Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Report on Graydon Parrish color workshop, Part 1

My apologies for going so long without a post! First I was traveling, then my computer went in for repair. Finally I am back up to speed.

From July 19 to August 6 I was at Grand Central Academy in New York City, at a workshop on Munsell color theory, taught by artist Graydon Parrish. The Munsell system allows the artist to think about color in a systematic way, according to value, hue, and chroma (chroma refers to the intensity, or luminous strength, of a given color.)

Here is instructor Graydon Parrish giving a demonstration on identifying hue, value, and chroma. After this, we all got closely acquainted with our palette knives, for hours, no, weeks of color mixing.

We created "strings" of color at various levels of chroma, value, or both. My palette, below, shows three strings of high chroma blue-green, yellow-red, and red. Along the top and right edge you can see a string (slightly contaminated in one spot with red!) of a neutral tone, from darkest to lightest.)
The writing above each dab of color is the Munsell notation for the value and chroma, in the given hue. One outcome of this training is, you can always match paint you mixed at some earlier date!

I mixed these strings for the "spheres" exercise. We painted 3 sets of 3 spheres. (First we painted the spheres we used as models, then we painted them in 2D.) The first 3 are neutral, with local color in the dark, medium, and light ranges of value. The second 3 are yellow-red, or flesh tones, in low, medium, and high chroma. The third 3 are high chroma spheres in three different hues. This was actually pretty difficult.

The sphere exercise applies to a number of practical problems in our paintings: the representation of volume, of changes in value, of changes in chroma, and of very high chroma objects.

The photo above is of artist Ruza Bagaric's lovely sphere work.

In another exercise, artist Marge Grinnell created strips, painting each with color she had mixed, then she used them as models for her painting, in which she explores the value and chroma variations that occur in light and shadow.

Artist Victoria Herrera worked on this study of a lily, using the Munsell approach.

These lessons will pay off as we work on our own compositions. I know my approach to color will change with this and further study. For one thing, I have a new ability to create, use, and appreciate neutral tones in any hue, and at any value. I have long admired the subtle use of neutrals in paintings from earlier ages, and will now try to introduce more neutrals into my own paintings.

More on my New York fun in Part II.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Report on Graydon Parrish color workshop Part 2

This is the second installment of my report on the Graydon Parrish color workshop at Grand Central Academy.

Just to revisit some goals of the workshop, here is one more photo of student work. Most of us did the gray scale exercise in 10 steps. Artist Ruza Bagaric got so fascinated by the gray scale she tried to find as many value steps as time allowed. I think I see 36 steps here. Such thoroughness pays off in increased visual sensitivity and accuracy.

Many of us accompanied instructor Graydon Parrish to the Metropolitan Museum to look at paintings, with special attention to the 19th century. Here Graydon and students view Rosa Bonheur's terrific painting of the Paris Horse Market. We are taking in the excitement and energy of this work, and also appreciating Bonheur's masterly use of value, hue, and chroma.

We all admired this large painting of St Joan by Bastien LePage. He has created an other-worldly, magical space by keeping value and chroma almost constant. The mood is set by the subtle changes of hue, while the very few high value notes draw our eyes to her transfixed face.

We took a close look at this stunning small piece by Jean Leon Gerome, for his daring use of high chroma blue in the sky. Most of us learn to downplay the sky color in our landscapes. Gerome's color harmonies, tight composition, and dramatic variations of value result in a completely believable scene of heat, action and sunlight.

If you are interested in the craft and theory of classical painting, you might enjoy the video of a lecture entitled, "Technique as Influence: The Painter's Odyssey of Craft and Communication" by Graydon Parrish at this link.

To view a lecture by Graydon Parrish on his recent monumental painting commemorating the 9/11 tragedy, go to this link.

And now, friends, you will not hear from me for another few weeks. I am about to go on my yearly artist trip to Denali National Park. This time I plan to spend some time doing drawings and making some color notes (using the Munsell system), though I also plan to complete a few paintings while I am there. Here's hoping for fine weather!