Color Theory: Shadow and Depth Share the Same Color Base

Newberry, Clay Jar with Burnt Umber Shadows, oil on linen, 10x8"

Painting Is a Lie That Helps Us See More

An important part of being a true artist is exploring visual knowledge. In this series of small 10×8″ paintings I tested my hypothesis that the hue (color) of shadows would have similar hues in spatial depth. The idea was gleaned from two things: looking at landscapes when the distant mountains are blue and there is blue in the shadows of everything including in the foreground. And from my study of the colors of the light and shadows of Rembrandt and Monet, what was different yet similar between them.

At first glance of my paintings above look fairly natural and you will notice the simple objects gently lit. Which is a good thing. This implies that the hypothesis is working. They each have a different color base: red, black, burnt umber, manganese blue, ultra marine blue, gray, and sienna. This means when a lit white stripe in the foreground enters into a shadow it will merge with that shadow’s color base, for instance if the base is manganese blue the white stripe now turns turquoise. The real complexity begins when the further you go back in space the colors of things take on more manganese blue hues.

This fits with a classical view of warmer colors come forward and cooler colors go back but what happens when we reverse this and give the shadows the hot red or sienna and use those hues to blend with the background colors? Yay, it still works in the sense of creating depth and light. As soon as the first artists started painting real things like horses on two-dimensional cave walls there was a paradox that it was a lie and a truth. The advantage of being able to work with radically different color schemes gives the artist more emotional range and visual options. And it gives the viewer more to look for in the world around them.

Provence Art Experience Workshop, Luberon, September 7-16, 2020

Study Pastel Plein Air with Michael Newberry in France

Join us in the Fall of 2020 for an great pastel workshop visiting sites of outstanding beauty and history guided and hosted by the knowledgeable, kind, thoughtful, and local expert Mathieu Brousses, and taught by internationally acclaimed artist me, Michael Newberry. Comfortable living situation, with all meals either prepared by a French local, picnic, and local bistros.

We will learn how to draw in pastel quickly capturing an hours impression making lots of works. Learning triangulation, color theory, composition, how to work with the color paper, and how to drive towards the light. Newberry has a unique way of approaching pastel drawing by layering hue and tones which creates of shimmering mark making. The 10-day workshop is hard work fully focused, yet with wonderful social breaks around food and good company. Don’t hesitate to contact Mathieu with any questions.

“Mathieu in addition to being so creative, gracious and generous as a host, is just a great human being full of patience and wisdom.  His knowledge of French culture and our various venues ensured that each day was filled with delight.”
Dan Zimmerman, participant in the 2019 Provence Art Workshop.

For Fall 2020 we plan to use Luberon as our hub. Here are samples of our possible itineraries:

Our host Mathieu Brousses

Some pics from last month’s workshop in Provence, May 2019.

About our teacher Michael Newberry

I taught several plein air painting and pastel workshops in NY, Mexico, Greece, Santa Monica, Italy, and France. And I formally taught Life Drawing, Composition, and Painting at the prestigious Otis College of Art and Design. When I am not teaching you will find me painting in my cabin studio under the monumental granite outcrop of Tahquitz Rock in Idyllwild, California, accompanied by my studio assistant doggy, Frida. More info on my extensive bio here.

Dan Zimmerman’s reflections on our 2019 workshop:

I was a bit nervous about the workshop, very similar to coming back to school after summer vacation, wondering if I had forgotten everything I had learned the previous term. I just knew, even before going on the trip, that I would be with like minded people passionate about art.  I loved the fact that the other students, Susan and Luxman, were both as convinced as I was of the talent and teaching ability of our instructor! Our accommodations were good, and my memory foam mattress was so very comfortable! I think I would have rather stayed on a ground floor, but the stairs were ok :) I think our cook Agnes’ daily dinners were such a wonderful part of the whole experience. 

The teaching was a good balance between being flexible and relaxed, and focused, hard work!  What I mean by that was I feel we all really applied ourselves and tried to learn as much as we could from each situation. Because of our small class size, we each received lots of attention and this was really invaluable.  After my initial success that first day, my confidence level went way up and I was able to enjoy the whole experience. 

I thought all the sites we visited were just superb.  We certainly adjusted things well when “le mistrail’ blew so hard, and it lead to one of my most treasured drawings, the fruit basket ‘still life’.  

Yes, several lessons learned:  1. Look for the shadows, drive towards the light, 2. Make your corners interesting in composing a picture, 3. If you share the ‘perfect picture’, there’s no need to search for another “perfect” shot. 4.  The feedback of my peers was a very enriching experience. 

Yes, I highly recommend this workshop!

If you are interested in attending please contact me, mtnewberry@gmail.com or Mathieu at mathieu.brousses@gmail.com and we can plan accordingly and make a spectacular and meaningful experience happen.

Colors of Light and Shadow

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.

rembrandtself.jpg
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.

Continue reading “Colors of Light and Shadow”

Creating Denouement

Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54x78 inches.

Creating Denouement by Michael Newberry

Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54x78 inches.
Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54×78 inches.

Why this painting?

Painting Denouement was a chance to live inside glowing, colorful light and to express through art what love feels like to me.

Influences

Puccini, Polyclitus, Aristophanes, Beethoven, and Michelangelo rock my world. In their time, they were innovators with a love of beauty, humanity, and passion. Their art was a constant source of inspiration.

There were visual influences for Denouement. But most of the epic works were from “brown” painters, classic technique with a limited pallet in which dark things are brown and black hues. The French Impressionists had a fantastic sense of color harmonies in light and shadow. What I had in mind was to take the best of both and integrate them.

Continue reading “Creating Denouement”

Integration, Part 2: Color

Newberry, Counterpose contrast

Integration, Part 2: Color by Michael Newberry

Newberry, Counterpose demo

Newberry, Counterpose, 1990, oil on linen, 36×42″

In the tutorial, Integration of Light, Part 1, I mentioned that the theme of Counterpose is about a harmony of contrast. I showed how I painted extreme contrasts in light and dark. In this tutorial, I am showing how, keeping to the theme of contrast, I painted extremes of color contrasts.

Continue reading “Integration, Part 2: Color”