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  • Writer's picturecarolyn land


“Imitation is not inspiration, and inspiration can only give birth to a work of art.  The least of man’s original emanations is better than the best of borrowed thoughts.”                                              Albert Pinkham Ryder

A reader emailed and asked:  “So-o-o-o, did you add the color to your painting to match the pillow or remain true to yourself?”  My answer was NEVER!  The first, and most important reason, is artistic integrity.  The second, is simultaneous contrast.

For a while now, I have wanted to write about the subject of “simultaneous contrast.” This question, is a good introduction into that topic.  All things are inter-connected within a piece of art, and if one thing changes, the whole thing changes.

Value scale

Value scale – Middle Gray

If you look at the strip of middle gray running through the center of the value strip, you will see that when it is next to a lighter value it looks darker, when it is next to a darker value it looks lighter, and it gets lost in the middle, of mid-values.  That one color, middle gray, takes on a different appearance depending on where it is placed.  This is true of all colors. So, if you change one color within a painting, everything changes, and would take on a different appearance and feeling.

What the perspective buyer, of my painting, did not understand, artistic integrity aside, was that the feeling of the painting; the energy she enjoyed in it, would not have been there, had I changed one of the colors.

Simultaneous contrast for yellow

Look at the yellow square in the center of the colored blocks to the left.  The color yellow interacts differently, with the color in each of the colored blocks; although it is exactly the same yellow.   Colors play off of each other. How a color is used, and what color the color it is placed next to, can change the feeling and mood of the painting. This is true of all the elements: line and mark, shape and form, color, and texture. However, it is most evident with color. That is because color sets the mood, and it is, most frequently, the first thing you notice about a painting.

Gareth Trew wrote on the subject of artistic integrity:One of the challenges facing emerging artists – increasingly as art becomes less about self-expression and more about marketability – is maintaining our creative integrity”. 

Acrylic painting by FL artist Carolyn land

My World

Artists love their purchasers, collectors, and fans, and do want to please them.  But, the moment an artist lets the desire to please, impact what he or she does, that is the moment they lose that special thing that made them special in the first place. How we as artists use color, and the other elements, become part of our style. We choose colors and use them in a certain way, to relate to the viewer what we are trying to say.

“The chief aim of color should be to serve expression as well as possible…”      Henri Matisse

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