You are on page 1of 26


David Martin
Lee A. Jacobus
Your Visual Powers
 Because painting is the preeminent visual artistic
medium, we need to think about our own daily
patterns of visual perception.
 In a busy world, we tend to pick and choose what we
pay attention to. Were we to be as intent in examining
visual detail in everyday life as we are when we stand
before a great painting, we would never get very far in
our travels. Even if we are usually sensitive to light,
color, shape, and patterns, we cannot live our lives at
the same pitch … when we experience art.
Your Visual Powers continued
 Those such as Goya or a Van Gogh painting demand
our attention.
 However, sensitive through we maybe, daily life tends
to make demands on our attention such that we block
out much of the visual world in which we live and
 Test your visual powers for yourself by answering the
questions in the Perception Key.
The Media of Painting
 The basic materials and media in each of the arts, is
what the artist uses. A clear understanding of their
properties will aid us in understanding what artists do
and how they work.
 The most prominent media in Western painting – and
most painting in the rest of the world – are tempera,
fresco, oil, watercolor, and acrylic.
The Media of Painting
 In early paintings the pigment – the actual color –
required a binder such as egg yolk, glue, or casein to
keep it in solution and permit it to be applied to
canvas, wood plaster, and other substances.
 Tempera is pigment bound by egg yolk and applied to
carefully prepared surface like the wood panels of
Cimabue’s 13
-century Madonna and Child Enthroned
with Angels.
The Media of Painting
 The colors of tempera sometimes look slightly flat and
are difficult to change as the artist works, but the
marvelous precision of detail and the subtlety of linear
shaping are extraordinary.
 In the 14
century Giotto’s Madonna Enthroned (fig.4-2)
achieves an astonishing level of detail in the gold
ornamentation below and around the Madonna. His
control of the medium permitted him to represent
figures with a high degree of individuality and realism,
representing a profound change in the history of art.

The Media of Painting
 Fresco – because many churches and other buildings
required paintings, directly on plaster walls, artists
perfected the use of fresco, pigment dissolved in lime
water applied to wet plaster as it is drying.
 The color penetrates to about one-eighth of an inch
and it bound into the plaster. There is little room for
error because the plaster dries relatively quickly, the
artist must understand how the colors will look when
embedded in plaster and no longer wet.
The Media of Painting
 Fresco - One advantage of this medium is that it will
last as long as the wall itself. One of the greatest
examples of the fresco is Michelangelo’s Sistine
Chapel, on the ceiling of which is the famous Creation
of Adam (fig 4-3).
 Oil
 Oil painting uses a mixture of pigment, linseed oil,
varnish, and turpentine to produce either a thin or
thick consistency, depending on the artist’s desired
The Media of Painting
 Oil – In the 15
century, oil painting dominated
because of its flexibility, the richness of its colors, and
the extraordinary durability and long-lasting qualities.
 Because oil paint dries slowly and because it can be put
on in thin layers, it offers the artist remarkable control
over the final product.
 No medium in painting offers a more flexible blending
of colors or subtle portrayal of light and textures, as in
Parmigianino’s The Madonna with The long Neck (fig 4-4).
The Media of Painting
 Oil - oil paint can be messy, and it takes sometimes
months or years to dry completely, but it has been the
dominant medium in easel painting since the
 Watercolor – The pigments of watercolor are bound
in a water-soluble adhesive, such as gum-arabic, a
gummy plant substance. Usually, watercolor is slightly
translucent so that the whiteness of the paper shows

The Media of Painting
 Watercolor – The color resources of the medium are
limited in range, but often striking in effect.
 Unlike tempera, watercolor usually does not lend itself
to precise details. Compare Winslow Homer’s Hound
and Hunter (fig 4-5) in the medium of oils with his
watercolor Sketch for Hound and Hunter (fig 4-6).
 Each version has its particular qualities, and you
may find yourself responding more to one than the

The Media of Painting
 Acrylic - A modern synthetic medium, acrylic is
fundamentally a form of plastic resin that dries very
quickly and is flexible for the artist to apply and use.
 One advantage acrylic paints is that they do not fade,
darken, or yellow as they age.
 They (acrylic) can support luminous colors and look
sometimes very close in oil paints in their final effect.
 Helen Frankenthaler’s The Bay (fig 4-7) is a large
abstract painting whose colors are somewhat flat,
but suggest a range of intensities similar in what
we see in watercolor details.
The Media of Painting
 Acrylic - Helen Frankenthaler’s The Bay (fig 4-7) is a
large abstract painting whose colors are somewhat flat, but
suggest a range of intensities similar in what we see in
watercolor details.
 Other Media and Mixed Media
 The dominant medium for Chinese and many Asian artists
has been ink, as in Fan K’uan’s Travelers amid Mountains
and Streams (fig 4-8).

The Media of Painting
 Other Media and Mixed Media
 Modern painters often employ mixed media, using
duco and aluminum paint, house paint, oils, even grit
and sand. Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm (fig 3-3)
 is a good example.
 Andy Warhol used acrylic and silk-screen in in his
famous Marilyn Monroe series.
Elements of Painting
 The elements are the basic building block of a
medium. For painting they are line, color, texture, and
 Line is a continuous marking made by a moving point
on a surface. Line outlines shapes and can contour
areas within those outlines. Sometimes contour or
internal lines dominate the outlines, as with the robe
of Cimabue’s Madonna (fig 4-1).
 Line can suggest movement. Up and down movement
may be indicated by the vertical.
Elements of Painting
 An axis line is an imaginary line that helps determine
the basic visual directions of a painting.
 Since line is usually the main determinant of shapes,
and shapes are usually the main determinant of detail,
regional, and structural relationships, line is usually
fundamental in the overall composition – Mark
Rothko’s Earth Greens (fig 4-11) is an exception -
 “linear design” is often used to describe this organizing
Elements of Painting
 Color is composed of three distinct qualities: Hue,
Saturation, and Value.
 Hue - is the name of a color. Red, yellow, and blue are
the primary colors.
 Their mixtures produces the secondary colors: green,
orange, and purple. Further mixing produces 6 more,
the tertiary colors.

Elements of Painting
 Saturation - refers to the purity, vividness, or
intensity of a hue.
 Value – or shading, refers to lightness or darkness of a
hue, the mixture in the hue of white or black.
 Complementary colors are opposite each other on
the color wheel.
 Texture is the surface “feel” of something. When
brushstrokes have been smoothed out, the surface is
seen as smooth.
Elements of Painting
 Composition
 In painting or any other art, composition refers to the
ordering of relationships: among details, among
regions, among details and regions, and among these
and the total structure.
 Principles – Among the basic principles of traditional
painting are balance, gradation, movement and
rhythm, proportion, variety, and unity.
Elements of Painting
 Composition
 * Balance refers to the equilibrium of opposing visual
forces. Leonardo’s Last Supper is an example of
symmetrical balance.
 * Gradation refers to continuum of changes in the
details and regions, such as the gradual variations in
shape, color value, and shadowing in Siqueiros’s Echo
of a Scream (fig 1-2).

Elements of Painting
 Composition
 * Movement and rhythm refers to the way a painting
controls the movement and pace of our vision.
 * Proportion refers to the emphasis achieved by the
scaling of size of shapes – for example, the way the
large Madonna in the Cimabue (fig 4-1) contrasts with
the tiny prophets.
 * Unity refers to the togetherness, despite
contrasts, of details and regions to the whole.

Elements of Painting
 Composition
 * Variety refers to the contrast of details and regions –
for example the color and shape opposition in
O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch Cliffs (fig 4-12).
 Techniques are the way painters go about applying the
principles of composition. Most techniques are used
instinctively. …an awareness of some of the
techniques can make us more sensitive to how a
painting is formed. …the most important and
interesting technique of painting have to do with
handling of space and shapes.
Elements of Painting
 Space and shapes – the best way to understand space
is to think of it as a hollow volume available for
occupation by shapes. Then space can be described
by referring to the distribution and relationships of
those shapes in that space; space can be described as
crowded or open.
 Shapes are distinguishable boundaries, created by
colors, textures, and usually – and especially- lines. A
painting is a 2-dimensional surface with breadth and
Abstract Painting
 Abstract or nonrepresentational painting may be
difficult to appreciate if we are confused about the
subject matter.
 Since no objects or events are depicted, abstract
painting might seem to have no subject matter;
pictures of nothing.
 But this is surely no the case. The subject matter is the
sensuous. The sensuous is composed of visual
qualities – line, color, texture, space, shape, light,
shadow, volume, and mass.
Abstract Painting
 Abstract or nonrepresentational painting:
 Any qualities that stimulate our vision are sensa.
 In representational painting, sensa are used to portray
objects and events.
 In abstract painting, sensa are freed. They are depicted
for their own sake.
 Abstract painters make it easy for us to focus on sensa
themselves, even though we are not artists. …the
radiant and vivid values of the sensuous are enjoyed
for their own sake, satisfying a fundamental need.
Representational Painting
 Representational Painting …furnishes the world of
the sensuous with objects and events.
 In the participative experience with representational
paintings, the sense of here-now, so overwhelming in
the participative experience with abstractions, is
somewhat weakened.
 Representational paintings situate the sensuous in
objects and events. … just like an abstraction is “all
there” and “holds still.”
 -30-