23 August 2013


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 23 August 2013

"I found I could say things with colors and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for." Georgia O'Keeffe

What, and whom, is a colorist?

One who approaches painting, and other art-related fields, intending to exploit color (and shape) complements and harmonies.

The French Impressionist were colorists. So were impressionists about the globe that followed, though with their own slant, the French school. A gang of rebels in Europe, '
The Fauves' (French for 'wild beasts') - around the turn of the 20th Century, were the ultimate colorists. They painted with pure strong and vibrant color and boldly, and brilliantly arranged simple shapes. Later some regional schools in America, one in California known as the 'Society of Six' comes to mind, mimicked but did not copy.  

Colorist paintings glisten like jewels; glow they do. Their maker's ideas of color and shape intrigue and are, too, prime for conceptual application to more than just painting and the decorative arts. They are construct for thinking.  

What, and whom, is a racist?

One who believes that some races are by nature superior to others, or discrimination based on such a belief. Racists see a "black and white" world. But neither the world nor skin color is that simple. More momentarily.

Is President Obama a colorist? There's no indication. None.

Is he a racist? Not knowing what's in Mr. Obama's heart nor how he thinks, I've no idea. But, it's a fair question.

Has Mr. Obama's propensity to make hasty, though scripted, public remarks, without fact, regarding race akin cases e.g., Robert Gates and Trayvon Martin - black men "victimized" by non-blacks - revealed his true colors? Are those brash colors strengthened by not rushing to a microphone when race troubles are reversed? Other "off-color" remarks have not served him well.

Perplexed by Color and Shape

Painting, I teach. But not mechanics, per se, as mediums, materials, tools, and even techniques are inconsequential. Michelangelo believed, as do I, "A man paints with his brains and not with his hands." Ergo painting is invention. Creativity is the more common sentiment.

Therefore, conquering long-embedded, tired, and for the most part downright false mental models that are comforted by equally long-embedded, tired, and for the most part downright false words and symbols is the necessary first step toward originality.

Essentially, the word is not the thing; the symbol is not the thing; the thing is not the thing you think it is per words and symbols; of the "same" thing, thing one is not thing two is not thing three is not thing fifty-seven; and in a more worldly context, the world about us is not the map, the chart, nor the photograph - no matter how detailed, no matter how colorful, no matter how dimensional. Concisely, that which represents is not the thing.  

Most people have never considered those realities. Living at the speed of life engulfed, completely consumed, by false assumptions they do. Yet none the wiser are they. Tragic.

Some believe painting to be complex. It can be - if believing it complex and if others, especially others who paint - well or not, convince you it's complex.

But painting is simple. It is mastery of two simple variables - color and shape (ah, the colorists) - that unwittingly, and naturally, give rise to complexity.

Our world is shape. Shape can be simplified. It is the simplification of shapes and the interaction of those simplified shapes - how shapes fit together for harmony and balance - that makes for beauty, for visual complexity.

Our world is color. Color, too, can be simplified. It is the simplification of colors and the interaction of simplified colors - how they fit together for harmony and balance - that makes for beauty, for visual complexity.

Color shapes - the simplicity of painting - make for beauty and sometimes for visual complexity.

As to color, and everything else, I'm not a "racist." I appreciate, equally, the properties and importance of all colors especially yellow, red, and blue - the primary colors. Without any one of the primaries mixing the visible color spectrum is not possible. One might conclude, as to color, I am all about equal opportunity. Fact. Truth.

Equally impartial am I when it comes to each primary color's complementary secondary - violet, green, and orange - realized, of course, from mixing two primaries. That is, the complement of red being green - the add mixture of the remaining primaries yellow and blue.

And likewise sentiments about the six split-complements, tertiary colors - red violet; blue violet; red orange; yellow orange; yellow green; blue green - realized, of course, from mixing a primary and a secondary. That is, the complement of red orange being blue green (green the complement of red and orange the complement of blue).

As to color there is wonderful logic to it all. Though even to the sage there is magic and mystery - there is, undeniably, art. And thought.

To see truly cold to color one must be. When about the world seeing and sorting and analyzing, first impressions must defer to serious study; to determine what color(s) things truly are - not what's been taught and wrongly assumed.

For example, the sky is not blue, uniformly, and sometimes never. As green grass is not, often. Nor dirt brown. More subtle, the white car or truck is not white. Nor is the black car or truck black.  

Nor is skin white, black, yellow, nor red but all of those colors and blue, green, and violet, too; in everyone. Skin is deep.

In painting, as in life, there's no such thing as dirty or muddy color. A color shape in life, or in a painting, that appears wrong, that appears, well, dirty or muddy, is simply a shape of color out of place.

That is how to see - everything - as either being in harmony and balanced and right in color and shape or not - or "color and shape."

Yes, admittedly, I am a colorist.

As such President Obama's skin color, to me, is not black - he is a dull (chroma) low (value) red orange (hue). At least that's a starting point for mixing from yellow, red, blue. To be clear, like the President, that general analysis is dependent upon lighting and the color of surroundings. But there must be a starting point. Other than skin color perhaps the starting point is a bright dark blue violet; not a direct complement hence out of balance.

Drawing a conclusion about Mr. Obama (his presidency and our country) - he is a misplaced color shape.

Those who put him in office - who painted that color shape, and put him there again and who let that color shape remain - failed to see and analyze true color. Thus America's misplaced color shape.

Not racist but a colorist conclusion.

One does not have to paint, necessarily, to appreciate seeing and analyzing true color and shape and with relevance thereof to practically anything and everything - including politics.

In an effort to understand Mr. Obama I've read about him and where he comes from - literally and figuratively; nothing conclusive other than disharmony.

There's not been mention of him ever picking up a paint brush, or any such trade tool, or understanding the first thing about color. It shows! For he behaves and speaks as if everything is black and white and discordant. How odd for someone who claimed to be the contrary. Work has betrayed talk. Indeed he is not a colorist.

Life is not black and white. Nor is painting. Nor is politics. As Thomas Jefferson, adept drawing with graphite, saw politics as kaleidoscopic - so, too, is seeing and seeing shape and color, all about, in all. Light, by the way, is necessary - it enlightens.

Which, in closing, leads to a question...

"Were everyone, from youth, schooled in the art of seeing and analyzing true color and shape, might discord - ever reflected in lots of red - give way to harmony?"

Otherwise, in the naïve majority "blindness" endures with color and shape ever problematic.

Racists do not, cannot, see.

Politicians, with rare exception, see too much of themselves - falsely - ignorant of shape and color.

Colorists see, and sometimes paint, truth. And some see far more than meets the eye.  

Colorists overshadow the "blind"; especially racists.

Post Script

A few years back, what started as a pamphlet of reminders requested by students turned into a book titled 'On SEEING & Painting - An Interdisciplinary Perspective'.

It has as was intended, for the better, turned worlds upside for readers - artists and non-artists alike. Those folks ever to see the world through fresh eyes; always.

Hard and soft cover available (see On "SEEING" & Painting link left).

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