Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sergei Bongart: Notes on Painting

Graphic designer and fine artist Norm Nason has compiled and posted a page of Sergei Bongart's Notes on Painting. A student of Russian realism and American impressionism, Bongart was an influential painter and instructor until his death in 1985. Here is some of the guidance that he gave his many students (and note the encouraging disclaimer at the end):

It is vital at the start of a painting to cover the white of the canvas with chosen silhouettes of color. Do this as soon as possible. A white canvas masks the truth of the color relationships.

It is entirely possible, and often advisable, to spend 90% of your time merely adjusting the big, simple shapes before ever moving to the rendering.

Of all the properties of color, value is by far the most powerful. Value and design set the painting; all else builds from them.

When dealing with complimentary colors in a composition (warms against cools), a good rule of thumb is to shift both to the same side of the color wheel. This may help harmonize and otherwise sharp composition. Take, for example, yellow and violet. Move them both to, say, the red side. The yellow then becomes a yellow-orange, while the violet becomes a reddish violet.

A light object against a dark background (in intense light) will have its edges flare and soften into the darkness, taking on the intense color of the light. The human eye naturally focuses on one distinct area at a time, leaving everything else softly out of focus. When painting, pick out a few hard edges at points where you want the viewer to concentrate and soften the edges elsewhere.

Disclaimer. All of the above are basic observations of light on form. Things tend to play in reality the way I've stated. However, you can easily find wonderful exceptions in the art world to everything I've told you. Use the information as a tool to learn color, but don't feel inhibited by it. Remember that art, at its best, is the seeing of life in new and exciting ways, not as rote formula.

Stay in the paint!

Sergei Bongart


Dianne said...

What a jewel we have here! Thank you!!

Judsons Art Outfitters said...
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Judsons Art Outfitters said...

Thanks, Dianne! Great website.
Very nice blog by the Peninsula Art League, too.