Vincent Van Gogh “Starry Night”

David Dunlop has a unique approach to teach art. That’s probably because his studies about art have a unique approach. David told me that he researches, reads and visits venues with art exhibitions. He analyzes and figures out how artists of the past operated. That’s going back to caves, cultures, and creations throughout history.

Today’s speak is about the warm and cheerful color yellow, from an artist’s point of view (POV), rather than from the interior design POV. So let’s hear what David, the artist, has to say about the color yellow.

David Dunlop summer afternoon workshop Amblers Farm

By the way, every workshop David teaches consists of an hour lecture about art, mostly from the intellectual POV, followed by a small painting in support of his lecture. So much fun!

Yellow!

 

A color associated with Earth, as one of the four elements. Known to be the imperial color of the Kahns or the color of the light of Eden. Yellow as a pigment has history that varies in use from ancient Egyptian sulfur to synthetic 20th century translucent Hansa acrylic yellows.

A strong favorite of Turner, in the 19thcentury, was lead chromate or chrome yellow as well as the fugitive (fast fading) aureolin yellow. Turner also favored the translucent organic gamboge, from Cambodia, for its glazing ability. Winslow Homer, like Turner, had a preference for aureolin yellow for his watercolors.

David with his yellows. Could be gamboge or aureolin, both transparent.

yellow-orpiment-menk

The Renaissance painters relied on the toxic yellow orpiment made from poisonous arsenic because of its promise to imitate a golden effect, according to Cennino Cennini’s Book of Art (Libro Dell’Arte of 1396).

Popular with artists is the stable and abundant pale yellow ochre, mined from earthen deposits in France. At times, yellow ochre was mixed by Renaissance artists with expensive powdered gold to give golden highlights.

Cadmium yellow, opaque and potent, was first available to artists in the last quarter of the 1800s. Impressionists and neo-impressionists were crazy for it because it gave a strong yellow hue effect. If you like to apply the paint thick, pure and opaque like the Impressionists, cadmium yellow was made for you. The other new 19th century yellow was chrome yellow. It was brilliant when thinly applied to white ground, but it was fugitive.

Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo expressing concern about the permanence of the new vivid colors, but he concluded that maybe some fading would give a beneficial effect and help to soften and harmonize what he feared were overly strong colors. Chief among the strong new colors was the opaque cadmium yellow. Cadmium yellow was an odd color revealing itself as pure because it only reflected a very narrow slice of the visible spectrum. Cadmium yellow was great at absorbing all the other colors of light except for a pure yellow. This meant cadmium yellow appeared intense and rich. But if you mixed it with another color then the narrow slice of pure yellow collapsed and the beholder only would find a dull yellowish, greenish gray or a yellowish orange at best. At worst it became a light-sucking grayed brown. Yechhh!

Impressionist painters were determined to limit the mixing of cadmium yellow with white and as little else as possible. More mixing meant less light bounced back to the eye and resulted in a weak color effect. Mixing opaque colors together is called subtractive mixing because it subtracts light. Van Gogh applied his paint thick and often undiluted to insure the strongest color effect. Artists like Van Gogh might mix the cadmium yellow with white to give the color a quality of halation as seen in the painting example.

Unlike cadmium yellow, gamboge is a translucent color. When viewed as a thick glob of paint, it appears warm, not bright and with a tendency to list toward green unlike a glob of cadmium yellow. But when thinly applied to white ground it appears much more yellow. That’s how Turner used it. As light bounces off the white ground and back through the glaze of gamboge it brightens the sensation of yellow. The thinner the gamboge yellow, the greater the sensation of yellow. The thicker the gamboge yellow becomes, the less the sensation of yellow for the viewer.

Yellow light in News Stand-oil on anodized aluminum 24×48

Amateurs keep adding more yellow and wonder why they are getting a duller effect as they keep subtracting light by adding more pigment. In David’s second image, he offer a gamboge based yellow in varying degrees of thickness, providing varying degrees of yellow, applied to a white enamel anodized aluminum surface.

Yellow Flora in a Florida Marsh-oil on linen 36×36

In his third image, he uses gamboge on oil primed linen, the thinner he makes the glaze of yellow the brighter the yellow of the leaves appears to be. Hermann Von Helmholtz advised artists in order to generate the strongest sensation of spectral opposites in paint they should contrast yellow and blue paint.

Diagrammed image

In his diagrammed image, he has circled areas where he has engineered the blue to be set against the yellow of the leaves. This helps propel the yellow of the leaves toward the viewer.

Visit David’s website. There you will find his DVD’s, his lectures and his blog link. He is a busy artist. He gives of his time and talents to support a cross-section of venues.  http://www.daviddunlop.com.

Do you like to wear yellow? How has yellow touched your life? Did you know that the color yellow attracts bees? I don’t mean flowers, I mean like a yellow blouse or shirt? Have you ever worn something yellow to a picnic? Ouch!

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