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 Color and Light Theory with Michael Newberry

Newberry, Red Sand, oil on canvas, 9×12″. Though there are no red poppies in this painting, it was a very hot day in Florida in Ft Desoto, and I was sunburned, and sometimes I transfer that feeling into color. Regardless, you can see how the red starts as orange-red scarlet and shifts towards pink-violet patches as the color recedes towards the sea.

Excited thinking about what to teach for the Provence workshop Fall 2020. And I think it would be great to explore color and light theory based on space! When we paint for instance a field of red poppies, way too many people paint the red the same, and it pretty much kills rhythm, movement, and any chance to excite the eye (the eye needs difference no matter how minute). Van Gogh, was a champion of varying the color through space. So out of his playbook, going back to the red poppies, if you add more blue as they recede and more orange as they come forward, you create a dance of variations of red, that will delight the eye, excite the mind, and capture your spirit.

If you have any other suggestions shoot me an email, mtnewberry at gmail dot com.

Our first 2019 Workshop was incredible with our great host Mathieu Brousses. And the aesthetic theme of finding the shadows and bringing out the light proved to be a very successful lesson series.

For Fall 2020 we plan to use Luberon as our hub, discovering new places (though Mathieu will know them) and different time of the year. Samples of our possible itineraries:

Our host Mathieu Brousses

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

From 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.

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.

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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”