Welcome to Compose. There's lots of stuff here, all about composing paintings.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Complete Picture

Early on in my teaching career, I encountered a chart by Ocvirk, Bone, Stinson and Wigg in a text entitled Art Fundamentals, Theory and Practice. The chart was suppose to be a visual diagram of how our principles and elements work together, but I found it lacking so undertook to revise and redesign it. That process lasted for many, many years and still is not over today.

I used the chart as a "cheat sheet" when doing composition lessons with my students and continue to use it today with my critique group, Second Tuesday Art Guild. I introduced it to this blog once before, but am giving it an encore because next week I want to begin a series of tutorials on its contents. So for this week, here's the chart for you to ponder. Beginning next week, we will break it down, flesh it out and pull together how it includes so much of everything that goes into a good painting.

Copyright, 2008 * Dianne Mize
“We construct images, we compose art work.”
The ACTION principles (Things we do to compose)
Select and Place (Rule of Thirds--Golden Mean—Rabatment—Notan, etc.)
Gradate or Modulate
We do this…
Make similar
Find Angle of Light/Shadow
Find and Use Perspective
Create Dominance
(and more)
The Elements (Our Vocabulary)
…with these
The RESULTS (What We Get)
Pattern to avoid randomness
Balance to prevent one-sidedness
Order to negate chaos
…to get these.
Harmony over discord
Rhythm rather than static
Proportion to avoid lopsidedness
Movement or Transition as opposed to Aimlessness
Form to avoid distortion
Focal Point versus not sure where to look
Emphasis rather than erratic
Eye Path in favor of spottiness
Unity to avoid divisiveness, fragmentation (We want the work to hold together)
Purpose to negate aimlessness (We want the work to have meaning)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Free To Create: The Big Eight

If you've been keeping up with this blog, you know that for the past eight weeks, I've been addressing individually our visual vocabulary, the elements. I've tried to show how each can play its own role in our painting not unlike parts of speech in the spoken language.

A noun names -- a shape defines
A pronoun stands in--size relates
A verb acts -- value structures
An adjective defines -- hue describes
An adverb modifies -- temperature harmonizes
A preposition links--a line leads
A conjunction connects--direction controls
An interjection accents--texture intrigues

We don't need to know what a noun is to ask for a refund, nor do we need to know what a verb is to spend the refund once we get it. English speaking people can communicate very well without knowing a thing about the structure of the English language. But once we DO know how these parts of speech work, we can use them to express ourselves more adequately.

It's called communication. As artists we're involved in a two-sided activity: on the one side we express ourselves--on the other, we communicate what we have expressed. No matter how poorly we have expressed it, something gets communicated even if it's total confusion.

But the better we understand the tools with which we work, the more in control we are with what they can do. The bigger reward, though, is this: the better we understand our tools, the freer we are to be creative with them.

Now, there's a lovely Springtime thought!!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Temperature: The Harmonizing Element

It's confusing to look at nature and determine whether the visual temperature is warm or cool. Yet master artist Richard Schmid is adamant (and I agree) that the temperature of the light is our most important harmonizing element because it effects all the colors illuminated by it.

But even Schmid admits that determining what we see as warm or cool can be tricky. Here are his own words:
"Generally speaking (and only generally), sunlight is warm. Consequently, the more overcast the sky, the cooler your light will be. Mother Nature is very tricky though. She can throw you a curve when you least expect it. Trust your eye always.
" (Taken from Schmid's website FAQ page)

Now, trusting our eyes look at this:
In our discussion about value I emphasized that we see because of light. A simple concept, but the heart of every decision we make when painting. Now we go one step further: every light source has a color, therefore a temperature--it is either warm, cool or neither. Forget about the "neither" and assume as an artist you're dealing with either warm or cool.

Both photos above show the same batch of lemons, yet the photo on the left is in warm light and the one on the right in cooler light. Visual temperatures are cooler when they are bluer, warmer when they are redder or yellower.

Now look at this:
The ball is blue (well, of course it is !) Blue is the coolest of colors, but notice where a warmer light hits the blue ball most directly, the color appears warmer. That same blue appears cooler as it moves into shadow. I've isolated these with samples across the top to make it easier to see. (You might have recognized that I used this same illustration in an Empty Easel tutorial about color.)

The reverse happens when a color is illuminated by a cool light.

Let's look at our lemons again--the ones in cool light. Now let's zoom into a shadowed area and sample it. The results are in the rectangle on the upper right edge.

Joila! The shadowed areas are warmer (more orange) than those more directly in light.

Perhaps this simple principle is the most important one to remember when dealing with temperature and color. Our natural tendancy--indeed, some have taught--is to always make shadows cooler, but in painting it's best not to live by rules other than always let your eye tell you what your looking at.

As a general rule of thumb, though, if you shift your eyes between light and shadow of an area, you WILL see a difference in temperature between the two. One will be cooler, the other will be warmer. Most likely, if the shadow is warmer then the light source is cool. If the shadow is cooler, the light source is warm.

Oddly, if you direct your painting choices by keeping this in mind, the painting should feel in tune or in harmony with itself.

And so, the conclusion we always come to is teach yourself how to see, then trust your eyes.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Intensity: The Baffling Element

In the classroom, intensity was always the one element or concept that boggled the minds of my students. Folks got the value thing--it seemed easy enough to comprehend that a color gets lighter or darker depending upon whether it is in light or shadow. Hue was easy--regardless of whether we used the traditional triadic wheel or the Munsell wheel, students found naming the colors and organizing color schemes easy enough to deal with.

But when we hit the intensity idea, brakes were applied and tires started squealing. So how do we mortals wrap our minds around intensity?

Look at this strip of two colors.
These are the same hue, the same value, but of differing intensities. What is the hue? There's one clue. If you can look at a color and FIRST name its hue, THEN name its value, you might be able--afterwards-- to name its intensity. But how do you name an intensity?

I think that's part of the problem. Intense/neutral. These are the pairs. Neutral has no color at all--theoretically, this is. It's gray. Every single color under the sun can lose its color identity (hue) when totally neutralized by its complement. It can nearly lose its identity when mixed with gray, black or white.So, theoretically a color is most intense at its spectrum color where it has in it neither complement nor gray, black or white. With these added, though, it is either very intense, somewhat intense, somewhat neutral or almost neutral. So our language then is high intensity, middle intensity, low intensity or neutral.

Looking at a diagram of the spectrum (above) and the three colors underneath it, it's easy to see that all three hues are red-orange. The first is a bit browner, the second a bit rustier and the third closer to spectrum red-orange. So how do we know their intensity? The third is obviously closer to the spectrum.

Oranges, reds and purples get rustier or browner, yellows and yellow-oranges get more ochre, greens become olive, blues look grayer. So if you call the first color a brownish-orange, then you know it's more neutral.

Try this: let's look at Martin Figlinski's painting "Beach Path, Grayton Beach".

"Beach Path, Grayton Beach" (c) Artist Martin Figlinski

The three swatches above are sampled from Martin's painting. Take them one at a time, left to right. Name the hue, now the value, now the intensity. Use the language for naming the intensity as simply "high, middle, low" or "highish, middle, lowish". Doesn't need to get more complicated than that.

Go to the end of this post for the correct answers.

Let's do the same thing with Carol Marine's "Orange Parade"
"Orange Parade" (c) Artist Carol Marine
After we learn to name the intensity, we should be able to become conscious of it when we see it. So rather than call an old unpainted barn gray, we'd call it low-intensity, mid-value bluish-violet, for example.

Seeing and recognizing the hue will go a long way towards labeling the intensity. So remember, if you see it brownish or rust, it's probably red-violet, red, red-orange or orange; if it appears to be ocher, it's most likely yellow-orange or yellow or even yellow-green; if it seems more olive, it's green, if it seems gray either has no hue or it might be blue. These are examples of what you might expect, but don't depend upon them: rather, fix your eyes on the hue first. Once you name it, the value and the intensity should be easy.

Leave me a note in the comments section and tell me how this works for you.

Figlinski samples: (1) left, blue-violet/light/low, (2)red-violet/light/low (3)red-orange/dark/low
Marine samples: (1) red-orange/middle/somewhat low, (2) orange/mid-light/somewhat high, (3)orange/high/somewhat low, (4)red-orange/low/low