Colorful Fridays–Fruity Green

Screen shot 2013-12-06 at 8.34.42 AM

“Are you green and growing, or ripe and rotting?” Ray Kroc (from Brainyquote)

Many painters rely on Hooker’s Green for the precise replication of the trees of the forest and the grass of the fields but its origins are with the botanical artist renowned for his fruit depictions, William Hooker (1779-1832).  Hooker began mixing colors to get the precise bluish green of apples and other fruits of a green variety.  He shared his green mixture with his contemporary, John Sell Cotman, noted watercolorist and namesake of the Cotman brand of watercolors.  Hooker’s Green has continued to be a mainstay in the paintbox of watercolorists and botanical painters to this day though oil painters enjoy its use, as well.

William Hooker was a botanical artist working for the Horticultural Society of London, when he developed his green, mixing Prussian Blue and gamboge.  Gamboge proved to be fugitive in the mix leading latter artists to prefer the substitution of Aureolin or Yellow Oxide.  For those artists who prefer to mix their own Hooker’s Green, the Prussian Blue is frequently exchanged for Phthalo Blue and mixed with Aureolin or Yellow Oxide for better similarity with the tube version.  Hooker’s Green is a transparent green making it a great choice in the layers of washes and glazes of botanical painting.

William Hooker, botanical artist of the Horticultural Society of London is frequently confused with William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865), botanist and former director of Great Britain’s famed Kew Gardens.  Though the two William Hookers were both noted in the world of botany around the same time period, they are not related.   William Jackson Hooker was a professor of botany before taking the position of director of Kew Gardens.  William Hooker, studied scientific illustration under Francis Bauer before serving as official illustrator to the Horticultural Society of London, (now the Royal Horticultural Society).

Painting fruits, trees, leaves, and grasses is a breeze when adding Hooker’s Green in some form to your palette. Hooker’s Green is the green of growing things.  Whether mixing your own or using the tube variety, today’s versions of Hooker’s Green have a better light-fastness than the original. However, when discussing the inventor of this particular paint color, be sure not to mix up your Hookers.  Not all Hookers are the same.

For more on botanical gardens and botanical painting follow these links:

 The Society of Botanical Artists

 The American Association of Botanical Artists

 The Royal Horticultural Society

Kew Gardens

Eye Foolery

Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 9.45.36 PM

Those things which are most real are the illusions I create in my paintings.” Eugene Delacroix

CBS Sunday Morning featured the fabulous mural art of Richard Haas. The wonderful illusions created by tompe l’oeil or “trick the eye” techniques have always fascinated people. Seeing Haas’ work is a reminder of how skillful an artist must be to create such realistic scenes. Years ago as a medical sales rep in Miami, I frequently drove past Haas’ iconic mural on The Fountainebleau Hotel at Miami Beach. Each time I saw the mural I was fascinated anew. There really was a temptation to drive right through the mural it is so realistic.

Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 9.43.16 PM Trompe l’oeil artist John Pugh, quoted by The Daily Mail says, “It seems universal that people take delight in being visually tricked.” Pugh is right. There is a magnetic fascination in these realistic murals. The urge to get up close and try to figure them out is irresistible. The Daily Mail has some excellent examples of Pugh’s work. Pugh tells the story of how one of his murals of an earthquake attracted the attention of the Fire Department while driving by the mural. They stopped the truck and were about to attempt to rescue the children in the mural before they got close enough to see that it wasn’t real. The firefighters doubled over laughing at the realization.

Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 9.42.29 PM Why do these purposely, deceptive artworks hold such fascination? Likely there are a number of reasons. One reason Pugh believes is the sense of civic pride the murals invite. Communities love their local eye fooling multi-story artworks. And the murals are wonderful. A source of civic pride is one explanation but there is also something much deeper to the fascination. The deeper allure appears to be the simple fact that people enjoy being fooled. The greater the deception, the greater is the pleasure for the viewer.

The role of the artist is to show the world something it may not have seen before. Possibly all art is eye deceiving in some form. But the Trompe L’oeil artist is particularly skillful at eye-trickery. There is an element of amusement and playfully purposeful deception in Tromp L’oeil that is not present in most other forms of art. The Trompe L’oeil artist takes delight in tricking us and we take delight in being tricked. This eye foolery is all in good fun and we love it!

Here’s a fun video look at the definition of trompe l’oeil:

Trompe L’oeil

Take a look at these examples of trompe l’oeil:

http://www.creativebloq.com/art/trompe-loeil-12121498

http://www.trompe-l-oeil-art.com/trompe.html

Colorful Fridays–Incredible Inedible Yellow Reds

Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 10.31.50 AM

There is no blue without yellow and orange.”  Vincent Van Gogh (from Brainyquote)

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters preferred heavy applications of opaque paints.  Among the favored paints of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists were the cadmium family of yellows, reds and oranges.  The cadmiums make rich, strong dominant colors in any painting.  Fears of toxicity with the cadmiums have limited their use for many artists.  However, some minor precautions will prevent the harmful effects of the cadmiums allowing artists to make use of these paints without concern.

The cadmiums are toxic only if you eat them or inhale them.  Chances of toxicity through the skin are limited but you probably wouldn’t want to paint yourself with them either.  One source says a potential point of toxicity is smoking with cadmium paint on your fingers.  The paint absorbs into the cigarette facilitating inhaling the paint into the lungs where it becomes carcinogenic.  Best not smoke and paint at the same time.  (Well, best not smoke at all but who’s lecturing!)  If mixing dry paint pigments, wear an appropriate mask.  If you are concerned with the toxicity, paint with colors labeled “hue” as in cadmium yellow hue.  These are entirely free of the cadmium toxins.  Listed below are links to safety sites with more information.

Taking proper precautions with the cadmiums will enable their use in myriad ways.  Gary Bolyer on his website lists two important points to success with the cadmiums.  First use only Cadmium Yellow Light and Cadmium Red Light.  Secondly, refrain from mixing the cadmiums with white.  Mixing with white will result in chalky, diluted colors.  (Follow the link to Boyler’s site for more success with the cadmiums).  Gamblin says cadmium yellow was preferred by Claude Monet because of its higher chroma and its greater purity of color.  There is more at Gamblin’s site, as well.

Rumor has it that Vincent Van Gogh’s problems were the result of the use of the cadmiums.  According to the rumor, Vincent had a habit of holding his cadmium paint saturated brushes in his mouth.  So if you don’t want to go off the deep end and cut your ear off, keep the cadmiums out of your mouth.  Don’t smoke them either.  Otherwise, you can enjoy the regular use of these beautifully rich opaque reds, yellows and oranges profusely in all your paintings.

Safety links:

Princeton Artists Safety

OSHA

Draw Mix Paint Forum

Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Les Alyscamps” with lots of yellows, reds and oranges!

Movie Madness

Screen shot 2013-11-24 at 6.27.49 PM

Question what you see.” Rene Magritte

Surrealism followed Dada in the early twentieth century art movements. Where Dada made very little sense to the average viewer, Surrealism created abject confusion. But in the confusion of Surrealism was a kind of understanding. People generally recognized the confusion of dreams. Surrealism gave a name to that confusion. In dream discussions, people could talk with confidence about the “surreal dream” they had last night. Dada made very few inroads into the general population. Surrealism became a household name.

The teachings of Sigmund Freud were slowly gaining in popularity in the time period between World War I and World War II. Analyzing dreams became all the rage. The Paris art scene was home to the new surrealist visual artists and the surrealist poets. Spanish artist, Salvador Dali and Belgian artist Rene Magritte, led the surrealist artists early on and are likely the best known to this day, of the Surrealist Artists. Perhaps the movie industry is responsible for the continued popularity of the Surrealists.

Alfred Hitchcock brought the work of Dali into film and thus into the minds of the general population. The Hitchcock film, Spellbound with Gregory Peck featured a dreamscape sequence designed by Dali. Hitchcock, always on top of popular culture, created a masterpiece based on the trend of dream analysis. Hitchcock’s later film, Veritgo, featured surreal sequences, as well, though not designed by Dali. Veritgo recently surpassed Citizen Kane as the most popular film of all time. (My favorite is still The Birds).

Magritte’s work was less about dreams and more about questioning ways of looking at things. His painting, The Son of Man, owes a more recent surge in popularity to the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. Pierce Brosnan and his co-conspirators, dressed as The Son of Man, escape undetected with stolen artwork. Men in bowler hats appear everywhere creating confusion with a bit of whimsy. Flashmobs in the bowler hats have also been trendy, as of late, inspired by the scene in the movie.

Without these movies to highlight the Surrealists, would their work have faded into history in the same way the Dada Movement did? Both movements were difficult to understand by the average person. Dada was just plain madness. Surrealism had the madness of dreams to grasp onto. Movies made the Surrealists’ madness comprehensible. And in the case of Magritte, the madness was light and whimsical, but madness all the same.

For more on the Surrealists:

New York’s Museum of Modern Art has a new exhibit of Rene Magritte’s work. The exhibit is titled, “The Mystery of the Ordinary.” CBS Sunday Morning featured the exhibit’s curator, Anne Umland talking about the exhibit here. The Huffington Post has a feature article on Dali’s dream sequence in Spellbound here.

Colorful Fridays—The Rosy Red Siblings

Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 10.32.45 PM

“Red is obviously such a stimulating color, it has so many connotations.” P.J. Harvey

Quinacridone Red and its Quin siblings, Rose and Magenta, cannot call up an intriguing history. No ancient minerals or archaic farming practices discovered these beautiful bluish reds. No Old Masters can be credited with having discovered this gloriously rich red family. All the credit goes to a wonderful unknown modern-day scientist who mixed some organic chemicals up in a lab and came out with these lovely, fully transparent, lightfast, nontoxic reds. Many a twentieth century botanical artist would like to pay homage to this brilliant chemist.

The “quins” are the colors of romance. Though rather strong, they are still the reds of orchids and carnations. The “quins” are the pinks of rose petals. They are the sunlight through a stained glass window. All of this romantic pinky, lavender, rosy color surely must come from the ground up petals of wildflowers gathered at midnight on a full moon. Wrong! They come from a boring test tube in a sterile lab located in the windowless basement of a huge chemical compound. (Actually, we don’t know where they are made today, but the windowless basement sounded pretty good).

Layering transparent glazes with the “quins,” according to Chris Cozen on his blog, “tend not to turn muddy or grey.” The Daniel Smith website states Naples Yellow can be added to Quinacridone Red to create nice peachy shades. Williamsburg Oils says Quinacridone Red can be used to make the “cleanest pinks, flesh tones and violets.” And who would want muddy pinks?? Okay, sometimes a muddy pink is needed in a painting for delicate shadows. In that case, go with the Cadmiums.

Daniel Smith demonstrates a wash with Quinacridone Red:

Pack Animal or Solitary Traveler

Screen shot 2013-11-19 at 10.18.24 PM

The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself.” Washington Allston (from The Painter’s Keys)

Whether or not competition between artists is a good thing is the subject of opinion.  Some believe competition inspires creativity.  Others do not.  Rivalries among artists are not new. Perhaps, it is human nature for some to be competitive.  For artists, it can be a blessing or a curse depending on the individual.

Stories abound of famous rivalries.   The competition between Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci is said to have been fierce, especially on the part of Michelangelo.  According to an article for The Guardian by Jonathan Jones, the competition Michelangleo felt towards Leonardo was so bitter, Leonardo left Italy for France to escape it.  Leonardo strongly felt the need to be removed from the fierce rivalry.

On the other hand, Michelangelo, was reported to have been inspired by the competition he felt for Leonardo, Titian and other great artists.  Martin Gayford revisits the Michelangelo/Leonardo rivalry for The Telegraph.  Gayford states of Michelangelo, “his career was fired, and darkened, by bitter, personal rivalry with other artists.”  Michelangelo was driven by a deep competitive nature.

Much of the art world is geared toward competition.  Juried shows are everywhere and have a long history.  Many artists repeatedly enter multiple juried shows creating for the themes of the shows.  A theme can inspire artistic direction.  Installations and exhibitions are based on the judgment of the installation directors and are also frequently based on specific themes or goals.  Artists find fuel in these directions, as well.

But what of the artist who is not inspired by the Michelangelo competition? What of the artist who prefers the Leonardo escape? This artist may follow a different drummer or no drummer at all.  While the outward push may be to travel with the competitive pack, the lone artist must be true to the personal inner direction.   There is a place for both.  One artist may lead the pack in Italy while the other follows the road to France.  Great art is made in both places.   It is up to the artist to choose.  Michelangelo or Leonardo?  You decide.

Colorful Fridays–Berry, Berry Grass Green

Screen shot 2013-11-15 at 9.34.37 AM

“Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.”

Pedro Calderon de la Barca  (from the paintedprism.blogspot.com)

The perfect green for the leaves of the trees and the grass of the fields has a name that misleads.  Sap green was not made from the sap of trees or leaves or grass.   Berry green would have been a more appropriate name.  More precisely, sap green was made from buckthorn berries and stored in animal bladders.  Why animal bladders?  Beats me!  For some reason, bladders seemed better than jars to these early makers of sap green, perhaps because at the time this green was known as verde de vescica.  (Since my knowledge of animal bladders and what they have to do with paint, is limited, we will move on.)  It is an old paint color and early painters of illuminated manuscripts considered it part of the four primary colors needed in their work.  Red, yellow, blue and green were the primary colors of these artists.  Sap green was the primary green.  Unfortunately, the early sap greens were not lightfast as they are now.

Screen shot 2013-11-14 at 8.32.44 PMIf you would like to make your own sap green, the blog, Medieval Whimsies, takes us through the process of identifying the different varieties of buckthorn plants growing in North America, Europe and Asia today.  The writer is planning to make a personal supply of sap green and is gathering berries from different buckthorn shrubs to make a determination as to which shrub’s berries make the best sap greens.  So far step one is all that is posted and we will have to stay tuned to find out what the outcome was.  In the meantime, you’re on your own with the berries but the blog has nice pictures (shown right) of the plant and the various berries to help you identify each.  There is no mention of where to find the animal bladders.  I guess you are on your own with that, too!

 Channeling-winslow-homer.com describes Winslow Homer’s use of Hooker’s green and sap green in his wonderful landscapes.  Homer’s The Blue Boat is featured on the website and is a great example of the lovely green grass that can be made with mixtures of sap green.  Susanart.com claims to have found the perfect “luscious” mix of sap green using Schmincke sap green and Schmincke translucent orange for richgrass and moss.  Gamblin states sap green warms nicely when mixed with Hansa Yellow and cools nicely with any of the blues.

Daniel Smith’s website describes techniques for using sap green’s staining ability in paintings.  Removing sap green from a painting, whether in oil or watercolor, leaves a green stain behind that creates many different wonderful effects.  This staining ability is the main reason sap green is favored in the layers needed for glazes in botanical painting.  Daniel Smith’s description goes on to point out which color mixes will make the best deep shadowy forest greens or the more olive tones of mossy greens.

Sap green is a must have in all paint boxes, especially for landscape painters.  Whether or not you make your own pigment, sap green is essential for wonderful lovely green mixes.  The adventurous may try gathering and boiling down the berries to see what happens.  Since buckthorn is wild and grows profusely, it should be easy to find.  Animal bladders may not be so easy.  Good luck finding them.

Artist Martine L’Etoile, at abstractchannel.com demonstrates a beautiful step-by-step use of sap green in a landscape painting here.

Winsor-Newton demonstrates sap green washes in the following You Tube video.