Do You See The Symmetry? The Painter, The Colorist and An 80 Year Old Book

I’ve been following a blog that has nothing to do with our business.

And yet… that blog has everything to do with our business.

Well… sometimes.

It’s called Underpaintings and is devoted to the world of art and painting.

I follow it because, in the same manner that photographers have been doing digital color grading 10 years longer than those of us on the video side, traditional artists have been studying light, dark, color, contrast for dozens of decades longer than those of us in the world of moving images.

In yesterday’s Underpaintings post, I was struck by this image:

It’s the Painters palette, with a suggested layout of specific colors and how to mix them together. It seems there’s an array of logical ways of laying out this color palette. And there are whole schools of thought devoted to the optimal layout and color choices on the palette. Including studies on how the Masters laid out their palettes.

Staring at that image do you find yourself free associating? Isn’t it interesting how much (with the lines connecting the colors) this next image looks like a modern incarnation of the artists’ color palette:


And as you look at the physical palette on which the artist interacts with her palette, does it remind you in some way of this:

As much as that illustration of the painter’s palette got me free-associating – here’s the real point of this post:

Words of Wisdom from 1932

In his Underpaintings post, the author is struck by the introduction to a 1932 book used to instruct students on how organize and lay out their color palette, Colour-Control:  The Organization and Control of the Artist’s Palette by Frank Morley Fletcher.

I’m going to excerpt from his excerpt of that introduction:

(The modern palette) has become greatly enriched in its range, (and) to place this instrument with its intricate resources in the hands of an uninstructed student, however talented, is unreasonable.  (It) condemn(s) him to years of wasteful  experiment in order to discover initial facts and principles which should be preliminary to any profitable study.  Such a course would be absurd as to tell a student of music to make his own experiments without help or any instruction in the practical tradition of his instrument, or in musical harmony.

As our industry becomes ‘democratized’ those words, written almost 80 years ago, couldn’t ring more true. Going forward, the apprenticeship model of learning our craft will be true for only a tiny percentage of colorists. For the rest of us we either spend years of wasteful experimentation… or we read books like The Color Correction Handbook and The Art and Craft of Digital Color Correction and take training courses such as those offered by FxPhd, ICA, or even – dare I say it – here at The Tao.

Here’s the permalink to that full post at Underpaintings.

One More Thing…

Do you follow any blogs focused on the ‘traditional arts’ that seem relevant to our work? If so, please leave a comment and share!

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  1. Ben Scott March 27, 2011 at 10:37 AM #

    i find when painting that whats on the pallette is determined by the area of the picture being painted that day and the dominant colours within the painting

    working in a rigid colour wheel model is very rare for most painters, its more how you learn

    paints are expensive why squeeze them out when you arent about to use that colour that day

    • Patrick Inhofer March 27, 2011 at 2:41 PM #

      Ben – thanks for leaving your thoughts. And I think that’s what the quote is about – for students learning. Fascinating stuff, really.

  2. Ben Scott March 29, 2011 at 9:04 AM #

    thought this is a nice link on practical of colour theory in relation to art

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