Shapes and Colors

So that’s what you work with when you paint: shapes and colors. Make a mountain steeper and you have something not like the leveler mountains. I think the more steeply pitched the mountains, the more they approach a fairy tale. I made some with shapes that echoed pine trees across the silent landscape.

Isn’t it curious–the system of metaphors?

I was pressing my teacher on this point this morning. How do you know these colors are complimentary? She hadn’t thought about it. She supposed we saw them in nature and said: we like that and don’t like that.

They really believe, around here, that these things are arbitrary human fashions. Had a music student trying to tell me that on Wednesday about sounds and I kept pushing back.

No, I pressed, what do they correspond to? You say this color is warm and this one is cold. This blue gives me no chill, but we all recognize the metaphor of temperature. To what do these things correspond? What underlying reality are we making use of? Why do we say they complement or contrast and what is the idea underneath that that I can get ahold of and use color properly? I can’t accept just telling me this goes with this and this does not anymore than I can learn grammar if you don’t give me the reasons behind the rules.

She started saying subjective and objective. I said, it is beyond that. To what does it correspond, what connects the appearances in nature to the appearance on the paper?

I ended up telling her that I’m not interested in realism (!), imitating things merely: I want to paint ideas. And what I’m stuck on is what makes colors work as a system? What does the juxtaposition of certain colors mean within its own system and why does that system of metaphors work? I’m learning some of the vocabulary for handling it. One useful term today is what happens when you mix secondary colors together: you start getting neutral tones. It makes a lot of sense, the word ‘neutral,’ but why? I think she said we also talk about the chromatic level. Low chromatic level and high chromatic level: high being pure.

I didn’t stop her to say pure what? Pure primary is what I gather, but what truth is there in primary colors? What cleanness of light? She wanted to tell me for a while it was all arbitrary, to which I did not reply: not in God’s world.

Has anybody ever written an aesthetics of color? we ended up asking.

Maybe all rubbish, but a very interesting class just when I needed it!


2 thoughts on “Shapes and Colors

  1. heheh, You remind me of myself when I took my firsy Algebra class, and kept asking, “but why?”. I was told , “Just memorize the FORMULAS!”. There are many books on color theory, but somehow I just go back to the color works.
    (Do you have a color wheel?)
    Even with all your questions, practice will help you the most. Keep at it!

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