Tats Series

Earlier today I signed off on the third tattoo painting. The series was a fascinating excursion in which I contemplated how we sometimes become the artwork. I have always thought that was true in a metaphorical way, in the sense that when we are young, we often form our characters, unwittingly, by the influence of movies, literature, songs, paintings, or by sculptures. With tattoos it is the reverse, it is the person that becomes the canvas. They literally become the artwork.

The process of painting them was difficult and fun. It is like working a jigsaw puzzle in 3d, with each piece curved to fit the human form, and each piece occupying its unique spot in space.

The Tats Series is part of an ongoing project of abstract, realistic paintings destined for The White Cloud Gallery in Washington D.C. this fall.

Michael Newberry

Science and Art in the 21st Century by Jan Koenderink

 

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.

Back to Front, Tats 1, Time-Lapse

14 sec

For the last year or so I have been painting from the most distant background space and carefully painting in stages to the foreground. I love it! It helps create spatial movement as if a spatial pattern emerges. It also enables me to take more time with details knowing that I don’t have to redo them a thousand times. I can’t say if it is easy or not, I have a few decades of painting every day, but it has worked well with students. Try it!

 

Transparency – A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting Part 2, Color

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.

 

colorwheel.JPG

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

yellowdot.JPG

 

In this diagram, blue-violet is the background color and the discs that come the  closest to it in color recede, while the yellow one, its opposite, pops forward.

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Van Gogh, Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, September 1888
Oil on canvas, 81 x 65.5 cm
Rijksmuseum Kroller-Mueller, Otterlo

This Van Gogh painting has an intense blue background and the orange-yellow café comes forward. Notice the buildings beyond the café are variations on darks and blues. The window straight up above the café  is literally transparent but if you look closely you will see the blue sky winking throughout sections of the buildings, giving them a transparent quality as well.

Continue reading “Transparency – A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting Part 2, Color”

Transparency – A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting Part 1, Black/White

Art Tutorial
Transparency – A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting
Part 1, Black/White

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.

We have examples of artworks from 30,000 years ago to the present in which artists have worked with spatial depth in their drawings and paintings. I have been fascinated by this phenomenon and, for years, I have asked myself how did these artists achieve these startling effects. The result of my query is the formulation of the concept that:
Given a two-dimensional surface, transparency and contrast are the means to place forms in spatial depth.

Transparency will place the forms in depth away from us, and contrast will raise them towards us.

Great artists are doing other spatial things as well: lighting, modeling form, and perspective drawing. But for this talk, I will focus on this transparency issue.
The first figure shows a gradation of light to dark stripes on a white background. The stripes ascend like steps towards us as they get darker. The darkest “pops” out in contrast to the white background. Conversely, the lightest of the stripes recedes into the distance of the white surface.

BIGBLACK.JPG

 Similarly, the discs “move” through space because of their relative lightness or darkness to the background and each other. The big black disc jumps forward.

BLACKDOT.JPG

Notice what happens when the large disc changes to light gray, it recedes significantly beyond the small black one.

HORSES.JPG

Chauvet Cave, 30,000 B.C.
Horses’ Heads from the Chauvet Cave dated 30,000 years ago. Notice the gray scale of the receding heads and the black modeling of the head closest to us. Also, notice how the light gray of the surface also comes through the receding heads literally making them transparent.

MONETW~2.JPG
Monet, The Thames at Westminster, 1871
Oil on canvas, 47 x 72.5 cm (18 1/2 x 28 1/2″)
National Gallery, London

This Monet is an excellent example of this idea. We first see the blackness of the pylons, and the other objects dance back into space by the degree of how transparent they become, how close to the gray of the background they match.

BIGWHITE.JPG

When the background changes to black, the principle of transparency still holds true. The closer to a black tone the background becomes the discs further recede; the white pops forward.

TWODOTS.JPG


Here we have two white discs, a large and a small one; now we have an example of perspective; the bigger one comes a bit more forward than the small one.

 

  REMBAT~1.JPG

Rembrandt, Hendrickje Bathing in a River, 1654
Oil on panel, 61.8 x 47 cm
National Gallery, London
Due to the extreme lightness of her body, she comes forward off the background off the dark background. Notice the transparency of her left shoulder; it sends her left arm back away from her chest. Rembrandt is working with a gray/brown/black scale, not with a full range of color. He sets objects back by making them merge to this dark tone. Compare the brilliant lightness of her shift to the middle tone glow of the material behind her on the bank. Her lightness is popping her forward.

GRAYDI~1.JPG

Here we have a gray background, the discs that come forward have become either more white or black respectively.


CHRIST.JPG

Michelangelo, Christ on the Cross

In Michelangelo’s Christ the closest part of his body to us is his right knee, then it would be his right big toe, and then his left chest. These areas have the greatest contrast between light and dark. Compare the high contrast of tone of his right foot to the more muted left foot behind. Or compare the transparent area of his left knee to the intense light and dark of his right knee. Also, notice that his arms share a depth of space and have an equal range of tonal value that is less high in contrast as his forward knee. Also, notice how delicately transparent the background figures are.

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of Transparency – A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting. Part 2 will cover how this theory works with color.
Michael Newberry
New York, May 2006

Details Don’t Mean A Thing If They Ain’t Got That Swing

Details Don’t Mean A Thing
If They Ain’t Got That Swing by Michael Newberry

da Vinci detail

Artists often agonize over the completion of a painting. The bugaboo for many realists is the detailing. Details are the crowning touches and yet, more often than not, they can rob the painting of its vitality.There are many great artists that manage to solve the “detail” problem. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is brimming with life and her famous smile is one of the most detailed details of any painting. I have viewed her close up and have seen how da Vinci has broken down the form of her lips into hundreds of tiny planes.So why is it that when other artists pay special attention to details, they do not come up the same results? I believe the answer lies in the swing of the big forms. In other words, details only work when they maintain the integrity of the big forms and their place in space.

da Vinci

Da Vinci, Mona Lisa

Stepping back and looking at the Mona Lisa as a whole, you can see that her head “sits” in the middle foreground, while her chest and hands rotate towards us, “locking into” the foreground.

da Vinci demo

Here you can get a sense of “leap-frogging” from her hand in the immediate foreground, to the corner of her breast, and then further back to her lips.If da Vinci had painted too strong of contrasts or gave too much, or too little, volume to her lips, he would have killed the lively dynamic of the swing of the forms through space.

There is no simple technique for placing objects in space. The contrast of light, dark, and color play a role, as well as high definition, perspective, and expanding the forms. All of these contribute to bringing objects forward. Transparency, less contrast, and blurring help make forms recede.

Rembrandt
Rembrandt, Young Woman at the Window

Very similar in the setup as the Mona Lisa is this Rembrandt. Her head “sits” in the middle foreground and the corner of the breast comes forward.

Rembrandt demo

If you look for it, you will see how Rembrandt is wrapping the figure in light; he is swinging the light current around, behind, and up front on her form.

Rembrandt detail

Notice the meticulous detail of the leather cord and metal key around her neck.

Rembrandt detail

The earring also has extremely fine detailing, yet it occupies space way behind that of the cord and key.

Picasso woman_and_child
Picasso, Mother and Child

An interesting contrast to the above paintings is this Picasso. It is all form with very little detail. It is extremely deceptive in its simplicity. All the forms work in space as they do in the Rembrandt and da Vinci.

It only takes a little painting experience to discover that details are time exhaustive. Picasso opted to save time and sacrifice details.

If you are detail orientated, try to establish the big forms, like Picasso, has done above, and then embellish the forms with as much detail you like. Be careful not to flatten the form!

Beert1600

Beert, @1600, Still Life of Flowers

Here is a 16th/17th Century Flemish still-life. It is loaded with detail, but it is a flat painting. It is as if the flowers have been compressed and share a two-inch space of depth; as if the flowers have been painted from side to side, but not front to back. I would call this an example of indiscriminate detailing. The artist is not considering the interrelationship of the flowers’ positions nor their forms, hence, sacrificing the vitality of depth for superficial decoration.

The swing of forms through space excite eye movement and, for many observers, this creates an emotional response. Details that embellish and complete the forms bring with them an irresistible reality. Adding details to big forms is a tour de force of artistic skill.I hope you enjoyed seeing art in a fresh way.

Michael Newberry
New York, November 18th, 2006