Wednesday, April 20, 2011

VSW14 Readings

Visual elements.

Patrick Frank

Online access

Luc Tuymans : behind the mask.

Michael Archer

Online access

Jackson Pollock.

Kirk Varnedoe

Online access

Hidden talent.

Sebastian Smee

Online access

New drawing on the right side of the brain

Betty Edwards

2nd rev. and expanded ed.. London : Souvenir 2000

Online access

Shape of a pocket.

John Berger

Online access

Benjaminian view of colour.

Barry Schwabsky

Online access

Blue and yellow don't make green.

Michael Wilcox

Online access

On the perfection underlying life.

Agnes Martin

Online access

Transverse spaces.

David Ryan

Online access


A Brief History Of Colour In Painting

A brief history...

Various artists through history have been highly tuned to the possibilities of colour in painting. They have understood colours potential to stop a viewer, to transfix, to overpower, to coax gently, to seduce, in short, to manipulate a viewer psychologically. However colour is not equally important to every artist. Some artists are colourists. For them colour is integral to the construction of the painting - they cannot say what they want to say without it, and more often than not colour becomes the subject of the work. Many artists are not colourists. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) for example, was not a colourist.
Artists you should look up who were/are colourists include: Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Diego Velasquez (1599-1660), Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770), Veronese (1528-88), Tintoretto (1514-94), Titian (1488/90-1576), Jan Vermeer van Delft (1632-75), John Simeon Baptiste Chardin (1699-1779), Claude Monet (1840-1926) and all of the other Impressionists and Post-Impressionists (see below), Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and the other Fauves (see below), Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), Patrick Heron (b. 1920), Gary Hume (b. 1962), and the Australian, George Haynes (b. 1938). You should become familiar with as many of these artists as you can.
Artists have not only been interested in colour as individuals. Various art movements through the history of painting have had a basis in colour. The long running philosophical division of art into Classical and Romantic camps is one example. Very simply, Classicism stands for order and rational thinking whilst Romanticism stands for sensuality (of the body) and the more intuitive processes. Colour is usually placed - sometimes pejoratively - in the Romantic camp. The Venetian painters of the Renaissance used colour flamboyantly to concoct rich, sensual paintings (e.g. Giambattista Tiepolo, Veronese, Tintoretto, Titian) in opposition to the Florentine and Roman painters of the same period (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raphael Santi) whose work is renowned for its cool, rational, ordered approach.
The rule does not always fit though, and you need not concern yourself overly much with these sorts of categorisations. They are interesting in a historical sense and always break down anyway. Paul Cezanne for example, was very interested in colour but his manner of working is often described as Classical (as was Poussin who influenced Cezanne). And where do the colour-field minimalists fit?
Impressionism, a 19th century movement which began in France aimed to capture the ‘impression’ of a scene rather than render it realistically. The Impressionists were very interested in the nature of light and how it affected colour. Light changing could equate with passing time and the observations they made about colour in the landscape evoked a sense of the atmosphere and space. In particular you should look at the blue landscapes by Cezanne and Monet's fifty paintings of the Rouen Cathedral.
As a result of the Impressionist's close observations and the discovery of the colour wheel they were able to liberate colour from its traditional use. Shadows for example, had always been mixed with black whereas the Impressionists proposed that shadows actually contained colour and painted them that way. Important Impressionist painters you should be aware of include: Eduoard Manet (1832-83), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
The Post-impressionists were a group of artists who reacted in some way against the Impressionist preoccupation with how things appeared. Their styles vary greatly (as indeed did the Impressionists) but most of them place importance on colour. They include Georges Seurat (1859-91), Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Paul Gaugin (1848-1903), Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) and Henri Matisse (1869-1947).
Matisse was so interested in colour that he continued to experiment with it and gradually liberated colour from its representative role. He was instrumental in starting the group known as the Fauves who are known for free, flat and patterned use of colour. Other members of the group included Kees van Dongen (1877-1968), Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958), Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) and Pierre-Albert Marquet (1875-1947).
More recently in the history of painting are the colour-field painters of the 1950’s. They worked in the U.S. and were concerned with the role of abstract colour over a large area. They include Robert Motherwell (1915-91), Barnett Newman (1905-70), Ad Reinhardt (1913-67), Mark Rothko (1906-70) and Clyfford Still (1904-80)

Why Use Colour?

‘There is almost no aspect of thought and feeling which does not involve colour in some way, most critically in our responses to food - involving survival of the individual - and in our response to sexual display - involving survival of the species.’ Roy Osborne, Lights and Pigments; Colour Principles for Artists.
The above quote by Osborne establishes the importance of colour in our lives. Colour is all around us. Leonardo da Vinci developed theories of aerial perspective whereby he identified that colour fades toward the distance. Colour affects us psychologically (e.g. green is calming, red is exciting) and offers sensual delight. We associate colours in memory with particular things, with places and activities, with times of the day and different climates. What are the colours you associate with Australia? More specifically with Melbourne and Sydney? What colours do you associate with a traumatic event in your childhood? What colours make food appetising? The theatre exciting? A storm foreboding? A moment quiet?
Learning to use colour effectively in painting is not always about using highly keyed, bright colours, such as in the work of Bonnard, Matisse and the Fauves. Velazquez’s paintings are muted in comparison. He only used a narrow range of colours. However close examination reveals just how many different colours he has mixed within this narrow range (look up some colour reproductions which show close ups of his paintings). A sense of richness results. Morandi tended to use many neutral colours to produce quiet, contemplative effects in his work. When he did use bright colour, it tended to be as an accent and stands out all the more
in contrast to the greys around it. Chardin also used dark colours as a rich contrast to brighter colours - try to look for a reproduction of Basket of Wild Strawberries (1761)for an absolutely mouth watering example of the power of colour.
Other artists have used colour in very carefully thought out arrangements to produce specific effects. Seurat used colour with a pointillist technique to experiment with the phenomenon of colour mixing in the eye. Cezanne used colour in harmonious relationships while the colour-field painters used limited colour on a massive scale to overwhelm the viewer with a bodily experience of that colour (see the works by the artists mentioned above).
One of the most important lessons you should learn in the next few weeks, by looking at the work of other artists and by practising colour exercises yourself, is that colour is relative. That is, any colour looks like it does because you see it in relation to other colours (look again at Chardin’s strawberries). So when you are “tweaking” your paint (i.e. making subtle changes) trying to get a particular colour as bright as you see it, remember to also “tweak” the other colours around it on your painting - try to make them duller and see what happens.

Understanding Colour Mixing

One traditional approach to understanding colour mixing is through the idea of a colour wheel (see the ‘12 colour subtractive circle’ on the website at first put forward by Moses Harris in 1776. The colour wheel model shows relationships of hue and tone and came about as a result of discovering that you can mix quite a range of other colours with three basic colours. These three colours are red, yellow and blue. They are called the primaries.
‘Traditionally the “primaries” are thought of as being the base colours from which other colours are mixed but which can not, themselves, be created from any other colours. Secondary colours (orange, violet and green) are derived by mixing the primaries - red and yellow make orange, red and blue make violet, yellow and blue make green.’
The above is quoted from Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green by Michael Wilcox. This book provides a relatively simple guide to understanding colour. It explains the downfall of the traditional ‘three primary system’ when it is applied to the actual range of pigments that can be manufactured for artist’s use. To overcome this stumbling block he suggests using a system of six principle colours as the basis for colour mixing; a cool red, a warm red, a cool yellow, a warm yellow, a cool blue and a warm blue.
So which manufactured colours are the most useful to buy? Under Materials and Equipment you will have found our recommendations, which are also Michael Wilcox’s. You can paint with a minimum of colours and imaginative colour mixing. All you basically need are a warm and cool red, a warm and cool yellow, a warm and cool blue, some earth hues and black and white.
Cadmium Red is a warm red, i.e. on the colour wheel it is closer to orange than it is to violet. It is a strongly tinted, opaque colour - a little goes a long way and it will cover most other colours underneath it. Alizarin Crimson is a cool red (leaning toward violet) and a clear, transparent colour - colours beneath it will glow through. Transparent colours are therefore useful for glazing.
Cadmium Yellow is warm - it leans toward orange - with properties similar to Cadmium Red. Lemon Yellow is cool - it leans toward green - and also transparent.
French Ultramarine is a warm blue, closer to violet than it is to green on the colour wheel. In artist’s quality paints this colour is beautifully transparent. Cerulean Blue is cool - leans toward green - and is more opaque than French Ultramarine therefore its covering power is greater. Cobalt Blue is the closest pigment to a pure blue you will find. It does not lean either toward the warm or cool end of the spectrum. However, you should still use the other blues.
Then there is Mars Black (warmish and opaque), Ivory Black (cooler and semi-transparent), Titanium White (warmish and opaque) and Zinc White (cool and semi-transparent). There is no need to buy all of these - Mars Black and Titanium White will do - but you should be aware of the different qualities of colours made from different pigments. At some point in the future you might want to exploit them.
As you progress and add to your colour box you will learn the particular beauty of specific pigments; for example Chrome Green, Cadmium Green, Cadmium Scarlet, Indian Red or Venetian Red, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Violet, Prussian Blue, and Naples Yellow have inherent qualities which are difficult to mix. There are also several other pigments that by nature of their transparency are excellent glazing colours. These include Pthalocyanine Blue (which also mixes beautiful clear greens), Pthalocyanine Green, Viridian Green, Sienna/Burnt Sienna, Brown Pink, Australian Red Gold and Transparent Gold Ochre.
Avoid colours such as Payne’s Grey, Tasman Blue, Turquoise etc, which are convenient mixtures of colours you should already have and therefore a waste of money. You can mix them on your own palette.
Play around with your colour box! Learn the different qualities each pigment has.
If you are particularly interested in colour and would like to know more you can either follow up some of the additional websites given at the website above (they are hotlinked) or request the following books from the library:
Lights and Pigments; Colour Principles for Artists written by Roy Osborne and published in 1980 by Harper and Row (New York).

Colour Theory Websites

Colour terms

Advanced colour science


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tone & Colour

Project 4 - Tone & Colour

The following introduction to colour theory has been written by Ben Joel PGradDipA&D(WAIT), Senior Lecturer of Painting at Curtin University of Technology.
Ben Joel’s website presents an excellent overview of colour theory.
You can find it here: Colour Theory for Assignments
The fact that the eye sees tone, a gradation of surface value from white (the lightest) to black (the darkest) is a manifestation of either the presence or absence of light. A white surface under brightest light has the highest tonal value. A black surface in deep shadow at night has the lowest tonal value. In between pure white and pure black the eye is capable of detecting thousands of gradations of grey. It is this range of tonal values from light to dark that allows us to perceive three-dimensional shapes (as well as the phenomenon of parallax).
Place a round object such as a ball or an apple in strong directional light - say from a window or a lamp. Observe the play of light on one side, and the range of darks on the other. Notice that as the eye travels from the brightly lit side to the dark side, the tonal value grades from light to dark seamlessly. Now look at the shadow cast by the object on the surface on which it is sitting. There is a more definite edge here where the dark of the shadow meets the surface that is lit. Observe even more carefully and you will see that this edge is sharpest closest to the apple. The shadow’s edge that is furthest from the apple is blurred and you will find here a more subtle gradation of tonal values.
Vermeer, Rembrandt and Zurbaran were masters of creating drama and atmosphere through tone. You should also look at Caravaggio, Georges De La Tour and Goya. Goya painted very black pictures toward the end of his life. He used black as a metaphor for the evil inherent in human beings and to express his own hopelessness at the human condition.
The Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) on the other hand generally used a narrow tonal range that produced a metaphysical atmosphere in his work. Lucien Freud also generally uses a narrow tonal range; this steady light along with the way he poses his models evokes the sterility of a clinical gaze.
Honore Daumier very often conflates shapes in his paintings to great expressive use - shapes that in reality are separated, seem joined in his work by a similarity of tone. He often uses the device of “lost edge” as does Rembrandt and Velasquez (see exercise 6 for an explanation of “lost edge”).
Model Pictures (23 feb - 15 May)
University of Melbourne, Ian Potter Gallery
Always some great examples of painting - in particular head to the top floor and check out the international contemporary collection. A room full of paintings that often includes an Eva Hesse, de Kooning and many other paintings relevant to the exercises you are currently completing
Gallery of Modern Art ( - 26 April)
Art in the 21st Century: The first decade
This show has an incredible line up of artists, particularly relevant to this unit being Katharina Grosse, Francis Alys, Angela de la Cruz
Roslyn Oxley9 (7 - 30 April)
David Griggs
Turner Galleries (1 - 30 April)
Gemma Smith
Fremantle Arts Centre
Patrick Doherty: Year of the Dragon


Project 3 Figure and Field

Thursday, March 3, 2011

VSW14 — Painting: Material and Conceptual Investigation - Readings

 there are 14 readings in all, here are a few of them to get you started...

John Young: Ghosts on Canvas
Frost, A.

Visual Elements
Frank, P. (2004) Visual Elements In Prebles: Artforms – An Introduction to the Visual

Arts (Eighth Edition), Pearson Education Ltd, (pp. 40 - 71).

On the Perfection Underlying Life
Martin, Agnes. (1991) On The Perfection Underlying Life In Writings (pp.67 - 74). USA.

Distributed Art Publishers.
Vieira da Silva
Rosenthal, G. (1998) Vieira da Silva, 1908 – 1992 : The Quest for Unknown Space(pp. 29 - 37).Taschen.

A Benjaminian View of Colour
Schwabsky, B. (2003) A Benjaminian View on Colour In Contemporary, Issue 58 (pp. 25 - 31).

Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green
Wilcox, Michael. (2002) Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green, School of Colour Publications, pp. 6-9, 12, 15-16, 19-21 & 23-25

(1998) John Young: Ghosts on Canvas In Art Collector (pp.40 - 44).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Next Units: VSW14 Painting: Material and Conceptual Investigation & WEB101 Web Communications

These are my next 2 Units for SP1  

VSW14 Painting: Material and Conceptual Investigation   

In this unit you will undertake a number of projects within the visual art specialisation of Painting. This unit encourages you to align conceptual development with the acquisition of traditional and contemporary skills across a range of media utilised in Painting. There are set projects based on the theme Time and Space to assist in the development of your understanding of contemporary art practices. The emphasis is on the exploration of ideas and creative visual inquiry. You will develop research methodologies and documentation skills through your study in this unit.

WEB101 Web Communications

The internet has dramatically changed the way people and organisations communicate, whether for better or worse. For many, online communication is now one of their most significant forms of interaction with others. Online communication also underpins collaboration between people, either in formal groups or loose networks. Online communication is now a key part of the media. Understanding how the internet affords us new and different ways of communicating is, therefore, essential. This unit will enable you to become an effective and sophisticated user of the internet, able to deploy its techniques, technologies and underlying concepts for online communication, collaboration and media.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Gallery Experience

VSW100 Art & Creativity

Looking at how exhibition spaces can influence and have an impact on the interpretation of art and how it is communicated to a wider audience. The creative role of the curator is examined in the lectures and activities.
How do Galleries operate and why?
With the advent of the internet and virtual spaces, is the Gallery as important as an exhibition space?
Why are galleries always white?

Develop a virtual gallery and create an online Exhibition Catalogue

Working with the broad theme of 'Surprise', develop your role as an online curator to :
  • consider how to interpret the theme
  • select three artists and choose 1-2 works from each artist that relate to the theme
  • choose a title for your exhibition
  • make a catalogue for your exhibition
View my Catalogue Project here:

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Animation - VSW100

    Latest version with an upbeat African Percussion soundtrack:

    This is the latest and final version of my earth, art, heart movie... on youtube!


    Check out my animation video on vimeo: eARTh~heART~ART no.1!

    Music by Chris Isaak ~ Two Hearts

    Creating the animation, working out the idea and the connection between art and the heart and the earth...