Light Waves

Isaac Newton puzzled over light’s substance. Was it composed of particles (photons) or waves? In the 19th century scientists like Mathew Young determined light was composed of both, particles and waves. Our eyes receive light as electromagnetic touches which are transduced electro-chemically to the brain. We perceive color as a manufactured product of our brain.  We marvel that electro-magnetic wave patterns can appear as visible color to us.

Colored light hits our chromatic receptors (essentially three: blue, green and red; the red and green generate a sense of yellow). The more contrast in the colors (hue) and in the value of the colors (light vs. dark) the more vivid is our experience. By attending to color and value contrast we can make paintings appear brighter or duller, or sparkly, or luminously glowing. Our perceptions are keenest when dark areas are contrasted against light areas. Color contrast also arrests our attention but, not as much as the value contrast which explains why some of us do not realize we are color blind until early adulthood.  We operate very well just discriminating values.

Colors that are brighter like yellow have more stimulating contrast with their opponent or complementary color like ultramarine blue deep than other complementary color combinations because, their value contrast is strongest. I have three examples here which illustrate value and color contrast.  Example 1 presents a metaphorical wave pattern as well as literal ocean waves sliding over a shallow rocky plane. The contrast here is principally light vs. dark.

Example 1. Waves sliding over rocks, oil on dibond aluminum, 36×36,

Examples two and three present yellow in contrast with other colors. In example two there is area in the upper half of the painting in which the value contrast between bright yellow and pale blue and violet is small but, the color contrast is high.  Here the edges are more difficult to discern and painting appears to glow.

Example 2. Peonies in Yellow, blue and violet, oil on dibond,

In example three the upper third shares a close bright value and lots of yellow. As the viewer lowers their gaze the contrast between dark and light becomes heightened along with the color contrasts. Notice how the similar bright value and color (yellow) of the upper third appears to glow vs. the lower area which has more contrast with clearer edge discrimination.

Example 3. Bright Yellow Marshland, oil on dibond,

Until June 17 please visit an exhibition of my (40) paintings at Susan Powell Fine Arts in Madison, Ct at 679 Boston Post Road, 203 318 0616.

Join me for a viewing of selected new works at the Adam Cave Gallery in Raleigh, NC on the evening of Sunday June 25th from 5 to 7pm at 2009 Progress Court. 919-838-6692.

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6 Responses to Light Waves

  1. Love the information on light, and referring to your paintings, which are gorgeous! Hope your show is going well!

  2. Michael McCartney says:

    Great David, thanks for another great lesson

  3. David, I enjoyed the PBS series on the great masters, and the Hudson River Painters. Any new programs in the works, or in the future?

  4. Hi David,
    I see you are using “dibond”. I looked it up on line and there are many options. What weight/composition do you use and do you need to frame them in order to hang them? I want to do away with frames to keep the cost down and for easier shipping of my work. Really miss your class but am happy to follow along with your blog. Thanks for putting in all the time and effort!

  5. ARLENE ORABY says:

    Really loved the exquisite peonies! Would like to see more of these, especially a demonstration. Any chance that you can give a workshop on this subject.
    Miss the class, but had schedule conflicts due to family illness.

  6. ARLENE ORABY says:

    Really loved the exquisite peonies! Would like to see more of these, especially a demonstration. Any chance that you can give a workshop on this subject.
    Miss the class, but had schedule conflicts due to family illness.

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