- Lesson Details
In week eight, instructor Glenn Vilppu will teach you how to use color to organize a composition and create an experience. You will learn how master colorists like Pierre Bonnard and Paul Gauguin utilized color in their artwork. Glenn will also show you how to combine color and texture to guide the viewer’s eye across the picture plane.
Throughout this course, you’ll have access to the NMA community for feedback and critiques to improve your work as you progress.
Transcription not available.
this a little bit that it's not just the scintillation that we get from color.
Color of course is very seductive in itself.
But the way and particularly with Bonnard here, the way color is used to take
and compositionally to take and move the eye to create space and basically
used as a compositional element.
The primary context of that is using opposites, Boulevard also, not only
just using opposites in terms of shape.
He's using opposites, texture, and color.
So now if we start with this, we can see that for instance let me ghost this
down a little bit and I'll take an add a little bit here so you can see where
I'm marking off and then we can go back.
First, if you think of just the idea of warm and cool in the lower
left-hand corner, we have a cool color.
Notice know that in the far back of the picture, just literally X-ing the
picture, we have the cool colors again.
Then we take in the opposite way, we have a warm, then warm going through here.
So again, he's taking is through the picture, but now what you can see
is that the foreground colors, the cool of the table is in foreground.
He carries us into a bit in the door here, but he's carrying
the warm color behind that.
And then we get alternating colors going back in cool colors behind that.
So, but as he's doing this, he's also introducing a bit of
the warm into the cool areas.
Notice that the way he's taking the, with the I here, you've got
the really strong, cool color here.
Well, we're getting the same color back in here.
And we're getting some of this green outside here, reflecting
into the door, but we're carrying that into the foreground of
the, on where the stool is here.
So he's intermixing - he's intermixing, warm and cool.
He's creating, using the cool colors and the warm colors to take and
create space and to tie different parts of the picture together.
Also noticed that he has a very strong, vertical orientation.
This is very typical of Bonnard now, but you notice that as he's doing this,
there's a strong structural element.
In other words, we can feel the pull going across this will take and tie in with
what's going across the picture this way.
He's going down here, notice that we got we're going up to the frame back
here and we're carrying it back down.
So there's really not a lot of loose ends in this side.
He really taking in, it's all very clearly organized notice that we get very simple
areas against really texture areas, which is again, is a hallmark of a Bonnard.
We even looking at the values here, you could see the dark of the chair here.
You start feeling the same thing as we coming across on the other side.
He's playing differences.
He's playing using similarities, he's using warm and cool.
So let's just take and look at this now, at full scale here, so
you can see what we're looking at.
It's pretty amazing painting.
You don't look at Bonnard for correctness of drawing.
You don't look at Bonnard for perspective.
You do look at Bonnard for color.
He's a master at it.
Now let's take and look at this, another Bonnard.
Now this is very similar to the last picture, except now we started out with
a table in the center on the front.
This is notice this is all cool color.
Okay, that's take and it ghost this down a little bit, so I can take and draw on it.
As we, as you look at this, what you're seeing, okay
obviously we have this very strong cool color in the foreground, but notice
that he's taking up this very icy, cool color, and we're picking that up in the
back here, so he's doing the same thing.
He's taking and carrying the warm color through, around that.
Now notice that he is taking and repeating the frame, cutting
verticals, carry through.
He lines things up as he's coming down and he's working off the
center and this is sort of fun.
Now notice what he's doing with this.
We get this orange again, a warm color and a mixed of a very strong cool colors.
And then this is being repeated now, even into the hair and we get echoes
of it into the chair back here.
Then as the eye is moved to the right with the, I guess it's a fireplace
part of it notice that we have the cat now leaning to the left.
And this is taking and working off here and we're building this
thing up and he's literally working through the center of this.
So, color is an augmented or augmenting.
The structure of the composition, or you can look at the reverse way
around, but it's basically the color and the composing of the picture.
They're not foreign elements and he's not an impressionist in terms of taking and
trying to duplicate the reality that he sees, he's using color as a compositional
device to create an experience.
Yeah, we can look at this a little bit more clearly now.
Oh, I didn't move it up.
There we go.
Look at the intensity of this thing.
Now, here he, here you can see the orange a little bit more clearly.
I guess it's an orange, but juxtaposed to those really cool - well, that actually
goes back to even thinking in terms of, we find that in Rubens and you look at
Delacroix you see the same thing, but notice the little bit of we get to the
silverware on the side, warm colors within the cool and carry through into the hair.
Now let's take a look at another painting here.
Now this is again Bonnard.
Here you get a very clear again, juxtaposing warm and cool colors.
Notice how he's also, he's taking and using the white here.
Look at the way the white in the center here.
Let's ghost this down a second so we can talk about it and I'll draw over.
We see the white here is taking and being picked up with this white back here.
Now have no idea what that white actually is.
Maybe it's a building behind those trees.
There's no way of knowing, cause there's nothing there to
describe it being a building.
Well, maybe there's some roofs over here, but really very
difficult to take and actually
it's just a light.
So we get the very warm areas in the foreground.
Now we're picking that up in the trees behind and it's even
echoed in the sky in the back.
Again, notice that as I'm going through this and picking up certain
Elm, you notice that he's still dealing with very strong verticals.
We've got the movement of the figure is going in.
All these figures are going in.
He's picking up this pink color here, behind the figure,
running through back here, then.
Just weaving through all this then we get this warm.
We get the cool going back.
And then we get the stripes coming through, warm, coming through, warm
behind the cool, cool, warm, cool, warm.
In other words, you can see the cool, the warm, the warm, the
cool he's building these things.
Also we're picking up an echo of what's on the ground here to what's above.
And essentially again, he's taking, this is a very, again, typical Bonnard
he's taking, working off the center, get the thing, pulling up, get the
main character coming down right here.
So, he's an artist worth really looking at in terms of and he's ignored I think
a lot for his compositional skills.
It's very strong.
So you can start looking at the structure that he's building up.
We could even see, this is a volume that's building up this way and
something like up and we feel then a dropping quality to the picture.
Now, there's a lot of the lot to see and a lot to learn from looking at Bonnard.
Obviously right away we can first we look at this as a paneling.
He's divided this picture into a series of panels coming down.
Very, definitely a cool panel.
We got warm and then we get cool.
But no, we're dealing with verticals.
He's creating these strong, vertical elements within the picture.
He's taking and the color
now the warm color behind, of course the figure itself is very warm.
And it's often very vertical, but we can see the way he's playing with a
sense of the light, which tends to - he's building a lot of warm into it, and
then it merges and goes back into cool.
So we can actually break the picture down into a series of areas.
Let's break it down and say, okay, we have on the lower - on the left-hand
side, upper right-hand corner.
These are essentially rectangular shapes.
Notice that he's picking up the warm color from the figure
into the chair in the mirror.
We have a series of rectangular shapes and top and a bottom we have round shapes.
Now he's taking the round shape, the large round shape and working with
the small round shape through here.
He's actually giving us a movement going picture.
And we could possibly even think of the, this as being a part of
a movement that's going through, but he's pushing these things.
So we're looking down at the picture, the legs, he leads the eye in.
As he's going through he leads, going back.
Now, if you, this is a very subtle thing now.
I'm possibly reading into something here, but as I look at this picture
and what I see is what can we feel the light stuff going back.
We feel it pushing, going up that way.
That actually matching her gesture, which is taking and going up.
And it's a very subtle thing.
But we find that if you, again, looking at patterns, you'll find that this
section here, behind, that has a different kind of texture than the next section
behind that's a different texture.
All of these areas are different in texture, including the floor,
everything about it, then even the body.
So it's a constant playing of differences within this thing, but you can feel the
movement, you can see the verticals.
You can see how he's tying things across one side of the picture to the other.
And it's very, very carefully worked out.
And again, there's not a lot of ambiguity, but there's a lot of
play within the color of working
warm against cool.
He adds a little bit of warm into the cool.
He adds a little bit of cool into the warm.
We can look at this a little bit more.
Now you can see the look at the intensity of this thing.
Once you bring up the intensity, you can notice that the really
strong light or warm color under her arm to the color on the floor.
Notice the way he brought the reflection into this pan.
Probably bath water here of the window, up above the cool.
It's actually pretty, pretty amazing.
Then we also pick up the dark down on the floor as being reflected
again into the mirror in the back.
This is interesting thing.
Just noticing here, notice how the reflection in the mirror is basically
a very cool reflection of the figure.
And so what you're seeing from the artist's point of view, as he's painting
this, he was seeing her front view in the mirror and it would have been
the color coming through the window.
You're getting Bonnard.
Now perfect example of taking and moving the eye.
So as we look at this, now I'll take and ghost it down for a little bit.
Now here, you can see how he's taking the lemons here into the color up in here.
We have a very cool series here, put in a very strong environment
of warm and we're getting stripes
of cool, warm, cool.
He's picking up the same kind of colors now.
And he's picking up the fruit now where you can see what we
have up here pulling through.
And again, in, as in the last painting notice, look at these
sections is different pattern areas.
You could divide, and he is, notice how he divides the picture in half.
And he creates within these things, textures.
Each of these areas become textures that are quite different from each other.
So it's constantly taking and looking at the patterns now, looking at how he
plays with the color, how he's dealing with the white is essentially cool.
Almost a neutral plane against these really intense colors.
And when you look at the paintings, they're very intense.
The intensity is emphasized by the juxtaposition of these really strong
cools and really intense, warm colors.
Notice though that the, basically the most intense colors do not
necessarily take up very much space.
And, and the overall, if you start going through a lot of paintings, you
will see that the intensity of the color is really easily, indicative
of the less amount that it's used.
And the general parts of the picture tend to have a neutral element.
Also notice that as we were looking at the.
Bowl of fruit here in the orange.
And I was saying we were exiting across, but notice in the far right-hand
corner, that intense red color put right up against the green of the hair.
So again, he's moving the eye across through the picture.
It's texture, he's dealing with different kinds of texture.
Each one of these areas.
As you look at the picture, you will see that he's handled it differently.
Let's take and just do make a comment about this a little bit.
okay on the here we have horizontal lines.
Here we got vertical dot lines.
We have a panel going across the bottom.
He takes it cool.
Then we're getting more into warmer tones and then even warmer tone.
But each one of these areas is taking and having a totally different texture.
Now what this is, at first it's actually hard to actually
recognize what the subject is.
You are looking down at a field of a farm houses, orchards, the trees in
the distance, and it probably either the sea or the sky with clouds.
These become just symbols.
He's just taking in using.
Textural elements to take and create a design, but again, playing
warm, cool differences in texture, and you're dealing with stripes
and of course you look at the thing and you feel there's a sort of a
flow and a rhythm to the thing.
Now a lot of is a lot of similar qualities here in that what you're
seeing in the foreground cool colors.
You're taking and then having warm in between, and then you're
repeating the cool colors in the foreground into the background.
So we take and let's ghost this down a little bit and look at it again.
So now what you have in the foreground, you have this, all this cool color here.
He's taking that same color now and pushing it behind the trees,
going back, behind, through.
And we have in the center area here, we have all of this warm
that's taking and going through.
And that again is now repeated.
That's repeated into the sky in the background.
So again, it's alternating, warm and cool.
Then within the cool, the foreground, you can see he's really laid in
these areas of warm within the cool.
And we get within the warm area you get these violets, you get
the cool areas within the warm.
So you're constantly juxtaposing the thing.
He's creating also a movement.
Notice that he's very similar to Bonnard in that it's a textural thing.
We get the, you see the strong sense of the verticals as he's coming through.
You can feel where he's building the picture.
So it's a very intellectual act, actually intellectual painting.
We get the cool, you notice, we get, again, patterns.
These are very definite textual qualities different than Bonnard,
but very similar at the same time.
Let's blow this up so we look at this again, pretty intense.
Notice the white in the center now that, which we didn't mention how
that's being picked up with the clouds in the upper left-hand corner.
Think of the patterns.
Really now here's a little different play and that we get the really warm
and in this case, I really say hot colors in the foreground and the
background and the cool in between and then laying cool colors into the warm
colors as we get the textural elements pulling in the foreground and then
taking and putting the cool colors into the warm and the warm into the cool.
But again, areas of texture differences, all the-, constantly playing with
the differences and the modulation of the way he's working within a color.
The way he's coming across through in that blue, take and modulating it from very
bluecool to the greens as it goes across.
thinking in terms of, even to the subjective element in the picture.
Obviously he's taking and you have a strong, horizontal.
Let's ghost this down for a second.
Now we have the strong horizontals.
We can see this, pulling it across and notice that what we get is
the, with the legs, there's a movement, we're pulling the flow.
This carries us through, he's actually taking and repetition, keeping
the eye, this is all lifting up.
And as - look at the subjective, look at the eyes
looking back at what's going on back here.
Now you see this, there's obviously he's creating a story situation.
He's leading the eye up.
These characters are in here coming through.
She's looking back or moved us all.
He's you know, he started out by pushing us all the way to the right.
And now the subjective is carrying us through even to, here we get the, the
writing, the Nevermore, the Raven.
In this case, it's not a Raven.
I'm not sure what it is.
It's a bird,
but there's the symbolism.
And now notice, now this is something that you can be sort of a little thing
that I mentioned about often the brightest color will have the least amount of space.
Look at these warm, well, they got the warm here that he's picking up this hot
colors into the background back in here.
So it was, again, it using the lead the eye at the textures, obviously
very clear cut sense of textures that he's working on the thing.
You don't and when you're doing paintings you don't always have to have
incredibly complicated compositions.
Be quite simple.
Again, if you look at this thing, you notice that the drapery is
coming across very strong horizontals and the horizontals tend to
take and enclose complex areas.
So as you can see, as the white coming across the underside of
her leg, works right into the arm,
and then it's carried into this sort of intense yellowish color
that's going across, but that's a strong, horizontal line.
It's enclosing very very complicated forms.
And so it's building the thing up.
Notice the way he's used the really dark contour on the hips of the figure
against the really intense light.
So he's very purposefully building these forms.
Now here, of course, the subject matter symbolism of possibly a
fox or whatever it is in there.
I'm not sure what the symbolism is and you even get with a, it looks a - at
first I thought it was a bird, but it looks like a wilted flower or in her hand.
But compositionally, you look at it,
it's a series of horizontal stripes that go back in the picture.
Alternating warm, cool.
This intense white.
And then also you notice that what we have is this horizontal group here that
in the background here, let's ghost this down a little bit here so we can,
You've got the figure here.
This is your beginning point, but he's playing that against this group
of walking figures back here, going back in space, these are moving.
It's going back the opposite.
So you're getting the very very light figure.
He's enclosed that as in he did in the last picture.
Now notice that he's created a very strong horizontal he's created a
containing this within this long line, then as we're building the
- building the picture is going back.
We have complex areas, simple areas, and that he creates a sense of
perspective just by the scale, the forms that he's creating going back.
But again, very intense colors as he's building this thing up, but he's also
using a psychological element here.
There's a symbolism here and with the figures back here, going back
in space, and there's apparently other figures back in here that
are even creating more perspective.
So look at the intensity of color here.
And the first look at this you're so taken by the figure itself, but you really
don't need hardly notice the figures that are in there the background there.
Very very interesting painting.
The symbolism then would have to be into the meaning of the fox.
The wilted flower is probably a funeral procession in the back here.
as we talked about the Bonnards.
We're talking about texture, we're talking about alternating warm and cool.
It's a different artist, different feel, different location, he's in Tahiti.
So, but the intensity of the color, and he's a little bit more bold.
They refer to almost as as the wolves, the wild men, when these
paintings were originally done, they were thought of as being outrageous.
So as you, as you look at the pictures and you can understand if you saw
these in the context of some of the other paintings that were done in the
same period of these, 1891, but that's pretty, it's pretty wild, but this
is the beginning of the modern art.
And so we see the abstraction, the use of color juxtaposed to take and create
a experience, an aesthetic experience.
Notice that these come through the little bits of in the back here, you can see a
little bit of red figure back there in amongst all that very cold, blue color.
And so it's continually again, alternating, warm, cool, warm,
He's taking and using the color.
Notice to the right he throws in pieces up on the top, up here
in the ridge, up into the trees.
Pretty intense stuff.
And then the pulling the blues, all the very, very intense blues.
Pontormo was a actually a friend of Michelangelo's and actually
Michelangelo had Pontormo paint some pictures for him, or I should
say Michelangelo did compositions that he had Pontormo paint, but look
at the color that he's doing here.
These incredibly fluorescent uses of pinks and reds and yellows.
This is extraordinary, sense of, painting.
Pontormo, if you look at the expression, these figures and the way he's working
with the color, we actually see why he was considered by many, to be one
of the artists that did first sort of psychological paintings, but the
color, the criticism of his use of color during in his lifetime was
that he had the color use like the fluorescent colors of a butterfly.
In other words that they were not real color.
They were not real at the time he was taking and creating an
experience, a abstraction in a sense.
But if you look at this and now relate this to what we've just been looking
at, it's a very strong, similar ideas.
First of all, you notice that in the foreground
- let me ghost this down a little bit here and we'll talk about it some more.
Now, the figure, the Christ figure here, notice that he is actually
very neutral in tone, very neutral.
Well, I guess this would correspond with these, the dead Christ.
So then colors that are around him, but if you see that the very, very, the main
figure's the one in the foreground here.
The next one here these are
figures that literally separate, those three figures separate
from the next group behind.
And so in behind- I would include the, even though it's blue, I would include
that into the group because what we see in back then is a different, totally
different kind of color, these greens that are going through it's much more
subdued giving, going back in depth.
But we can pick up behind here.
Now, again, this is very similar to what we just been talking about,
taking the warmish tones that we have in the foreground and putting
them behind and using bits of warm tone, these pinks in amongst
surrounded by grays and cool colors.
But a very very strong psychological feeling to the picture.
If you start looking at the expressions the heads, part of the idea of being
psychologist, not a psychologist, but creating a subjective type painting
is that the kind of expressions that he would create with the eyes.
But the strong movement, you feel the movement going in, going through
this going in or the figures here are looking back out at the audience.
We've talked about very simple things.
Now there's basic elements that you're working with.
One is you're talking about opposites,
In other words, opposites being warm and cool.
Two, I think that in talking about the working with opposites, and we're
talking about color, working with warm and cool, I think we would, at
the same time, we deal with texture.
In all of the elements that I discussed in we're looking at the
paintings the Bonnards or the Gauguins,
the texture was an incredibly important part.
So material wise that you work with doesn't matter, pastel, colored pencil.
You want to paint great water color.
You could take it and be using oil paint.
First of all, you have to take into consideration, you're not
going to scan an oil paint.
You'd have to photograph it.
So, take very, consider what you're going to, how you're going
to take and present this to us.
So that, that comes consideration, also size.
You have your time considerations.
Okay just a point now is that the scale that you do, you work
does not have to be very large.
There is a very famous paintings by Alphonse Mucha.
Some of them are 20 and 30 feet long, 20 feet high.
The preliminary rough color sketches were done with pastel and they were
generally less than 12 inches by 10 inches, they were incredibly small.
So what you were focusing on in the color then is the composition.
That's what we're all dealing with.
So as you're working, as you're working your composition,
first decide your subject.
And then take and go from there and see how you can work with the color.
Now, this could be based on observation or it can be totally done from
imagination, or you could take is a another artist's work is a starting point.
And I've said starting point, not just copying it.
Okay, so now let me give you a little hint of how you can take and do this, and
even just working black and white right now is that if you could look at the
drawings of say a Bonnard, what he would do, see if you were doing a landscape he
would take and very simply block and he would take and each one of these areas
he would take and actually use texture to differentiate one area from another.
In other words this became a symbol for him about the shape
of a pattern of something that he was taking and looking at.
So this part of the drawing does not have to be complicated.
It can be really quite simple.
It's you - this is a constant that you're dealing with when you're
working with your compositions.
No matter what the subject is, you do not start out by taking
it and dealing with detail.
You have to take and start very simply as I'm doing right here,
that you have to be very simple.
You take and deal with the, just the idea.
You're focusing on strictly the composition so that if you're taking
and starting out, and this can be just nothing more than color notes.
Let's say if I have a, oh say, somebody sitting here, maybe this is a picnic
and can be going on out in the woods.
And you've got other things going on back here.
Well, I could doing this.
I could take it very simply say, well, okay the
- you got a white sheet here.
Maybe I would take it to think, well, if I've got something maybe some
white clouds back here, or somebody in the background here, maybe there's
a building back here with white.
I'm relating that.
Maybe we've got a something somebody else, maybe got a tablecloth or something
here I come through and I say, well, okay, I've got this and maybe I'm going
to pick up some stuff in the background.
Maybe there's a field of flowers out here and I could be coming through
and I'm looking at the- maybe we got this strong green grass here.
Maybe it's a little grayer it comes down and we got some stuff going
through it, stuff going back I can take and be dealing with the textures
maybe coming up here.
So you taking, and this can be very simple done with colored pencils.
You could take it and be working with sky, coming through, and I would've
take and you going through this and you just constantly take and modifying.
You could think, well, maybe you want to hold parts of it in shade.
So maybe I started dropping this whole figure
in shade coming through.
So in doing this now, I'm just taking and playing with the color, but maybe
this color then we would have, carry the same idea into the background.
So you start to build, you start to build a thing you're constantly taking
and playing with the different kinds of textures and applying what you do,
but it doesn't have to be complicated, but think about how you would make the
eye travel from one area to another.
What the composition is, how you're going to take it and include the whole painting.
So in doing this now, one, one thing that I don't think I've talked very much
about is that the primary thing that we've talked and all of the elements
now that we've been talking about, okay, this is our, our final lesson in a sense.
The main point has been make the eye move.
Everything that we've talked about so far, we have been taking and
leading the eye through the picture.
We've been talking about structure, how elements are within the frame.
We've been talking about groups of figures or designing the whole thing.
What we aren't doing or haven't talked about or
or I'm rallying against is
That's- bullseye you hit the bullseye it's done.
We don't want that.
Or I should say I don't want that.
I'm trying to get the idea that we are taking and creating a situation where,
whether it's working with color or working with line, that you create a situation
where you take and make the eye move.
And if you do it correctly, the picture will never stop and it
will always engage your subject.
Transcription not available.
Reference Images (12)
Free to try
1. Learning Recommendation24sNow playing...
1. Dining Room in the Country by Pierre Bonnard4m 16sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Woman with Cat by Pierre Bonnard2m 54s
3. La Sieste by Pierre Bonnard2m 41s
4. Model in the Backlight by Pierre Bonnard4m 27s
5. Corner of the Dining Room at Le Cannet by Pierre Bonnard2m 40s
6. Autumn View by Pierre Bonnard1m 32s
7. Taperra Mahana by Paul Gauguin2m 12s
8. Brenton Woman and Goose by the Water by Paul Gauguin56s
9. Nevermore by Paul Gauguin3m 2s
10. The Loss of Virginity by Paul Gauguin2m 36s
11. The Little Valley by Paul Gauguin1m 53s
12. The Deposition from the Cross by Pontormo3m 36s
13. Assignment Demo9m 10s