry

blondheim12
02-26-2004, 09:55 PM
that's a wonderful example to bring up...!


Sargent perhaps grew comfortable in his own skin...and though his portraits are unbelievable in my mind...I think what he did post/portraiture in his older years more significant.

His bold direct methods with watercolor are unequaled.

Larry

I had the pleasure of seeing his portrait work first hand in Montgomery Alabama two weeks ago and it is a slam dunk!!!! Yes , his plein air work is awesome too but in no way more significant in my eyes. He was an absolute master at everything he did. Oh to be that good!!!! Dare to dream.
Love,
Linda

LarrySeiler
02-26-2004, 11:34 PM
I had the pleasure of seeing his portrait work first hand in Montgomery Alabama two weeks ago and it is a slam dunk!!!! Yes , his plein air work is awesome too but in no way more significant in my eyes. He was an absolute master at everything he did. Oh to be that good!!!! Dare to dream.
Love,
Linda

I am not really referring to significant I suppose other than representing his coming to terms with fame, money, what he really wanted to do versus what the world was hoping from him. At peace with his soul...content, and not feeling he had more to prove. Painting for himself and not everyone else. That is a rare and pinnacle time in one's life...which is significant in my own life. It isn't easy walking away from reputation or that which guaranteed it.

So many seeking it...but, to walk away from it.

I saw the one he did of his woman painter friend, who was herself painting near a falls. Saw it at Chicago Art Institute...and I've got a large poster of it now. The things he suggested with impasto and what appeared simply put. Amazing....certainly a treat anytime you see his work first hand. Would have loved to have seen those works Linda...so cool.

Larry

Helen Zapata
02-27-2004, 08:19 AM
I am not really referring to significant I suppose other than representing his coming to terms with fame, money, what he really wanted to do versus what the world was hoping from him. At peace with his soul...content, and not feeling he had more to prove. Painting for himself and not everyone else. That is a rare and pinnacle time in one's life...which is significant in my own life. It isn't easy walking away from reputation or that which guaranteed it.

So many seeking it...but, to walk away from it..


It does kind of blow your mind, doesn't it! I guess he and other famous artists had the same kind of problems we do now. Painting because you happen to be good at it, and the public loves it and keep wanting you to paint the way they expect you to. Yet, your heart is yearning for another direction. Having to decide... do you follow your heart? Or do you trudge along, pleasing everyone but yourself.

Helen

LarrySeiler
02-27-2004, 09:24 AM
It does kind of blow your mind, doesn't it! I guess he and other famous artists had the same kind of problems we do now. Painting because you happen to be good at it, and the public loves it and keep wanting you to paint the way they expect you to. Yet, your heart is yearning for another direction. Having to decide... do you follow your heart? Or do you trudge along, pleasing everyone but yourself.

Helen

from that standpoint Helen, I think Sargent would acknowledge we have it much worse. Marketing itself is an art, down to a science.

Often artists are a hurry to get into print, but if you latch onto a publisher they take you one because they have an idea of where you fit as a niche to the other artists they carry. Thus, their interest latches on to your style that makes you unique to market.

I always feared getting into print...though I did.

Also...just how efficient is this machine?

Well...in the wildlife art genre...it got so that a publisher (whom I shall not name as I still get invited to some of their shows), will contact one of their artists. The conversation will go something like this-
"Our end of the month statistics show that we sold 1,857 prints last month. Of those..62% were wolves. Of the wolf prints, 78% were snow scenes and 82% predominantly in bluer hues. How soon can you paint us a wolf snow scene with blue dominants?"

Okay...they've made you a bunch of money. Pay you to stand there and shake hands, sign and remark prints, smile and so forth. Then...hooks just go deeper and deeper into you. You are obligated. You begin to dream what it must be like to paint what you want.

That is a bit of what Sargent felt...and I'm sure he enjoyed in his Impressionist friends that he knew and painted with on occasion what he saw as their having learned to be find comfort, resolve and their own game plan in the salon's greater rejection of their work.

Freedom often comes at the end of a thing. For me...one thing that helped me walk away from 20 years instudio building and maintaining a reputation was that the artisan's level gazillion artists were attempting to ride the coat tails of wildlife art, putting out their own poor prints, lack of pertinent studies in anatomy (ducks looking like flying bowling pins)...getting together after art fairs to find out how many chickadees or woodducks were sold with other artists. Everybody and his brother's uncle were doing wildlife to cash in, and laws of supply and demand just diminished opportunities.

Can't eat reputation, so I saw it as an opportunity to branch out in areas I realized would help me grow as an artist. In Sargent's case...becoming no longer dependent upon the world for his wealth, he was able to make that decision. Must have been nice! hahaha

As for wildlife art...the more the market flooded/floods with mediocrity, the more marketing strategies try to tighten reins and look for specifics to maintain their slice of the pie. I got weary of that...let me tell you!

Larry

Michael24
02-27-2004, 10:02 AM
Dear Larry:

A working knowledge of color:

I am far more a practical thinker about this subject, even though I can digress into a lot of graphs and charts.

I went a long for quite a while thinking that as a plein air painter, a true working knowledge of color meant that as I looked at a landscape and focused on a cluster of leaves or a rock, I would have a conversion factor in my head to translate the color I saw in nature to a set of formulae to achieve the same or similar color on my canvas. I know, paints do not have the same gamut as nature, so all of us know to limit the values and create colors that work to achieve a naturalistic landscape AND translate, through the colors selected the mood, feeling etc., that we wish to convey. That may work fine for naturalistic rendering of plein air works of art, but is a bit faulty for those who paint nature outside that definition.

With high chroma interpretations of nature, I believe one has to rely more on a color model in ones head that adjusts for the values and hues that are not matches to what the artists sees in nature. but to a recreated world of selected hues, values and intensities that satisfy the artists intent. The benchmark is not – Did the painting render nature accurately – but did the colors I choose based on what I saw fulfill my intent.

With abstract works, I am uncertain how any artists approach their intent. Do artists pick a focal color and then play harmonies or contrasts off of that anchor point? Does a glimpse of a color or a shape in going about ones day form the spring point for a composition and the colors to use? So many methods exist.

Related to all of them is the need to understand the working properties of each of the colors an artist selects. Knowing the range, the tinting strength, how two colors will interact to make a third hue are a part of the equation. Plein air, high chroma plein air and abstract artists all need to know how the colors they use behave alone and in concert with each other.

I believe that color theory, use of a color wheel, color charts, etc are a framework for each artist to create some structure or order to understanding color. Theory may just serve as an organizing device to keep relationships straight or as a point of departure to explore countless color relationships.

I get hung up when additive and subtractive color becomes a unified theory and confusion starts to take over because trying to interpret the facts and purely theoretical constructs get in the way of practical color mixing. No matter how one label it or whatever group of colors one picks, CMY or RGB or anything else, you construct a world of color relationships and output on a work of art that meets your needs.

My long-term project and approach is to document the spectral reflectance curves for hundreds of existing paints, both currently on the market and some that have long been discontinued. Eventually, we will have a huge body of comparative data. By examining the subtle and/or dramatic reflectance and absorption of colors, I believe that artists can learn why some colors can’t be achieved with selected combinations and why others can be so easily made. The spectral curves indicate the potential strengths and weakness of each hue and point to an expected outcome when mixed. The spectral curve shows the boundaries or gamut, to be more precise, of a color. The amount of absorption and reflection play a direct role in how a mixture with another color will appear. The spectral reflectance curve shows how far you can push a color before it hits its physical boundary.

While the spectral readings and models for combining colors are complicated and highly math driven, as artists everyone achieves the practical experience that the math model can discern. The more artists mix colors and understand their strengths and weakness, the more they fill in knowledge of the universe of colors they employ.

It can be easy or hard, frustrating and mentally challenging, but it is addictive. Day after day it keeps bringing artists back to the easel to face the task of creating a personal expression. What other profession can you point to where the tools are as interesting as the products they produce? I believe that that sense of wonder and exploring is what keeps people coming back to making art and discussing art here in these forums day after day.

Have a wonderful day.

Michael Skalka, Conservation, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

impressionist2
02-27-2004, 10:12 AM
In just a few words, Larry. I would say that a working knowledge of color is when you can Accurately See, Mix and Arrive at the Correct color and value that is needed to make your painting a success.

Studying and experimenting and reading the books on it and the threads here, are key.

Renee

DanaT
02-27-2004, 10:34 AM
Hmm, exploring new areas is vital to keeping up one's art.

I'm relearning the usefulness of conventions. For years in drawing, I believed in just drawing what I saw but a comment from a master draftswoman changed all that. Classical art instructor Rebecca Alonzo told drawing students that she wasn't interested in rendering an image photographically but rather she wanted to develop an elegant language of expression.

In terms of light and color, sometimes its impossible to replicate exactly what one sees - some lights are too bright, and some colors are too saturated. An artist, by necessity, is a translator of visual stimuli into a work of art that uses pigment and medium.

Conventions can be very useful as a starting point for this translation. They simplify reality to the point where the artist can easily translate their meaning into the painted or drawn form. I think the real world is so complex that all theories simplify to some extent. Students of chemistry first learn that an atom is a nucleus of protons and neutrons with a ring of electrons running around it. They don't realize that the electrons are moving so fast and in so many directions, for all intents and purposes they create a solid sphere around the nucleus. But for a beginning student, the simpler equation is enough.

The real question for the artist is which convention to use to translate what he sees into a work of art. In this case, a multitude of theories can be more useful than one truth. When the artist stops looking for the one convention or theory that says it all and starts seeing the conventions as tools to use and discard as the need arises, then the artist has a really working knowledge of color and of anything else.

Michael24
02-27-2004, 02:20 PM
The real question for the artist is which convention to use to translate what he sees into a work of art. In this case, a multitude of theories can be more useful than one truth. When the artist stops looking for the one convention or theory that says it all and starts seeing the conventions as tools to use and discard as the need arises, then the artist has a really working knowledge of color and of anything else.

DanaT:

This strikes a chord. However what is truth? Yes, we call them theories but the theories have proofs that work out to practical applications in the real world. I am intrigued by the use of multiple conventions. Do we really apply one group of thories or methods for one work of art and another method when dealing with another issue? Hmm.....

You stated that the real world needs to be translated into paint because we have limited values and pigments can't mimic the intensity of bright lights and the darkest darks. Yes, we know this intellectually but how do we make it so. I suppose that is the difference between a painting that comes off well executed and one that does not. Knowing how to limit the values, getting the right hues and dealing with all the other stuff that needs to be addressed, composition, form, etc.

I am curious. Could we use a color theory, say Munsell at the least, to come up with a model for dealing with what values and hues to select. We know that a million ways exist to mix a color we desire, however, could we come up with a model for how to deal with values and chroma? We have a gut feeling when a painting *Works*, but could that be translated into a model?

Michael Skalka,Conservation, National Gallery of Art, Wash. DC

JamieWG
02-27-2004, 02:27 PM
I am curious. Could we use a color theory, say Munsell at the least, to come up with a model for dealing with what values and hues to select. We know that a million ways exist to mix a color we desire, however, could we come up with a model for how to deal with values and chroma? We have a gut feeling when a painting *Works*, but could that be translated into a model?

Michael Skalka,Conservation, National Gallery of Art, Wash. DC

Michael, hasn't Sanden, in effect, done just that with portraiture? (Or am I misunderstanding your question?) And while some think his model is just peachy, others do not want to work within those confines, or use those colors, or premix their palettes, or be another Sanden. Where something may be gained, something else, more important to some, is lost.

Jamie

DanaT
02-27-2004, 03:30 PM
Michael, hasn't Sanden, in effect, done just that with portraiture? (Or am I misunderstanding your question?) And while some think his model is just peachy, others do not want to work within those confines, or use those colors, or premix their palettes, or be another Sanden. Where something may be gained, something else, more important to some, is lost.

Jamie

I don't see a problem; Jamie, there's always another model if you don't like Sanden.

Michael, I don't know a lot about Sanden's model but I'm painting with the Reilly palette. It uses 9 values of grey (ivory black + tit. or flake white), 9 values of orange (cad. orange + white on light end, cad. orange + burnt umber on dark end) 9 values of red (cad. red + white; cad. red + aliz. crimson) and 6 values of yellow (cad. yellow + white; cad. yellow + burnt umber)

The Reilly palette makes some assumptions which may or may not be applicable to one's painting goals. The first is that the chroma of skin is low compared to other objects. The second is that there are 3 values in the light struck areas of the skin, 1 value in the shadows, 1 for reflected light. The third is that skin color is basically a greyed orange that leans either towards red or yellow depending on the complexion, area of the body, and surrounding light (basically the RYB model). One starts a portrait by determining the value ranges in the skin: 3 values in the light and 1 in the shadows, 1 for reflected light and mixes a greyed orange for each of the values to approximate the skin tone then adjusts with red or yellow.

This model has worked for me in some ways and not in others. As a learning tools for portraits I found it invaluable but I'll probably want to try something else soon. Its advantage is that it isolates each decision in the process. You make decisions about saturation, hue, and value separately so when a color is off, its easier to troubleshoot and isolate the element that's throwing it off. Its disadvantage is that it really doesn't work without having all 9 values of all the colors premixed (33 paint mixtures) because its very easy to misestimate the value range and color needed before you start. I'm somewhat of a stickler for accuracy and it takes hours to mix the palette to my satisfaction. Unrealistic to do every time I want to paint but then there's the problem of keeping the paint piles from drying (especially with burnt umber and flake white) Its very practical for the actual painting process but its time consuming for the setup and paint maintenance.

So I'm open to another model if you know of one.

Michael24
02-27-2004, 05:09 PM
Unrealistic to do every time I want to paint but then there's the problem of keeping the paint piles from drying (especially with burnt umber and flake white) Its very practical for the actual painting process but its time consuming for the setup and paint maintenance.

So I'm open to another model if you know of one.

DanaT - that is the problem. Lots of preparation time. This model worked when artists had studio assistants who would do all of that prep. work. Bring back the Guilds!!! Your method is like many others only refined a bit more and focused on portraiture. It forces you to work in a confined value space and that is a great learning and working tool. It was also made for quick execution of the finished product. I don't think an answer exists that would form a hard and fast color model mixing guide. Perhaps someone else knows of one.

Just keep on painting.

Michael Skalka, National Gallery of Art, Wash. DC

Michael24
02-27-2004, 05:20 PM
Michael, hasn't Sanden, in effect, done just that with portraiture? (Or am I misunderstanding your question?) And while some think his model is just peachy, others do not want to work within those confines, or use those colors, or premix their palettes, or be another Sanden. Where something may be gained, something else, more important to some, is lost.

Jamie

Jamie: Yes the Sanden model works for portraiture because it has a somewhat finite set of colors. Munsell has a mixing value guide as well as a means of calculating color harmony based on values, but it does not lay out a means of calculating values. It used a defined set of steps. The artists has to determine the correct value and mix appropriately. I have not found a model in the subtractive color world that calculates or predicts values. The luminance factor in CIE L*a*b* measures values in the additive world but I have not been able to use it to create a value roadmap to predict values. Sorry this is a bit hazy and ill defined. I need to refocus and read what I previously wrote to find my way back to what we were discussing.

Michael Skalka, National Gallery of Art, Wash. DC

DanaT
02-27-2004, 05:44 PM
Looking forward to hearing more of this, Michael.

Marc Hanson
02-27-2004, 07:02 PM
This is all extremely interesting. It is truly a pleasure to read all of the postings, and especially to have you Michael, with your background, sharing your knowledge. But for those of us out in the trenches making a living plying the trade...let's not forget that there is the 'unmeasurable' factor...the eye of the artist.

I had to build the Munsell model in art school and it was an education, but from there an artist has to move into the world of discovery and practice. In this world of technology it is comforting to a lot of people that art is still produced by individuals who show their nuances, faults, emotions, creativity and willingness to change in the work that they produce.

Let's not let that go.

Marc H

bigflea
02-28-2004, 03:32 AM
bigflea, I certainly appreciate your ideas on color, but please tell me who has decreed that you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong? It seems to me that the perception of color is extremely subjective as is the use of color in representational art.
cmyguy,

Yes i think that is true. Color perceeption seems to me to be very subjective, and increasingly subjective as perception itself is studied. When I have posted images of the work of painters following a color modeling/perception approach, it has been dismissed as not natural by Larry. So I have tried to be clear about the way conventional pictiorial approaches to color, relying on tonal and value assesments to determine coloring, and contour drawing for aeriel perspective, limit the painter in their color perception.

I am not talking about what is right or wrong since ,as you say,how color is used is also subjective., and there is no right or wrong question to be resolved. Larry has always interjected that interpretation of my comments.

What I am talking about is eliminating preconceptual conditions in regard to color perception, and a method for doing that and applying it in your own work, in your own individule way., After all, you always have control over the mixtures as far as you understand how to make them, and how to make ones you have not seen before, consciously. The conceptual conventions of realism, which have been around for a long time, limit the way color is perceived, and this is particularly true in the seeimg of volume or aerial perspective. Any painter who tries to model in color plane changes can prove this for themselves. It requires patience to do so however.

However I think Dana is also right about the unavoidable need for conventions in order to begin learning how to control the pigments. So my argument against conventions and the reliance on them has to do with re learning in regard to your own color perception. These points have always been characterized by Larry as cultish, and as against freedom. Ridiculous.

So going back to your original point, I think it is conventional color conceptions which most inhibit the subjective perceptual color development that your are suggesting is more truthful. I have advocated that approach which has proven to be the most non-conventional in regard to developing a working knowledge of color.

bigflea

Einion
02-28-2004, 07:45 AM
This is such a good question for this forum Larry I decided to stop lurking and post something. Not that I'm going to add anything ground-breaking as Bill, Marc, bigflea and others have all contributed very ably already, but I thought I'd post my two bits. I think this topic is very important for those who read here to put things into perspective given the number of long and complex discussions in the recent past of esoteric colour matters where applicability to actual painting can be difficult to see.

So, what is a working knowledge of colour for the painter? For the realist (where this is perhaps most important) the simple answer is this: knowing the performance of your chosen palette to mix the colours you see, within the parameters of your accuracy requirements.

For colourists of various kinds and non-representative artists I suppose the answer is to be able to mix the colour you have in your mind's eye. This could very well require a wider gamut than used by others (but doesn't necessarily mean a different palette!) and perhaps doesn't have the same need for accuracy in hue or value.

Now it occurs to me a really good follow-on question is how does one best acquire this? But that's a whole different day's discussion! :)

Einion

LarrySeiler
02-28-2004, 09:08 AM
Dear Larry:


With high chroma interpretations of nature, I believe one has to rely more on a color model in ones head that adjusts for the values and hues that are not matches to what the artists sees in nature. but to a recreated world of selected hues, values and intensities that satisfy the artists intent. The benchmark is not – Did the painting render nature accurately – but did the colors I choose based on what I saw fulfill my intent.

Yep...agree. Pigments do force those issues upon us. Putting a bit more of the complement in shadows or strategic places can tweak that intensity we want. My model is the simplicity of playing with the warm and cool variants, neutrals I can make from those and complements. Analagous relationships and so forth...so yes, definitely a model in my head. At the same time, having a working knowledge helps one look for clues from nature for the appropriate time to apply strategies. In fact, it might be argued it is difficult to respond attentively when nature might be throwing a clue your way without some model/strategy in mind. Good point...

In my case...I had 20 years of painting already behind me when I set the studio aside and went outdoors. I had models, strategies and so forth...but what happened was standing there before nature it suddenly became very obvious that some of my strategies were based on prior assumptions that working indoors never challenged.

I suppose in that regard, this is where I feel nature was the teacher. Teachers not only give out information, but they correct error...and I found nature correcting me. It was such a powerful and humbling thing. One can easily at such times lose appreciation for the models one learned over the years...for it is at the moment so apparent that nature is adament and quick to point out false assumptions.

A knowledge base though I admit perhaps is best so that nature can have dialogue with you, able to challenge what you presume to know.

Many of the Impressionists did have some prior knowledge base and for those that did not...I'm sure they borrowed from their friendships and thos cafe talks. Yet...even if a person were to set up and paint directly from nature without prior models...one will discover to their horror that pigments alone are no match for nature's splendor. It will come to them little by little that strategies are necessary. This nature will teach them...elsewhere they will have to look for those strategies.

I have found over the years that often such moments work themselves out by looking at a lot of art work from many artists. At a moment you are seeking out a breakthru....you will see something specific in artist's works that works or does not. In fact, learning what does not work in another artist's work is nearly almost as important as if you commit it to memory you are not destined to repeat their error.

Close inspection of a painting often reveals enough information to cause the brain to muse for weeks, months. Might not be as plain as an author's book or model, but this too helps the painter evolve.


Plein air, high chroma plein air and abstract artists all need to know how the colors they use behave alone and in concert with each other.

...the issue, for some...is if that knowledge must come prior or naturally gets worked out in the doing.

I like Edgar Degas's quote that says, "painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do"

the obvious is that as one discovers more....you realize how much more is yet to be discovered and assimilated. One reason I say it requires 120 bad paintings to learn something about painting.

How we learn...or the knowledge about knowledge is itself a scientific field of study. Many personality types learn in many different ways. Some are analytical step by step convergent thinkers. Others use synthesis and calculated risk to prefer to jump to conclusions and learn from that...and develop a divergent ordering of thought.

Then, there are simply those that would assess those that learn by doing as those wanting to learn the hard way, lacking wisdom. Some on the other hand would reply that wisdom is that learned in hindsight. So on and so forth...


Theory may just serve as an organizing device to keep relationships straight or as a point of departure to explore countless color relationships.

Like your phrasing here...."organizing" device.


No matter how one label it or whatever group of colors one picks, CMY or RGB or anything else, you construct a world of color relationships and output on a work of art that meets your needs.

Yes...and this has brought up major debate in the past. Insistences that only one way to view color gives us the REAL color wheel and so forth.


It can be easy or hard, frustrating and mentally challenging, but it is addictive. Day after day it keeps bringing artists back to the easel to face the task of creating a personal expression. What other profession can you point to where the tools are as interesting as the products they produce? I believe that that sense of wonder and exploring is what keeps people coming back to making art and discussing art here in these forums day after day.


YES...can see that.

Painting instudio...I had much time for that addiction. Painting outdoors I find only enough time to respond. I can later digress and muse, think of strategies perhaps for next time.
take care

Larry

LarrySeiler
02-28-2004, 09:45 AM
I am not talking about what is right or wrong since ,as you say,how color is used is also subjective., and there is no right or wrong question to be resolved. Larry has always interjected that interpretation of my comments.

bigflea...I hope you won't labor me to go back over your posts in other threads and pull one quote after another. Perhaps you have a weakness in how you phrase things then, and I can appreciate that. Unfortunately...I often sit in a position where I have to read intent as others will see it. That is part of my job as a moderator. I'm the one that has to read reported posts, and so my presumptions are not unfounded.

When you speak of things emphatically and compare other things as being "inferior" to your better way of seeing...the way you often word your thoughts comes across addressing and judging other artists- which invariably and vicariously whether by intent or not is felt by many.

When your phrasing comes across as recognizing your own superior methods and ways of seeing, it often appears to be condescending, a pointing out how others are not able to see like you, like your predecessor mentor Hensche and so forth...for some reason you are not able to see how that amounts to putting others down.

Suggesting now there is "no necessarily right or wrong to be resolved" appears to be recognizing there are many ways to seeing and not just one. That however is not the sentiment that has come thru many of your postings. If that is now your position, I applaud you and look forward to new chapters of fruitful discussions to come.

But so that I understand (and others) are you saying...there is no right or wrong...(when possibly it might best include to say)- "if not wanting excellence and best results" which must necessarily come in your manner of seeing? Or are you now saying there are other color theories with works that follow that have their own excellences based on their own legitimate way of seeing?

You say here there is no necessarily right or wrong to be resolved. I see that either as a recent change of heart or that you seriously are not aware of how your writing has come across.

Believe me...if I weren't a staff member, I could just laugh and hit the "back" button. So, when you say "Larry" this and "Larry" that...don't give me too much credit for ordinarily I might not give a rip. Really...how is it that your painting or thoughts mean anything to my work? When I speak...it is sometimes a speaking for many. As a community, we have decorum, rules and such so that everyone feels they can participate.


What I am talking about is eliminating preconceptual conditions
bigflea

AHHH...I've read more like abandoning...and for this, you put down those that would believe too much in things like value, contrast, and not move toward more superior ways of seeing such as your own.

You would argue and say you are not putting them down. Again...you need a dose of empathy and go back and reread your posts.

A conception is an idea. Using an idea and finding advancement is for artists a stepping forward, not a stepping backward. At least in their thinking. Your asking them to abandon such is a faith venture to abandon reason and thinking to adapt to yours.

If there is "no necessarily right or wrong question to be resolved" there would be no need to abandon conception or to encourage it. To abandon a thing, and to call for it...necessarily raises objection. Of course this brings up questions, and of course this causes one to look at the validity of their conceptions to that of being either "A" right....or "B" wrong. From the position of others...there would be no need to abandon if their conceptions were right, right? So they must be wrong...in your opinion.

Please...bigflea....please...

I'll tell you what. I don't want to leave you on the defensive. How about a new clean slate. Since you suggest there is no necessarly right or wrong to resolve...let's build on that thought. Your way of seeing color in nature and applying it is just another way of seeing. Without question, a superior way of seeing for the needs of your work which satisfies you, but not necessarily superior to how other artists work for their way of seeing.

Seeing is personal. It is vibrant to who we are as being unique and makes the diversity of what has been produced over the centuries most interesting and contributing to what it means to be human. If one wished to paint in your style...your way of seeing should be taken into great consideration. However...if one wished to paint in my style...or any number of other painters, it would be best to consider what is superior to other ways of seeing as concerns those styles. Would you then officially agree to all that?

thanks for making your answer clear...and as a favor to you should I receive any future reported posts by those that might misunderstand your intent, I can reference them back to your answer here. It will do us both a favor.

peace

Larry

LarrySeiler
02-28-2004, 10:01 AM
So, what is a working knowledge of colour for the painter? For the realist (where this is perhaps most important) the simple answer is this: knowing the performance of your chosen palette to mix the colours you see, within the parameters of your accuracy requirements.
Einion


nicely...concisely stated. I for one admit I probably take this knowledge for granted.

Recently..my son a reknowned caricaturist on the international/national scene has been wanting to expand his knowledge of color. I've learned to appreciate that only the serious artist perhaps has a sense or touch on what he needs and longs for. I see his work and think its absolutely wonderful, but he longs for something that will elevate his work even to a greater level.

He traveled up from Chicago to spend several days simply following me around to stand and watch me paint. To me...I was celebrating, playing, responding to nature...having fun, and yet coming up with works that will be framed and going to the gallery.

Nothing earth shattering was happening to me...but to my son, he was like...
"Oh my gosh...how'd you get that color?" or "wait....why'd you paint that color there, is it to get more response from that color mass here?"

I found myself pointing into shadows, revealing subtleties, talking about Itten's studies of the influence of color and so forth.

So...beneath the surface level, the reponsive immediacy of what it appears I'm doing, there is justification and years of "behind-me-now" studying that I suppose I have taken forgranted.

One of the things the artist gains in doing workshops, which I enjoy...is it forces you to put into layman terms all that you are doing. What we know surprises us.

I almost feel sorry for painters new to painting and to plein air at the same time. Yes...I think nature will be a good teacher, but perhaps better to say a demanding taskmaster. They will have to spend much time away from the easel perhaps to study so that their time at the easel will be more productive.

Lighting and mood conditions change often so quickly set up outdoors...that many novice artists find themselves overwhelmed.

The thing is...one can gather knowledge first over time and go out...or go out and learn as they go. What method is best I suppose is more determined by personality types than a prescribed idea.

I hate to bring that up all the time, because I know there are perhaps few plein airists here...and having done instudio for near 20 years first I could just relate there, hopefully though some can appreciate what I'm saying as concerns the challenges of having little practical time to stand back and reflect on theory.

Larry

LarrySeiler
02-28-2004, 10:13 AM
In essence, to sum up...a working knowledge will evolve over a painter's lifetime.

It is fair to say starting out, one has a certain amount of knowledge that will allow a minimal working out. To that end, s/he will with integrity produce the best response/work they can.

As one works...and continues to work, one should continue building knowledge to expand their potentials.

It goes without saying I suppose, that a master's working knowledge is sufficient for what his masterful works require of him, yet the novice can know that s/he may have the same level of integrity as that which would yet be a fitting working knowledge. A knowledge that works at a novice level to produce quite expectedly novice works.

Recognizing this passion comes to all who wish to be known as artists to work just beyond our abilities wherever they are at, we can applaud efforts and gently nudge/nurture.

Michael...Einion and everyone..somehow I have been just nudged, and might have gone by without even realizing it...thanks all.

One of the things I enjoy painting outdoors with others...is the various skill levels. Seeing their earnestness impresses upon me despite whatever their results might be to encourage their efforts since I have witnessed the same desire at that moment to excel as does a master.

Larry

bigflea
02-28-2004, 01:11 PM
Larry,
The clean slate apprach is usually recommended where there is a communication issue so I appreceiate your suggestion for that as a basis to continue .

With that understood I think it may be helpful if you re read my comments in any posts and eliminate the word inferior or superior in your reading of them. I have not used that wording to describe my views in regard to conventional techniques vs the color modeling approach I have advocated.

What I have consistently said and emphasized is that conventional concepts of picturing are inadequete when it comes to understanding color in the light keys of nature. In that context, conventional approaches to coloring are often misleading and at times wrong. When a painter is developing the coloring in their work, trying to paint the color they believe they see, conventional concepts stand as an obstacle to recognizing what the eye is capable of seeing. Knowing the difference between a conventional application andone based on visual color perception, in regard to the color development of a painting, is a matter of studying color perception by color modeling of form in the light keys. Of the responses to this idea at this site, you have been the most vociferously opposed to the validity of color modeling in light keys, or the study of color perception.

In regard to conventional paintings, I have often stated that these too can be very enjoyable and beautiful to see. I have not changed my position, and have always tried to clarify what I see as a difference between a conventional approach to coloring and one that is based in color perception and learning to see color for itself, rather than as determined by value and tonal conceptions.

To clarify further, conventional conceptions that I see as misleading or wrong for color development in a light key are , for example,
the constancy of the local object color,
warm tones advance and cool tones recede,
dark values are in the frontal plane while light values are in the receding planes,
Linear perspective drawing and contour drawing create the illusion of depth.

A painter may not be interested in departing from these conventions. That is a subjective choice.I think if you look at the difference between Sargent's work and the series paintings of Monet the problem of conventional imaging vs color keys is clear to see.
bigflea

LarrySeiler
02-29-2004, 10:06 AM
let's look forward then bigflea to new beginnings!!!

bravo....good show!

respectfully

Larry

Michael24
03-01-2004, 12:37 PM
This is all extremely interesting. It is truly a pleasure to read all of the postings, and especially to have you Michael, with your background, sharing your knowledge. But for those of us out in the trenches making a living plying the trade...let's not forget that there is the 'unmeasurable' factor...the eye of the artist.

I had to build the Munsell model in art school and it was an education, but from there an artist has to move into the world of discovery and practice. In this world of technology it is comforting to a lot of people that art is still produced by individuals who show their nuances, faults, emotions, creativity and willingness to change in the work that they produce.

Let's not let that go.

Marc H

Dana T and Marc H:

I can combine my previous ramblings to Jamie with Dana's request to finish my idea and Marc's thought provoking comments.

Comments here and from students I speak to want answers to questions about the behavior of materials, especially colors. Since color science is so well defined and explanable as a physical phemomenon, one could reason that color mixing and interpreting what to use when and where would be easy to systematize. Comments in this forum and other places indicate that a hard and fast system can't be codified. The color models like Munsell are great for explaining a few things but fall short in the practical field of mixing color when actually painting. The marvel of it is, that we all have to come up with a way to interpret the world we see and create a system to translate it to a 2 dimensional surface. Marc, you are right, the everyday world can't stop for deciphering theories. You have to get out and just paint. The beauty is that you create the system. Of course you follow rules, just as Larry said in his post. You emphasize a shadow color, push a chroma up or down, rearrange a scene and boost a highlight beyond what you are seeing. That seem to be what makes painting so special, so unique. We see the tangible results of all that thinking distilled into a surface. Does that mean all the painting how-to guides should be thrown out? Of course not. They are just manifestations of the many paths we can take to teach each other how to apply knowledge.

Later,

Michael Skalka, National Gallery of Art, Wash. DC

Marc Hanson
03-01-2004, 01:12 PM
Dana T and Marc H:

I can combine my previous ramblings to Jamie with Dana's request to finish my idea and Marc's thought provoking comments.

Comments here and from students I speak to want answers to questions about the behavior of materials, especially colors. Since color science is so well defined and explanable as a physical phemomenon, one could reason that color mixing and interpreting what to use when and where would be easy to systematize. Comments in this forum and other places indicate that a hard and fast system can't be codified. The color models like Munsell are great for explaining a few things but fall short in the practical field of mixing color when actually painting. The marvel of it is, that we all have to come up with a way to interpret the world we see and create a system to translate it to a 2 dimensional surface. Marc, you are right, the everyday world can't stop for deciphering theories. You have to get out and just paint. The beauty is that you create the system. Of course you follow rules, just as Larry said in his post. You emphasize a shadow color, push a chroma up or down, rearrange a scene and boost a highlight beyond what you are seeing. That seem to be what makes painting so special, so unique. We see the tangible results of all that thinking distilled into a surface. Does that mean all the painting how-to guides should be thrown out? Of course not. They are just manifestations of the many paths we can take to teach each other how to apply knowledge.

Later,

Michael Skalka, National Gallery of Art, Wash. DC

Michael,

Very, very well said!!!

Marc H