Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Color temperature usage in an Emile Gruppe painting

Emile Gruppe, probably painted along the Lamoille river in Jefforsonville, Vermont

There are a number of things that almost all workshop students need help understanding. A common one is color temperature. This One can take some work to understand! Their paintings are frequently all of a neutral temperature. That is, they are not selectively making some colors warm and others cool. They often record the hues in front of them as best as they can, sometimes better, sometimes worse. Often they get the value correct (or nearly so), but seldom do they authoritatively state the temperature of the note.

The Gruppe above is a good example of an artist effectively managing his warms and cools. Gruppe has "pushed" the color in this picture. One of the ways he has done this is to characterize the temperature of his various colors. Look at the warm light in the shadows of those birches, and in some passages like the lower parts of the right hand tree has thrown a cool (pthalo) blue in there. He gets a lot of color variety doing that and the painting looks fresh and exciting.

At the top of the painting the cool blue mountains act as a counter point to the warm birches. We see the birches strongly relieved by both the value and the color temperature of those mountains. That strong contrast is dynamic and makes a 'sweet spot" that catches a our eye. He no doubt saw this to some extent, but most certainly he installed most of it, knowing that it would look good. Because......


Just like design, color that is intentional and deliberate will trump dutifully recorded color. The artist is a poet, not a journalist, or worse an accountant.

Outside in warm light, you can expect the lights to be warm and the shadows cool, with hot reflected lights. If the light is cool ( or you choose to make it that way to suit your artistic purpose) you can expect the lights to be cool and the shadows warm.

Gruppe has chosen to do it both ways in this picture. He may have been inspired by the blue of the sky bouncing into the shadows from the sky itself or perhaps the river. He has played that up to get zing into his color. That made the pictures color more exciting.

Several places in this picture Gruppe has deliberately relieved an object of one color temperature against another of a radically different color temperature.

Above is a detail from the Gruppe that shows him playing this game. At A he has placed the cool shadow of the birch against a hot note of the limpid and Oncorhunchus mykiss infested waters.
At B The cool note of the water meets a warm streak of light defining the edge of the tree. And at C the cool shadow is again strongly contrasted with the hot note in the water. Notice how Gruppe has also painted the thin branches at the top of the painting hot against the cool color of the sky.

Value contrast can give "punch" to a painting, but playing your warms and cools against one another can too. Oh -do- dah- day!


Barbara DuBois Hageman, Artist said...

Thanks, Stape, I needed this reminder for something I'm finishing this week. Glad your commentary is back.

LandPainter said...

Was he thinking about this while painting in the field or do you think he did some reworking later in the studio? There is so much to consider while outdoors that it's tough enough to just get the picture on the canvas. Which brings up another question. Do you think he visited the same location on multiple days?

Brady said...

Glad to see you posting again!

This post reminds me of all the thinking that goes along with painting. Now to think about my own paintings more.

Scott Ruthven said...

Ohh, how I want to paint like that! Gruppe, Zorn, Harrison, Carlson, Payne, Kearns....all great examples to learn from!

Thanks for your wonderful blog posts Stape!

Artist in Disguise

Durinda Cheek, Fine Artist said...

Yay, you're back! I can hear the excitement in your voice as you describe things in the painting that many of us would take for granted must have been what the artist saw and not what the artist felt the painting needed.

Brad Miedema said...

Excellent post Stapleton! Very informative!

willek said...

Some of Gruppe's pictures seem dashed off but it looks like he took some time with this one.

Niggipoo said...

Well done Mr. Kearns. Love the color in that one.

A slightly higher-res version:

billspaintingmn said...

Thanks Stape! Wonderful post!

Philip Koch said...

Stape's post got me thinking about a wonderful Sargent oil I just saw of a man reading a book on a bed while leaning on white sheet. The painting is at the Reading Public Museum in PA. It was just a fantastic display of making warm and cool whites play off against each other. Sargent had a way of making it all seem so simple!

rahiosky said...

Wonderful painting Sir. You said an artist has to be a "looser", so are you hinting at the
rare ability of handling watercolour loosely or is it something else that I just could not understand?
Thank you for posting this painting.
All your posts are absolute delights to watch and read. Best wishes.

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