Thursday, October 23, 2008

Seeing Colors And Making Shapes

This is an old, old piece. It is pastels on black paper...about 10" x 14". It is just basically something I did fast one day to do something in a short time frame. One thing I have found interesting is the feather shape. I often want to make this shape for not any known reason. Do you have a particular shape which comes naturally to your hand?

Yesterday I talked about seeing colors when I dream and yes, today I found a quote from Audrey Flack about color perception. In her book "Art & Soul: Notes on Creating" which I pick up from time to time, found this:

Perceiving Colors

We see colors differently. I see blue hues with one eye, my right, and warm yellow tones with my left. I've found that many artist see this way. I believe this is a function of a highly developed color sense.


Now I am not so sure this is the way it works for me, but you can be sure I am going to be testing myself to see if Audrey's theory holds true for me. One thing I have noticed, though, is how two people with different eye colors see a hue differently. I attribute this to the reflection of the light as it is perceived by the eye. But I am not talking about colors in different locations, but people actually looking at the same color at the same time in the same place. And the other thing I have said to you before is how I am able to create and see various colors in different places where we live. I pointed to the example of the blues being so different for me when we were living in England. And the colors I worked with when we lived in the western part of the US were different from the ones I work with now here in the Eastern part of the US.

Have you ever noticed any of these subtle differences in how colors are perceived or how you work with them? Clearly both Audrey and I assume it is the eye which makes the difference, but maybe it is the brain which is translating them differently. What do you think?

I hope the day is sunny and delightful where you are today.

20 comments:

Jess said...

This is beautiful Kim. I tend to make this same shape myself.(Lovely colours too!) I find it very satisfying the way it tapers at both ends. That's very interesting what you were saying about people seeing colours differently. How can we actually know what another person is perceiving as we only have their explanation in words of what they are seeing? Lots to think about here! :)x

Kim said...

Hi Jess,

Thanks and it is interesting you tend to make this same shape...I wonder if it is one which is common or we are just similar in that way?

Colors...I decided this when I was doing a lot of design work and discussing colors with other professionals and non-professionals. I would ask people if they would see a color with more or less of a particular hue. Like does this blue have more green or more red in it? Do you think this is more clear or more gray? When it is a fine line, there are always differences. My hazel eyes would see it a bit differently from someone with brown or blue eyes. It was a very interesting thing for me to observe. Of course there were those who were not used to working with color who would ask me what in the world I was talking about. LOL

Thanks Jess...you know me, I love getting these conversations going.

sukipoet said...

HI Kim. Love your pastel drawing. It looks like stained glass. I would say no particular shape comes to hand, but definitely squared off or straight line shapes do not come easily or naturally. So maybe I wold say rounded shapes come more easily.. But no particular shape.

Your color sensing seems very subtle to me. I dont think I am that aware of colors and the differences. I may not be as sensitive to light and hue. I do think painters are influenced in choice of form and color by their landscape. Writers too. I can understand how the blues in England would be different from the blues here and the blues in Morocco and so on. and I do know I called a friend's walls grey and she corrected me to say they were green. Though in truth when mixing colors, you make that sort of green like a grey, tertiary colors. Green with red in it. I will try to be more aware of my color sensing and my eyes though and see what i think.

Kim said...

Hi Suki,

Rounded shapes, yes, I can understand that. And you know what is interesting? When I was doing design drawing, I never would make rounded shapes free-hand! I wouldn't make any mark without precise-ness and tools. Now I find it difficult to use those tools (and they are out of date, anyway). Can you imagine?

Maybe you are right...I am the one who is extreme in color sensitivity. And it is true I am very, very sensitive to light, in general. I MUST have sunglasses even when the sun is not shining directly. Maybe that has something to do with it, since you can't see color without light.

Yes, it is true about all kinds of creativity in a variety of locations. I know a writer who always leaves Texas to spend 3 months in a cabin in Colorado to write each summer...she just gets better work when she is there.

I find it a bit more difficult to work here than I did in England...I swear it was the light there which appealed to me so much.

I will be interested in what you learn as you observe how you do this, Suki! You are wonderful to share so freely here.

Thank You!

katie jane said...

Kim, I love this! I love the floating, free feeling I get looking at it, and the colors are gorgeous.

I'm not sure how I see color. I though I saw it all at once wit both eyes, but now I will have to pay more attention. I know that I dream in color.

WILSONART said...

Very nice use of pastel, Kim, and the color selections are so you!
I love pastel,,often they can look like oil paintings,,so blendable,,,,soft.
I almost always want to paint in a geometric fashion.Or if I sit down with a pencil,,I immediately start to draw a face,,,which is weird, cause I'm really not good at faces, but I am drawn to doing that.
I don't know how I see color,,either/both eyes. I'd never thought about it. I was always surprised at hair stylists who really could not see color very well. I mean, as in a golden brown(yellow/gold) or an ash(blue/purple) brown, or a neutral brown.Sometimes they couldn't see levels of a color either,,as in how many levels there are between light blonde and dark blonde. Always has been fascinating to me, how it all applies to painting as well. Color theory, so interesting,,,and I probably got way off the subject here,,,my mind do wander ocasionally.
:-D

Cestandrea said...

Kim, this is a beautiful painting. I like the feathery aspect of the paint which enhances the shape. I feel that this shape corresponds you so well. For me this would be a wave which sometimes ends in a spiral. And the question of the colours, oh this is so very complex. I believe it's a brain thing though, too. I read an interesting article on the web about Monet's painting late in life, when he had very bad eyes and couldn't seet he colours the way he did before. But he kept on painting, and mainly working with either one eye only. So his paintings turned out either blue-violet or orange-yellow. There is so much physics, too, in the way we percieve colour too, which I find complicated, technical but important. I try to lean about it. While painting, I never think about colour theory so I try to get it into my head before, so that it becomes a reflex to work with the "right" colours that will most express what I see in my head. I don't know if what I have written so far makes sense to you but it is how I feel it.
I'm obsessed with colour:) aren't we all...
love
Andrae

Kim said...

Hi Babs,

Thanks...the colors are so very ME, you are right.

Geometrics with a brush, but more soft lines with a pencil. I wonder if it has anything to do with the tool you wield? Interesting to contemplate.

So you have seen those subtle differences, too, in different people. I am wondering if you ever thought of it in relationship to the perceiver's eye color?

I love color theory, but only really contemplate it when I am actually not working or when I am working with students. After these years, has it become intuitive?

Thanks Babs...you cause me to contemplate more questions. I do not expect otherwise from you.

Kim said...

Oh Andrea, I like the idea of the wave ending in a spiral...how perfect is that to consider? Oh yes, this is soft pastel rather than paint. I think it would be fun to paint in this way, however I also think I would have to do it when working small...maybe that is to come with me, I don't know. :)

You are so right about how we think about colors. I am like you in that I consider color theory when I am not actually painting or working with color. I am much better with justifying my intuitive choices in relation to the theory as I understand it. You know?

So the article you read about Monet really holds up the observation of Audrey Flack. Now how cool is that? I have read a lot about Monet's painting when his eyes were almost gone, but not in this relationship. When you see the progression of the Japanese Bridge paintings, you can also follow the progression of his blindness...which is really interesting. And don't you find it so very interesting how blind people can "feel" color? That always amazes me - probably because I rely on my eyes so much.

I think I understand perfectly what you meant...did I respond to it as you were thinking you expressed it?

Well, I know there are a lot of artists who read here who are obsessed with color. It is an incredible thing to contemplate.

Thanks so much, Andrea. You give me so many things to think about.

marianne said...

Interesting theory but you can check it how can you prove you see colors differently, I know for sure colorblinds do. But how can you compare how 2 persons see the same color pink . You have to look through their eyes.......INTRIGUING!
Interesting how you used different colors in different placed you lived! I can imagine that, color is conected to feeling.
It is a rainy day here and really autumn, leaves everywhere......but I'm so glad to be back I'll take the fall for what it is.
love >M<

Kim said...

Hi Marianne,

You are right, it is very difficult. I suppose in so many classes on color theory, we have a lot of technical ways to talk about colors and would even use the Munsell system and decide that two different swatches were the exact match. Of course we all thought we were right! LOL

Oh, to get back those blues of Southern England! Maybe one day...

I am glad you are back home safely...rainy or not, it is often so much more comfortable right at home.

Thanks Marianne!

Kim said...

Kate, my apology for missing your comment here. It was a matter of an early morning to be sure.

Thank you so much for your kind words about this. These are some of my favorite colors to be sure.

If you can figure out how you "see" colors, do let me know.

Thanks Kate!

Lynette said...

Oooh Kim that does look like a soft feather and I love that black paper. I noticed that I always tend to make circular shapes when I paint.

Kim said...

Hi Lynette,

I think I am going to have to pull out the pastels again! LOL Thank you!

Circular shapes...you know I do think the human mind/hand prefers softer shapes in general. Maybe I am wrong. Even when you look at someone like Mark Rothko's paintings, the edges are not sharp edges. It is interesting to think about, isn't it?

Thanks Lynette!

fiona long said...

Well I've had two revelations reading this Kim! (you never cease to amaze). One is that the same kind of shape comes to me when I doodle too! One of my favourites is a five petaled flower and the petals are that shape and I also love drawing eyes, that shape again. At the moment in my work I'm looking at commonalities between people and cultures, like the same maze pattern that crops up all over the world from all different times. I find that amazing ;0) and the fact that most cultures have masks. It seems to be something innate in us. I'm making a sort of eye shaped sculpture at the moment too.

The other revelation was reading that quote about colour. As I read it I thought the woman was a little crazy but then I tried it, assuming that nothing would happen, and there was a subtle difference in the colours I could see with each eye. It was also the same way round as her which surprised me as most things are the other way around for me because I'm left handed.

Thanks for another smashing, thought provoking post Kim!

Kim said...

Hi Fiona...I knew we were connected in some strange way. So it all comes down to this shape :) But I think you are right, it must be something innate. Yes, it is a petal shape and an eye shape.

I love the idea of your research and am eager to see the results...as they are always so incredible. Are you in need of photos?

When I read that quote, I thought she was crazy, too. Funny you thought things would be different...maybe Audrey Flack is left-handed, too. I will try the test later on to see if it is different for me since I am right handed.

Hey! Thank you Fiona for another "smashing, thought provoking" comment. You have me thinking in all kinds of directions. I will be back later today to post after they begin to gel, too.

Thanks Sweet Fiona!

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

Had to think about this a bit.
I doodle flowers over and over. A daisy type flower.
I love hearts too. so on one of our anniversarys I recieved a heart shaped necklace with a flower in the center of it like I doodle. That necklace was perfect for me. :))
You had asked me if I dream in color. I honestly dont know as I do dream but forget them when I wake up. So I still dont know.
I think the color thing in different places isnt imagined. The Impressionists swore by the light in France. I read in a book about the Artists that painted in France and CA that there was the same light in Laguna Beach in CA.
Maybe its because of the atmosphere in certain places. Smog in LA wouldnt be a good place for colors. I noticed years ago when we left CA to go to Montana for a couple weeks how drab and colorless CA was compared to the states we went thru and Montana. I was totally amazed at the different colors of greens when we got out of the smog.
And I do think peoples eyes can see differently then others. as some are color blind. or they just SEE better because they LOOK.
Interesting post.

Kim said...

Hi Cris, I find it interesting how people do doodle this shape from time to time...at least the lines of the shape of rounded, then tapered. I wonder what that is?

I am quite sure you are right about the atmosphere being an influence on the ability to see colors with such clarity..and of course the sky and the earth colors, too. When we were in England the sky was a nice beautiful blue when the sun was shining and we lived in a forest, so there was lots and lots of green. I am sure those reflective colors made a difference. I wonder if when we live in a very urban area if I will see a huge difference? That will be interesting, too.

I have to say to you I do think different eyes do see colors differently - color blind or not!

Thanks Cris for your insights here.

CHEWY said...

I find this "feather" shape comforting in that it is enclosing other feather shapes like hugging them... with a wispy flying energy emitting from the bottom.

Kim said...

Hi Chewy,

Thanks! It is interesting how others find they unconsciously make this shape, too. Energy...I like that!

I hope you are having a good day!