The Arty bit

With Barry Whitehouse at the Artery in Parsons street

What to look for when in an Art Gallery

When visiting galleries, especially large exhibitions of paintings of centuries past in the big city galleries, it is easy to become an art critic and judge the piece for purely how it looks on the gallery wall. But galleries don’t necessarily display the work how they were intended to be viewed.

My top three questions to ask when viewing famous works of art are:

  1. Who painted it?
  2. Who commissioned it, and why?
  • Where was it originally designed to be hung?

If you can find the answers to these questions it will put the painting in a whole new light. For example, many paintings may look distorted or odd on the gallery wall, but that doesn’t mean that the artist was unskilled. In fact it means quite the opposite. When constructing the original art work, the artists would work around where the painting would be displayed. Paintings were often only ever intended to be in one position and would be made to fit exactly. More than that though, if the painting was to be set quite high up in say a large dining room with 18’ high ceilings, then the artist would deliberately distort the proportions so from ground level looking up, the figures and angles looked perfect. The only snag with this is that centuries later, the painting finds its way into a gallery and is hung only 6’ high instead of 12’ high. From this new viewpoint, all of the exaggerated proportions will look very wrong.

Also by asking who commissioned it, it will give you a deeper understanding of why it looks the way it does. For example, The Venus of Urbino by Titian in the Uffizi Gallery, was known as ‘Titain’s Beast’, after being called it by Mark Twain who was deeply scandalised by such a nude piece of art. He slated it for its vulgarity and the way the nude woman was portrayed.  In reality, this painting was never meant for public viewing. It was commissioned as a wedding present from a husband to his young bride, and was to form the front of a large chest that stayed in their bedroom. Never was a member of the public meant to see it, or understand it. It was just a private painting between two people.

So sometimes by thinking about a work of art in this way, you get to know far more about it and appreciate it for what it is, rather than making an opinion about something, as Twain did, without knowing the whys.


Art Surgery

Seasonal Colours

Now autumn is about to set in, the foliage changes from green to a whole host of colours will begin. Identifying the colour changes and knowing the colour mixes can help you create the changing autumnal colours throughout the season. You can create the many hues of oranges, reds, browns, and deep greens with a fairly limited palette.

The changing seasons are often identified by the changing of colours. Indeed, how you create a spring scene compared to a summer scene will totally depend on the colour choices of your paint palette. Simply put, painting is all about putting the correct colour in the right shape in the right place, so understanding the best colour mixes for the season or image you are painting may save you hours of frustration!

Spring colours are vibrant and new, the colours need to be fresh so cooler green-based primaries such as Lemon Yellow, and Cerulean Blue help to create the look, with the addition of other tones such as Ultramarine Blue to deepen areas. Skies are paler and Cerulean Blue will achieve that springtime sky.

Summer Colours are richer and warmer in tone. I would use colours such as Lemon Yellow, Ultramarine, and Cadmium Yellow Cadmium Yellow for the strength of colour of foliage. The sky is more vibrant so a mixture of Ultramarine and Cerulean Blue will give the depth of tone needed.

Early Autumn is the bright and cheery oranges and reds. These can be made using orange-based primaries such as Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red. The sky still carries Ultramarine, but more Cerulean is creeping back into the mixes now.

Late Autumn starts to look a little duller and more brown, so deeper colours such as Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine, and Burnt Sienna can be used to make wonderful deep autumn foliage. The sky is now turning more Cerulean or greys.

Winter plays host to a whole array of muted colours . Cool icy blues domin ate when it begins to snow.