01 March, 2012

Intensity is the Forgotten Axis

3-D models of color are designed around three axes: hue, value and intensity.
The Turquoise Axis
4.9" x 7"
Casey Klahn
iPhone informal photo

The three properties of color are well known by the artist: hue, value and intensity.  But, how much attention do we pay to intensity?  It is a critical element of contemporary color, given the broad availability of colors now.  You may not wish to "push" high intensity colors in your artwork, but ignorance of this key property is also a disadvantage to you.  Above, my pastel, The Turquoise Axis, is focused on color intensity as a subject.  Below,  see the Renaissance piece by Deiric Bouts, which utilizes intensity to illustrate sacred meanings.

I have relied on the Getty Museum page on Understanding Formal Analysis for much of the research for the Elements of Art series at my blog, Pastel Workshop.  This entry on color intensity, provides a timeless illustration of the forgotten property of color: intensity.

Intensity describes the purity or strength of a color. Bright colors are undiluted and are often associated with positive energy and heightened emotions. Dull colors have been diluted by mixing with other colors and create a sedate or serious mood. In this image the artist captured both the seriousness and the joy of the scene with the dull gray stone interior and the bright red drapery.

The Annunciation, Dieric Bouts.

One reason pastels are called "sticks of dynamite" is that they can bring incredibly high intensity to your work.  Like paint from the tube, there is no adulteration of hue.  The trick is handling that explosive with intention and craft.  Does your color composition speak clearly, or is the intensity blowing up your work?  

Follow my series, Elements of Art, at pastelsblog.blogspot.com, Pastel Workshop.


Linda Schweitzer said...

I always so enjoy your posts Casey. Who else posts titles like yours? I probably would have called this Turquoise River, or something equally unimaginative, but you just take it deeper!

Sara Mathewson said...

Wow Casey! this is such an awesome piece i love it and love you valuable lessons here. I am soaking them up!

I really really love this piece and it's intensity! I think sometimes artist's get too scared to be bold like this. I know I do. but it is something I love! i think i'm afraid of overdoing it and making the piece garish. take care!

Casey Klahn said...

Thank you for that, Linda!

Sara, I wrote this to another friend at FB @ this color composition:

Don't you feel that the high key ultramarine blue provides a bridge between the greens and the turquoise? It is darker/ more middle-valued than the turq., and that is part of the bridge - two high intensity colors and one set of low intensity colors. Think of this piece without the ultramarine blue. The turq. would look deader, somehow.

SamArtDog said...

And then there's the pink. I see it playing complement to the green, while the oranges flit around the Ult blue. I see all of that playing against the drama of the turquoise.

You often have a shot of high key Ult blue in your pieces. Almost a signature of yours. They always amaze and thrill me.

Casey Klahn said...

Always a delight to hear from Sam. I had to open the image to look at the pinks/oranges. Those are an orange-biased Umber, and they do give that essential compliment/

My workshop host in Oakland told me I had a blue thing, or something like that. I guess he said that he identified blue as a special color for me.

One thing about blue is that it is very clear and coherent. The pastel, itself, is easy to roll, because ultramarine (red filed biased blue) has awesome coherence.

Thanks for looking, Sam.

Casey Klahn said...

I meant "red field."

Johnnny said...

There seem to be more shades of torquoise than of any other color.

Casey Klahn said...

You mean in this picture, Johnnny? Once in a while I get sets of sticks in a range of the same permutation of turquoise, and then I use that set before it gets broken up into the whole palette.

Johnnny said...

I actually meant that comment in general. So many shades of torquoise and aqua ocean colors.

Casey Klahn said...

Ok. I thought it was that. Aqua is a wear-all color.

Johnnny said...

If all the different shades of aqua and torquoise got together for a family reunion, they would have to bring in extra chairs.

Casey Klahn said...

Just ask Dan Marino.

Celeste Bergin said...

when I was young I had a turquoise dress. It was a joy to put on...and every time I wore it something good happened. Your painting reminds me of that dress! I think turquoise is a loooovvveely color! (this is a great article)

Casey Klahn said...

Good story, my Portland friend. Thank you for reading the blog @ turquoise in intensity.

loriann signori said...

Hi Casey,
Love the Intensity!You and I both seem to love intensity. I find that if you use such high chroma in one place it will work if you place it with neutrals. Otherwise its saturated color becomes too sweet. And while good chocolate is delicious if one only has chocolate it loses its appeal quickly.You manipulate neutrals and intense chroma beautifully!

Casey Klahn said...

Ha ha! Thanks, Loriann! This one must be a mint wafer inside the chocolate.

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