Tag Archives: painting

Achieving All the Bright Colours

Here’s a question for you:  how many of you artists out there still consider the primary colours to be red, yellow, and blue?  It is what we were taught from day one in school.

What baffles me is why it is still being taught as the standard, even in art school, apparently.  Even though we know that if we want a giclee print made from one of our paintings, it will be made with the ink pigments magenta, yellow, cyan and black.  Even though if you pick the most primary red (i.e. 100 percent red) you can think of from your computer screen (which we know uses red, green and blue as its primary colours because these are the additive primary colours of light), you can still print that red out and your printer is programmed to mix that red using the only pigments it contains: magenta, cyan, yellow and black.  Does it make any sense to you that we use red, green, and blue light to get all the colours on the computer screen, but somehow only the yellow colour is the different primary on the traditional painting colour wheel?

Have you ever been trying to make a fuschia or magenta-coloured flower look right using what is commonly taught as a primary red?  Let me guess – you gave up and went out and bought a colour of paint (possibly magenta…) that was as close as you could get to that flower colour.  The reason?  Magenta and fuschia are synonyms, essentially, and in order to get a nice, saturated fuschia, you cannot start with a ‘traditional primary red’ pigment.  That is because magenta is the actual primary colour.

If you search magenta on the internet, the first thing that comes up is a definition.  It describes magenta as “a light purplish red that is one of the primary subtractive colors, complementary to green.”  We also find, further down in that same box, that the natural dye named magenta was not discovered until the 1850s.  From Wikipedia, we learn that paintings featuring the colour magenta soon followed.  Why do you suppose that is?

Cyan is what most of us would describe as a greenish blue.  In fact, if you mix green light, and blue light (additive primaries), you get the colour cyan.  Interestingly, the use of the word cyan has also increased significantly since the 1850s (search cyan, then click the ‘Translations, word origin, and more definitions” button below the definition.)  I am not sure why the name for this colour was based on the Greek for “dark blue” and the Latin species name for cornflower.  It certainly isn’t a dark blue OR the colour of cornflowers.

So, why are artists so unwilling to let go of the red, blue, yellow model for the colour wheel?  It does have its place in art history.  Historically, artists had to use the limited number of pigments that were available to them.  Certainly, we can get purple from red and blue, we can get green from blue and yellow, and we can get orange from red and yellow.  This works.  And of course we can get to the tertiary colours as well.  But the results are sometimes unsatisfactory.  That certain really bright green – that’s a difficult colour to mix, isn’t it?  Unless you start with a greenish blue, i.e. something at least close to cyan, you are not going to get there.  And that really bright purple you want?  Unless you start with a magenta, you aren’t going to get there either.  Of course, we are not restricted to the traditional primaries when we are mixing colours on our palettes, are we?  We have the luxury of purchased modern paint pigments that are already very close to the colours we want.  We can cheat and use these or at least mix with them.  But what if we were restricted to only three of these paint pigments?  Which ones would you choose?   Mastery of colour theory as taught by modern science will give you the tools you need to mix most of the colours you want using a minimum number of purchased pigments.  Knowledge is power!

If you search primary pigments on the internet, the first link that comes up explains modern colour theory in a very accurate and succinct way.  I would say it may be the best explanation I’ve seen yet.  It even has a link to a demo near the end in case you are having trouble wrapping your mind around it.  And if you still have more questions, read the Wikipedia page on colour theory… it does have a lot of explanations as to the history and the reasons why the traditional artistic way of understanding colour has been slow to catch up with the scientific way of understanding colour.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t sit well with you.  It took me a long time, too.  The dogma of red, yellow and blue as primaries is surprisingly entrenched, although there are other notable scientific theories that come from the 1850s that many  people also find difficult to accept ;).  Hah!  Just found out I’m not the only one to make this comparison.  And I guess the new cyan, magenta, yellow model didn’t really develop until sometime after the 1850s.  So maybe I shouldn’t actually be so surprised.  These changes in paradigm take time.  Eventually, if you keep testing out the theory, and trying to disprove it, you will accept it – like any good theory.

Refreshed!

Welcome to my revamped site.  I’ve kept the same overall theme but now the home page is a static page with examples of my work, and this blog has its own page listed in the menu at top.  I am hoping this will make the site more appealing to those who are primarily interested in finding out quickly what kind of art I do, rather than reading what is going on in my creative experience.  It will also be easier for people to find a piece of art quickly, see its availability, and its price.  Part of my Twitter feed will be visible too.  If you’ve got more ideas for how to make the site more user-friendly, I’d love to hear them!

I’ve had a really nice summer, with my adult children living at home temporarily and a whole bunch of wonderful warmth and sunshine.  It has done a great deal for my mood and I feel ready to paint so much more than I have been in the past year!  I spent a few days at the end of summer at Killarney Provincial Park, camping, and took in some beautiful northern Ontario scenery – always good for the psyche.  I took lots of photos to inspire me this fall and winter.

It’s not hard to bring watercolours on a hike, you just need a little paint box that includes a palette in the lid (mine is the Van Gogh brand), some brushes that have water in the handles (Koi water brushes are great!), and a little journal of watercolour paper (Strathmore Visual Journal).  And a hiking partner willing to wait while you paint!

p1040210 view-at-top-of-the-crack001

Then we took a short another short trip to Rochester, NY and I bought a tube of my favourite – Schminke helio cerulean blue – and another new colour I will be trying out.  While there I visited the Memorial Art Gallery and spent several hours, while enjoying the sounds of the pipe organ as someone was given a lesson.  One of my favourite pieces there was Galaxy by Fritz Trautmann.  I may pay homage to it in watercolour sometime soon… stay tuned!

Festival of Creativity

Last year was the first year of the Halls Creek Festival of Creativity, and it was a really good experience.  It’s coming up again already this weekend, and I’m looking forward to it very much!

There are a lot of activities for everyone, over 60 artists exhibiting, lots of classes and demos happening, live music playing, delicious food to taste, and even an instrument petting zoo where you can try out all the musical instruments on display.

I will be exhibiting a variety of the art that I have currently available in my home gallery – traditional watercolours, watercolours on alternate surfaces, fractal watercolours, digital fractal original metal prints, even one of the scarves I designed.  I’ll also be painting at my booth – might as well absorb some of that creative energy around me and put it to good use!

Check out the website for details – for some of the workshops you need to sign up ahead of time.  Just a reminder – Ingersoll is only about an hour and a half from downtown Toronto, and only a half hour from London!  Why not make a day of it?

halls-creek-poster-2016-sm

Wistful Landscape

It has been a while since my last post.  You may have noticed I haven’t been painting so much in the last couple of years…  so much so that when I began my most recent painting my husband looked at my studio table and said “Oh.  I thought you’d given that up!”  He was only teasing, of course.  I would never give it up.  But there are times in life when you just don’t have it in you.  I am really hoping that all the recent losses, surprises, and changes in my life are finished for a little while.  There have been some really good moments too, and they have kept me going.  As I mentioned before in this blog, one of the really great highlights in the last year was a trip my daughter and I took to Scotland.

As I looked out the tour bus window at this scene, I tried to imagine what it was that made some of my ancestors decide to leave that beautiful country.  I felt quite wistful that it was far enough away so I wouldn’t be able to visit it regularly, and it’s not even my home.  I think they must have been pretty sad to leave.  It’s hard to know what someone from a couple of centuries ago would think… life was so different then.  People probably had to adapt to change and strife and loss all the time.  They were probably tougher.  But this is a landscape that really pulls at you.

HIghland Afternoon II. Watercolour on Paper. 11x15". Lianne Todd

HIghland Afternoon II. Watercolour on Paper. 11×15″. Lianne Todd

Oxford Studio Tour next weekend

It is that time of year again and the studio tour begins one week from tomorrow!  I usually blog about it before this, so I apologize if this is the first you are hearing about it.  We do have posters and brochures out all over the place, and banners as well.

This year we have thirty-one artists on the tour at seventeen locations, so it’s a little more manageable than other years.  Spring is finally here to stay and Oxford County’s fields are really greening up.  You are in for a nice drive if you do venture out to see us.  As usual, I’m at my home in the south end of the county.  Here’s a map of the tour – I’m the purple pin near the bottom, Stop #6 on the tour, in Otterville.  It takes about 45 minutes to get here from south London, 40 minutes from Brantford, 30 minutes from Simcoe, Ingersoll, or Woodstock, an hour from Stratford, an hour from Hamilton, an hour from Kitchener/Waterloo.  So, a pretty nice day trip from a lot of locations!

I have new art to show and I’m excited to have the opportunity to meet more new people who have never seen any of my art before.

One piece you won’t see at my gallery is this one, which I’ve finally finished and which is being delivered today to the couple who received a gift certificate for a commissioned piece for their wedding.  They took the reference for it on their honeymoon.  I wish them many happy years enjoying the memories that will reside on their wall!

Venice 2015. Watercolour on Paper. 15x22". Lianne Todd. Commissioned.

Venice 2015. Watercolour on Paper. 15×22″. Lianne Todd.
Commissioned.

Highland Afternoon

One of the things you get accustomed to as an artist is that your work will be admired, critiqued, awarded, found wanting, rejected, accepted, purchased, or left on your gallery wall.  You never know what a viewer is looking for when they gaze at your work.  It’s why an artist has to stay true to what and how they, in their hearts, want to paint.  You can’t please everybody all of the time, so you have to just please yourself and hope for the best.  That said, we all have egos and those can sometimes be fragile.

I recently entered the IWS Canada Biennale exhibition which is occurring in Vancouver this summer.  As you may know, I am one of the IWS Canada Co-Representatives.  Our country head decided it would be best if we had the jurors choose all of the paintings that would be exhibited, rather than the often customary invitation of country branch heads to exhibit without jurying.  I thought this was a good way to go about things – fair for everyone.   I really only wanted my work to be there if it was juried in, anyway.  So the digital images – over 500 of them from all over the world, were assigned numbers and ranked by three excellently qualified independent jurors on a number of criteria.  Only 175 were allowed in the show.

As it turned out, my painting Highland Afternoon did not make the cut.  I was disappointed, naturally, but not crushed, as I knew the competition would be tough.  I am not sure who applied and who didn’t apply to the Biennale, but I learned this morning that I am in very good company when it comes to rejection from this exhibit.  Apparently there were many, not on the list of 175, who may have fully expected acceptance.

I am really proud of us as an organization, that we are moving towards fairness, away from politics, and ensuring very high quality exhibits, showcasing the best of watercolour art from around the globe.   I congratulate all of the participants who made it on to that list of 175, and I look forward to being inspired by their beautiful work!

I am also very happy that I now get to show this painting instead of keeping it under wraps until July.  I really like it.  It’s true to the vision I had of it in my mind, and I completed it fairly quickly because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.  I feel that it exemplifies a variety of effects you can achieve with watercolour.  It is what, and how, I wanted to paint.

HIghland Afternoon. Watercolour. 20x27". Lianne Todd. $900.00

HIghland Afternoon. Watercolour. 20×27″. Lianne Todd. $900.00

Light and Depth

Today I begin teaching a course in achieving the illusion of light and depth in watercolour, at the Station Arts Centre in Tillsonburg. I’ve taught a workshop in this before, but am looking forward to teaching six 2-hour-long classes because I think the lessons I’m teaching will have so much more time to be absorbed, and the students will be able to put into practice each part of what they are learning, as they learn it.

Why is this an especially important part of watercolour painting technique?  Because the nature of this medium requires us to plan.  Transparent watercolours allow us to see all layers of paint that were laid down, through the layers laid over top.  If we need light in a painting, that light needs to be captured and saved from the very beginning.  Do we want a foggy distance and a sharp, bright foreground?  That also has to be planned from the beginning.  Do we want it to look like a sunny, colourful day, or a rainy, grey one?  Colour saturation requires colour integrity or purity – which cannot be achieved if painting over that colour’s complement.  Do we want one thing that is light, in front of another which is slightly darker?  Again, it requires planning from the beginning.

The only case in which we as watercolour artists have the leisure to not plan our light and dark areas from the beginning, is when we use surfaces such as gesso-coated paper, Yupo, or any other surface that allows scrubbing the paint back to the white surface.  Even then, we must be fully aware of which paints contain staining pigments, or we may find the inability to remove a hard edge, or to lay down a saturated yellow when we need to.

Apart from the specific requirements of watercolour, I will be also using a little of my science education to help explain some of the behaviour of light and our perception of it and our surroundings in general.  I hope the students will all come away from this with fresh eyes on the world and an inspiration to tackle subjects they found too challenging before!