31 July 2011

A (computer) experiment.

Just recently I saw a wonderful show by Eric Merrell at Legacy Galley in Pasadena. Eric loves the desert in its starkest, most transcendental and distilled state. So taking advantage of a trip to Palm Desert, I decided to try to paint a desert scene. I approached it in my usual style, trying to capture the nuance and be as accurate as possible in color . When I got home, I got a glimpse at Eric's show brochure and realized my painting didn't quite "sing" like his. I was curious to see if by using a few Photoshop tricks I could recreate an Eric Merrell using my piece as a base. Now, before anybody says that no amount of computing could imitate the nuance and subtlety of Eric's art, I agree. I agree and I agree. I use Photoshop sometimes to check my levels (posterize and desaturate) but I never tried this kind of experiment.

First of all, any computing process can only alter color , contrast and other bidimensional qualities, never the volume and spirit of a brushtroke. Second, compositional and subject choices are also part of an artists arsenal and I didn't intend to recreate those elements. But I think my exercise could be a useful learning experience even ifI can't get to a perfect recreation.

So here it is , this is my painting  12"x16":

The first thing that occurred to me is that Eric's paintings have a lot more color. So I just applied a straight increase in saturation and obtained the following. It was surprising to see that more color didn't lead me in the direction I wanted. It's not about cleaner, purer  colors ....just yet.

On second thought I decided to apply an increase of contrast by using a curve operation where I brightened the higher tones and darkened the darks. Then, I desaturated the image a bit. What this did was create a more distinct distance between brights and darks and also made the colors closer to each other, retreating to the center of the color wheel and becoming grayer.

Then I applied a saturation increase and applied a palette filter to create less distinct edges and emulate Eric's softer paint application. I really enjoyed the result because it started to remind me of Eric's artwork a bit more. Most of the colors fall now in the "secondary" category, no pure yellows or blues or reds.

And of course my painting is no Merrell but I did re-learn  a few things:

A) A clean painting is not always about cleaner color or purer colors but colors that  are distinct  and relate better to each other. Whether  high key or high contrast, colors need to be parented to each other as equals.

B) Not to get too scientific but color tension can be created by applying a bit of knowledge on complementaries and paired colors.


Chris said...

Great post....

The closer to you, relatively speaking, the chroma is higher and the values have a wider range (deep black to specular white).

The father away, the hue goes bluish (gets mixed with a light-blue from atmospheric haze}, the chroma drops, and the value is more narrow (i.e., 4 to 8).

Marian Fortunati said...

Interesting experiment, Jose. You have so many ideas and enthusiasm to share!! THANKS!!!

Hope I run in to you somewhere soon!

AnneG said...

It's great the mixing of creativity have you seen this!? Reas Art I can't believe what Technology is doing to art!

JByram said...

Love your comments, observations, experiments ... and progress, wow!

I don't know, the spatial depth of the piece with increased saturation has me hooked. What inspired you to paint it in the first place: the pop of foreground color against the hills?

Jose L De Juan said...

@John. Seeing Eric Merrell's show inspired me. The particular scene was probably not the most exciting but it had enough light variations of hue and color for me to try to emulate the feel. And there was a tree with a shade to paint under. That was the determining factor in the 100 degree plus heat.
Right behind me the Coachella mountains were turning neon red but I wanted to ignore the easier bright-orange against cool shadow effect we all love and few manage well. It took some discipline to look away from that.