The Artistry of Color and Monet

October 8, 2008

Beijing Brush Seller

Beijing Brush Seller

  As a mixed media artist, my primary areas of focus are color, form, design and a wide library of materials to use.  Color really floats my boat.  It catches my eye and sets my mind on fire.  Color combinations stick with me like persistent visions and when I’m intrigued by a color combination, I start playing with it in every way that I can with a variety of different materials.  The materials themselves translate color differently by how they bounce light.  For example, colors I found in combination in a glass work (a translucent medium) are translated differently when I apply that same combination but in fabric and embroidery or paint.
  In the early 1800’s Chevruel wrote about painting an open square of yellow next to an open square of a darker color.  When you compare the white of the paper/canvas in the center of each, the white inside the darker colored square looks “whiter” than the white in the yellow square.  This is a good illustration of how our eyes interpret contrast.  Contrast is often a neglected topic in the vocabulary of color and how we see.  If you’ve never done this with the squares, try it and see what happens with different colors, comparing the white of the page inside of each.  It’s an interesting exercise and teaches a lot about how contrast works.  Logically you know that the background is the same everywhere you’ve painted a square but your eyes don’t see it that way.
  How we see comes into play in any given situation whether we’re painting a picture or looking at an issue.   Politics just popped into my head as I wrote this… wow. There’s a good one, eh?  Not what I intended to write about but here’s a thought:  both political parties have the same picture as their background (what’s going on in our country) and yet the view is so different between the two in some ways.  I just have to wonder who’s inside square is whiter or cleaner? Maybe nobody’s is.   So perhaps the questions we should be asking ourselves is who is it that thinks they are talking FOR the American people and who is it that is listening to the American people?   Who is on the attack? Is that the best way to present oneself as the premier representative of our nation?  Do you, American people, wish to be perceived as on the attack?
  Appearing weak and being weak are two separate things.
 So back to color…  Monet moved to Giverny in 1839 when he was 46.  He worked to convey the impression of his surroundings rather than just record them in a documentary fashion. Later in life, he suffered from cataracts and you can see how his vision changed through his painting.  There were colors that he couldn’t perceive through his diminishing vision so the colors he used were brighter.  The element of contrast was diminshing in his vision with the veil of cataracts and so his paintings reflect that later, too.
  Knowing this about Monet changes how you view his work from earlier years to the later days.  It also teaches us how we see in different situations and contexts. Not only did Monet perceive the world differently once afflicted with cataracts but we perceive his work differently knowing about this affliction.  Each dynamic teaches us about vision and color which in turn teaches us about our worlds, both inside and outside.

2 Responses to “The Artistry of Color and Monet”

  1. Binky said

    Wouldn’t it be lovely to have all of those brushes to play with?

    I had a chance to see the Monet show in Portland and was looking for these changes exactly. It really is amazing to see the decline in sight.

  2. meredith11 said

    He did have surgery eventually which helped but didn’t totally resolve his vision. I know he really started using a lot of reds because that’s what he saw.

    As for the brushes, I brought home a couple but wish I had been able to bring back 100!

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