Monthly Archives: July 2016

Understanding Colour. part 2 painting 1


Chevreul theories

Michel-Eugene Chevreu,l born in Angers, France in 1786. Published his first book in 1823-‘Chemical researches on animal fat’ in which helped with his studies of candles and his interest with epistemology (Theorizing knowledge). In 1824 he published ‘General Considerations on Organic Analysis’ and then he was appointed director of the dyeing department at the Gobelins Manufacturing. He was considered a specialist in study and use colour and was educated as a chemist. After four years of studies he published a memoir ‘Memoir in the influence that 2 colours can have on each other when seen simultaneously’ which was read at the Academy of Sciences in April 1828. He later (11 years later) published a book ‘On the law of simultaneous contrast of colours on it’s applications to…..’ confirming his findings but took so long due to the reproduction process not being able to print exact colours. It reads as impressive explanations in the area of colour theory and was widely used by carpet manufacturers, tapestry, clothing, horticulture and stained glass industries. This book evolved to became a series.


  • He found that the colour on a ground was not the grounds fault but more a psychophysiology.  This means the brain has a tendency to exaggerate differences in order to perceive them better. Along the boarders where 2 different hues are juxtaposed this is named the ‘Chevreuls illusion’. When these samples are side by side and with no white boarder around them the eye or brain tends to add in a darker line to differentiate the two tones.
  • When tonal colours are seen the brain informs us to see texturally.

Buffon memoir explaining his theory was about accidental colours and there illusions reacting, for example the Red dot on white paper-if looked at long enough a pale green appears around the outside of the red dot, if we look away to the pure white paper a green dot appears = Triadic colour scheme which are 2 colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel. Try the above with a yellow dot- is it violet.

  • When 2 complementary colours are opposite each other they are seen more intently, they enhance each other and this has been confirmed by recent visual neuroscience study.
  • When light is used and only colour can be seen with the use of light, it therefore can adjust its opaqueness and transparency.
  • Saturated colours are about dark and light levels.

Chevreuls law of simultaneous construct proposed a grammar of colours, a syntax of colour combination as well as of their modifications when seen Juxtaposed. This law reflected upon by abstract painter who didn’t want to render nature.

Artist that expanded the possibilities of painting.

The artists such as Seurat, Signac, Gauguin and Van Gogh all reviewed their work of colour after Charles Blanc explained the colours Halo affecting the colour of the complementary colour. Artists needed to know that the viewer would not just see a red dot but a red dot with a green hallo and that this was natural, they didn’t need to add to it as this effected the overall colour perception.

In 1877 Pissarro framed his work within white boarders so his colours would be intensified. In 1880 Pissarro used complementary dominating colours of the composition as a ground cover to also enhance his colours.

The Neo Impressionists  were the artistic movement most interested in colour science. They often used’ Optical mixture’ where the eye was exposed to mixed juxtaposed pigments so that the eye mixes them instead of physically seeing blended colours which was confusing and causes emotional reactions, mood changes, perspective and understanding of the work to the viewer .

Van Gogh was diagnosed for having Xanthopsia which is yellow vision. He was a great   colour mood theorist also diagnosed with Bi Polar due to his depressive behaviour. In one of his many letters to his brother Theo, he wrote ‘Chromatic strategy as seen in ‘Bedroom at Arles’, combination of complementary colours to give harmony but to also give meaning to the painting’.

Robert DELAUNAY talks about colour vibrations and how colours placed next to one another vibrate speed, some more than others. A measure was visualised via these vibrations due to colour intensity, it’s relation to its neighbouring colour and the surface density in relation to other colours.

While visiting Turner Contemporary in Margate to see the Seeing round corners exhibition, (July 2016) I wanted to reference some works on show that really highlighted the findings with reference to the research points above. I found the paintings on Aluminium were glossy and this caused more complications in depicting but greater vibrancy.

  • Anish Kapoor deep violet/ultra-marine velvet covered convex half globe protrudes into the gallery space and when walking towards it the illusion is a black hole and really not sure it is a concave or convex form. The Colour used and the form, its placement levitating can be difficult to understand visually while the brain deciphers this vision.
  • Patrick Heron Rumbold Vertical One 1970 . Image found on Pinterest  July 2016. . This painting is about my height and it was easy to stand infront of this and been fully exposed to its vibrance. My eyes were bouncing from the green to the red and then the yellow seem to be throubing.
  • Ian Davenport White and Yellow study 2015 which is acrylic on Aluminium so glossy and when gazing at this suddenly you are seeing lots of other patterns, knowing this isn’t the actual patterns you first set eyes upon, almost hypnotic and I felt you had to jerk yourself away from it. This painting by Bridget Riley 2 yellow composition with circles 2011 was situated next to the Ian Davenport and this allowed the viewer to be signified the different properties of the two paintings. Again the colour used , the density of the colour on the surface and the relationships with colour and the white of the gallery walls all affect the two works is very different ways.

Notes from ‘Oil and Watercolour demystified by Peter Turner 2007 Published by SPENCER . Bradbury .Page 25- Colour Theory and painting practice chapter.

Primary colours in oil are – Cyan pb15:3 (greenish blue) Magenta pv19 (bluefish red) and Yellow py97

Gainsboroughs ‘Blue boy’ was only painted in 3 pigments. Blue boy by Gainsborough

Paint has personalities and over time we can come to dislike some personalities. Artists tend to use more than 3 pigments manly because they have brought them and it’s much quicker to squeeze it out of a tube readily mixed than waste time mixing a pure colour and I found it gives me confidence knowing that colour is a true representation of the name of that colour described on the tube  ,for example-pale green. In the exercise within this project where we have to paint a colour wheel, I found that afterwards when the paint dried that I went back and matched up the brought colours and compared them to the ones I had mixed myself. The Coeruleum (HUE) was to dark but my Virdian hue and Sap green were a match.

  • Just using 3 pigments such as the Primary colours and white and black we can create over a million combinations that the eye is capable of discerning, a human response to colour.
  •  The eyes detect colour using 3 cones, red, green and blue.
  • ‘Winsor Green’ is not a natural tone but has high saturation and staining capability so often appears in manufacturing such as umbrellas, tents, clothes.
  •  Yellow and black becomes muddy; use yellow ochre, burnt sienna or magenta.
  • Creating MUD is easy- any 2 complements.
  •  To shade a colour – intensify the pigment with its own colour then use a neutral tint.

Colour wheel guide

Saturation (also Known as colour purity and Chroma) is the amount of colour relevant to black or white which exists. When a painting looks powerful or colour intensive, the colour saturation is most probably too high. Light can have an effect of colour calming and I find in the uk that a blanket of cloudy light obstructs the true colours perceived and when I was living in New Zealand the light was so intense (the sun is exposed due to a hole in the ozone layer from numerous nuclear testing carried out on Mururoa Atoll by French military ) and clear that it Herts your eyes to see the diversity and variation of colour, far greater than the colours seen in the UK.

 Computer visuals need for colour theory.

Chevreul theories are about how the brain perception works. During the digital age where computers are coded to reproduce colour, his theory has been computerised and hence updated. My Research came across this YouTube video explaining computer graphics and the different colour schemes to adhere to if you want to create fantastic art. The images are peculiar and more comical but still interesting to understand the graphic artist need for the use of colour theory.

The digital age has been a great influence on researching colour theories further and have invested in the research by neuroscientist that will enable them to understand how the human brain detects colour , form ,perspective and colour relationships in aid to develop virtual reality platforms. Apparently our brains can be trained to understand that virtual reality is the same as reality.

In the following YouTube clip the presenter states the following –

  • Colours relate to emotions, for example ‘call of duty’ is created from a grey scale. The film ‘UP’ starts with lovely bright colours to relate to the love felt within a relationship until she dies and then the film shades are more pale and dull- sad and lonely.
  • Monochromatic-1 colour, strictly atmospheric
  • Analogous-colours adjacent on the colour wheel, easy on the eyes ,natural related colours, Blues, Violets and pinks or blues greens and light greens.
  • Triadic- equality distant on colour wheel, playful, lively.  Complementary colour schemes.
  • Complementary- opposite colours, very popular with colour schemes, only 2 colours used but equal distance on the wheel- cool-Warm.
  • Split complementary- similar to complimentary but one split, gives a joyous and freedom feel.
  • Tetra tic (double complementary) 2 pairs of opposing colour which is best when used for a background or foreground.

Assingment 1.

I found the brief for this assignment very vague, Basically paint an object or interior………..

The initial thought was positive and then it dawned on me that I have no idea what to paint. I looked though all my painting books hopping to appropriate someone or gain inspiration. I listened to different genres of music hoping to transcribe this musical story into a painting. I read up on Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and come across After the Party 1979  (unique screen print on Arches 88 paper )and was intrigued, so that’s where I started. Photo of the After Party. Screen print of After the Party.

After the party , shows Warhols popular lifestyle where he often threw parties at studio 54 with glamour and famous people and was Known to snap away the night capturing his life and others on film. He was said to be curious about the perception and reactions of people around him at a time where his popularity incited certain moments that he was able to capture on film. “As spontaneous as these images may seem, they are intrinsically staged, with Warhol himself as both chronicler and catalyst of the moments he is documenting” Bob Colacello REF-A catalogue Raisonne 1962-1987 [1]

After the party is a stylised composition referring to symmetry and complex photographic representation. This series created his interest in more abstract exploitation  of the still life genre. The composition is arranged based on an inverted pyramid, a compositional device developed by the Renaissance artists in order to create greater depth. The shape of the bowls and plates are cut into and framed by the rectangle and shows the impulsive snap shot style so traditional composition techniques are placed adjacent to popular photographic techniques. The stark contrast between the black and white print emphasise the flatness of 3D reality reproduced as 2d and therefore becomes motif and decorative. I think this series of images intrigued me because of the shapes of the objects and the shapes around the objects. The stark contrast between negative and positive space and the use of glass to transcend and connect the two is cleverly placed without looking like a traditional composition. Andy Warhol use of photography (the mediated image)and painting (bourgeois cultural image) was the ignition for developing photo transfer silkscreen processes which created a whole other cultural language of the 20th century.

For this assignment I drew a few compositional studies in my workbook and placed lights to force shadows into the composition. I also took many photos from different view points (David Hockney perspective- lots of different photos taken while moving around the objects) because I wanted to pick the best shapes that were created on a flat surface and photos tend to let me see 3D objects as shapes and spaces – not forms. I choose to paint these objects because they are my tools, my lifestyle is intrinsic with the OCA as either studying for this course or the ‘understanding visual culture’ course so I’m either painting or reading about the culture of creating- this is my party. The red painted coke bottle is a reference to the pop art movement and to Andy Warhol influence and dedication to the development of Pop Art.


shapes have been distorted in the enlargement process.

concentrated on shapes and tone.

Try to stick to a limited pallet , and not sure if I should take out the pallet plate but certainly needs work on the shape. Like the brightness of the painting as the natural light was streaming in above and to the left side which makes it look over exposed and like an over exposed photograph. This is a recurring idea of transcribing the differences of painting and photography and therefore the hierarchy of the two mediums.  I don’t want to ‘over work’ this painting and I m conscious of taking it to far and the painting looking like a photograph (although I don’t think I’m that skilled in the technique of patience and detailed work to take the painting that far)  but I like the shapes between the objects, the flatness of colour due to the limited pallet and I like the painting looking like a painting and not a true representation.

2016-07-04 08.27.25

over paint with a silver to give a slight shine.


Pop Art byKlaus. Hornet, Published by TASCHEN 2012