COLOR THEORY - LESSON #3
If the print
on these pages looks a little smaller than usual you are correct. I have
had some requests to make the font smaller so as to reduce the amount of
paper required to print off the material. I hope that this will help.
MOVING TO A PASTEL WORLD
I must warn you that pastels have
some serious drawbacks. They are quite soft and break easily. They rub
off on your hands and clothes, spread colored dust wafting through the
air, and produce a drawing that is extremely fragile.
But there is a positive side. Pastels
are almost pure pigment, and the colors are lovely -- as clear and brilliant
as oil paints. Pastels, in fact, are the drawing medium closest to painting.
Pastel drawings are often refered to as "pastel paintings."
Because pastels come in a wide range
of pure and mixed hues, a student beginning in color can experience something
very close to painting without the difficulties encountered in mixing paints
on a palette, contending with turpentine, stretching canvas, and dealing
with other technical problems of painting.
For many reasons, therefore, pastels
are an ideal medium to provide a transitional midpoint between drawing
and painting. One of the main differences between exercises with colored
pencil and pastel drawing is in the quantity of applied color
relative to the ground.
For the exercise that follows I will
use as my model the pastel drawing Head of a Young Girl,
by the French painter Odilon Redon. Redon's free use of pastel color in
the negative space of the drawing will inspire you to experiement
with this medium.
Redon's mystical and lyrical work spanned
the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. His
pastel drawings have been linked to the writting of Poe, Baudelaire, and
Mallarme, and all are connected conceptually to Surrealism, a period in
early twentieth-century art that focused on dream symbolism. The yellow
lizard in Redon's drawing, jaxtaposed to the dreamlike serenity of the
girl's head, is reminiscent of Surrealist symbolism.
Before you begin: Read all of the instructions.
A special point: Look at
your three pale pastels and decide which is the darkest (lowest) in value,
which is in the middle, and which is the lightest. Then use the lowest
value chalk for the first layer of hatches, the middle for the next, and
the lightest for the last and final layer of hatches. This sequencing of
colors from dark first to light last is the
sequencing required for most painting mediums (with the exception of watercolor,
which is usually worked from light first to dark last). In working with
pastels, the dark-to-light sequencing helps to keep your colors clear and
fresh. Reversing this sequence can result in muddy color. This point will
help you see why practice with pastels eases the transition to painting.
Find a model or a suitable subject. Arrange a light so that
the background is illuminated, providing a pale negative
space behind your model's head.
Choose a piece of pastel paper in any soft color. Pastel
paper has a sharp "tooth" to grasp and hold the dry pigment. Redon used
a soft gray-blue paper.
Choose a medium-dark pastel crayon for the line drawing of
the head. Choose three harmonizing light pastels for the light negative
space behind the head.
Pose your model and draw the head in semi-profile -- that
is, with the model turned very slightly off true profile view.
Calling on your five basic drawing skills, draw the head
using the dark pastel you have chosen. Using your imagination, or using
objects in the room, complete your composition by adding objects or parts
Using your three pale pastels, work up the negative space
surrounding the head. Use crosshatching rather than filling the area solidly,
so that light and air are retained in your drawing.
Start your drawing now: You will need about an hour and perhaps
a bit more to complete the drawing. Be sure to give your model a rest at
mid-point in the hour! Try to work without interruption, and ask your model
not to converse with you while you are drawing. your right hemisphere needs
to be completely free of distraction.
Complete your drawing with bold colors of your choice. you
may prefer to harmonize your color by staying with complements or analogous
hues, or you may prefer discordant hues that are anchored in the composition
by repeating or echoing areas of each color.
When you have finished: Pin up your drawing, stand back,
and regard your work. Check the balance of the color. Then turn your drawing
upside-down and re-check the color. If any hue seems to pop out of the
composition, somehow not locked into the color arrangement, some slight
adjustment needs to be made. The color may need to be repeated somewhere,
or it may need darkening, lightening, or dulling. Have faith in your judgment
and in your right hemisphere ability to percieve coherence -- and incoherence.
When the color is right, you will know it!
Way back when we first started the basic
drawing series I said that drawing is a magical process. When your brain
is weary of its verbal chatter, drawing is a way to quiet the chatter and
to grasp a fleeting glimpse of transcendent reality. By the most direct
means your visual perceptions stream through your human system -- through
retinas, optic pathways, brain hemispheres, motor pathways -- to magically
transform an ordinary sheet of paper into a direct image of your unique
response, your vision of the perception. Through your vision, the viewer
of the drawing -- no matter what the subject -- can find you, see you.
What is more, drawing can reveal much
about you to yourself, some facets of you that might be obscured
by your verbal self. Your drawings can show you how to see things
and feel about things. First you draw in right hemisphere, wordlessly connecting
yourself to the drawing. Then shifting back to your verbal mode, you can
interpret your feelings and perceptions by using the powerful skills of
your left brain, words and logical thought. If the pattern is incomplete
and not amenable to words and rational logic, a shift back to the right
brain mode can bring intuition and analogic insight to bear on the problem.
Or, the hemispheres might work cooperatively in countless possible combinations.
What we have covered in these lessons,
of course, encompass only the very beginning steps toward the goal of knowing
your two minds and how to use their capabilities. Once you have started
on this path, there is always the sense that in the next drawing you will
more truly see, more truly grasp the nature of reality, express the inexpressable,
find the secret beyond the secret. It is the neverending quest that is
the joy of all artists.
Having shifted to a new mode of seeing,
you may find yourself looking into the essence of things, a way of knowing
tending toward the Zen concept of satori, as described in
the quotation of D.T. Suzuki. As your perceptions unfold, you take new
approaches to problems, correct old misconceptions, peel away layers of
stereotypes that mask reality and keep you from clear seeing.
With the power of both halves of the
brain available to you and the myriad of possible combinations of the seperate
powers of the hemispheres, the door is open to your becoming more intensly
aware, more capable of controlling some of the verbal processes that can
distort thinking -- sometimes even to the extent of causing physical illness.
Logical, systematic thinking is surely essential for survival in our culture,
but if our culture is to survive, understanding of how the
human brain molds behavior is our urgent need.
Through introspection, you can embark
on that study, becoming an observer and learning, to some degree at least,
how your brain works. In observing your brain at work, you will widen your
powers of perception and take advantage of the capabilities of both halves.
Presented with a problem, you will have the possibility of seeing things
in two ways: abstractly, verbally, logically -- but also holistically,
Use your twofold ability. Draw everything
and anything. No subject is too hard or too easy, nothing is unbeautiful.
Everything is your subject -- a few square inches of weeds, a broken glass,
an entire landscape, a human being.
Continue to study. The great masters
of the past and of the present are available to you through books and even
on the web!!Study the masters, not to copy their styles,
but to read their minds. Let them teach you how to see in
new ways, to see the beauty in reality, to invent new forms and open new
Observe your style developing. Guard
it and nurture it. Provide yourself with time so that your style can develop
and grow sure of itself. If a drawing goes badly, calm yourself and quiet
your mind. End for a time the endless talking to yourself. Know that what
you need to see is right there before you.
Put your pencil to paper every day.
Don't wait for a special moment, an inspiration. Set things up, position
yourself, in order to envoke the flight to the other-than-ordinary state
in which you can see clearly. Through practice, your mind will shift ever
I have taken this moment to have this
talk with you for next week we will move into the nuts-and-bolts aspect
of color in which we shall talk less about your hemispheres....but I do
not want you to do anything without getting in touch with your "other self".
Next time we will go even deeper into
color and its properties.....I will be looking forward to seeing you then.
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