Sunday, October 14, 2007

Science or Art? On other site too, Oy Vey...

Granted I am just reading the "Munsell Book for Students" because I
wanted to get the gist of what Graydon and others are talking about...
I understand there is so much more to it.
In a discussion about this system I asked about the large book and
this is what I was told about it - well really how it is used:

"In my head painting class, the model had a blue drapery hung behind
her blond hair. So I got out my blue chips and found out what the
exact local of the drapery was. It turns out to be 5PB 5/4. I know
because it is in a 3/4 light that the value 5 local will appear nearly
as a 7 in the average lights, a 4.5 in the average halftones, and
nearly at 2 in the average darks. So guess what I am doing today? I am
tubing a string consisting of 5PB 9/2 and 5PB 8-2/4. I could just mix
up the piles I need, but I found it better to just mix up and tube the
strings. You never know when you might need this next.

How would I be able to mix exactly the drapery without this book?
Guess??? But, that isn't the best part, say I wanted to make this a
5BG instead because of the color of her skin being 5YR the complement
would be 5BG. Because I have the chips I could mix up the same string
in chroma 4 for 5BG instead. Or, I could bump up the chroma, or drop
it and have complete control."

Her hair being blond, I could change the back ground to 5P if the hair
was the focal point, and therefore create a complementary color scheme
to match her hair. It is amazing what you can do with the book."

When I read this post about the model, it sounded like science to me
vs. art, doesn't it become mechancical and tedious? Is there ever any
just make it up to exaggerate.

I know I don't understand it all yet, but Graydon do you get to the
point where you are just seeing without the chips?

Marvin could mix his palette and check yours and know in less than a
second that something was off, without the need of a device. I am
guessing this is where Graydon is too.

I remember Bill telling us that Sargent walked a mile a day when he
did a portrait - back from his easel to look at his canvas and the
model together, are you walking two miles a day? Bill Whitaker (sorry
I forgot everyone might not know him...Ha) is so precise in his work
it's amazing, yet when I studied with him he was always investigating
new colors which I thought was kind of neat.(speaking of which, Bill
have you tried OH's Violet-Grey?)
Yet he did send out a palette of colors for the class.
Like all I have mentioned here, and many I havent, they can all catch
the drawing even if it's off by 1/16". Blows me away.

If you go to Liberaces home page: you will see
his painting of the guy who is bald and has a kind of strange beard.
Knowing his palette, I think it's pretty incredible how subtle the
colors look on him, he does all of this with exaggeration.

Just some thoughts from someone who has no idea what she is talking
about when it comes to color systems, but does know the meanings of
hue, chroma and value.

Dang, another short post! See I always wanted to be taller!


nystudios said...

Beth, I don't think you are getting it. If I understand you correctly you want to know if you can take liberties with the colors that you use to say paint a face. This is a system that so far works to be dead accurate, or have complete control to not be so. With all due respect for the people that you mentioned, I am certain that their eyes aren't able to calibrate the slightest difference in HVC as well as a color spectrometer. Neither are their brains able to control mixing without slight variations, hue shifts, and chroma losses and gains. To their credit, if something is out of wack...they fix it. Your example of Sargent walking a mile a day is a great example of why this system is so awesome. If Sargent would have had this system he could have hit it perfect the first time, and not wasted so much paint and time. He was hunting and pecking hoping and waiting to get the right HVC for the piece instead of just knowing it.

It still strikes me as odd that the entire world uses Munsell as the industry standard by which color is measured, yet artist are so resistant to using it. Munsell was an art teacher himself and developed the system based on the findings of Otswald and Cheveruel. He did so because he found his students had a hard time understanding chroma. Wow!!! A century later things haven't changed.

As I wrote to your previous post under manganese blue, why shouldn't art be firmly rooted in science? After all ART is applied optics, chemistry, anatomy, biology, botany, statics, dynamics, strength of materials, sociology, psychology, mathmatics, etc.

I absolutely refuse to accept the, "I just feel my paintings" bullshit. Meissonier painted some of the best paintings ever, and he was very very scientific in his approach.

Name any other field where an industry standard is thrown out the door with deference to feelings? Imagine the doctor who says, "I don't want to understand the science of the human body, I just want to operate and feel my surgery." Or a poet who says, "To hell with grammar, spelling, punctuation, and content." A piano player who says, "I didn't want to learn scales and what notes are let alone music theory...that is science, I am going to draw on my inner feelings, and if anyone doesn't get it, it is because they aren't intelligent enough to understand something so revolutionary."

Sorry if I seem on a rant but I have had this same conversation with sooooo many people. As Graydon said, he is not opposed to a better system. But, lets see the results. Most of the results that I see coming out of these workshops is lack luster and most of it is gawd awful.

Like anything else it is a tool. Cast drawing won't make you and artist, but it will teach you to draw. Using munsell won't make you an artist, but it will help you hit , vary, or exaggerate color.

Breid said...

I'm sold ewschott, and I also fit your description at the bottom.

I had been planning on buying the Student Book as a b-day present for myself, but now I'm wondering if I should save my money and just get the big one down the road seeing as this is one that has all the formulas.

Is it really necessary to buy both?


graydon said...


When does knowledge ever get in the way of creativity? If it did, we wouldn't have any of the inventions that we cannot live without:
computers, cell phones, Disney land.

Yes, you can get subtle color without this method. But you can understand what you are doing, profoundly, with it. It doesn't contradict anything that is done by other painters, it enhances it.
So any list of colors can be organized and applied, so that they can allow the artist to imitate nature, or change it. Any exaggeration, is simply that, a deviation from the thing seen.

Finally, why forgo the chips? They are as useful as a mirror or a ruler: a means to check your vision against a standard, a tool for analysis.

There is a touted, yet false dichotomy between science and art, as if we really had two heads. But we don't. We have only one brain that regulates
our heart and mind, our eyes and our imagination. Your skepticism mirrors the pervasive and popular belief that artists should be lumbering bundles of emotion rather than rely on their minds. I am
trying to change this. Because one thinks, deeply and logically, his or her self-expression cannot be hindered. As one's skills and ideas mature, then his or her art changes; what was once naive expression becomes eloquent and nuanced.

Levine Gallery said...

A few years back I read an interesting book (can’t remember the name - Galileo something). Without going into too much unnecessary detail, the core of this book claims that the church rejected Galileo’s science not because they were afraid of science, but because they questioned weather science was sufficient to offer an understanding of the world

This is where I loose Graydon. Just because I can match the color scientifically, does it mean it is an accurate representation of the entire visual phenomena in front of me. Is science sufficient to base art upon?

painterdog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
painterdog said...

I seem to remember that Galileo was accused of heresy.
This is more about lack of knowledge and fear of new ideas, at least that is the subtext of what I am reading.

We all get stuck in methodology and beliefs and they guide our mind.

When we are confronted with something new that questions the orthodoxy of what we know we react in a negative or positive way.

I know this because I am wrestling with the same issues.

Sometimes you need to dive in and trust the people who are saying this works.

Judging by the work I have seen coming from Rich since he has embraced this idea I would say it works and works very well, that alone speaks volumes, does it not?

ewschott said...

Here (on this blog) I want to clearify, especially becase the other area is just so damn hard for me to navigate and actually I don't know who I am talking too... First I'm going to post my response there:

" Your skepticism comes out of the pervasive and popular belief that should be lumbering bundles of emotion rather than rely on their minds."

Graydon, I don't think "skepticism" might be the right word (although I have found that those who have skepticism towards anything, granted
it being a good thing, can turn out to be the biggest suporters), I think what I said above:

" Just some thoughts from someone who has no idea what she is talking about when it comes to color systems"

I think this if far more the understanding of a lot of people, it is a very different way to paint. And it actually is hard to concieve of doing this - but then that is what learning is all about.


"lumbering bundles of emotion"

If you mean frustration at your canvas and throwing down the hill for the deer to take, running off into the woods laughing too - then you nailed it on the head for me! ;)


Richard thank your for your response too. "

Now I would like to address Neal's thoughts.

Neal it's not a process I am slamming, when you don't understand something, you should question the unkown.

An issue for myself, I have worked in the graphic arts field for 26 years and the Munsell system (PMS books 'I' believe came about so it would be easy for those doing press OK's too understand better) is one of the foremost mix and match for colors - well I'm speaking mainly to the days of seperators, films, plates and experienced 4 color sheet feed fed presses, dang I remember when my husband's company got there first 6 color press, now they have web presses that would reguire almost 20,000 sq. feet just to hold one with the inline finishing work.

The reason I relate all this to you, is it became a "science", when those 4 color guys were matching cromalins with certain line screens - heck, line screens was how you picked your printer... this is my history of this color system for me, so too segue into this as a fine art system is some times inconceivable to some people - I don't think they are all thinking it's wrong, it's just that they are not asking questions like mine, but they maybe thinking of them... does this make sense?

I can't believe I am going to say this... but to paraphrase Pope John Paul II (subject matter is left out"

"when people struggle through something they find so challenging, those are the people who become the most eloguent defenders of that struggle"


graydon said...

Remember, nothing is done by rote, but by experience. One must always look at nature. Munsell is a way to organize, that is get a handle on, a myriad of slippery effects that nature evinces. But if the theory does not support what you are seeing, then adjust the theory or revise it.

Art and science are very compatible. While science cannot explain every experience of the human condition, what are the other choices? Mysticism, faith healing, tea leaves, channeling spirits from the dead: are these any more successful?

linesend said...

My husband is a third generation printer and his career has been in production. He has a lot of respect for the color guys, and so do I. Their "color training" has comes from years of familiarity with their color systems and while outside of the shop they may use it only for checking the color of their beer, I can't help thinking their training in color outstrips mine.

I think of it as they know how to "tune the piano", or "know the chords", where I'm working with mostly notes. While knowing neither of these makes a "composer" out of these guys, it certainly seems it would make a composer's work easier & more quickly.

graydon said...

I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, of course.
But given the options, how do we get a handle on the world? Science may never explain love, but it can tell us a lot about ourselves, why we are attracted to another and why our hearts race. Organization and categorization have been the starting points of science. Once organized, relationships often arrive. Color is about relationships.

When you are painting, Munsell allows one to see these relationships precisely. If for example, you see a red rose, which red is it? How is such a red painted and maintained throughout, from light to shadow?

First and of paramount importance, is finding out which red it is. Does it bias orange or purple and how much? Once pinned down, how does one mix the various values which are needed to represent it in paint? Munsell offers a chart for that specific red in all of its values and chromas. So, logically, this is the first step, a range of possibilities. Then, there are other influences: color of the light source, reflected light from surrounding objects--these could modify the hue in a number of directions. Then finally, for me, there is personal choice: does anything need to be modified to fit the larger composition or my personal outlook?

When we approach painting, a difficult art, we must hedge our bets from known entities first. With the hypothetical rose, I pinned down a range of possibilities. That is all. I knew, that a red rose is not blue, so I ignored the blue. I learned through experience that it can be represented by a certain number of values with a certain chroma range. This I have checked by observation. I know that the rose has to be influenced by the color of the light source and any reflected light. So, I would make adjustments accordingly, base on observation and confirmed with knowledge. Even if the light source was blue, it would not be strong enough to change the rose from red to blue, or really even purple. It would just have a slight influence. But I would always have the option to push effects, once again, to suit my motives.

Levine Gallery said...

Graydon you said "Munsell is a way to organize, that is get a handle on, a myriad of slippery effects that nature evinces."

As a tool for painters and an educational aid for students I have to agree, you are on to something. We can all use good tools to help make the job of painting easier.

graydon said...

My outlook is to pin down all you can. It facilitates thinking and that in turn, helps creativity.

I have realized that the worry about being too scientific is a red herring. We don't worry about rational discourse and logic in other areas, so why should it be a concern in painting. In fact, reason intertwines with so many things and it does nothing but benefit them.

ewschott said...

"We don't worry about rational discourse and logic in other areas, so why should it be a concern in painting."

Damn, I do - I got a really high hippy factor on my MPI - Minnesota Personal Inventory. ;) lol

See, very eloguently stated Graydon.

And Neal there is nothing like a good rant, especially if it's an intelligent one... see MPI above! :)