What makes a painting beautiful, Part IV

You ever look at a dark tree against a light sky? The sky wraps itself around the tree, or the tree reaches into the sky mass. Both is happening, naturally. As logic dictates there is no visible connection between the branches and the sky, right? Well, not exactly.

There is a modification of the light going on near the dark and vise versa. Very gently, but it is there. It is the phenomena of diffraction:

As dark masses approach a light mass they grow slightly lighter. As a light mass approaches a dark mass it grows slightly darker, next to the dark mass. The edge can still be hard, as a branch in a sky would be, but the sky goes a bit darker around them. At the same time, the branch gets a bit lighter in value before it meets the sky.

This is how Sargent did it:

The second thing is the color. There is almost an exchange of color happening as well. The hill color behind the barn can be in the barn also. Same goes for the hill: put some color of the barn into the hill and it will look more harmonious.
The most obvious way to see this is to look at a telegraph pole against a sunset. It’s pretty crazy that the pole would take on the red or yellow of the sun on the bottom and the blue of the sky on the top. Isn’t it just a brown pole? The effect of halation!

Nobody says you have to paint like that all the time. But remember the old adage: you have to know ‘the rules’ before you can brake them.

Eventually, I will write a book with all these weird painting tips. It is nice to help fellow artists improve their painting skills, but first and foremost I will have to work on my own progress in this strange art world. The teaching is but a small part of it and it must not take over. It is not my calling to be a watercolor instructor. My calling is to be an artist. Thanks for reading my blog.

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16 thoughts on “What makes a painting beautiful, Part IV

  1. aHorseForElinor

    The Moody California – an awesome, dreamy, image of something real and imagined – at the same time.
    I love reading about how certain aspects of it are created!

    1. frankeber Post author

      thank you! I love that we’re blog friends. I also love reading about your progress working with horses. It’s exciting to learn new things in areas where I know nothing about. Maybe it’s the same for you…

      1. aHorseForElinor

        That’s just it – truly enjoy looking at art I find beautiful, and then reading some background secrets about how some of it is created!
        I’ll tell more of the story of why, one day 🙂

  2. bob witte

    really great observations and thoughts, frank. and watercolor seems to lend itself to these effects, cause if you let it, it will “bleed” into the nearby space. thanks for posting this.

    1. frankeber Post author

      That’s exactly right! BTW I was just bs-ing on facebook with the quinacridone gold. I didn’t use any! Primary color are strong enough. That’s the truth this time.

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