Gurney Journey | category: Color and Light Book | (page 2 of 9)


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Translating "Color and Light" into Japanese

Translating Last summer, Japanese publisher Born Digital ordered the fifth reprint of Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter. 

I am always fascinated by the way ideas about the visual world vary from culture to culture. Given that Western and Japanese traditions are so different, I wondered what was involved in translating the ideas in my book for Japanese readers. 

The translator of Color and Light, Sanae Hiraya, very generously offered to answer some questions.

1. What concepts in Color and Light were the most difficult to translate?

"Is Moonlight Blue?" was the most difficult topic to translate.

This topic explains a new and sensational fact. It is easily expected that this topic will draw readers' attention. We paid extra attention to this scientific topic on both readability and accuracy.


2. In Japan, do Western color names such as "red, blue, yellow, violet, and green" correspond to similar hues there?
In the Japanese education system, art education employs western style theory and method. So we have Japanese color names correspond to key color names such as red, blue, yellow, violet, and green.

However, in the old days, there were only four color names in Japanese.
They are red (AKA), black (KURO), blue (AO) and white (SHIRO).
Green was included in the range of blue.

3. Are Japanese children raised to recognize the same set of primary colors as American kids?
Yes. Children are taught the Munsell color system in elementary school along with the concept of primary and secondary colors.

4. Are there Japanese concepts of color and light that are completely foreign to most U.S. artists?
Traditionally, Japanese paint/draw subjects with lines (not with planes). It was 1876 that we started learning western style of art execution/theory. Until then, Japanese painters did not use light and shadow in their paintings nor express 3D forms in their artwork.

Let's see the example, a series of drawings called "Animal-person Caricatures," which are stored in the Kosanji-temple, drawn during 1053 to 1140 by an unknown painter (probably several monks). These drawings are still popular in Japan.

In the case of portraits, you can see a typical traditional Japanese style in the Hyakunin Isshu cards. On those cards are drawings of the poets and their poems. All of the poets are of high rank, including monks, emperors, princesses and so on. This kind of plainness was typical in the Japanese traditional painting style. There is no expression of light and shadow.

As for the color, Japanese regard violet as most noble color because of the cap system established in 603 (Cap system itself no longer exists). Please refer to Wikipedia on details.

5. In Japan or Asia in general, are there different cultural reactions or emotional reactions to soft edges or the illusion of depth?

I don't think there are different reactions to those effects. However, there is a classical style of painting called SUIBOKU-GA. SUI=water, BOKU=ink and GA=painting.

The painters of SUIBOKU-GA type of paintings intentionally utilize large negative spaces, strange subject placement, soft edges and so on. As we are used to seeing such techniques as a part of paintings, Japanese accept paintings depicting real objects or scenery that are far from reality.

6. Are there any feelings associated with the color green? (Here in the USA it is often conceptually associated with the environmental movement or the color of money, and painters have often debated the so-called "green problem," where high-chroma green colors in landscape paintings are often said to have a repellant effect on the viewer). 
Most of the feelings associated with green are positive: for example, nature, relaxation, peace of mind, new birth, youthfulness, safety, friendly to eye and so on. In elementary school, children are encouraged to look at greens (leaves, grasses) to rest their tired eyes between classes.

As old Japanese did not distinguish green (MIDORI) from blue (AO), there are many expressions that mix up these terms. For example, we say "blue mountain," "blue leaves," "blue woods," "blue chili," and so on. We Japanese ourselves sometimes feel these expressions strange.

In terms of art, Japanese artists usually start learning art from how to paint/draw Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu. Literally, Ka=flower, Cho=birds, Fu=wind, Getsu=moon but Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu means the distilled aspects of nature enjoyed by artists including poets (it does not mean the wilderness as is). Japanese people love to use the color green in paintings as we believe it relaxes our mind.

Painting by Kazuo Oga, background painter for Studio Ghibli
7. Are lightness and darkness, or light and shade regarded differently in Japan?
There isn't much difference, other than the fact that we sometimes do not care about light and shade. 

There was one thing I noticed during translation. Translating "dark + COLOR NAME" into Japanese is simple. As with the English expression, saying "dark + COLOR NAME" worked. However, in the case of "light + COLOR NAME," most of them were converted into the specific color name.

For example: dark red vs. light red. The expression "dark red" is acceptable. However, in the case of light red, we feel some unnaturalness and feel better to use the specific color name such as "pink," "salmon," "cherry blossom color," "peach color," and so on if appropriate. I don't know the exact reason why I felt that, but this is one thing we need to care about in translating the Color and Light book.

Thank you, Sanae Hiraya, for taking the time and effort to answer these questions,  and I'm grateful to you and the people at Born Digital for introducing my book to Japan.

Reflected light in shadow

Reflected light in shadow
This oil painting by Charles Courtney Curran (1861-1942) shows the Water Gate at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893.

Here is a good example of the color of shadows, something that cameras can't capture as well as the human eye.

The sources of light in shadow are very distinct: blue sky, orange ground, and white architecture, and there are white planes facing in all directions.

The direct sunlight is coming from behind and to the right, making the illuminated surfaces a bright white.

There are two main sources of light in the shadow: warm light bouncing up from the ground, and blue skylight from above.

Reflected light in shadow
At letter (A), left, the upfacing shadow planes on the roof are receiving mostly blue sky light.

(B) and (C) are down-facing planes. The light is mostly warm-colored bounced light from the ground.

The far side of the arch (D) is getting very strong reflected illumination from the brightly lit opposite side of the arch, as well as apparently some greenish light from the water in the canal (not visible in this view) passing beneath the gate. 

At (E), the columns are a little bit lighter than other parallel vertical surfaces. They're projecting outward, receiving quite a lot of light from all directions, both warm and cool. 

It's possible that the columns appear bit lighter because they're a slightly lighter local color. According to an old description, the facades were made of "staff," a mixture of plaster, jute fibers, and horsehair, painted in cream and gold.

The "White City" was torn down less than a year after it was built. 
The topic of light in shadow is covered in my book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter, which U.S. customers can purchase signed from our web store.
Color and Light is also available from Amazon. It's the ultimate gift for the artist in your life.

The Curran painting is a recent acquisition of Godel Fine Art. Godel will be represented at The American Art Fair, November 16th – 19th at the Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street, New York. There's another scan of the image at Skinner Auction, where it sold recently.

American Masters Show at the Salmagundi Club

I'm pleased to announce that four of my landscape paintings will be exhibited and offered for sale at the American Masters show from October 14 - 24 at the Salmagundi Club in New York.

I'll be honored to be sharing the walls with artists like John Stobart, Burt Silverman, Christopher Blossom, Dean Mitchell, and Scott Christensen.

American Masters Show at the Salmagundi Club
Winter Sunset
oil on canvas mounted to birch panel, 11 x 14 in.
Framed Dimensions: 18 x 21 in.
Publication history:
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney, Andrews McMeel, 2010, p. 183.
American Artist magazine, Gurney cover feature, November 2006, p. 39.
International Artist magazine #80, August/September 2011
Exhibition history:
“Dinotopia: Art, Science, and Imagination,” Lyman Allyn Art Museum, September 22, 2012 – February 2, 2013 

American Masters Show at the Salmagundi Club
Creek Above Kaaterskill Falls
oil on linen, 20 x 16 in.
Framed Dimensions: 23 x 27 in.
Publication history:
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney, Andrews McMeel, 2010, p. 2.
Plein Air magazine, April 2005, p. 54.
American Artist magazine, Gurney cover feature, November 2006, p. 38.

American Masters Show at the Salmagundi Club
Falls at Devil’s Kitchen
oil on canvas mounted to birch panel, 12 x 16 in.
Framed Dimensions: 21.5 x 25.5 in.
Publication history:
American Artist magazine, Gurney cover feature, November 2006, p. 39.

American Masters Show at the Salmagundi Club
Kaaterskill Falls
oil on linen, 20 x 16 in.
Framed Dimensions: 23 x 27 in.
Publication history:
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney, Andrews McMeel, 2010, p. 179.
The Conservationist magazine, December, 2004, p. 19.
American Artist magazine, Gurney cover feature, November 2006, p. 37.
International Artist magazine #79, June/July 2011.
Exhibition history:
“Dinotopia: Art, Science, and Imagination,” Lyman Allyn Art Museum, September 22, 2012 – February 2, 2013 

For art students, this will be a not-to-be-missed exhibition. For collectors, this is a rare chance outside of auctions to acquire my paintings, as I don't sell very many originals, and these are important ones from Color and Light.

Jeanette and I will be attending the opening event on October 17.

When do you paint highlights?

A couple of years ago I visited the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University as the guest of the illustration department. After giving a lecture, I did a portrait demo of painting professor Tom Barrett. 

When do you paint highlights?
As you can see, there were at least three sources of light (two incandescent floods on stands and the window light, but the one next to the table predominated. The drawing is in water-soluble colored pencil and watercolor about 8 x 6 inches.

When do you paint highlights?

Once I had established the preliminary drawing, one of the earliest decisions was where to place the highlights, since I was using transparent watercolor only. So when I laid the first washes of skin tone across the face, I painted around the white spaces on the forehead, the tip and bridge of the nose, and the cheeks.

In watercolor, since highlights are the lightest values, they must be left as unpainted white paper. They can also be masked out from the start, or applied with gouache at the last. In oil paintings, highlights should generally be saved for the last. 

When do you paint highlights?
There's a lot more on the subject of "highlights and specularity" in the six-page article that I wrote for the current issue of International Artist magazine, which should be on the newsstands now.
Flickr stream with more photos of my visit to AIB
Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University
International Artist magazine, Issue 90
Photo above by Keith MacLelland
Mediawatercolor pencils and water-soluble pastels. Water and ink applied with water brushes, one filled with water, and the other filled with fountain pen ink
This subject is also covered in my book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (Amazon)also available signed from my website store.

Highlights and Specularity, Part 1

This photograph shows three spheres with varying surfaces. The one on the left is matte, the one in the middle is glossy, and the one on the right is highly reflective. 

Highlights and Specularity, Part 1

On the matte sphere there is no highlight. On the glossy sphere in the middle, the highlight is clearly apparent. The mirror-like sphere on the right also has a highlight, which is really a reflection of the light source. The light source is the sun shining through a window.

The right sphere also reflects the scene around the ball, including the white paper background and the dark room behind the camera. In the right ball, you can even see a reflection of the middle ball, with a highlight in the middle of that reflection.

That same pattern of reflections of the paper, room, and neighboring ball is subtly visible in the middle ball as well.

In the middle ball, there is a second, smaller highlight just to the right of the primary highlight. This secondary highlight is the sunlight is reflected three times. The light bounces off the middle ball, bounces back off the right ball, and bounces again off that little highlight on middle ball back to your eye.

So we've arrived at a definition: A highlight is a specular reflection (Latin "speculum"=mirror) of the light source on a shiny surface. The shinier and smoother the surface, the brighter and clearer the highlight.
Highlights and Specularity, Part 1
These three diagrams show what's happening at the surface level. On the matte surface, light arrives from the top left and hits the rough surface. Some light gets absorbed and the rest scatters away in all directions. This is what happens when light hits a matte surface like a sand dune or a sweater.

The glossy surface of the middle ball bounces a a portion of the light at the same relative angle as the incoming light, but some of the light rays hit uneven spots and bounce in random directions. This is like bouncing a golf ball on a country road. It will probably bounce the way you want it to unless the golf ball hits a crack or a pebble.

The mirror-like surface is so smooth that all the light bounces off the surface predictably at the same relative angle, like bouncing a ball off a basketball court. (Edit: a true mirror-like reflection requires a metallic surface, and cannot be achieved by smoothness alone. Thanks, David!)

Highlights and Specularity, Part 1

Since highlights belong to the world of specular reflection, they should be thought of as somewhat separate and distinct from the normal modeling factors (light, halftone, and shadow) of diffuse reflection. Artists in the world of 3D computer graphics can control the form-modeling and the specularity as separate components.

I wrote an article on this subject of "highlights and specularity" for the current issue of International Artist magazine, which should be on the newsstands now. This blog post is just a little piece of it.

Highlights and Specularity, Part 1
The six-page article contains a lot more examples and explanation, and it includes artwork that has never been reproduced in print before. I'll talk more on the blog about highlights in real-world examples tomorrow.
International Artist magazine, Issue 90
This subject is also covered in my book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (Amazon), also available signed from my website store.

Digital gamut mapping tool for Windows

Cristian Romero has created a free digital tool for analyzing color schemes. All you have to do is drag a "jpg," "png," or "bmp" into a box, and it will output a gamut map. The gamut map shows which colors are inside the color scheme and which are outside.

Digital gamut mapping tool for Windows
Here is a painting by Anders Zorn, showing the narrow range of colors used in the picture. The scheme is centered in yellows and oranges. The "extra-gamut" colors (colors that don't appear in the scheme) are magenta, blue, cyan, and green.

Digital gamut mapping tool for Windows
This image has a wider gamut, extending across neutral gray at the center of the circle. It has full intensity yellows and reds as well as some cyan, green, and violet. The gamut doesn't reach all the way to the outer edges of the circle because some hues are only partially saturated.

Digital gamut mapping tool for Windows
Here's a fine example of a complementary gamut, a narrow slice of the color wheel from orange to cyan-blue.

The gamut mapping idea is useful both for analyzing color schemes, as we see here, but also for generating the color schemes that you want for your picture.
Further reading and exploration
Christian Romero's KGamut (samples) and free download (It works in Windows with Linux and WINE and it worked fine - openSUSE 12.2. ;-)
There are other digital tools at Live Painting Lessons
There's more about gamut mapping in my book Available on Amazon and signed from my web store.
Previously on GurneyJourney:
Gamut Masking, Part 1
Gamut Masking, Part 2

Korean and Chinese editions of Color & Light

I am pleased to announce brand new Korean and Chinese editions of Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter. 

Korean and Chinese editions of Color & Light
The Korean edition is published by DooboCMC in Seoul by arrangement with Andrews McMeel Publishing in Kansas City.
Korean and Chinese editions of Color & Light

Korean and Chinese editions of Color & Light
The Chinese edition is published by the Posts & Telecommunications Press in Beijing, under authority of Andrews McMeel.

Korea and China are rapidly becoming global powerhouses for visual effects, animation, concept art, and fantasy art, not to mention traditional painting, so I hope the books will be of interest to the artists in those countries, and to those artists in this country who are more comfortable in their native language. I would be very interested to learn more about how color theory is taught in the art academies there.
Thanks, Peter, for the photo
Other Asian editions previously mentioned on GurneyJourney:
On Amazon US: 

Bookshelf Brotherhood

Bookshelf Brotherhood
Stefan Kopinski has Color and Light and Imaginative Realism on his bookshelf. 

Stefan is a freelance illustrator for the games industry who visualizes "weird and wonderful ideas" for Sega, Capcom, Forge World, Mantic, and THQ. Here's his illustration portfolio.

The photo appears in the new issue of ImagineFX magazine. Thanks for putting me in such good company!

Spectrum 19: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art
John Singer Sargent: The Later Portraits
Cover Run: The DC Comics Art of Adam Hughes (Adam Hughes Cover to Cover)
Universe des Dragons, Galerie Daniel Maghen
Digital Painting Techniques, Vol. 3
Color and Light
Imaginative Realism
Bookshelf Brotherhood
P. S. Ian Malcolm Miles sent me a photo of his bookshelf, too. Thanks, Ian.

Previously on GJ: Rearranging Art Books

Gamut Mapping at MICA

Gamut Mapping at MICA
Many painting teachers have been using Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter as a textbook in the classroom. Patrick O'Brien, who teaches painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art, described the lesson he taught out of the book:

We experimented with your method of gamut masking and mixing color strings. We used pages 123-131 in Color and Light, and also referenced pages 106-107 and 116-117.
Gamut Mapping at MICAFor the exercise I brought in some simple photographs for them to copy, because I wanted to take the drawing element out of it, so they could concentrate on the color scheme. On the morning of class I went to the MICA library to find a color wheel to use. 
Gamut Mapping at MICA
 In flipping through all the books about color, I could not find a single good color wheel that went to grey in the center. So we had to use the small color wheel in your book on page 75. We used index cards and tape to make the masks. As you can see, some students' first instinct was to photograph it with their phone and bring it back to their seat.  
Gamut Mapping at MICA
 I had each student draw the subject twice. We did one small painting in one color gamut, and then their homework is to do another painting of the same scene in the other gamut. Pretty much exactly what you did in your video with the CircusCircus sign. 
Gamut Mapping at MICA
 And now I've been inspired to incorporate these ideas into my own painting as well. I'm working on a New York 1940s maritime scene that would be perfect for a cool gamut.
Thanks for the great ideas! ---Patrick O'Brien, MICA

If other instructors are doing class projects based on ideas in Color and Light, please send me photos and a description, and I’ll try to share them on the blog.

And if you want to use Color and Light as your course guide, please let me know. At our little web store, we can offer you discounts on group orders, and I can sign them for each of your students.

Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter signed from my web store
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter on Amazon
All photos by Patrick O'Brien
Previously on GJ:
My painting demo for Patrick's class at MICA 
Jason Dowd's use of C&L at LCAD

Yellow in Context

What do all these color swatches have in common? They're all bright yellow. 

OK, so what's the catch? They are all bright yellow as seen in the right lighting context. That pale one and gray one at the bottom left are bright yellow in a bluish light. The dark brownish colors are yellow in shadow.

All of those swatches come from screenshots of the "minions," the bright yellow characters in the animated film "Despicable Me."

(Link to video) Here's the new trailer for Despicable Me 2 where the screenshots came from. The lighting designers did a great job of shifting the gamut from one range to another in less than two minutes of screen time.

To achieve a feeling of colored light, a painter must often shift the mixture far from the local color. A good rule of thumb is that the color of a given mixture is a combination of the local color and the color of the light source.

Related post: Color Constancy
All this is covered in my book, Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
Images ©Universal

Translating "Color and Light" into JapaneseReflected light in shadowAmerican Masters Show at the Salmagundi ClubWhen do you paint highlights?Highlights and Specularity, Part 1Digital gamut mapping tool for WindowsKorean and Chinese editions of Color & LightBookshelf BrotherhoodGamut Mapping at MICAYellow in Context

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