What is in a color?

For months, I have been sharing the process I am going through to create a four color lithograph. One of my main concerns has been how to translate and reinterpret the color in my paintings into print. As each color is applied separately, you have to think about the construction of the color in a different way from painting.

The people following my process have had their own epiphanies about color and the artistic process. This description from Sean Donovan is particularly interesting:

Several years ago I was commissioned to make a large cabinet to hide a big screen TV.  After I had built what they asked for, I let the decorator, Kathleen Brenner, know that I was ready for  whatever paint thy had decided on.  They sent me some paint from a paint company called the Donald Kaufman Paint Co.  The merit of this paint which was extremely expensive, was that it was mixed with pure pigment and no fillers.  The paint was labeled DK-3, Yellow. 

Paint: DKC-26 Photo: Peter Margonelli From:
Donald Kaufman Paint: DKC-26 Photo: Peter Margonelli
From: “Color Palettes” (not the cabinet in this story, just a
sample of Kaufman’s color in the room.)
   
  After properly priming the cabinet, I began to spray on the first coat.  It was beautiful.  The color was so yellow it was almost  breathtaking.  I finished up the first coat that night and was very pleased with the results.  After a couple of days of drying time, I painted the second coat.  As I applied it I could see the cabinet gaining a certain richness that was really surprising to me.  A few days later I applied the third coat and was extremely pleased with the result.  It was positively  stunning.  The paint seemed to be magic in that the cabinet seemed to glow and had a depth I had never seen before.
     In order to deliver the cabinet, I had to load it in a trailer and take it to Larchmont for delivery.  As we moved this cabinet out into the daylight rather than the artificial  light in the shop, the color seemed to change.  It became a brighter yellow, not as deep as it had been inside.  We pushed it into the trailer and it again changed color, to a more subdued yellow.  I called Kathy and she said that it was fine and to bring it down and kind of laughed at my concern. 
    
     After I had installed the cabinet in a beautifully decorated house,  Kathy insisted that I stay and watch the cabinet as the sun went down and cast a changing light on the cabinet.  The color change as the sun moved was amazing, it glowed with constantly changing color.  Kathy attributed the change to the pureness of the color and I was convinced. 
      If I was able to contribute some small idea to your work , I am very pleased.  Since my experience with that paint, I have realized how difficult it is to be an artist and how much work goes into each work.  When you  get things finished, let me know and I will come up for  a viewing and champagne.

                                                          ~

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Van Gogh’s Quest for Color

Van_Gogh_Vincent-The_Potato_Eaters

Van Gogh, Vincent – The Potato Eaters

On October 7, 1885 Vincent Van Gogh visited Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and everywhere searched for paintings that would support his rejection of Impressionism and his obsession with the “de terre literalism” of Millet. That is, until he came upon Veronese’s The Marriage of Cana.

Veronese, Paolo, "The Marriage of Cana"

Veronese, Paolo, “The Marriage of Cana”

 When Veronese painted the portraits of his beau-monde in the Marriage of Cana,  he had spent on it all the richness of his palette in somber violets, in splendid golden tones. Then — he thought still of a faint azure and pearly-white — which does not appear in the foreground.  He detonated it on the background — and it was right . . . So beautiful is that background that it arose spontaneously from a calculation of colors.  Am I wrong in this? . . . Surely that is real painting, and the result is more beautiful than the exact imitation of the things themselves. Van Gogh

Veronese, Paolo, "The Marriage of Cana"

Veronese, Paolo, “The Marriage of Cana”

Veronese, "The Marriage of Cana", detail

Veronese, “The Marriage of Cana”, detail

Although Van Gogh’s battle with a muddy palette was not quite over, the impact of his encounter with the Veronese can already be seen in this painting of a bat, completed immediately on his return from his trip to Amsterdam.

Van Gogh, "The Bat"

Van Gogh, “The Bat”

 

 

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On the Nature of Abstraction: Sean Scully

“My paintings talk of relationships. How bodies come together. How they touch. How they separate. How they live together, in harmony and disharmony. The character of bodies changes constantly through my work. According to color. The opacity and transparency of how the surface is made. This gives it its character and its nature. Its edge defines its relationship to its neighbor and how it exists in context. My paintings want to tell stories that are an abstracted equivalent of how the world of human relationships is made and unmade. How it is possible to evolve as a human being, in this.”  Sean Scully

Sean Scully, "Red Sky"

Sean Scully, “Red Sky”

When I first saw Scully’s paintings I was struck by their physicality. These are big objects. Frequently the stretchers are quite deep.   Not only does he paint blocks of color that are stacked one on top of the other, but he also physically builds paintings into paintings. One stretched canvas is inserted into a hole in another canvas. A completely seperate entity inserted into the picture plane. The paint is viseral, thick, lucious, complex, layered, Like nature itself. But then, the big surprise: These paintings are filled with light. So, when you look at these blocks of color you think about what kind of light and even what kind of weather they exist in.

Sean Scully, "Moorland"

Sean Scully, “Moorland”

Sean Scully

Sean Scully

Looking at some of Scully’s photos, you do get a sense that this notion of place, light and atmosphere is not foreign to him.

Sean Scully, "Inis Oirr Vl" , 2005, black and white photograph, 56.7 x 72.6 cm

Sean Scully, “Inis Oirr Vl” , 2005, black and white photograph, 56.7 x 72.6 cm

Sean Scully, Inis Oirr Vl , 2005, black and white photograph, 56.7 x 72.6

Sean Scully, Inis Oirr Vl , 2005, black and white photograph, 56.7 x 72.6

Sean Scully, Wall of Light Cubed, 2007, granite, Aix en Provence, France

Sean Scully, Wall of Light Cubed, 2007, granite, Aix en Provence, France

They are not just paintings about how things look in nature, but about how they behave — body next to body, stone next to stone.

Sean Scully, "End of Day"

Sean Scully, “End of Day”

Sean Scully, 1.1.08, 2008, pastel on paper, 56.8 x 76.6 cm

Sean Scully, 1.1.08, 2008, pastel on paper, 56.8 x 76.6 cm

 

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