Posts filed under ‘Color’

Inspiration: Andrew Forge

I have a new artist to add to the list of those who inspire me. Well, he’s new to me anyway.

Andrew Forge (1923-2002) was born in Kent, UK, studied painting in Britain and became an academic there, eventually coming to the US and finishing out his career at various educational institutions in New England. Up until a couple weeks ago I’d never heard of him. But luckily I stumbled across a notice for an exhibit of his work in a Los Angeles gallery, went, and was completely bowled over.

He painted in several different styles through the years, but the paintings that really grabbed me were his abstract pointillist pieces. Here’s one from the gallery’s web site:

Andrew Forge, untitled, 30x40

Andrew Forge, untitled, 30x44"

I absolutely fell in love with his version of pointillism. The pointillist paintings mainly fall into two groups: monochromatic (a color field, like the one pictured above) and complementary. The latter tend to be larger pieces (50×80″) which, from a distance, appear fairly neutral in coloring but more complex in structure. Vague shapes like diagonal lines and faint curves can be seen when viewing the paintings from a distance. Then, up close, the individual dots reveal themselves to be brightly colored and mostly grouped in complementary colors, like red dots with green dots, or blue with orange. His dots are larger than Seurat’s tiny dots, about half the size of mine. He also added a few little short lines here and there mixed in with the dots. The dashes lie on top of the dots, and are thinner than the dots, so they completely disappear in the overall dazzle when you step back.

I found the difference between what you see from a distance and what you see up close so fascinating that I kept stepping back and forth to see it. Honestly, I was wandering around in a positive daze, goofy smile plastered on my face. It was the opening reception, so it probably looked like I’d drunk too much of the wine. But in fact I was drunk on the high of experiencing some really amazing art. All I’d imbibed was water.

In the past few weeks I had been contemplating painting some abstract pointillist pieces, and then this show comes along at just the right moment. It electrified me. It’s a confirmation that my ideas are sound, and at the same time it pointed me toward some new avenues that I hadn’t thought about before. I need to go back and study these paintings some more before they go away. Reproductions, especially web images, don’t do them justice.

The Andrew Forge exhibit is up October 23 through December 20, 2008, at the Manny Silverman Gallery in Los Angeles. If you’re in the area (and if you enjoy pointillism like my work, or at least don’t hate it!) I highly recommend seeing this exhibit. Andrew Forge was mainly an East Coast artist, so I don’t expect we’ll get to see much more of his work out here.


October 29, 2008 at 12:39 am

Inspiration: Stephen Quiller

Stephen Quiller is a fairly well-known American artist. He has written several how-to books about painting and color theory, and he also conducts painting workshops. And of course, he paints and sells his art.

Stephen Quiller - October Field Patterns

Stephen Quiller - October Field Patterns

I became acquainted with Quiller’s work through an artist discussion board called WetCanvas. There I discovered his version of the color wheel (he immodestly calls it the Quiller Wheel). It revolutionized my understanding of color.

Quiller Wheel

Quiller Wheel

The basic premise of the Quiller Wheel is that around the outside edge of the wheel are the pure, saturated primary colors. Primary red, bright yellow, and blue are spaced equally far apart from each other on the edge of the circle. Also around the edge, between the primaries, are the most highly saturated versions of the secondary, tertiary, and other intermediate colors, like magenta, orange, green, blue-green, and so on. So far, none of this is particularly revolutionary, right?

The kicker is what happens in the interior of the circle. Draw a straight line through the circle between any two of the edge colors (a “chord”, to use the mathematical term). This line represents all the colors you can get by mixing those two colors in varying proportions. Mix a lot of color 1 and only a little of color 2 and you land on the line pretty close to color 1. Color 2 has neutralized color 1 a little, and pulled it a little in the direction of color 2. Add more of color 2 and you slowly work your way along the line toward color 2 away from color 1. Additionally, by taking a mixed color somewhere on this line you can then create a completely different color by mixing some of a new color, call it color 3, pulling the result along a new line that aims toward color 3. And so on.

At the circle’s exact center, you get gray. When two colors can be mixed to create gray they are called “complementary”, and the line connecting them passes through the circle’s center. Points elsewhere inside the circle represent various shades of neutral colors, ranging from not quite fully saturated (very close to the circle’s edge) to very neutral (near the center).

Some tube paint colors do not land on the circle’s edge. Certainly tube greys, beiges and browns will land deep in the circle’s interior. But there are also colors that you might think of as “pure” that don’t quite make it all the way out to the edge. They’re close to fully saturated, but not quite.

This helps explain why you can’t mix cadmium red with cadmium yellow and get a perfectly saturated shade of orange. Only tube cadmium orange lands on the edge of the circle. The mixed orange lands on the straight line between red and yellow, slightly inside the circle. See? Not quite as saturated, not quite as far out on the circle.

Once you understand this idea, paint colors make a lot more sense.

This was an important step in my self-education. Armed with this understanding, I pared my palette down to just a few primaries: two reds, two yellows, and two blues (plus white, of course). Each primary color allows me to “extend” my reach to another part of the circle. (I also occasionally added in tube cadmium orange, a yummy color I wanted to use but couldn’t mix.)

With these few colors, most of the color wheel is accessible to me. I can mix nearly any color I could possibly want. The only exceptions being the most saturated secondary and tertiary colors, way out on the edge of the wheel between the primaries.

I got to test my ability to mix any color while taking a collage class a few years ago at the Museum School at the DeCordova Museum (Lincoln, MA). The homework assignment: find 3 colors you like (in magazines or catalogs), cut them out, then try to recreate each color as closely as you can by mixing paint. I chose three subtle, neutral colors that I don’t normally use in my painting, deliberately trying to challenge myself. To my delight, I got a very close match to all three. This confirmed for me the utility of a limited (but carefully chosen) palette.

I still enjoy looking at Stephen Quiller’s art, but for me his biggest contribution was the idea behind the Quiller Wheel.

August 26, 2008 at 6:07 pm 1 comment

“Shadowed Hill” mini painting

\ “Shadowed Hill”, 2008, acrylic on paper, 5×5″ matted to 14×11″

The sun was lowering in the sky. Fog had begun rolling in from the ocean, filling the valleys of Topanga State Park and introducing a slight haze to the air. Distant hills and ridges took on a misty, blue appearance, like something out of a fairy tale. This painting captures the almost abstract quality of the moment.

This painting is sold, but others may be seen on my web site.

Email inquiries welcome:

May 8, 2008 at 11:20 am

“Topanga Mist” mini painting

\ “Topanga Mist”, 2008, acrylic on paper, 5×5″ matted to 14×11″

While hiking in Topanga State Park last fall, I saw some amazing cloud formations. Fog from the ocean started rolling in from the coast. I’d hiked far enough uphill to see over the next ridge and down into the valley where the fog was pooling. The sun, behind this pool of fog, made it glow eerily. The haze also veiled the far ridge in a lavender mist.

Much taken with this spectacle, I snapped several photos. Now I’ve turned the experience into a mini painting (and probably will do more). The composition of this painting appears quite abstract, but it’s actually quite true to the photos I took. Just some of the colors are a little altered, to give it my own twist. With such a simple composition I was able to have a lot of fun with my Pointillist technique.

This painting is available matted $115, or matted and framed in a simple black frame $145.

Email inquiries welcome:

April 16, 2008 at 11:09 am 1 comment

Back to Phthalo Blue

A few months ago I mentioned that I was adding phthalocyanine blue (phthalo blue) back to my palette as an experiment. I think I can now report the results of the experiment.

When I was painting landscapes in New England, I struggled to use phthalo blue, but found it too bright and turquoise-y for my purposes. The colors I needed there were more red-toned, cooler blues. All I really needed for that was ultramarine blue. Phthalo blue eventually dropped off my palette entirely. I didn’t have a good use for it.

Then I moved to California. The light here is so different, as well as the terrain. Even the grasses and trees are different. I found myself in need of brighter tones to capture the brilliance of the light here, and so I reached for the phthalo blue. Recalling my earlier struggles with this wild color, I was unsure whether I’d be able to tame the beast this time. It was an experiment.

Now it’s been a few months since I started using phthalo blue again, and I’m pleased to report that it’s going much better this time!

Painting in progress Unfinished painting using phthalo blue in the sky and the hill shadows.

I find phthalo blue is just the thing for capturing the brassy light of California, with its bright skies and shimmering foliage. Phthalo blue mixes some VERY bright colors. This can be a problem if you want subtler tones, but it is terrific if you’re looking for brighter hues. Which I am! I am especially fond of using it in my skies, as well as in shadows. It also perks up tree foliage nicely.

The verdict? Phthalo blue is on my palette to stay!

March 6, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Color Junkie

I just stumbled across a wonderful video clip of the famous artist Wolf Kahn, speaking about landscape painting. You can find the clip here. (Be aware: it’s nearly an hour long.)

I greatly admire him. He paints with unabashedly bright colors, and his subject matter is the landscape, which he usually simplifies into color fields or semi-geometric forms. I enjoy his work, and I admire his success.

His speech was titled “Six Good Reasons Not to Paint a Landscape”. It’s a humorous piece, because of course he paints landscapes. But he does raise good points about the problems inherent in this genre. It’s a very old genre, and people tend to think “everything’s been done.” Given all its drawbacks, he said, “to be a landscape painter is to be a perverse individual.”

Hooray for perversity! Or at least, perseverance. I think this world needs more contrarians. How boring if we all did the same thing.

He also claimed to be a “color junkie.” I loved that. He said, “As I get older, the blue gets bluer and the yellow gets more yellow.” He uses bright colors, he goes on to say, because “I want excitement, I want intensity.”

That really resonates for me. I’m happiest when my paintings seem to vibrate with the intensity of the colors.

I’ve heard it said that young, less mature artists tend to use bright colors. As artists grow and mature (that is, get better) they use subtler, more neutral hues. A lot of grey in a painting is supposed to be the height of restraint and artistry.

Well, not for Wolf Kahn! At a nice mature age, he continues to revel in the childlike glee of vivid colors. By his own admission, his colors are getting even brighter as he gets older. And I say, good for him!

And I hope, good for me too. Because I’m a color junkie too.

December 28, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Using White

I use titanium white as the white color on my palette. Its opacity is particularly suited to my “neo-pointillist” style.

“Glowing Hills” detail of acrylic painting “Glowing Hills” detail, 2007

I like how titanium white holds its own in mixtures with other colors. It lends opacity in mixes with transparent colors like ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson. A little white can tone down a saturated color. White can also make mixed colors a little cooler, which can be either good or bad depending on the effect you want. (One trick for keeping a color warm while still lightening the shade is to use some yellow along with the white.)

Anywhere you see what appears to be white in my paintings, it’s almost always a mixture of titanium white with a little bit of some other color. For example, those white-looking spots in the skies of my landscape paintings are typically titanium white mixed with a tiny dab of ultramarine blue.

Below is an older painting where I used white mixtures in several areas.

“Rough Pasture”, 2005 “Rough Pasture”, 2005

October 5, 2007 at 10:52 am 1 comment

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Barbara J Carter

I'm an artist. I make paintings with dots.

I work in acrylic paint, in a couple of distinct styles: landscapes and abstracts.

Native to California, I've lived elsewhere and only recently returned to my home state. I now live in Los Angeles.

I mostly show my art in outdoor festivals in California. I also occasionally show my work in art galleries or open studio events. You can see an up-to-date list of upcoming shows on my website (click here).

I invite you to sign up to receive my free email newsletter, in which I list my upcoming shows and talk about my latest work. I send it irregularly, a few times a year.

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Why I call my landscapes neo-Pointillist landscape paintings

A bunch of my abstract dot paintings

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