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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Speed of Light

I promise to take you to Paris later.  For now,  think about the operation of your eyes and brain. Your brain collects the eyeball’s data for shape, color and motion at different speeds. It correlates them to create an image for you. This takes time. It’s fast but, it takes time. Turner was among the first to exploit the sensation of motion in paint.  He watched his world appear to speed up with the industrial revolution, steam ships and steam railways.  Motion wasn’t a new sensation; wind, weather, birds and arrows  had previously appeared as speeding blurs to us.  Few artists were tried capturing this motion in paint. Velazquez was the first with his blurring spinning wheel. Turner included the entire visual field in his evocation of motion, of speed.  Consider his work in example 1, “Rain, Steam and Speed” painted in 1844. It’s about 30″x40″.

example 1. “Rain, Steam, and Speed.”
jan15,19,turner,rain steam and speed full image

example 2. detail of “Rain, Steam and Speed.”
jan15,19,turner,rain steam and speed, the great western railway,1844_edited-1

In the detail section you see how he smeared the paint; blurred it to create a sensation of fast weather and a fast train. So little is tied to precisely focused information.

I will start slowly and gather speed with my images here. Example 3 is a photo of a quiet Connecticut stream in January. The photo presents large areas in sharp focus. The feeling is slow to the point of stasis. I manipulated the image in Photoshop to create a faster evocation of the scene. I used this manipulated image to inspire the painting you see in example 4. The colors are brighter and they are stretched horizontally. Focus appears to dissolve.

example 3. Photo of a winter stream.
jan15,19,devils den photo_edited-4 - Copy

example 4. Painting of stream with speed in mind.
jan15,19,forest and speeding stream, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,18x18_edited-2

Next, let’s consider how to make an image appear slower after a fast start. I begin with example 5 as my lay-in or first step. The image has no edges or discrete information. It appears to have more motion than in example 6 which step two of the same painting but, developed with more precise edges and articulated textures.

example 5. step one with more motion.
jan15,19,step 1, shorelines

example 6. step 2, less motion with more detail.
shorelines,intimate places, jan15,19,oilon brushed silver anodized aluminum,18x18_edited-1

Next, let’s look at figures in the landscape. Example 7 has more delineated figures but, a blurry background. This painting has more in common with Turner’s work. His background is more dissolved while the train has more defined areas.

example 7. figures in slower motion.
jan15,19,mixed media,family

Figures can evoke more motion not only if they are blurred but also, if their background appears to have  directional movement. Example 8 begins with the background, a printed/woven fabric which will subtly assert itself throughout the painting. Example 9  presents the image  painted on the fabric.  The fabric has nuanced undulations which were created during the stretching over the framework. These undulations give quiet dance movements to the space.

example 8. the fabric background.
jan15,19,fabric sample,18x18

example 9. painting on the same fabric.
jan15,19,Grand Central Terminal Textile, oil on fabric,18x18_edited-1

The design can also impart a sense of motion as well as the blurring forms. Example 10 presents an architectural design which moves with rapid foreshortening into the distance.

example 10. Design for motion.
jan15,19,mixed media,59th st bridge,13x13_edited-1

Finally, Let’s go to Paris. In December as I walked the Parisian streets near the Pont D’Alma I snapped the  traffic and architecture searching for flavors of Paris. Example 11 is an example of one of those photographs. Example 12 is the result of Photoshop manipulations of that photograph. I recalled my sense of the fast traffic, the colored lights in the cafes, the rounded edges on the buildings. Example 13 is an oil on paper which took ideas from example 12.  Using a different image I created example 14 which amplifies the color still further with the help of  the brushed silver anodized aluminum substrate.

example 11. step 1,the photograph.
jan15,19,paris streets orig photo

example 12.step 2, after Photoshop changes.
jan15,19,paris traffic,photo

example 13. step 3, the oil on paper painting.
jan15,19,mixed media,paris streets II, oil and mixed media, 13x13_edited-2

example 14. an oil on brushed silver surface.
jan15,19,mixed media,Paris streets I, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,18x18_edited-2

You are invited to the exhibition of Max Dunlop and David Dunlop collaborative paintings which opens at the Watershed Gallery on Saturday, January 31 at 23 Governor Street, Ridgefield Ct.  203-483-4387

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Turner Vs. Rembrandt

A bath of light can create the same veil of  ambiguity and mystery as a bath of darkness. Darkness presents a bluer mood like hearing a song a in a minor key. An abundance of light gives the upbeat feeling of a song in a major key. And, a varnished surface reflects less glare over light  than  dark.

J.M.W. Turner turns the chiaroscuro tradition of sparkles of light popping through darkness upside down. He takes Rembrandt and Caravaggio’s unifying darkness and substitutes light.  This revolutionary substitution does not happen at once.  Turner develops his bath of light slowly through experiments in watercolor  which are transferred to his oils. His revolution extends to our tastes in art today.  Monet will adopt the his program of light dominating darkness.

Turner discovered that light offers the same obscuring and suggestive mystery as darkness with the advantage of more luminosity, a luminosity that resembles daylight, that evokes the yellow light of the sun. Look at a mid 1830s oil of Turner’s (example 1) then compare it to earlier  dark chiaroscuro artists whom he admired like Rubens (example 2) and J.Van Ruisdael ( example 3).   Observe how  Van Ruisdael simplifies the Ruben’s composition by substituting clouds for trees and flora.  Notice that Turner borrows Van Ruisdael’s compositional forms  in his seascape. Turner uses freer gestures and reverses ratio of dark to light areas.

example 1. J.M.W. Turner seascape 1835-40.
jan15,12,turner,1835-40,breakers on a flat beach,margate_edited-1

example 2. Rubens landscape.
jan15,12,rubens landscape_edited-1

example 3. J. Van Ruisdael landscape.
jan15,12,j v ruisdael,fields and castle_edited-1

Turner lets the light blur the edges of his shapes just as Rembrandt let darkness blur his edges. This blurring creates a greater sense of motion and space.

Consider my next photo of a woodland and pond (examples 4 and 5).  In example 4 I  cropped the image to show more dark than light. I cropped example 5  to present more light than dark.  The mood changes with the ratio change in dark to light areas.

The level of contrast is low which gives a pale effect in example 6, an interior of Grand Central Terminal.  Look at the  same image after an application of darkening glazes ( example 7).  The apparent contrast is increased not only because of the application of  darker glazes but also because, example 7 has smaller areas of light in relationship to its areas of dark.  The mood moves with the darkness.

example 4. woodland photo with more dark.
jan15,12,devils den dark

example 5. same photo with more light and lower horizon.
jan15,12,devils den light jan14_edited-1

example 6. Grand Central Terminal with less contrast and lighter palette.
jan15,12,gct in light blue step 1

example 7. the same image after darkening glazes.
jan15,12,gct chiaroscuro step2

Following the new tradition of Turner, I  employ a bath of light in Grand Central Station which results in example 8.   Or, I can put a veil of Turner’s yellow light  over  woodland  landscape as in example 9.  Example 10’s subject, winter mist, invites  further applications of pale obscuring light.

example 8. Light  and Luminosity in Grand Central.
jan15,12,gct, in light, oil on aluminum,24x24

example 9. Yellow and Violet Glen, oil.
jan15,12,devils den step 1 commission 36x84_edited-1

example 10. Winter Mist, oil on anodized aluminum.
jan15,12,winter mist, oil on aluminum,24x24

Use a pre-existing dark surface as another strategy for applying the bath of light.  Example 11 serves as the  dark under-painting for example 12.  It is an on copper which I over-painted with lighter colors (pale violet and pastel yellow-oranges) then, I cut away slivers of dangling dark shapes. These shapes are scattered like  hanging, dark,  calligraphic pictographs. They oscillate between being leaves or feathers or,  the suggestion of windblown shamanist prayer flags. I also liked the association with  American Indian lore.

example 11. original underpainting, oil on copper.
jan15,12,oil on copper,cherry lane park

example 12. Repurposed example 11 as a Winter Meadow.
jan15,12,leaves as feathers, oil on copper

On January 31, 2015 Max Dunlop and I will have an exhibition of our collaborative paintings at the Watershed Gallery in Ridgefield, Ct.  At this moment Max and his wife, Natalie,  are hiking along the Strait of Magellan to the southernmost outpost in South America.


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Stealing From Rembrandt

Rembrandt looked to the chiaroscuro tradition of Da Vinci and Caravaggio.  In the early 1600s in Amsterdam, chiaroscuro was new. Rembrandt wasn’t alone with his fascination for the new technique building dramatic ambiguity through veils of darkness.  His biggest competitor as a young artist, Jan Lievens  also adopted this new chiaroscuro system.  How Rembrandt used the mystery of darkness can be seen in etchings.

Etchings are worked up slowly. You scratch an image into a copper plate. Rub in the ink. Lay paper upon the inked plate and roll it through a press ( example 1). You  ponder the results and determine what other work the plate needs before you  ink it  and roll it through again.  The progressive sequence of  images are referred to as different states. The first state is the result of the first roll-through or pull. There can be many different states before the image is considered ready for editioning or, multiple printings.  Rembrandt applied more obscuring darks to his image as he pulled his different printed states.  He also burnished in new lights. Example 2 presents the third state of the crucifixion image.  Example  3 presents the 4th state. Observe how added darkness also adds ambiguity, uncertainty, mystery.

example 1. Rembrandt’s press, friend Nancy McTague Stock took this photo in Rembrandt’s studio.
rembrandt's press

example 2. 3rd state example.
jan15,5,rembrandt,crucifixion, 3rd state

example 3. later 4th state example.
jan15,5,rembrandt,crucifixion,4th state

As a painter I use Rembrandt’s process.  I begin with a painting of wildflowers in a meadow. I’ll call this my 1st state.  Next, I completely obscure the image with dark translucent glazes. When Rembrandt inked his copper plate he would completely obscure the image with the ink. Then he would wipe away the ink to reveal the etched drawing.  As he removed the ink he could see where he would like the etched plate to be darker or lighter. He applied darkness and removed it to reveal light. I used the same process  on my painting examples. I applied translucent darkness and selectively removed areas to reveal small patches of  light lying below.   This created an image with more sparkle,  depth, and mystery.  Rembrandt recomposed the image and broke the light areas into smaller bits of sparkling lights within a field of dark. I will follow his lead in my examples.

Example 4 shows my painting before applying the obscuring glaze. Example 5 is after selectively removing parts of the dark glaze coat.  The painting gets subtly recomposed as well.

example 4. Image before  applying and removing dark glazes.
jan15,5,meadow, Cricket Perspective, oil on aluminum,24x24_edited-1

example 5. after the addition and selective removal of dark glazes.
jan15,5,meadow, Knottted Flora, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-1

I repeated this process with another larger image, 36×36 as opposed to previous example’s  24×24 size.  The painting begins as example 6. Example 7 appears after covering  this image with dark glazes and  then selectively revealing shapes in the dark glazes .   I also spritzed a mist of  Eco House’s Extra Mild Citrus Thinner to areas of the newly wet dark glaze. Then I resumed my selective deletions. I painted in a few judicious additions. The thinner caused areas of the  paint to run or drip.  I arrested the dripping with a targeted hairdryer. I liked the splotchy  textures caused by the thinner, especially on the surface of the water. The fineness of the thinner mist determined the diameter size of the blotches. They are almost imperceptible in the image below.

example 6. image before the  dark glazes.
corkscrew and curves early, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36_edited-1

example 7. after dark glazes, thinner spritzing, and selective reveals.
jan15,5,meadow, Corksrcrews and Curves, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36_edited-1

Example 8 represents the initial painting. Example 9 presents the same image after it was covered with dark glaze coats and  after the beginning of the selective removal process.  Example 10 presents the latest version of the image.

example 8. Initial painting.
jan15,5,Entangled,oilonanodized aluminum,40x60

example 9. after dark glazes and the initial deletions.
jan15,5, step 2, corkscrew,40x60

example 10. latest version after more paint deletions.
jan14,5,meadow, corkscrews and Curves in Blue and Green, oil on anodized aluminum,40x60_edited-1

Rembrandt used darkness as a tool for building ambiguity and mystery. Two hundred years later J.M.W. Turner will turn the art world upside down by using light as his obscuring tool for ambiguity. He will add light and compel us to look into the light to make our hypotheses just as Rembrandt had earlier added darkness. How Turner came to this revelation, employed it, and redirected the future of painting will be the subject of later blogposts.

If you live within commuting range of the Silvermine Art Center  in New Canaan, Connecticut then I hope  to see you in class in this next semester. This is a reminder that my classes begin on January 13 and 14. Later this month on January 31st  in Ridgefield, Connecticut at the Watershed Gallery  Max Dunlop and I will exhibit new collaborative artworks as well as individual works by Max and works by me.

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Photography, Through A Looking Glass

On a dinner cruise in  Paris  I wondered how I would take photos from my window. The Reflections had to be integrated with the view beyond.  Their confusion must add to the image, not detract. Windows offer layers of opportunity. Two separate scenes can combine into one. Our mind works this way. It looks for a single cause;  it hypothesizes thematic unity from of chaos.

Peering out a window has a long tradition in painting. The single subject with their back to the viewer looks out a window and stimulates a  mood of reflection or a sense of longing. Example 1  is a photograph  inside London’s Victoria and Albert museum. The interior space is dark and quiet, the exteriror is bright and beckoning.

example 1.
dec14,29,london,v n a, window_edited-2

I recall the magical image that appeared as  I looked through the ground glass of my Rolleiflex  reflex camera and other large format reflex cameras. The soft light, the soft edges, the unity of tone, these qualities appeared to artists like Vermeer and Joshua Reynolds as they looked through their camera obscura machines. The 18th century landscape painter, Thomas Gainsborough, grew infatuated with reverse glass painting (example 2). The effect of backlighting his small landscapes heightened  their theatricality. Gainsborough used a large cabinet (box) with a viewing lens.  He mounted and backlit his reverse glass paintings inside this  box. Example 3 gives you a viewer’s experience of looking into this box.

example 2. Gainsborough Reverse-glass painting.
dec14,29,thomas gainsborough,reverse glass ptg

example 3. viewer’s experience of reverse glass illumination through a lens into the box.
dec14,29,thomas gainsborough,reverse glas view machine and ptg

While  Gainsborough was painting reverse glass works other artists were mounting glass in frameworks in the field. They superimposed a grid on these field-mounted windows and traced landscapes on them. The trick was to maintain a constant distance from their glass plate to keep all the components in proper proportion and location. Chin mounts and eye sighting rings were used to assist in this process.

Gainsborough must have noticed the curious image that resulted when he stacked two or more of his glass paintings. But, that was too aberrant an image for his time. Double exposures would have to wait another hundred years. Today’s  photo software makes double and triple exposures easy.  Example 4 demonstrates the effect of  looking through layers of windows in the entry of the Victoria and Albert museum. Note,  most of my photographs were taken with the new mirrorless Sony alpha 6000. It’s smaller than a digital SLR  and offers more portability but,  better quality and menu choices than most point and shoot models;  a good choice for travelers.

example 4. Through the glass with layered images.
dec14,29,london,v n a,entry_edited-2

Viewing through modern windows gives us new perspective possibilities especially when those windows are within tall buildings. Using my I pad  I snapped example 5 from my London hotel . The Repoussoir or coulisse (i.e. the left or right flank or wing shape which interally frames the image) appears as a scaffolded building on the right.  At this high  elevation there is a disconcerting invitation to step onto the planking within the scaffolding.

example 5.  Through the high floor hotel window.
dec14,29,london,hotel window2_edited-4

Looking at mirrors or through windows gives artists an opportunity to unify disparate scenes. In 1976 Jerry Uelsmann took this photograph of a room through a window (example 6). The ceiling with its lack of visual information easily reflects the sky without  interfering visual noise. When I took my photo of  Jerry’s photograph I (and the gallery’s spot lights) reappeared  within the image.  I replicated this experience by taking photos through a glass window  in the garden of the Petit Palais in Paris.  The interior of the Petit Palais became comingled with the exterior’s reflected buildings.  The sky appeared in the ceiling area as it had in  Uelsmann’s work (examples 7 and 8).  Example 8 shows you the structure of the window as a part of the image.

example 6. Uelsmann’s dining room with sky reflection and the tertiary reflection of my silhouette.
dec14,29,contemporary photography, jerry uelsmann, 1976, gelatin silver print, surrealist style_edited-1

example 7. Petit Palais with window-reflection photo.
dec29,14,paris,petit palais2a_edited-2

example 8. Petit Palais 2nd through-glass photo.
dec14,29,paris,petit palais3_edited-1

Windows offer  a variety of distortion possibilities. While riding the Eurostar train from London to Paris  I turned my camera’s lens  to an oblique angle with the window (example 9.)  I noticed I could find similar distortions in angled glass within my photographs. Example 8 presents my initial photo of a sculpture silhouetted against a window. Notice the sculpture’s partial reflection in the glass of a painting on the far right. In Example 9 I cropped out the sculpture’s reflection and altered its colors and values.

example 9. elongated image out the train window (slightly anamorphic).
dec14,29,eurostar to paris

example 10. photo of sculpture before window.
dec14,29,window angel v n a, hall_edited-2 - Copy

example 11. image of reflected sculpture.
dec14,29,window angel v n a_edited-1

Arriving in Paris my first stop was the Musee D’Orsay. Windows on the 5th floor present views over Paris extending over the Seine from Sacre Coeur to the Louvre.  Using my I pad I snapped grainy images using the museum’s terrace sculptures to frame a portion of the Louvre.  I thought the grainy field of texture could appear atmospheric with software adjustments. See example 12.

example 12. View through a museum window.
dec14,29,paris,d orsay balcony_edited-1

Now, back to the dinner cruise I mentioned in my introduction. Here were opportunities to mix the reflected window information with the scenery of Paris along the Seine. The window’s reflections gave me visual events in the sky area. Without the reflective window glass  this area would have appeared as a void, flat and empty. As the cruise proceeded I mixed in more  of the effects from the reflecting glass.

Example 13 presents a passing tour boat. Its glaring lights make a  strong contrast against the night and send vibrating reflections across the water. Example 14 was a chance to create an alternative point of view on the iconic Eiffel Tower. And yes, there is a Carousel under the Eiffel Tower. Again the visual noise of reflections adds to the texture of the surface. Example 15 demonstrates a classic subject, the kiss or embrace. This subject is camouflaged within the ricocheting reflections and blurred motion of the image.   The visual camouflage let me  stir in more ambiguity and move further toward abstraction.

example 13. passing tour boat.

example 14 Eiffel Tower with reflections.
dec14,29,eiffel and sein4_edited-1

example 15. The  Seine’s Island Kiss.

Finally, the role of glass as a protector, distortionist and mediator is demonstrated with the Louvre’s Mona Lisa.  There she is buried behind thick protective glass, a physical barrier,  a crowd  and seen by most through the lens and software of digital cameras and cell phones ( example 16.)

example 16. The Mona Lisa behind Glass.
dec14,29,da vinci, mona lisa in the louvre_edited-1



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Special 20% Off Holiday Sale on David’s DVDs

Holiday Sale

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Under The Influence of Temples

Mediterranean culture gave us mythology, math and architecture. The architecture of classical temples still fires our imagination in our churches, libraries, train stations and shopping malls. The magnetic pull of spaces like Grand Central Station, New York’s Public Library or the Metropolitan Museum can be traced to ancient temples of Rome.  Artists exercised their attraction to these spaces  by decorating and  describing them. Dutch artists of the 1600s used linear perspective and camera obscura technology to recreate the spell of the temples. Examples 1 and 2, by Houckeest and Emanuel de Witte illustrate the  observation and rendering skills of those Dutch artists.

example.1. Houckeest,1638.
dec14,8,g. houckeest,edited-1

example 2. de Witte, 1669, oil on panel.
dec14,8,emanuel de witte,1669 oil on panel, church interior

Contemporary artists’ affection for classical temple interiors challenges their interpretive skills. We are past  imitating photographic appearances in paint.  And, photographic appearances continue to be redefined by photographers’ imaginative use of  software  and the broadening capabilities of cameras as well as new insights in visual perception.

Example 3 takes us back to classical Italian architecture.  Here is a composite photograph of a columned corridor in Vicenza and a church interior in Rome.  Our brain unifies the evidence of two differing stories into one, two layered images become one visual hypothesis. Example 4 again uses classical forms as seen in the steel bridgework on Manhattan’s upper West Side. The arches inevitably suggest a classical temple. This image was built from photos layered with a painting of a similar subject.

example 3. Composite photo.
dec14,8,layered photo, Vicenza to Rome_edited-1

example 4. composite photos and painting.
dec14,8,city bridges, oil on anodized 13x13_edited-2

My next examples derive from the interior of  New York’s Metropolitan Museum.  The milling crowds, the light diffusing from Fifth Avenue, the complex of columns, and testing possibilities for coloring the atmosphere to energize the space motivated this image (example 5,a composite photograph).  Next, I prepared an unorthodox surface. I began with a landscape which no longer bore fruit for me. I over-painted this landscape with a silver metallic semi-translucent enamel (example 6).  At first, I  slathered on paint seeking another landscape but, felt an irrepressible urge to return to the imagery of the metropolitan museum.  Example 7 shows you an early first step in this painting’s process. I discovered I could alligator the surface of the  metallic enamel by selectively spraying it with turpentine. This example gives an idea of the textured surface. Example 8 presents the image as it now appears. I felt that notes of bright Vermillion placed in areas of a deep ultramarine blue snapped the picture into a more  lively expression. I restrained my squeegee work  in favor  of  brushwork.

example 5. step 1,the composite photograph.
dec14,8,step1,photo layered in museum

example 6. step 2, The under-painting with silver enamel.
dec14,8,step2,prepared silver metallic paint over landscape

example 7. step 3 with clearer evidence of alligatored surface areas.
dec14,8,step4,between columns

example 8. step 4 image as it now appears.
dec14,8,final step2,,between columns,oil on prepared anodized aluminum,24x24

I have two more examples of my museum explorations. This next example again begins with a lay-in over a silver enameled substrate (example 9).  The developed painting (example 10)  relies on an ascending triangle for compositional structure. The triangle evolved from blurring figures exiting the museum into a unitary but, perforated mass. The triangle’s fragmentation is also interpenetrated by columns as I try to build a horizontal interrupting the ascending (peopled) triangle.  The vermillion notes awaken and refresh our attention. Example 11 presents the motif in a grander scale. It’s 48×48.

example 9. initial lay-in, step 1.
dec14,8,step1,met museum,edited-1

example 10. image as it now appears, step 2.
dec14,8,final step,met entry, oil on anodized and prepared aluminum,24x24

example 11. a larger image of the same motif.
dec14,8,columns of light,  Great Hall, oil on anodized aluminum, 48x48

My invitation to you:  If you live within commuting distance of  the Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan, Ct.  I invite you to register for my winter semester.  Tuesdays  continues with morning and afternoon classes. Wednesday afternoons I offer an experimental class (in terms of materials and techniques). Registration begins on December 10, 2014.  Just call The Silvermine School of Art at 203 966 6668 ext 2 or fax in your registration.  Classes begin Tuesday, January 13.

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Approaching Winter

As Minneapolis experienced its coldest Thanksgiving in 20 years; -2 degrees Fahrenheit,  I found a moment to examine cold winter mornings.  Here were  brittle skeletal stalks of cattails and  blue violet shadows on snow.  Earlier artists from Holland’s 1600s described their winter with frozen canals and harbors laced with skaters.  Later 19th century Impressionists found winter stimulated them to explore complementary color relationships like  violet vs. yellow and, blue vs. yellow and peach.  Winter became the time for  nuanced tones of pale grays and violets,   the time to build cold luminosities.

At the end of the 19th century Winslow Homer dramatically simplified his compositions. The snow blankets of winter helped this process as you see in example 1.   A few years later in 1908,  the early expressionist pioneer, Marsden Hartley was  separating himself from Impressionism (See example 2).  Unlike Monet’s Impressionist winters, Hartley finds simple shapes and reduces them to  iconic status. He applies paint like a winter Impressionist but, we see his later bold expressionism bubbling up. By winter 1982 Neil Welliver usurped the broken forms of Impressionists,  suppressed their complementary color palettes and reintroduced edges to forms but, kept the Impressionist appetite for confusion (visual noise through a texture of small overlapping strokes) as generator for  emotional sensation  (example 3).

example 1. Winslow Homer
dec14,1,homer,w, sled_edited-2

example 2. Marsden Hartley
dec14,1,marsden hartley,1908,snow_edited-1

example 3. Neil Welliver
dec14,1,welliver, neil, oil stdy for early thaw,18x18, 1982_edited-1

If I borrow Hartley’s palette and the vertical composition of Welliver I discover winter in Manhattan (example 4).  My buildings and figures take over the vertical role of Welliver’s trees.  If I transfer the vertical confusion set up by Neil Welliver to a winter marshland of cattails  I get examples 6 through 11. Here are step-by-step developments of two different paintings sharing the same source material (photos in example 5).  They are reconfigured into squares. In the first step-by-step sequence (examples 6 through 9) I begin with brushed-silver anodized aluminum.

example 4. Winter in Manhattan, oil.
dec14,1,manhattan winter, oil on anodized aluminum,18x18

example 5. some of the original photos.
dec14,1,winter photos
The next images are the same size as Neil Welliver’s study, 18×18.  Step 1 (example 6) covers the surface with an unevenly blended combination of red iron oxide and ultramarine blue. Step 2 (example 7)  With soft synthetic flat brushes I reveal threads of the silver substrate which is now stained by the red iron oxide to look golden.  In step 3 (example 8)  I  added opaque pastel colors to both sky and foreground.  I smeared the foreground  with gentle vertical strokes. The blurring at the lower part of the picture (ground plane) evolves into more clarity in the middle ground. This blurring from the edges into clarity toward the middle imitates our own act of vision.  The center of  our vision enjoys much more clarity than the periphery.

example 6. step 1.


example 7.step 2.

example 8.step 3.
dec14,1,step 3,winter,dawn at bald eagle I, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,18x18_edited-1

In steps 9 through 11  I pursued a slightly more abstract effect.  I start with an underpainting of  varied yellows in acrylic.  Step 1 (example 9) shows my initial lay-in with ultramarine blue and red iron oxide. The sky reveals the color and quality of the underpainting which I will later rediscover with a squeegee strokes.  Step 2 (example 10) shows the evidence of my squeegee work and gentle over-scrubbing with synthetic flats. Step 3 ( example 11) presents the image after adding opaque pastel blue  which gets dragged and blurred up into the darker middle area.  Finally, I return with the squeegee to find brighter and cleaner threads of the yellow underpainting.

example 9. step 1.
dec14,1,step1,bald eagle blended,18x18

example 10. step 2.
dec14,1,step2,bald eagle blended

example 11. step 3.
dec14,1,step 3,bald eagle blended,winter,dawn at bald eagle,18x18_edited-1

I conclude this exploration on with  an earlier collaborative painting ( an oil on raw aluminum,48×48) by Max Dunlop and Me. The image begins with a wintry vista in the Badlands of the Dakotas (example 12). We borrow ideas from older winter Chinese paintings reaching as far back as the Sung Dynasty in the 12th century.

example 12. Badlands in Winter.
dec14,1,max and david, final version after david, badlands2, 48x48 oil on aluminum_edited-2


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