Sparkle vs. Glow

posted in: Painting | 4

Painting in the 1500s Titian explored expressive gestures and a soft dissolving focus.  In the 1600s Rembrandt would follow but, synthesized the dissolving gestures of  Titian with his own combination of dissolve vs. sparkle. He borrowed Titian’s designs and retooled them.  Dutch artists like Rembrandt made his highlights pop in sparkling notes out from the picture plane, the hilt of a sword, the glisten of a gold chain, the  catchlight on a shiny nose. In landscapes he pushed deeper space with rolling glowing effects of softly blended edges and complex shadows.  He amplified this space further with small areas of sharply delineated light, patches of sparkle.  Example 1 offers a detail of a Titian landscape. Notice the soft edges, the dissolution of form, the sloping triangular mountain holding a bright tower with a soft note of glow. Rembrandt (example 2) will borrow this design but, he restrains the color and offers more contrast with a few sharper edges. The crisp edges of light against dark generate a brighter, sparkling effect of light.

example 1. Titian’s design nov13,25, titian,met 16th century

example 2. Rembrandt’s contrast, same design nov13,25, Rembrandt, stormy landscape 1637,19x22 approx_edited-1

In the 1800s  Corot will borrow lessons from Rembrandt and Titian. He makes a gauzy atmosphere of gentle contrasts with blended and broken edges (anticipating Impressionism). His bright touches of light paint are laid upon a darker background making them hover in air and sparkle with light.  His foliage and distance is blurred into close harmony (example 3). If I use a brighter color palette, borrow the triangular designs of Rembrandt and Titian, borrow the soft focus touches  of Corot and, heighten the complementary color effects I can take the streets of Boston and turn them into an abstraction with motion (example 4.)

example 3. Corot soft focus with sparkle nov13,25,corot,row boat detail_edited-2

example 4. Abstracting with soft focus nov13,25, Boston Abstracted with motion, oilon anodized aluminum, 24x24

If I take a photo with dissolved edges I generate a feeling of glow. I move the camera vertically and quickly while a depress the shutter to find a vertical sense of motion coupled to the glow of blurred edges (example 5). I can blur the paint just as a blurred the image in the camera. With paint I can heighten the color, the feeling of gesture, and the color contrast of warm vs. cool (example 6) to create an overall unifying mysterious glow.

example 5 photo of NYC Grand Central Station nov13,25 nyc gct november2d_edited-3

example 6 Painting of the same theme nov13,25, nyc gct morning light, oil on anodized aluminum, 36x36

Here is a sequence of steps demonstrating the evolution of a painting from the first blurry lay-in to the eventual quest for sparkle. Remember the recipe for sparkle is small areas of sharp light surrounded by dark while the recipe for glow depends upon dissolved edges and more graduated contrasts. In example 7 (step 1) I lay down a soft gamboge in a loose rectangular spiral.  Next, (example 8, step 2) I gently sweep carmine over some of the yellow areas and  deep ultramarine blue across much of the interior space of the picture. The effect is deep color with soft sense of motion.  Then ( example 9, step 3) I find edges of light against dark.  High contrast edges attract our attention away from the soft motion of the blended areas of color and prompt us to see more nameable shapes.  In example 10, step 4, I build  fragmentation with more edges which diminishes the overall sense of glow but, heightens the sense of scattered sparkle.  More edges diminish ambiguity. Therefore, in example 11 step 5 I re-introduce more blending while also increasing the specificity of bright edges. Blur and Sparkle can cohabit the same image and increase its liveliness.

example 7. step one nov13,25, sparkle on the river, step 1_edited-1

example 8. step two nov13,25, sparkle on the river, step 2_edited-1

example 9. step three nov13,25, sparkle on the river, step 3 _edited-1



example 10. step four nov13,25, sparkle on the river, step 4_edited-1

example 11. step five nov13,25, sparkle on the river, step 5 edited-1

Examples 12, 13 and 14 all demonstrate different relationships between blur and sparkle.  In Example 12 I use the sparkle to create a radiating set of floating reflections. In example 13, I use sparkling bright and dark triangle shapes to interrupt the gentle color transition of the surface as it moves from dark blue up toward a warm pastel amber and orange. In example 14 the migration of the painting is again from dark up to light across a textured surface. Here the surface more granulated, layered and variegated. The cumulative effect is a soft surface built out of a collection of more brittle pieces.

example 12. Radiating Sparkle nov13,25, macro sparkle, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36

example 13. Punctuations of Sparkle across a surface nov13,25, surface lights,oilon anodized aluminum, 36x36

example 14. Layers of shapes and texture broken by sparkle nov13,25,water, surface spiral, oilon anodized aluminum, 36x36_edited-1

4 Responses

  1. Fredric Neuwirth

    How do you know when to stop? Example #12 Radiating Sparkle looks wonderful and inviting. Example #13 takes another direction until #14 where it becomes something else with more depth stronger color & sparkle. But how did you know that you would arrive there &
    not create a mess?

    Example #5 & #6 from the photograph, very effective light and motion to the painting that conveys more than the photograph. Great examples of light motion and sparkle. Excellent!

  2. Dottie Swieringa

    Just finished watching your dvd of “acrylics and landscape painting Program 2” which I borrowed from the Library!!!! I loved your energy, enthusiasm, imagination, feel for nature and your wealth of color knowledge! Just wanted you to know you have inspired yet another beginner painter!!! I have just prepared my first canvas with violet and ultramarine and varnish gloss medium using your three/ thirds technique. I’m impressed with just that and I still have a picture to paint! I feel like I just stepped off a cliff with a hoverboard!

    This is just to say a simple thank you and enjoy painting!

  3. Sylvia Keller

    When are you going to give a video demonstration on the technique of applying paint to Aluminum panels? Also, have you tried using Enamels or Lacquer for this application? I usually use automotive quality type of Enamels or Lacquer and mix with thinner when painting my landscapes on sleek metal surfaces.

    • HI Sylvia,
      I have recently been testing new faux metal ( bronze, silver etc) decorator enamels on aluminum as well as other surfaces. The problem with these enamels is their toxic off-gasing while applying and drying. A well ventilated space is required. I do intend a future blog on the subject. Thank you for your suggestion. Best, David

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