Mixing colors… It’s not what you think it is.
There are two color spectrums that are important in the arts. One is real light and how it mixes in the real world. The other is reflected light and how it works in the real world. Real lighting is visible in Stage Lighting, Computer Screens, TVs, and just about anywhere that there is a real light source – light bulb, sun, window, etc. The primary colors of real light are red, green, and blue.
The primary colors of reflected light on the other hand are red, yellow, and blue. In the print world, black is also added to that to arrive at a spectrum that is abbreviated CYMK – Cyan (Red), Yellow, Magenta (Blue), and BlaCK – CK is used for Black so that it’s not confused with Blue.
Mixing primary colors in real light results in white where the colors overlap. This is easily demonstrated in stage lighting by simply aiming 3 lights at the same area, where each one has a filter on it that matches the 3 primary colors – red, green, and blue. Where the three colors overlaps on the stage or wall or whever the lights are aimed together, there’s white that shows up in the middle.
Painting and other forms of art where color is placed on an object utilize the reflected light spectrum since the paper, canvas, or whatever else is typically not a light source itself. What is really weird about reflected light is that the science behind it does something completely different from what you think it’s doing. The color we see on an object is really what’s reflecting back at us off of that object when the real light hits the object. In other words the “colors” we see in everything that is not a real light source is really an absence of that particular color in the object itself – all the other colors of the spectrum are “absorbed” by the object, so what we see is really the opposite of the color that the object really is. We see the color that bounced back at us and was not absorbed.
Because of that weird way that things work, mixing primary colors with paint usually results in a muddy brown mid-tone color with low intensity. That’s completely different than what happens when real light’s primary colors are mixed.
That means that most stuff that you see on screen will usually look a lot darker than it did in the computer when you print it, especially since printers add more than the primary colors, and throw black in too.
It also means that when you go to mix colors as a painter, you have to think completely differently than when you mix colors with real light, like when you are thinking about interior design issues in stage lighting, or just picking out lights to put in to your bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, or living room.
What gets very interesting is that some sculptures and other forms of art mix and match both light spectrums through backlighting, integrating tv screens in to the artform, adding lights to sculptures, etc. Sculpture is actually a whole different baseball game all together since it can incorporate time and space in to it through relationships of shadows in the real world, locations of the sun at various times of the day and year, etc. Video and painting can do that too on some levels depending on where the painting is placed, what the environment the painting is in, and of course one of the primary elements of video is time – the 4th dimension to 3 Dimensional works so to speak.
With painting, drawing, and other reflected light art forms, there is also a lot going on with how elements of the painting work with one another. Layering colors together is sort of one of the main things painters do. We create depth and dimension to a 2 dimensional plane by placing brush strokes, and other elements next to one another, on top of one another, underneath one another… There’s literally a ton of work that goes in to this sort of stuff sometimes to make a “realistic” artwork. What’s sad though is most viewers of these things that may have taken hundreds of hours to put together typically only view the work for 3-10 seconds at the most unless something in partcular catches their eye or interest in the work.
Big sculptures and video have a little bit of an advantage over painting in that regard – the viewer is forced in to watching looking at those types of things for longer periods of time, leaving more time for the work to create an impression and message. However, painting has a “presence” that exists longer sometimes, in some works. It is a visual thing that can haunt you over time as your brain echos seeing the patterns on the image over and over.
Creating works of art is a bit like wandering through a maze. You have tons of decisions to make, and each one creates subsequent decisions to make. The painting with the most “potnential energy” might well be the blank canvas… just as the work of music that might create the most interest and cause you to think about things is complete silence…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUJagb7hL0E
Art is life. Life is art. Neither are a reflection of one another because both just are. They exist not in parallel to one another, or as a mirror to one another, but coexist, sometimes peacefully, other times in chaos. Out of chaos comes creation many times, and creation usually does eventually lead to some form of chaos.
The entire universe was created with a major big bang explosion of chaos, and from that came the beauty that we call life.
This entry was posted on February 18, 2010 by Jeff Thomann. It was filed under Uncategorized and was tagged with 4'33, art, arts, backlight, backlighting, blogging, brown, cage, chaos, color, cymk, decorating, grey, interior, jeff, john, layering, layers, life, Light, light source, lighting, match, mix, muddy, museum, music, paint, painting, philosophy, primary, rainbow, reflection, religion, rgb, sculptures, spectrum, thomann, viewer, white.