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June 2012

So How Much Does Language Affect Your Color Sense?

I recently came across an intriguing series of posts on the Empirical Zeal blog, about how language affects our idea of color - the author called it The Crayola-fication of the World.  Perhaps artists are more attuned to the subtleties of color than laymen, but how many of us do not fully account for the influence language has on our color choices?

Research indicates that cultures around the world do differentiate the major color categories along similar lines, with some diversity arising in curious ways - the differences between blues and greens for some cultures, yellows and greens in others.  Our perception of what redness means is similar from culture to culture, but when it comes to naming that same redness and categorizing it, our use of language can get in the way - but perhaps not exactly the way you think.

Here are some of the intriguing questions that were raised, and answered in the color discussion:

  • To what degree does left brain/right brain cooperation have in our ability to distinguish between color subtleties?
  • If we distract the language processing part of the brain (left brain), why is it we have more difficulty differentiating between colors, but if we distract the visual processing brain (right brain) there is no difficulty?

And my own follow up question:

  • How is language (our ability to name colors) working here - and does this offer a clue as to why many artists prefer to work in isolation - where their language-processing right brain is not distracted through conversations with others?

At some point, the questions cease to be about how to put paint on the surface and shift to how to understand our perceptions, where the artist is no longer painting greenish trees but shapes filled with light and vegetation and warmth and coolness.  In order to see these subtle differences, it may be valuable to understand the interaction between color perception and language beyond a crayola world where trees are green and the sky is blue, and there is no red beyond the red, red rose. 

Links:

The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains (part I)

The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains (part II)

 

Artists can color the sky red because they know it's blue.  Those of us who aren't artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we're stupid. ~Jules Feiffer, from The Quote Garden.


Curious About What Painting Is?

     If you’ve reached that point when more of your questions revolve around what painting is, rather than how to paint, you might be interested in a book that I’ve been reading, aptly titled What Painting Is, by James Elkins.  Elkins is a Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but this is not like any art history book that I’ve encountered. Part alchemy, part chemistry, part history, part philosophy, and yet uniquely insightful about painting.  On the back cover, the painter Frank Auerbach, is quoted as saying “this book is brilliant,” and as I read I began to understand why. 

     I found the arguments and comparisons of painting to alchemy fascinating, although there is more information here about the ancient alchemists than one might expect in a book that tries to explain what painting is.  But alchemy plays a vital part in Elkins exploration of what artists have always done in the studio, with paint and canvas, magic and experimentation -- pushing the sludge around.  Not an easy read, but certainly worth the while if you are looking for another way to view the creative process.

     Elkins draws the reader in to the idea that the alchemist’s interest in creating something entirely new is exactly what painting is, and why so many books that attempt to teach technique always fall short once the painter has learned the basics.  It is Elkins’ ideas that I found so valuable, a way of thinking that breaks down some of the assumptions artists might make: a typical example is the idea that 1 + 1 = 2 in standard art instruction ( yellow + blue = green) but in Elkins’ view, the alchemical view of painting, 1+1 equals something entirely different, unique depending upon the amount of paint, the texture, the movement of the brush.  Elkins suggests that the formula we should be thinking about is 1+ 1 = i. 

     There is another quote from the Frank Auerback about how there is much in the book that fits with his experience in painting, and yet…if you are interested in intellectual speculation into what painting is, and you don’t mind sections that delve into alchemy and philosophy as a way of rounding around to a better understanding, this might be a good summer book to read.  I know that for me, summer means less studio time and more opportunities to satisfy my curiosity about art, artists, and painting. 

     Here is a sample of the book What Painting Is, by James Elkins.

 

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"I could sure hear you in the book, very upbeat and encouraging...I also loaned your book to my Tucson art teacher and she let another friend of hers read it, too.  She’s already doing most of what you suggested...she hates self-promotion like most of us do..."  TB, Tuscon, AZ

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle US Store  - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle UK Store - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist


Icons of the West Show and Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction

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Snow Flurries, Ochoco Ranch

Exhibited in the National Icons of the West Exhibition

held at Dana Gallery, 246 N Higgins, Missoula, MT 59802

June 1 - August31, 2012

 

 

17th Annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction

I am honored to announce that  Fenceline and Summer Storm Coming have been accepted into the

Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction to be held September 2, 2012, at the

Rist Canyon Mountain Festival
Sunday September 2,2012from 10:00 to 4:00

 

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Fenceline

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 Summer Storm Coming

For more information

Richard Schmid Auction

Icons of the West 2012 at the Dana Gallery

 

 

 "I've got my book in the mail and I read it with great pleasure.  You have a great style and the whole book is such an inspiration.  I really enjoyed it and I keep it handy for all the moments when I doubt myself."  SM, Australia

 

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle US Store  - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle UK Store - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist