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Posts Tagged ‘Blue’

Can you isolate a color from your memory or your culture or art history?

Just the word Blues triggers an association in your mind.  “Feelin’ blue”–you hear the music in your head.

Our culture and history are loaded (and weighed down) with the symbolism of certain colors.   In 15th century France red was the color of power, as in for the king; green was the color of love; blue was for the Virgin Mary. But in Renaissance Italy Mary is often shown wearing blue and red.  Symbolism falls apart easily when you stop to look and think about it even a little bit.

Consider the colors in flags, like the popular red and blue.  Any given country will have historic and symbolic explanations for the color of the stripes in its flag.  Same color, different symbols for different flags.

I’ve read that blue is the most widely loved color throughout the world.  No symbols necessary.

But here’s the thing. Any attempt to pin a color down to meaning, symbolism or cultural propriety has to fail.  The reason for this is simple:  color does not exist by itself, in isolation.  Any color will always be seen next to another color, i.e. in the context of another color.

Back to the hue called blue.  There are many variations of blue.

Does the blue at the top of this post remind you of uniforms?  Official orders? The proper way to do things here?  The energetic brushwork we saw in the red version of this painting, the original painting by Keven Wilder, seems to get dampened by this cold, military blue.  Doesn’t it?  I can’t be sure.  Color is subjective.

If you mix ultramarine blue with a little alizarin crimson, you get a purplish blue, but still blue, a so-called warm blue:

If you mix cerulean blue, which is already cool…

with a bit of yellow, you’ll get a very cool, even greenish, blue, but still blue. Like this:

After that, things get more complicated depending on what wall color you hang your blue painting or  whether the painting next to it will have red, yellow or orange in it, for example.

We’ve looked at this before.  https://artamaze.wordpress.com/?s=albers

The groundbreaking authority on the relativity of color is Josef Albers. For an eye popping introduction, go to: https://www.google.com/search?q=josef+albers&tbm=isch&source=hp&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjw48eBpMbgAhUHTawKHbmvDdEQiR56BAgEEBU&biw=1222&bih=815

Josef Albers is an essential teacher and companion in any study of color.  Keep his little book Homage to the Square at your side. He won’t simplify anything for you.  On the contrary, he will show you how infinite and subtle the perception of color is.  It may drive you a little crazy.  Ahhhh! Color!

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/black/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/red-and-rational/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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17febbluedrip

This is a small painting, buy our class standards, ~20” x 20”.   Not only that, but the composition is rectilinear, which conveys stability. But it packs a punch, doesn’t it!

Notice that it was painted in more than one orientation.  You can see that those horizontal lines at upper left are drips that happened when the canvas was standing on what is now the right side.  And notice that the white does not look like unpainted canvas. It’s the white that makes the blue & yellow-orange so luminous.

Veronica Sax, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 20”

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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17feb1redyelbl

Blue is theoretically a color that recedes.  Red, of course, comes forward and announces itself as the boss.

In this painting, how does that little sliver of blue on the left manage to hold its own against that huge red in this painting? One, it’s striped and stripes are aggressive. (Look at sports and military uniform: stripes rule.)  Two, it’s at the edge of the painting and edges convey tension. (Tension demands attention because, well, because tension is uncomfortable.)

Painting in acrylic by Susan Bennett, 36” x 36”.

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BubbleWrapYellowRip
Well, we don’t know. Is the Yellow on top of the Black? Or was the Yellow there first and then the Black invaded, covering most of the canvas and leaving some Yellow? Enter into the painting, let it fool you, one way, then the next. There’s no solution and that fact is the source of pleasure.
The other surfaces are clear, either on top or on the bottom. The Blue is on top of the Red and the white dots (printed with bubble wrap) are on top, in fact topmost. And all of these are on top of Black.
Whether you notice the Yellow-Black puzzle first or you look at the Blue-Red-White issues first, you immediately get the point: what’s-on- top is the game here. Some of this game will let you win, but the Yellow-Black part will leave you dangling and that’s your reward.

Painting in acrylic, about 24×24, by Maria Palacios.
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PinkBlack
An abstract painting should knock you out, leave you speechless, with only the compulsion to keep looking at it.
Here’s such a painting. I just want to look at it.
Ok, I’m expected to chat a bit here. Well, it’s pink, to start with. The color pink has endured some bad press, being associated with weakness, daintiness, feebleness, passivity. I remember reading (some years ago) that blue used to be the color for little girls and for boys the recommended color was actually pink because it was considered stronger, being derived from red. I looked it up just now and found this:
“…a 1918 trade catalog for children’s clothing recommended blue for girls. The reasoning at the time was that it’s a “much more delicate and dainty tone.” Pink was recommended for boys “because it’s a stronger and more passionate color, and because it’s actually derived from red.” See
http://www.npr.org/2014/04/01/297159948/girls-are-taught-to-think-pink-but-that-wasnt-always-so
Color suffers all sorts of cultural categorizations, honors and humiliations. We’ve talked about that before on this blog. But pink really gets the treatment in our time. Pink, eeaouh! I, for one, think pink is powerful stuff but I’m always aware that the vernacular consensus is against me.
Then, the black calligraphic lines on top of the pink. Where the pink says “dainty” (at least in the vernacular), the black lines say “assertion.” The black lines are painted with great insouciance and assurance. This “so-what” carelessness is shocking and fitting at the same time.
There’s a tiny speck of yellow on the circles, adding a maddening little focus. Look!

Painting by Cassandra Buccellato, oil on canvas, 36 x 36
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15JanuaryBigBlueFinal
Here’s a painting where every part is on first. By that I mean, every part is important and interesting. Nothing is “just” background. This is counter-intuitive and that’s precisely what makes this painting so wonderful to contemplate.
15JanuaryBigBlueFinalNumbersThe large blue trapezoid (#1) appears to be on top of everything. But blue is a receding color.
Red (#2) is a forward color but it’s placed in the second tier.
The confetti strip on the top (#3) is spatially behind everything, but it jumps out at you because of its texture.
At the bottom (#4) we have what looks like a continuation of #2 and that further emphasizes the frontality of big blue (#1).
This painting presents a conundrum and there’s no solution. Try not to look at this. Good luck.
Painting by Jane Donaldson, acrylic on canvas, 30×40. 2015
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CassyBlue
This painting started with dripping paint, not with any plans to create a landscape. But the line where the blue stops suggests a horizon and then with that reference, the drips can be interpreted as a row of receding trees. The dash of orange suggested itself because as the complementary color to blue, it would heighten the intensity of the blue. So, yes, it can be seen as a landscape with mountains, trees and possibly a sunrise. And it’s paint. Paint! It’s both. But because your mind can’t focus on both at the same time, it goes into overdrive and that gives you a high. That’s the high of modernism. Aren’t we lucky!!
Painting by Cassandra Buccellato, oil on canvas, 36×36.
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