Texture Vs. Atmosphere

Everywhere we look we can see specific visual information change. We see articulated textures blend and dissolve over distance whether it’s a carpet of leaves in the forest or gravel on a road.  As a photographer you can accentuate this experience by adjusting your camera’s aperture.  The wider the aperture the faster the background dissolves. As a painter you can use the etc. principle as described by Ernst Gombrich. When we look a forest or crowd we can only focus a small area, 1% of our field of vision. We guess that most of the area (the out-of-focus trees or people) are similar.  We extrapolate. We are unaware we  do this.  As a painter if we give the closer areas more specific edge information or more specific textures then  blend and dissolve the same elements as they move into the distance  we can provide a strong illusion, a parallel to how we see.

Fog and Mist allow us to foreshorten the dissolution of texture and edge information. We experience mist and fog as  obscuring and often luminous forces.  With  fog  we can quicken the application of the etc  principle. Here are examples which feature compound texturing which relies upon the etc principle without  using  fog. Examples 1 and 2 are both oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum.  By generating a profusion of linear information the eye has a difficult time resting in one spot and allows the brain to experience complexity which  suggests the rich complexity of a stand of sea grass.

example 1. Sea grass 1.april15,20,shorelines,seagrass, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-1

example 2. Sea grass 2.april15,20,shorelines, twisting seagrass,oilon brushed silver anodized aluminum,30x30_edited-1

In the next examples you see how I reduced the edge information as I worked on the painting. The reduction relies upon layered applications of  semi-opaque glazes which are textured and, selectively teased  and deleted with brushes and rags.  Examples 3, 4, and 5 demonstrate this process.

example 3. step one april15,20,barn island step one,oil on anodized aluminum,36x36

example 4. step two april15,20,barn island step two

example 5. step three april15,20, barn island step three,shorelines Mist and Light, oilon anodized aluminum,36x36_edited-1

Examples 6 and 7 demonstrate the application of both a luminous semi-opaque glazing atmosphere in the background and a darker transparent glaze in the foreground. Both glazes receive selective deletions with rags, brushes, and squeegees.

example 6. step one april15,20,meadow, Mist and Flora,step one a, oilon aluminum,29x29_edited-1

example 7. step two april15,20,meadow, Mist and Flora,step 2, oilon aluminum,29x29_edited-1

I often begin the blurring a profusion of  textures with the photo in both the camera and later with Photoshop (Photo Elements). Example 8 presents the altered photograph. It will spur  ideas and experiments in the later painting in example 9.

example 8. altered photo april15,20,calf pasturephoto11_edited-1

example 9. painting april15,20,calf pasture oil on anodized aluminum,24x24

The full sequence of image development can often go through a variety of steps. I begin on location or with a photo which I manipulate in Photoshop (example 10). Next, I make quick  design sketches which usually consist of triangles, curves, ellipses ( basic forms) united in a cohering pattern. Next I might begin with a watercolor sketch as you see in  example 11. Then I enlarge the scale with an oil as you see in example 12.  I may do a variety of differently scaled oils, all  very different.

example 10. B&W photo april15,20,plum island ma,_edited-1

example 11. watercolor sketch april15,20,plum island ma watercolor,_edited-1

example 12. 1st oil painting. april15,20,plum island, oil on aluminum,18x18_edited-2

In the next examples I further manipulated the design. I decided to unite the picture by having the serpentine sky/cloud pattern be  mirror-reversed (vaguely) in the shape of the forward body of water.  Example 13 represents step one here. Example 14 represents step 2.

example 13, step one april15,20,plum island,step one

example 14, step two april15,20,plum island step two,shorelines,Deep Horizon, oilon aluminum,18x18_edited-1


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David Dunlop’s Studio Workshop 1 – Into the Woods is now on YouTube

David’s first Live Streaming Studio Workshop 1 – Into the Woods is now available on David’s You Tube Channel. David focuses on different painting techniques used in painting a forest scene and paints a demonstration oil sketch.  We hope that you enjoy it! We will post information about the May Live Streaming Studio Workshop 2 – Design and Color, in the next few weeks.
David'sStreaming Into the Woods

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Find Color In Black and White

Camera Obscura machines of the 17th and 18th centuries helped artists to unite the tone of their paintings. The image seen through the lens of a camera obscura appears softer and the colors are slightly subdued giving a more unified feeling of tone. Vermeer and others capitalized on these effects. Today we  manipulate photos to resemble antique photo or camera obscura effects. When we strip the color from an image and heighten the contrasts of black and white the resul has a classic or older appearance, almost antique.

I removed the color from some photographs and converted them into higher  contrast black and whites. Experience a more adventurous, innovative and personal  color palette when referencing  a black and white  image as you start a painting  Looking at  B&W monochromes I was released from bonds of imitative color and prescriptive color.

The process begins with a standard color photo of a marsh which is  converted to black and white. Next I drive up the contrast with darker shadows and brighter highlights. The resulting black and white image appears in example 1. After considering this black and white photo I tried a demonstration image in front of students. This image was only 12×12, an oil on anodized aluminum. From this experiment I decided to make another larger 24×24 oil on anodized aluminum (example 2). To begin I further simplified the design. I interrupted the darker areas with a few crosshatched strokes of brighter color to energize the image. I further blended the misty background to unify the image and offer the inevitable feeling of mystery that fog provides. Next, I changed surfaces and sizes moving to a 46×48 oil on canvas (example 3). I  simplified the image still further. I must wait   for drying to apply colored glaze effects and other layers of gesture and texture.

example 1. marsh photo.march15,31.shelburne pond 11_edited-1

example 2. 12×12 demonstration oil paint imagemarch15,31,Marsh Meadow Mist, study, 11x12,jpg

example 3. 24×24 larger oil paint imagemarch15,31,Marsh Meadow Mist, oilon anodized aluminum,24x24

example 4. 46×48 largest oil  on canvasmarch15,31,meadow,marsh,mist, oilon canvas, 48x46_edited-1

Looking at a black and white image  liberates my re-design and re-definition impulses. I convert the particular information in the background to misty uncertainty as you see in examples 5 (the black and white photo) and  6 (the painting as it departs from the photograph).

example 5. photo of marsh grass.march15,31,shelburne pond_edited-2

example 6. Paintingmarch15,31, bending Marsh Grass, oil on aluminum,24x24_edited-1

Examples 7, 8, an 9 present the sequence of the image as it moved from color photo to black and white to the reconfigured painted image.

example 7. color photomarch15,31,maine acadian lake3_edited-4

example 8. black and white photo of samemarch15,31,maine acadian lake6_edited-3

example 9. Close analogous harmony in blue and green oil paintmarch15,31,marsh, Blue is Quiet Here, oil on aluminum,24x24_edited-1

Examples 10 and 11 offer evidence of  both reinterpreted color from a black and white photo as well as a reconfigured image.

example 10. Black and white photomarch15,31,plum island ma,_edited-1

example 11. New color palette and altered designmarch15,31, the skys bright harmony, oil on canvas,32x36

Examples 12 and 13 present a black and white vertical photo which was redesigned into a squared and colored painting relying on pinks in the light and blue-greens in the dark areas.

example 12, vertical BW photomarch15,31,randalls farm june13large_edited-2

example 13. Painting converted to square and invested with color.march15,31,marsh, Languid Sunlight, oil on canvas, 34x36_edited-2

I hope you are able to join me on April 11th at 11 AM  for a first  trial at an internet live streamed class.  Watch and interact with me in my studio. For instructions visit this website.





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SATURDAY, APRIL 11th at 1PM EDT – Join David Dunlop for his First Live On-Line Streaming Workshop

David Woekshop Header

Saturday, APRIL 11th at 1:00pm EDT
We would love to have you join David on Saturday, April 11th at 1:00pm EDT for our very first one-hour live on-line streaming workshop. You will be able to watch the workshop/class by going to our website and clicking on the Workshop button on our home page. That will take you to a web page that should have the streaming class available during the period 1pm EDT to 2pm EDT. We will be in Connecticut, so it will be 1:00pm Connecticut time, which is on Eastern Daylight Time.

Our first On-line Workshop will be FREE, and you will be able to tweet or email questions to David during the workshop.  The workshop/class will feature David’s discussion and demonstrations, as well as questions from you, the viewer. This will be our first experiment at finding a format that we will all enjoy together.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Workshop 1 – Into the Woods
April 11,  2015  1-2PM EDT (One-hour class)
The Workshop will focus on different painting techniques and models used in painting a forest.  David discusses historic ideas, palettes, vocabulary, intentions and methods.  Reaching back to 17th century landscape painters, we will explore how they sketched, composed, and painted.  David will use contemporary techniques as well to demonstrate current developments in landscape painting and paint a demonstration painting of a forest in oil, beginning with composition designs and a preliminary watercolor sketch.

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Directions For Sunlight

We celebrate the sun. We’ve worshipped solar deities since our beginnings. As  diurnal animals we need sunlight to work, hunt and grow food.  Our brains are sensitive to the contrast of light and dark, always turning to the light like sunflowers. The sparkle of jewelry, the flash of fire, the theatrical placement of light on a stage all attract our attention. Over centuries artists have improved their ability to suggest sunlight and to place it theatrically in a scene.  Artists learned to spot sunlight like a theater’s lighting crew. 600 years ago we were less skilled at this. The light was ambient, figures, even figures in landscapes appeared as if they were illuminated for high school yearbook portrait.

My parade of examples begins in 1430 with  work by a Flemish master (example 1). Observe the lack of unitary direction to the light and the artificially  bright figures  in the foreground. There are no pools of  directional sunlight here. Yet, within less than hundred years all that changed. DaVinci would catalyze the development of natural light in painting. Caravaggio and the Baroque period follow. Now lighting is firmly chiaroscuro (light against dark) with a clear sense of the direction of the light (example 2). Another century later in the 1600s Jacob Van Ruisdael is directing sunlight in landscapes (example 3). Ruisdael has the edges of rocks, the foam of falling water, the corner of a roof, the edge of a cloud , the surface of a meadow all collect directed sunlight. These spots of sunlight assemble themselves into a rising triangle, a singular design made out of a fallen patches of sunlight catching on strategic surfaces.

example 1. Flemish master 1430smarch15,23,dutch,belgian,master of the female half lengths .._edited-1

example  2. Caravaggio, late 1500smarch15,23,caravaggio,callstmathew

example 3. Jacob Van Ruisdael, 1600s,march15,23.ruisdael, jacob van, landscape with mill and waterfall_edited-1

These lessons in plotting spots of sunlight cross the Atlantic to  Thomas Cole, the first of the Hudson River painters. In 1830 Cole  borrows English, Dutch and Italian recipes for directing sunlight as you see in example 4.  His Indians are bathed in a sunbeam just as like his cliff faces. The edges of sunlight define the design and dramatic structure of Cole’s painting.

example 4. Thomas Cole 1830smarch15,23,cole, thomas, catskills, full image_edited-1

example 4a. detail of Thomas Cole painting.march15,23,cole, thomas, catskills detail_edited-1

As artists moved into the 20th century they were flattening the picture plane and offering paint strokes that were as much about the appearance of the paint as they were contributors to any illusion as you see in example 5 by Wilhelm Trubner in 1905. A century later I am still negotiating the location of sunlight as I reach back in art history to Thomas Cole for  lighting design ideas which I  modify and apply with new tools on new materials ( example 6.)  I have the advantage of being able to see more art history than my predecessors. I can borrow the universal lighting of the 1400s with its disregard for unitary sunlight and place my image on a 14th century platform of 23karat gold leaf ( example 7.)  Or, I can borrow the darker palettes of  Caravaggio and J. Van Ruisdael  and spot my sunlight with a dark sense of chiaroscuro as you see in example 8.

example 5. Wilhelm Trubner 1905.march15,23,german,1905,wilhelm trubner, landscape, oil_edited-1

example 6. Using  spot lighting but with squeegees as well as brushes on anodized aluminum.march15,23,forest, trail of sunspots, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36_edited-1

example 7. using omnidirectional light of the 1400s on gold leaf .march15,23,water garden, oil on gold leaf on aluminum, 22x12 image size, framed 30x20_edited-3

exaexample 8. dark chiaroscuro Lighting on brushed silver anodized aluminum.march15,23,Waterweed and sunlight, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,18x18

Or, I can blend art these historical ideas within a 21st century urban subject. Here I apply directional lighting like Caravaggio combined with flattened paint patterns of the modernist 20th century combined with new materials like anodized aluminum and paint applied with rubber brayers(rollers), varied brushwork, and paint selectively excised with squeegees  (example 9).

example 9. Times Square with Caravaggio’s Lighting director.march15,23,city,times square strollers,oil on anodized aluminum,36x36_edited-2

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Importing Japan

By the mid 1800s artists were raising their horizons. New compositional ideas had floated over from China and Japan.  Edward Manet, Whistler, and Gustav Klimt took notice. So did blossoming American Impressionists like John Henry Twachtman. The imported Japanese woodblock prints revealed the power of simplified designs, simplified and unified shapes, and rhythmic variety along lines of shapes.

Example 1 presents a woodblock print by Hokusai with the high Japanese horizon. Observe in Example 4, how Twachtman arranges his horizon and land masses similarly.  In example 2 notice the clear, clean shapes and their twisting variations in Hokusai’s Irises and Iris fronds. This elegant simplicity  influenced Twachtman.  In example 3 we see Twachtman’s preliminary small oil sketch for his later larger oil (Example 4). Both images are on view at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of  Art. Example three shows us anecdotal plants and flowers.  The tall grasses are just willowy vertical strings of paint.  Later, after he has simplified his design and developed example 4 the grasses are unified,  elegant,  substantial, and more confident. His scattered anecdotal flowers have been excised. You see that Twachtman’s formal Parisian studio training still has him using the classic European painting model of division by thirds.

example 1. Hokusai woodblock, Admiring Irises.mar15,16,Hokusai, 1833, admiring irises_edited-1

example 2.  Hokusai’s woodblock of Irises.mar15,16,hokusai,1831,irises_edited-1

example 3. Twachtman’s  oil sketch/study.mar15,16,twachtman, j h, study_edited-1

example 4. Twachtman’s finished exhibition painting.mar15,16,Twachtman finish painting

While wandering Barn Island’s Nature Preserve in Eastern Connecticut I found compositions corresponding to Hokusai’s and Twachtman’s. I stumbled across similar discoveries on Randall’s Farm in Southwestern Connecticut and along the Long Island Sound.

My most distilled composition can be seen in example 5. Here is a high vague horizon. Below it lies a canted light shape and below that lies the heavily textured and suggestive foreground shape. In this textured foreground I punctured its stubbly and reedy low tide surface with slashes of vertical lights. Their collective pattern creates a serpentine dance toward the horizon. I painted on brushed silver anodized aluminum with some translucent glazing  to add sparkling variation to the surface. Unfortunately, this can only be experienced when you view the painting first hand shifting eyes and position about the painting.

example 5. Exposed by Low tide, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum. mar15,16,Spring Low Tide, oil on anodized aluminum,18x18_edited-1

While further reducing the complexities of design I developed example 6, a more abstracted image.  Here I  pursued the effects of vertical light and dark forms clattering against one another. The bottom sinks into dark shadow while the top dissolves into light.

example 6, reed abstraction, oil on aluminum.mar15,16,Dance of Seagrass, oil on aluminum, 18x18_edited-2

Examples 7 and 8 present parallel compositions but, I reversed the shape of the bright water area.  Example 7 and 8 were smaller studies to test compositional ideas.  Example 7 is 18×18 and example 8 is 24×24.. Example 9 presents  further development these ideas in a larger format, 36×36. In example 9 I exploited the underpainting’s orange/yellow/reds with the use of a squeegee deleting shapes suggestive of bending reeds.

example 7. 1st study.mar 15,16,Signs of Light, oil on aluminum, 18x18_edited-2

example 8. 2nd study, reversed water shape.mar15,16, Spring Equinox,oil on anodized aluminum, 24x24_edited-1

example 9. larger 36×36 painting.mar15,16,Marsh Solitude, oil on anodized aluminum, 36x36_edited-1

Being aware of our influences helps us become more inventive with our compositions. We  see how art history influences us. We are more able to modify art history  by altering its models. Example 10 presents a shadowed pond by Klimt. Notice how I use the large dark mass on the left taken from Klimt’s (and other’s) design.  I explore a variation of the design and build a unified sense of light in example 11, (step one of a 36×36). In example 11’s step two I put more contrast into the design. This painting awaits its step three.  In example 12 (a 48×48)  again I started with the same design  but, I altered the palette and created a different feeling of light and texture. This painting also awaits another step  (see next steps in an upcoming blogpost).

example 10. Pond by G. Klimt.mar15,16, klimt, gustav, morning by the pond, 1899

example 11. step one of a 36×36.mar15,16,pensive light, step one, oil on anodized aluminum, 36x36

example 12.step two of a 36×36.mar15,16,pensive light, step two oil on anodized aluminum, 36x36

example 13. the 48×48 on brushed silver anodized aluminum.mar15,16,return to randalls pond, an oil on brushed silver on anodized aluminum, 48x48_edited-3









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Into Black, Into The Woods

Black soot from  fire became a first pigment for artists.  Black outlines were strong and their effect was dramatic as we drew images or traced our hands on cave walls. Later Carbon blacks were used to dye clothing worn by nobility, merchants and bishops.  Rembrandt had it as a part of his limited palette. Ancient Egyptians used it in their funerary portraits and makeup. Theophrastus of ancient Greece thought that all colors were composed out of black and white. Black has represented the dark side, chaos, the underworld and the demonic across time and cultures.  We are diurnal and fear  territory we cannot  know like the dark.  Black associates with infinite darkness, the void, nothingness.  In many creation myths black came first then the light. We often associate white with purity.  We discovered that black made from bones offered more translucence and gave more varied grays. A pale black mixed with a little white juxtaposed against browns and reds appears slightly blue. Black became the economic blue.

I have created a variety of woodland examples. Some  use black acrylic, others graphite, others use chromatic grays which are so dark they appear blackish. In 17th century Italy black was a standard pigment on an artist’s palette.  Artists made shadows and shades using black or mixing black with another color. They noticed the saturation of the color diminished when mixed with black.  As Delacroix observed,” Black soils color.”

The first examples are historic artists who helped define our model for landscape painting. These three all used black. Claude Lorraine’s landscape ( example 1) presents the standard landscape model which he helped create. He often reverses the model. Here I have flipped his image to show you the model’s influence on landscape painters. The sides are framed with trees. The right side has the largest framing shape, a coulisse. There is a reflective body of light (water) taking a slight serpentine or meandering form in the lower middle. It interrupts the dark with light. Example 2 presents John Constable’s early 19th century version of a Claudian composition. Example 3 presents another modification of Claude’s model by the mid 19th century artist, Worthington Whittredge.

example 1. Claude Lorraine.mar15,9, Claude Gelee or Lorraine, oil

example 2. John  Constable.mar15,9, Constable,DedhamVale6

example 3.  Worthington Whittredge.mar15,9, whittredge,worthington, 1871,evening in the woods detail

They all used black on their palettes.

In my first examples (4,5, and 6) I present three plein studies in oil. None use black. All refer to compositional tradition of Claude but, with modifications. We modify the standard model to create an accessible experience with notes of novelty. The image is not too confusing to read because of my adherence to the model.  We recognize the form and see a landscape possibility. The image is fresh and novel to the extent that I depart from the model.

example 4. oil on linen, plein air.mar15,9, silvermine road, standard model, oil on linen

example 5, same scene, oil on anodized aluminum, plein air.mar15,9, silvermine road, standard model, oil on anodized white aluminum,

example 6. same scene but using a figure “8”  design fitted into the composition, oil  in plein air.mar15,9, silvermine road, firgure 8 oil on linen

In my next examples I use different forms of black.   The blacks are created from powered graphite and linseed oil, from standard ivory acrylic black, and a chromatic blacks made from ultramarine blue and transparent red oxide. All these examples also follow the Claudian model with personal variations.   These examples use  the same photographic source material which I manipulated in Photoshop then further mutated while painting.

Example 7 is the photograph I took this summer. Example 8 is the image re-envisioned with powered graphite on a 140 lb hot press watercolor paper. Example 9 presents the same composition with other modifications. The example on the left uses chromatic blacks mixed with acrylic Pthalo cyan, transparent red oxide, and ultramarine blue then a series of semi-opaque and translucent oil glazes were applied to give pale indications of color.  The work was painted on brushed silver anodized aluminum. The example on the right uses black acrylic on white anodized aluminum. Example 10 presents a different Claudian adaptation with a mixed chromatic black following the same recipe as above. This image is painted on brushed gold anodized aluminum and can give the effect of an etched metal plate.

example 7. the photograph.Mar15,9,stonebridge august6 photo_oversizeedited-2_edited-1

example 8. the powdered graphite drawing.mar15,9,stonebridge Summer,graphite on wc paper 140 lb,18x12

example 9. Left image on Brushed silver with oil glazes over acrylic; the right image is black acrylic on white anodized aluminum.mar15,9,stonebridge summer acrylic with oil glazes on brusehd silver anod alum 1, and black acrylic on white ano alum 18x12ea

example 10. painting on brushed gold anodized aluminum.mar15,9,mixed chromatic black on brushed gold anodized aluminum, stone bridge summer,18x12

In conclusion, I painted a 48×48 oil over a pre-existing image. I reveal parts of this original image in the final painting. The darks are made from ultramarine blue and transparent red oxide. Example 11 presents the pre-existing image.  Example 12 is the manipulated photograph I took this summer which serves as the source for Example 13.  Example 13 is the image as it appears now.

example 11. pre-existing image(substrate).mar15,9, forest,summer mystery, oil on anodized aluminum,revised,48x48_edited-1

example 12. my photo source material, after Photoshop work.mar15,9,photo,stonebridge august10large_edited-3

example 13. my painting as it appears now.mar15,9, stonebridge, oil on white anodized aluminum,48x48

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Chromatic Dust

Apply the Paint as if it were colored dust suggested John Ruskin to art students of the 19th Century.

Next we must improvise.  “When In Doubt; play chromatics” this jazz improvisation advice came through my saxophone teacher, Charlie Williams. Charlie received it from the great Phil Woods. In music like painting artists need to know their chromatic scales and how to improvise with them. Chroma was the term used to refer to a color’s saturation or intensity. Chromatic scales can go in several directions. First, a color can gradually change its saturation, for example a yellow can become more or less yellow. This is different than a color’s value or brightness which is the second scale. Third, a color can change its value by mixing in a white which creates a tint, (a pastel effect).  Fourth, a color can become more of a shade by adding black which also can “soil the color” ( an observation of Delacroix’s). Fifth, a color  can be thinned into a glaze which is most easily done with transparent colors. Sixth a color can be mixed. This mixing can  be better understood through graduated scales .

Mixing  colors is a tricky business. Inexpensive paints tend to mix poorly and results in light absorbing colors (chalky and dull). Mixing complementary colors (colors opposite one another on the color wheel)  will create duller light absorbing colors as well.  These complementary mixes have more diverse material absorbing light than unmixed colors or, colors whose mixture is with their neighbors on the color wheel. Translucent or transparent paints can be mixed with less loss of light than opaque paints.

Let’s examine mixing colors to create luminous grays (or what is  referred to as chromatic grays). A gray concocted from a triad of  secondary colors and the use of white. They can be made to look warmer or cooler. These color based grays are usually more engaging than those made from black and white or Payne’s gray.   Let’s see how it’s done by artists  on their palettes and in their pictures.

Example 1 offers a Turner landscape. His grays are made as I have mine in the following palettes. To understand his color palette and the complementary and chromatic nature of his grays  look at a detail of the image in example 1 ( example 2).

example 1. Turner landscape.feb15,22,turner, later landscape, full

example 2. detail of Turner landscape.feb15,22,turner, later landscape,mid years,detail_edited-1

Next we  follow his color mixing principles as learned from Moses Harris, Goethe, and his own practice.  He uses a couple of blues ( greener and a redder blue ) . Ultramarine is redder than Cobalt which is redder than a copper-derived blue like turquoise or azurite or even Prussian blue which are noticeably greener. He uses a couple of yellows like Chrome yellow  which is more lemony or greener than Gamboge which is more orange.  The Chrome yellow mixes with a blue to make a zesty green.  The Gamboge  makes a browner green. It’s  a more light absorbing green because it was mixed with a color which was further away on the color wheel. Turner also used a couple of reds like vermillion and carmine.  Monet will follow this path using a couple of reds, yellows and blues, one warmer and one cooler.  This dual set of primaries allowed these artists to employ vibrant complementary effects and create  effecting chromatic grays.

Let’s begin the mixing.  Example 3 is a demonstration painting I began in my classroom using the palette in example 4.  Example 4. presents the historic palette of two reds, yellows, blues and a white. Observe the warmer and cooler nature of each pair (if we think of orange/red as our base for hot).  Such as  Ultramarine blue which has more red than the adjacent Schevening Blue Light (like antique azurite). For example, one yellow is closer to orange than the other and, one red is bluer than the other. I have stretched the colors down so you can see as a color is thinned it is often brighter (the white substrate reflects light back through the pigment).  With transparent colors they become more apparently saturated.  On my palette I gave each color a  code letter (example 5).

example 3. the demonstration painting.feb15,22,winter pond, oil on anodized aluminum,12x18

example 4. the palette before mixing.feb15,22,page a,color mixing

example 5 the palette with mixes.feb15,22,page 1, color mixing

Observe that I have given the abbreviated formulas beside each mixed color (like, v + y + w ). Notice in the first panel I have a lemon yellow (cooler because it is closer to green) which I have mixed below with SB and UB.  The SB + Y generates a purer green. The UB with its greater redness makes a duller green (more light absorbing).  In the next panel you see Gamboge yellow. Notice when thinned it appears to be not only brighter but also, more intensely yellow. It’s saturation has increased. When G (Gamboge) is mixed with the transparent red oxide (RO) it gives a warm golden appearance. Both colors here are transparent. When mixed with the Carmine Lake (C) it gives a range of radiant oranges. Again both colors are transparent. When mixed with the more opaque Vermillion light (v)  the effect is a flatter or less reflective orange.

Now let’s mix for chromatic grays. If you look in the lower left corner of the palette you see transparent red oxide (RO) mixing with UB.  This mixture of two transparents creates  luminous grays which have either a blue cast or a warmer brown cast as you see. Look over at the Carmine, SB and UB areas. Here I mixed a variety of grays. They are easier to follow in this close-up example (example 6).

example 6. palette closeup.feb15,22,page 3,color mixing

The Carmine makes soft pastel violets when mixed with white and SB. This violet will be the source for making  chromatic grays you see in the adjacent column under SB.  Notice the formulas alongside each pastel gray. These grays are opaque and become duller as the quantity of white is  diminished. These three colors (Y,SB & C) make a broad range of grays extending from minty green-gray to lavender gray. In the next column under UB the grays are  made from G, UB and C.  Because all three are transparent colors they can be thinned to give a luminous gray with little or no white. Also notice that the UB offers  less red effect when mixed with white ( see UB + W).

My last palette example (example 7) shows grays made with white and different yellows ( G and Y) and different blues (SB and UB) and Carmine.

example 7. more complex chromatic gray mixes.feb15,22,page 4, color mixing

These next examples demonstrate the effect of discovering a chromatic gray by painting or glazing a complementary color over another in  semi-transparent mixing. In each case I begin with a  preliminary painting then, glaze over it with  deep complementary or tertiary  colors (colors only a third of the way opposite on the color wheel). example 8 presents a painting with an originally yellow meadow. This will be overlaid in  example 9 with a dark violet carmine (UB + RO + C). Yellow leaf shapes will be discovered through selective deletions in the overglaze.

example 8. Step one.feb15,22,meadow sparkle, step one

example 9. Step Two.feb15,22,meadow sparkle, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36_edited-1

In the final two examples (10 and 11) I have returned to favored subject of mine, Grand Central Terminal. Here, I overlaid dark glazes (UB + RO) over pre-colored substrates. I then added opaque tints. I  enjoyed the dark chiaroscuro effects from these deep (black-less) colors contrasting against lighter tinted areas. I only clearly articulated the Kiosk and its Clock.

example 10. Grand Central Station Mosaic.feb15,22,nyc gcs tall triplets, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36

example 11. Grand Central Station, Dark Pastels.feb15,22,nyc gcs, dark pastels,sets of two, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36

Lastly, I want to invite you to my exhibition opening this Sunday, March 1st at the Adam Cave Gallery in downtown Raleigh, NC.  I hope you can join me there from 2 to 4 pm. The paintings range from works on copper to anodized aluminum and the subjects flow from forests to Paris. Here is Paris Traffic (example12).

example 12. Paris Traffic:feb15,17,paris boulevard motion in 18x18











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When Goals Get In The Way

If  an artist or a magician wants us to look into the distance they direct our attention there. They exploit our sense of  purpose or goal. Perception and recognition are determined by our goals. Goals are expectations. Our goals/expectations keep us from distracting information; information we don’t need. Children are more likely to see more of what’s around them because, they are more easily distracted by stimuli not related to their goal.  Our goals mentally prime us to see and interpret what’s around us or, what’s in a picture.

Artists use conventions to set up an expectation in the viewer. We look past the threshold and borders of a painting into its distance.  Our standard goal is to look into the distance for something. Because we look past whatever  frames the distance we pay less attention to it especially, if its edges are undefined. Defined edges tell us something is present and, becomes our goal, our purpose for looking.

Landscape horizons traditionally offered a profile for hypothesizing. Is it a village?, a windmill? a series of mountains? Here are examples of artists exploiting our goal-centered adult vision.  Example 1.  is landscape from the 1600s by Jacob Van Ruisdael. We look at the edges of his horizon and the edges of trees to determine what is present. We tend to not look into the foliage, to not see it because, it is not the goal of our vision.

Example 2 is a detail within the Van Ruisdael painting. Notice how we look at the edges of dark against light. Van Ruisdael easily suggests foliage because we are not looking specifically at it. This experience is also true for the Pierre Valencienne’s oil sketch ( example 3).  We look past the framing trees to the profile of a village on the horizon. We tend not to look within the foliage.  These artists use the curtain of foliage as a device for texture, color, and a design element to frame the goal/ purpose of our looking.

example 1. Jacob van Ruisdael landscape.
feb15,10,jacob van ruisdael,le buisson_edited-1

example 2. detail of van Ruisdael landscape.
feb15,10,jacob van ruisdael,coast

example 3. Valenciennes landscape sketch.
feb15,10,pierre henri Valenciennes,1800,view over lake Nemi

Similarly, Alfred Sisley frames his river landscape (the Seine) with a porous spray of paint suggesting foliage ( example 4). I borrowed the designs of these artists with their arching flora framing the picture in my following examples. My distance is smudged and uncertain.  I suggest the idea of  distant water with a few sputtering light-blue spots.  I made my subject the texture and complexity of the interior grassy space  with its abundant rhythms instead of a clearly profiled distance.  In example 5 you see a photo I took walking along a lagoon this weekend in St. Louis’s Forest Park.

Example 6 presents an acrylic underpainting which places a dark warm neutral in the upper area and a light tone in the lower area of the picture.  Example 7 ( step 1) shows you how I covered the underpainting by placing darks over the light bottom area and light over the dark top area. Example  8 (step 2) presents the effects of the squeegee’s action as it removed slivers of  wet oil paint revealing lights in dark areas and darks in light areas.  Area “A” has the light oil paint over the dark acrylic and area “B” has the dark oil over the light acrylic.  Example 9 (step 3) offers a view of the painting as it appears now after some color additions.

example 4. Sisley’s landscape.
feb15,10,sisley,alfred,1880,path to old ferry at By

example 5. Forest Park Lagoon Grasses.
feb15,10,step1,forest park lagoon3_edited-2

example 6.  acrylic underpainting.
feb15,10,step2,underpainting in acrylic,forest park

example 7. step 1, oil lay-in of darks and lights.
feb15,10,step3,forest park

example 8.step 2, squeegee reveals.
feb15,10,step4,forest park

example 9.step 3, after more color.
feb15,10,step5,forest park

I exploited the color and reflectance of copper in my next examples. I begin with an underpainting which only partially covers the copper in example 10 (step 1). Notice my image reflected in the copper here. In example 11 (step 2) I present an angled view of the painting to show how the reflectance of the copper varies with viewing angles.  Example 12 (also step 2) demonstrates the full frontal view.  Observe the differences in reflectance and color between the two views.  Again my motif centers on looking through trees or flora.

example 10. step 1 underpainting on copper.
feb15,10,step2,stonebridge on copper

example 11. step 2. viewed at an angle.
feb15,10,step3,stonebridge oil on copper,angled view

example 12, step 2 again viewed from the front.
feb15,10,step4,stonebridge,oil on copper,front view


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The Twilight Zone

In that moment when a pale red-orange flirts with the silhouette of a dark horizon and  across the curtain of sky cerulean blue slowly deepens into ultramarine we experience the twilight zone.   We  can only see red where sufficient light remains on the horizon’s edge. When light is dim our eyes cannot discern yellow and reds. We find those colors with our cones packed in the center of our vision. When light is dim our rods go to work where vision is less able to focus on the periphery. Our peripheral vision sees in gray-black values in diminished light with traces of blue depending on light levels.

Twilight  sees the sky fade to darker blue-black as well as the silhouetted landscape.  The darkness provides mystery because of our vision’s limitations.  As diurnal animals we distrust the dark. We are vulnerable in the dark and our imagination can provide menacing scenarios to keep us alert.  It’s the best time to tell a ghost story or film a thriller. Twilight provides a stage-set for the melancholy longing for daylight past.

The dark can be fractured and pierced by artificial light and re-gifted with color.  Our first experience of mitigating  the threat of the dark came with our use of fire then later with our use of electric light. The warming light of headlamps on the highway clears a path through the dark  but, leaves  dark mystery in at our side and in the distance.

Electric light offers a haven for adventure under the robe of darkness.  This artificial light is the source of  allure for  city nightlife  from  New York to Las Vegas, from Paris to  Hong Kong.

Example 1 finds me riding along a twilight highway.  Taking shots from my windshield into the path of my headlights I found myself retracing the steps of an ancient torchbearer clearing the darkness. I decided to explore this idea in paint where I could amplify the feeling of motion on the highway as well as the role of the torchbearer wading into the night, into the twilight zone (examples 2 and 3).

example 1 photo.
jan15,27,rt7 jan6_edited-1

example 2. twilight painting 1.
jan15,27,Twilight Highway, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-2

example 3. twilight painting 2.
jan15,27,Twilight Roads, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-2

Art history has other examples of artists finding melancholy, finding the pensive meditation of twilight. In the 20th century Edward Hopper became famous with his melancholy visions (examples 3, 4 and 5).  Earlier,  artists used the theatrical passing of the light to similar theatrical effect. In the mid 1600s Adrian Van De Velde liked to routinely study and  capture  animals in darkened landscapes. In example 6 Adrian selected either a late or early time of day when the silhouetted landscape was dark but the sky presented a graduated light. A pool of light falls across the dark suggesting a stray final beam of sunlight. I borrowed this  formula of the pool of warm light in the shadows in my earlier twilight examples. James Whistler painted at the edge of evening as well.  His paintings of the Basilico and Piazza San Marco in Venice  inspired others like Arthur Melville in the 1890’s with his watercolor and gouache (example 8).  Again we find the artificial golden light of the piazza vs. the dark blue of the evening.

example 4. Twilight Hopper black conte sketch.
jan15,27,hopper,edward, gas, black conte drawing_edited-1

example 5. Twilight Hopper painting, “oil”.
jan15,27,hopper, edward, oil 26x40_edited-1

example 6. Dusk Hopper Painting with Electric and Natural light.
jan15,27,hopper, edward,house at dusk, 1935_edited-1

example 7. Van De Velde painting.
jan15,27,van de velde,adrian, mid 1600s, animals 1x per wk_edited-1

example 8. Melville Venice watercolor.
jan15,27,whistler, after whistler, by arthur melville,1897, the blue night venice, watercolor and gouache_edited-1

Lastly,  here is my invitation to  you  to join me and Max Dunlop for our collaborative artworks show at the Watershed Gallery opening on Saturday, January 31 at 6:30-8:30 PM at 23 Governor Street in Ridgefield, Ct.  On Sunday at  the Watershed Gallery at 2 PM Max and I will give a collaborative talk on our experiences and process of collaborative painting. Here’s another example of our collaborative  landscape painting.

example 8. collaborative landscape.
jan15,27,2 mountain lights, oil on anodized aluminum, 24x24, collaboration of max and david dunlop_edited-4

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