YELLOW – A PRIMARY PIGMENT

YELLOW – A PRIMARY PIGMENT

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!

RENAISSANCE CAQUETOIRE

RENAISSANCE CAQUETOIRE

  • If we look at a painting in any particular time frame, you will see the fashions, the furnishings and designs of the interiors. An example is Velazquez “Las Meninas” or “The Family of Philip IV.”
Diego Velazquez “The Family of Philip IV”

How in the world did anyone sit down? Or ride a horse? Or play hide and seek?  But no matter who or what designed these strange fashions, comfort of sorts was provided. After all, it is the Renaissance, a time of rebirth and revitalization of life and living. Stool sitting is an obvious choice for such fashions, but would you believe they actually did have chairs? For example, the caquetoire, a small

Caquetoire 16th century

French conversational chair, also known as a gossip chair, standing on four legs held together with stretchers, designed in the Renaissance in the 16th century. The arms are wide, but not really wide enough for those voluminous farthingale skirts. The shape of the seat is what really distinguishes it. It was designed to be very wide in the front, and narrowed at the back, making a triangular shape. The back was high and panelled, and sometimes was decorated with carving and medallions. This chair has carved rams heads on the ends of the arms.

The chairs were apparently grouped for ladies to sit together and chat or gossip. Indeed the word caquetoire comes from the word caqueter which means to chat. Somehow the translation favors the word gossip over chat. These chairs first appeared in France but then found their way to other European countries.

The chair was designed during the reign of France’s Henry II (1547-1559), who married the Italian Catherine de’Medici, a woman of cruel but forceful character, who completely controlled him and their three sons, each of whom succeeded to the throne.  She was instrumental in giving additional impetus to the Italian arts in France.  She surrounded herself with Italian courtiers, who aided in introducing at the French court the amenities of Florentine social existence.  Catherine died in 1588 after an active life as the central figure of the religious wars.  Tradition ascribes to her the instigation of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s (1572), which occurred during the reign of her son, Charles IX.

Painting by François Dubois, a Huguenot painter born circa 1529 in Amiens, who settled in Switzerland. Although Dubois did not witness the massacre, he depicts Admiral Coligny‘s body hanging out of a window at the rear to the right. To the left rear, Catherine de’ Medici is shown emerging from the Louvre to inspect a heap of bodies.

Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre

Does Catherine de’Medici of the 16th century remind you of anyone you know today?  What happened to women by the 20th century? Why did we need the wakeup call by Gloria Steinem?

 

Notes on Paucity

Robert Genn, a successful artist, instructor, writer sends his “Twice-Weekly Letter” to artists the world over. In his September 2, 2011 letter he talks about paucity. This letter is particularly meaningful to me both as an artist and writer. His letter is reproduced here with his permission.

I was putting the title The Red Canoe on the back of a painting when my friend Joe Blodgett walked in and said, “Nice painting, too bad about the red canoe.”

After a couple of single malts I was looking at the painting through Joe’s eyes. I was pleasant enough when I urged him to go down to the smokehouse to get our smoked salmon, and while he was gone I took off the final varnish and hauled that canoe out of my picture.

 Yesterday, Katharina Keoughan of Friendship, Maine wrote, “In your last letter you mentioned ‘the principle of paucity.’ What is paucity, and why is it good to have in one’s work?”

Thanks, Katharina. Paucity means “the presence of something in small or insufficient quantities or amounts; scarcity.” In our game, it’s one of the main principles. Apart from “His criticism shows a paucity of tact,” or “His resistance to Scotch shows a great deal of paucity,” most significant is the presence of paucity in our work.

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything,” said Voltaire, and he wasn’t talking about his girlfriend, Emilie du Chatelet. A painting with paucity is one that tells you just enough to arouse your interest–perhaps leading to another excellent word–mystery. Unless the viewer is an engineer, give him too much info and he will yawn and go over to the wine and cheese. In some paintings it’s best to have viewers launch their own canoes.

 Overwork, overstate and over-busy are three of the top boo-boos. We come by them honestly–from our innate human desire to give more. Sometimes it takes another person’s eyes to see there’s too much going on. Sometimes it’s painful to remove stuff. But art very often needs lines that disappear, it needs subjects that are suggested rather than told, it needs incomplete areas so viewers can complete for themselves. Our work does not have to be a seamless stream of cleverness.                                                

The same is true in writing. Passages are almost always better when cut back. Writing is rewriting.

 We eventually shipped my non-canoe painting. Through the magic of acrylic covering power, nobody knows what’s under there. Somewhere out in the Diaspora there’s a canoeless scene called “The Red Canoe.”

Thank you Robert for your words. Robert’s words are indicative to my driving points in the Victoriana series about clutter.

You can subscribe to Robert’s free Twice-Weekly Letter anytime. His pearls of wisdom are inspiring.

Have you ever looked at tree holes (sky holes) between branches? Are you inspired by what’s not there to write, to dream, to explore? As Robert requests of his readers, I request as well, read this letter and give us your input on the value of leaving things out.

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