Monthly Archives: March 2013

Examples of how a shape can be created,

Examples of how a shape can be created,

This post is a first installment on this subject.

The power of an artist derives from his intellect and his interaction with form.I learned this concept early; yet it grew in importance over the passing decades.

I first expressed this concept in the above manner in the thesis I wrote as an undergraduate: then it was simply an expression of how one may view an object: as a swelling form, as a collapsing form, or as a static form; this is easily translatable into the academic use of positive and negative space. In graduate school, when I was still doing retinal drawing and painting, I was instructed to feel the movement of a line (parabola) as it moved around the form of the model; as my mentor Peter Agostini was involved in creating a swelling human shape (look up prana).

[An aside: Peter Agostini had been involved with the creation of swelling forms from early in his career: inflated inner tubes (I didn’t see any but he did describe working with them), plaster balloons, and large swollen heads; this consideration of swelling from within carried over into his representation of the human figure and that of the horse. I did not realize Peter had comprehended prana until I spent an overnight in his studio when I drove his “Old Man” sculpture up to NYC: on a shelf over the entrance to his studio, he had displayed a few small figurines of Indian sculptures exhibiting prana. I first learned of this quality of inner swelling from George Weber but had not seen it directly applied until I saw Peter’s work. The figure to the left in the above image illustrates prana.]

Later on, while still in graduate school, I did a quick what if experiment and learned that if I held an objects’ position in relation to its environment in my visual field, the drawing carried the expression or feeling of the objects spacial relationships. The what if experiment was to retinally multiple focus on a column and on the cabinet doors behind it and to include an awareness of the space between them: The few strokes I put down conveyed in their meaning the spacial relationship of the original objects.

[aside two: when I refer to drawing from the retinal image, I mean that I had learned to draw an object while looking at the object and not at the drawing. the image below is an example.]

An example of looking at the object and not the image as I drew.

An example of looking at the object and not the image as I drew.

This manner of drawing continued until the early 1980s when my mind simply stopped wanting to be enslaved to the retinal image. I had to find a way to move inward that would satisfy my imagination.

To be continued.

Three Chord Ode Version II II

Digital Composition
October 2012

I began doing digital compositions as a way to make quick compositional and color decisions: Photoshop enables the artist to make rapid decisions over a few minutes that might take days or weeks when done in paint. I began doing compositions of arranged abstract elements put together to create a meaningful composition.
Beginning in 2008, I was inspired by two musical references: the first was an off hand remark by some commentator that a renowned composer had recommended to the composer of “Porgie and Bess” the use of the diminished fifth; the second was listening to Leonard Cohen’s song, “Hallelujah” wherein he sings of “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift” (up to now, I thought that was “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fourth, the major fifth”; so my compositions were worked out accordingly).
I continued my experiments in composition and rhythm but now included using the color triangle to realize what I thought corresponded to Cohen’s musical reference. I began doing research on the musical chords using the piano keyboard as a guide. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to ask a rocker musician, friend Tom Chaffee about the color chords. He quickly drew a circle and laid out the twelve chords around it. This was major revelation for me; I had never seen them laid out in this manner.
Tom explained how a musician might decide to play with the intervals between the notes to arrive at unique styles. I took this chart home and superimposed the color over the notes:
One can come up with a different layout, but I was interested in relationships and intervals.
After creating this color/chord wheel, I decided to experiment using my favorite country singer Emmylou Harris: I was curious about her statement about “singing the three chord blues” from her song “The Road.” I then located on line lyrics to a few of her songs and noted the chord changes and experimented with corresponding color changes.
Below: my most recent piece:

In 1969, Dr. George Weber Jr. at Rutgers at Newark, New Jersey introduced me to the nature of meaning in art: I was taking his “Art and Aesthetics” class as a requisite for majoring in art education; George introduced the class to the Venus of Willendorf, explaining what it meant, how it conveyed that meaning both tactilely and visually, how it represented an existing canon and, by extension, the existence of a master apprentice system; then, he demonstrated how the modern artist fails to convey this meaning even when he attempts to replicate the piece for a museum exhibit. Then George went on to discuss the art of cave painting and the canon of glyphs.
I was hooked. I became George’s student and research assistant: my job was to take slides and run the slide projector; in addition, I was taught to draw Chinese bronze ornament designs: this line of training came to an end following a summer when the slide librarian failed to make the requisitioned slides and I had to haul my tail to produce them for the art history class.
I spent three years under George’s tutelage, taking a second senior year. Not only did he teach me the basics of drawing and color, he introduced me to the psychodynamics of seeing: the formal elements of vision and how they create effects in the viewer. In the final year, as part of an assignment, I wrote a manuscript on these dynamics: this entailed reading the writings of the three initial founders of Gestalt psychology, and the writings of the artists Wassily Kandinsky, Joseph Albers, and Paul Klee; yet, in the end, it came down to taking the formal elements (i.e., light and dim, area, shape, line, and point), contemplating them as they were in front of me, and discovering their psychodynamics: what did they do individually and when in a group. At the end of the year, I turned in a thin volume that fulfilled the assignment (there is more but that involves my being an ass and I won’t cover that here).
The understanding which I acquired of the psychodynamics of vision after many hours of observation is the foundation of all my work I have done since. My plans for this blog include writing on this understanding.
At the end of the year, as I was leaving his office and his private assistant was packing the office, George pointed his finger at me and said, “The next thing you need to learn is the parabola.” That statement set my direction on a path that led to my mentor at graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in North Carolina.

I am continuing my discussion of John Sloan’s color triangle as presented in his book The Gist of Art. In his chapter on painting, Sloan illustrates the division of the twelve colors of the triangle, primary, secondary, and tertiary into harmonic color patterns; three colors are selected as the corners of a triangle within the major color triangle; the perimeter of the inner triangle defines the range of colors to be used within that chord. These colors are determined according to intervals of 5-4-3: Sloan declared that these measured intervals possess an inherent harmony; be it noted that these intervals are based on the Pythagorean right triangle which has sides based on the 5-4-3 model. Other patterns can be developed using other paradigms such as the musical scale: the colors are matched to the twelve notes of the musical scale: yellow to A, yellow-green to A#, green to B, and so on.
Minor Major Chords
The chords of the triangle can be separated into major and minor chords: a major chord is formed using one or two full primary colors; a minor chord is formed using no top level primaries. In each case, only those colors which fall within the perimeter of the chord triangle are to be used in the painting.
I have included the above image as a reference to major and minor fifths. I do so because I have recently come to comprehend how these create space (air if you will) within a painting; they can also make color choices quicker. I will follow up on this in later posts.

The early twentieth century artist John Sloan wrote a book on art and painting titled The Gist of Art; it is a book which should be in every artist’s permanent art library.
For me the most important chapter in the book is “Painting”; specifically, the sub section labeled “The Color Triangle.” Sloan describes the color triangle as follows:

[He] “found the Dudeen color triangle introduced by Charles A. Winter, a very practical color diagram. The triangle represents color mixtures in pigment form more accurately than does the circle.” [page 119; The Gist of Art]

While the chart from Sloan’s book does not show the full range of pigments available today, it provides the basic information upon which the astute artist can build a representation of his newer palette. One innovation could be to create a similar chart using the color index name number now found on artists’ pigments (you will find a complete guide to these numbers in that indispensable tome The Artists’ Handbook by Ralph Mayer).


My former method of mixing a color was a tedious process of mixing to the exact top color then mixing down with its complement color: a time consuming process which made for very few colors bing put down in a painting session. Now, a series of oranges can be mixed up and down a color chord (e.g., orange to blue which can be understood to be one color) using mars violet and a range between yellow ochre and raw umber: you can see how to mix a color such as mars brown using mars violet and oxide of chromium. The line between two pigments is also a chord.

So, one now can walk into an art store and look at a mixed pigment, such as viridian in acrylics, look at the mixture, purchase the base pigments, go back to your studio, and using the color triangle create the commercial hue and, at the same time, have a greater range of greens.

A Grateful thanks to Paul Viccari
Paul Vaccari the last assistant to my Rutger’s mentor Dr. George Weber jr. contacted me in the fall of 2011; I was one of a number of George’s former friends or students whom Paul contacted. George had died in Ireland in 1990 and Paul inherited his art works; in 2011, Paul, encumbered and stressed by a combination of heavy workload, an incapacitated elderly mother, and moving to a new home, was seeking to disperse some of the art collection. Two weeks ago, after a much understandable delay, for that which I empathize, Paul invited me over to choose a few works: I was able choose several pieces which gave me insight into George’s way of thinking. I am most grateful this opportunity.
Paul is currently seeking to have Rutgers Mason Gross gallery put on an exhibition of George Weber’s art work.
As I wrote to Paul in an email: “George was the primary influence in my life. After him, grad school was a breeze, and his teaching and influence led directly to my second mentor Peter Agostini and kept the other idiots – professors – at bay.”

Why ArtDenotes. Because art is about meaning. It is not vomit on a canvas. Meaning does not, in the words of one silly person, “diminish the art.” Rather, art coalescences around meaning.

To take this stand is to acknowledge the history of art right back to the cave, and sculptures such as The Venus of Willendorf; to do so is to recognize meaning is central to art: the artist must learn to construct two dimensional and three dimensional images which communicate to the viewer and user coherent layers of meaning. This is the standard by which I chose to be measured; and by which I judge my art and acknowledge my failings.