oil on linen, 82 x 66 inches, studio inventory.
Laying down in a closed, dark, tiled space, too young to understand, too inexperienced to sort through feelings, and in too much pain to be aware of the world around him, the ten year old had no choice but to examine everything–or face oblivion. Deep inside him surfaced a feeling of goodness. That feeling would ultimately anchor him to life and earth.
Venus 3, oil on linen, 46 x 26 inches. Studio inventory.
Venus was the most beautiful baby born, but she was cursed in two ways: First, no one knew who her father was, her mother deftly convincing the village that the father was Zeus. The second curse was that she was indeed beautiful. She drew looks of appraisal and sometimes envy from everyone she passed. But she felt tremendous shame because she thought they were staring at her because of her illegitimacy.
Light and shadow are two of the most challenging problems facing a painter. Painters can’t harness real light and shadow; instead they must rely on subtle gradations of color to create the illusion.
Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1634. Galleria degli Uffizi
In general, I use “light” in painting to mean all those areas which are directly lit by a light source. For example, in this Rembrandt self-portrait most of his face, the glow behind him, some of his hair, and the front of his coat are in the light. The “shadows” are all those areas which fall outside of the light. To demonstrate the division between light and shadow, I cut and pasted squares of color taken from this painting, and divided them into two groups below.
Just published, available in Coffee Table Book and Kindle formats.
From the inside jacket cover:
Idyllwild Paintings is a journey from the indifferent art scene of Downtown L.A. to the granite mountains of Idyllwild. In danger of losing the meaning of being an artist, Michael Newberry sought a place to explore depth, death, love, and light. Inside are over 45 paintings of narrative, abstract realism, and larger than life-sized portraits.
Through new mentors he was introduced to evolutionary theories, sandwich techniques, and to his dog Frida. An abundance of studio time enabled him to explore painting techniques, color theory, and pushing the boundaries of two-dimensional space. He also explored the fragile inner workings of love themes and symbolism.
Throughout his experience the nurturing environment of Idyllwild’s people served to make what could have been a lonely life, one filled with love and visibility.
Note: Idyllwild Paintings was a labor of love, it is my pleasure to offer no mark up on the coffee table book.
On October 6th, 2003 The Foundation for the Advancement of Art presented this conference at New York’s Pierre Hotel. Vision scientist, Dr. Jan Koenderink, gives his talk, Science and Art in the 21st Century, a brief introduction by Stephen Hicks. Jan Koenderink is a Dutch mathematician and psychologist known for his researches on visual perception, computer vision, and geometry.
0:03 Stephen Hicks introduces Jan Koenderink.
1:32 Cortegiano, science and art were commonly dicussed. Artists also considered themselves scientists, John Constable.
6:00 Formal and mathematical sciences are often subjects that are difficult to visualize, remote from daily life.
8:17 The rise and fall of physics, 20th century science reductive, emerging sciences, the importance of perception.
15:40 Psycho physics and ecological optics, problem of pictorial space, depth, surfaces. Painters communicate spatial depth from mind to mind. Hildebrand. The viewer’s perspective of art.
21:20 Material properties. Hollwywood images of people vs. painted portraits. Gloss and texture, reflection of light. Physics of recreating natural looking faces. Softness of skin, scatters light. Need new ways of scientific method for optical and artistic concepts.
Thanks to Dana Ross for the video and audio.
About expressing being one with the Universe, anatomy, how does the light drive home the theme, color theory, and layers of techniques that merge with the theme.
Over three decades ago, in 1982, I booked a private telephone consultation with an Objectivist philosopher (associated now with the Ayn Rand Institute) on reading The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand’s classic non-fiction work on aesthetics.
At 24, I was both an artist and an Objectivist. A fine art major; I had taken several art history classes including contemporary art theory. At the time, I had just completed the painting Promethia, and even though it was a thematic work, I didn’t understand how one objectively identifies a theme of an artwork. With that in mind, I was excited to be mentored by an Objectivist philosopher.
In our consultation, he pointed to Willem Kalf’s still life painting in the classic art history book, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages.
“How do I discover the theme?” I asked, genuinely.
“The theme of this painting is malevolent because of the dark background!” was the swift and vociferous response.
This was “obvious” — i.e. self-evident — he said. No further reasoning or discussion was necessary.
I ended the session and never consulted him again.
Alas, I had yet to learn how themes work in painting. So I returned to what Ayn Rand herself had written.
“In the broad valley, far below him, in the first sunlight of early morning, he saw a town. Only it was not a town. Towns did not look like that. He had to suspend the possible for a while longer, to seek no questions or explanations, only to look.”
The above was Ayn Rand’s description of Howard Roark’s Monadnock Valley development in The Fountainhead. Rand is revered — and reviled — as a philosopher and novelist, but to me she was also an artist. She defined art as a recreation of reality according to an artist’s values, and in her work, she recreated an inspirational world of heroes, light, and flourishing.
That is why The Atlas Society chose art as an arena for intellectual and spiritual engagement with Ayn Rand’s ideas. The 25-year-old philosophical organization capped 2016 with winners of first annual Atlas Art Contest. Over 400 entries were narrowed down to 21 artists by a panel of four judges: Sabin Howard, sculptor; Judd Weiss, photographer; Agnieszka Pilat, painter: and myself. The public was then invited to vote, further spreading the engagement with the outstanding work of our finalists.
Understanding the makeup of light and shadow is a fundamental art tool. Indeed, you cannot create forms without it.
Three-Quarters Classic Light
A 3/4’s light is falling on this egg form. This means that 3/4’s of the object is directly lit and the rest of it is in shadow.
Four Key Elements
Just looking at the form, there are four elements: highlight, mid-tone, core shadow, and reflective light.
In the light: the mid-tone and the highlight are the areas that are being “hit” by the light source.
In the shadow: the core shadow and reflective light.
Mid-tone: The tricky part here is to mold your mid-tones so that they accent the form of the object. Artists tend to flatten their mid-tones by making them too light, and by making the contrast between the core shadow and the mid-tone too strong. Continue reading →
Transparency – A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting
Part 2, Color
This online tutorial is a transcription from a 2002 lecture I gave at the Courage of Your Perceptions Conference (Satellite to the EC’s Vision Scientists’ Conference) in Glasgow, Scotland.Given a two-dimensional surface, transparency and contrast are a means to place identities/forms through spatial depth.
In Part 1 I discussed how this theory works with gray tonal scales and in paintings with limited color range. Let’s see what happens when we introduce intense colors.
It’s important to note that contrast in color is not so much about light and dark but, rather, it is about color opposites. For example here is a classic color wheel in which opposite colors, also known as complimentary colors, are juxtaposed. Three major contrasts are:
Red vs. Green
Blue vs. Orange
Yellow vs. Violet