Friday, March 11, 2011

Bernie's Ramblings: Illusions

The painter's only solid ground is the palette and colors, but as soon as the colors achieve an illusion, they are no longer judged. (Pierre Bonnard)

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

Experience is real. Painting, which comes out of experience, is real. The world is an illusion. (Darby Bannard)
Visit the Gallery of Illusions... for a fun and enlightening time!

M. E. Chevreul
The “Color Phenomena” illusion  color fascinates me. There are several illusions on the site showing how color is affected by surrounding colors. Although I find this fascinating, it is nothing new to me. As an artist, I use these illusions in my paintings all the time. I like to refer to them as principles vs. illusions, just as M.E. Chevreul (1786 - 1889) did in his book, The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colours, and Their Applications to the Arts. This book is unquestionably one of the greatest books ever written on color. It dominated the schools of Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism, and, after 155 years, it still is an important reference for artist today.

Chevreul's ideas on color harmony, contrast effects, and optical mixtures were way ahead of their time and have been validated by modern scientific research in visual perception.

Claude Monet
Claude Monet, the father of the art movement know as, Impressionism, revered Chevreul’s book, and applied his theories in his paintings. One can argue that this book and these theories are the foundation for Impressionism.

The Impressionists invented a technique called “broken color” that is still used today by some artists, myself included. They would place small dabs or strokes of color next to each other on their canvases, rarely did they mix colors on their palettes. This broken color method gave the illusion of light in their paintings and allowed the viewer to optically mix the colors in the brain. This also gave their paintings an overall color harmony, since this technique didn’t allow the colors to become dull, or muddy, from being over mixed. If you look at an impressionistic painting up close, you will see abstract shapes and patterns of brushstrokes. Gradually step back, your mind starts to fit the puzzle pieces together and a distinct image appears. This is one of the most appealing thing about viewing impressionistic art, the viewer becomes involved in the process.
Impression, Sunrise, c.1893
Claude Monet

For example, concerning the Law of Simultaneous Contrast, Chevreu states, "In the case where the eye sees at the same time two contiguous colors, they will appear as dissimilar as possible, both in their optical composition and in the height of their tone." Simply put, when two complimentary colors (colors opposite each other on the color wheel; blue and orange, red and green, and yellow and violet) are placed next to each other the contrast is at greatest. The Impressionists brought this theory to life in their paintings, and it brought their paintings to life. The use of complementary colors next to each other creates a visual tension, a vibration of color. It made their paintings hum with excitement, lending more to an emotive quality than a realistic one.

I have used these color illusions in my paintings for years. My greatest reward is when the viewer becomes a part of the visual process, these principles allow that to happen. Like the Impressionists of old, seldom am I interested in capturing what a scene looks like. In my humble opinion, that is boring for the artist and the viewer, I’m wanting the viewer to look through my eyes and catch a glimpse of something more than what something looks like.

oil on linen
Bernie Rosage Jr.

Chevreul, Michel Eugène (1855). The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colours, and Their Applications to the Arts (2 ed.). London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans. (English translation)

1 comment:

johnnie shane said...

Loved the Ramblings