Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bright Earth - a must read

A while back on my former blog, I posted about getting a copy of Finlay's Color and how excited I was about it. Well, let's revisit that. I finally gave it up on page 258 (out of 302). There was just too, too much of "cute".

Frederico Buskak in his little boat wandering among the Greek isles looking for a home, how excited he must have been to come with his little bag of colors to the shores of Venice.

I made that up of course, but damn I hate that kind of stuff. Once maybe, but such passages increased in number as the book went on. Does the author think that people without imaginations read books like this one? I can do my own imagining, and do it when I care to do it. If that stuff had been edited out, the book would have likely been a lot shorter--oh and there was the young Greek girl pining for her absent lover by means of charcoal on a wall. And!! And!! Finlay spends a large chunk of the book on Australian Aboriginal paintings and makes them sound incredibly interesting--however, among the 21 plates, there is not one example. And "lake", though mentioned often, is not in the index, etc., etc. Grrrr.

Anyway, in my first post about that book, our David Kearns commented that I might enjoy Bright Earth by Philip Ball. A long time ago I had that book on a list, but it never got bought. So, to celebrate turning in my proposal I bought it. NOW this one is a book worth reading!

Here is Ball on why color's use and its theory should go hand in hand:
But only by appreciating the why [of how color comes into being] can one truly understand the social and technological factors that brought these colors onto the palette. Moreover, some basic facts about color mixing have a strong bearing on the uses to which painters have put their pure and shining pigments (whether they knew it or not). . . . I should reprise my assertion that in the end the differentiation between the two is only a relatively modern idea. I feel sure that Leonardo would have damned any book that claimed to speak of color without explaining it.

Bright Earth: Get a copy!


  1. Strange thing about color is the odd unexplainable associations- the stuff that is hard to explain theoretically. For instance, when I play music (I play guitar), and I am in the key of A, it feels RED, always has, E is green (a fifth away interestingly), D is blue, but the associations end there for me... G is not orange for me, nor yellow... Also when mixing paint, I frequently try to feel the "flesh" of the material, and look to use color to add a certain kind of character that only an organism could have- like adding orange to green to make it more earthlike. I'll try to get that book though- I've heard of it a few times before as well....

    Nice to have found your new blogspot Clair!

  2. What you have Curtis is called "hearing in color". It's uncommon but apparently not bizarrely so. ENJOY it! I sense that certain chords are dark, but that's about as far as my primitive hearing goes! lol

  3. synthesisia....?
    Dave Hickey says there are two camps to art criticism: the ones who rely on literary analogy (what does the work mean?) versus musical analogy (what does the work actually do?). I prefer the musical.....not that I'm disinterested in content, but without an engaging vehicle what's the point?

    Clair-glad you are enjoying B.E. A painter friend who recommended it to me last summer after warned me of the perils of that Finlay book which he had also just red...I'd given some thought to checking that one out, but now I think I'll definitely skip it!