Dark and light

I’ve noticed that my reality illusion doesn’t usually appear until I add dark and light areas. One of the last things I do with a painting is add black to the darkest areas and white to the lightest areas. The human eye sees a larger dynamic range than most film or digital images. Digital images can sometimes see into the infrared and specialised film and cameras can see far into the Infrared and Ultraviolet range. Film registers about 5 stops of light in the visual spectrum, and photographic prints show about 3. The print range has more to do with paper and ink, a projected image is capable of much greater range.

When I say a stop that is a photographic ‘stop’. A ‘stop’ on a camera is generally a factor of 2, so 5 stops is about 64 times the amount of light between the darkest and lightest areas. However, your eye is also capable of changing its aperture, so depending on who you talk to and how they are parsing the data you can get into the millions. The Lumen is an exact measurement of light but not a measure of colour. I don’t know what the relationship is between a lumen and millions of colours. A photo print with a full 3 stops of dynamic range looks pretty good. I believe a painting with today’s pigments is better than a photo print but likely not as good as your computer monitor. Your monitor might actually be able to show millions of colours; a photographic print can not, but it can fool your brain. Your eye can see and your brain can process millions of colours but not equally in all parts of the spectrum; you are much better at detecting shades of green than red for example.

As an artist the way light is measured or how the units are named is immaterial. What matters is how it looks. I’m interested in how light is measured and how a photographic image is rendered but it has nothing to do with me as an artist. It’s likely possible to mix millions of colours with today’s paints but all I need to do is generally match the art with what I am seeing or what I mentally think I should see, and it starts to look real. As long as I can match what I’m painting to what I’m seeing, then knowing exactly how this happens is immaterial. Interesting but immaterial.

 

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A little ghost story

When I watch a video purporting to be of a ghost I think of this (there are lots of these videos on the Web). Some years ago, my wife-to-be and I were living in an apartment, one day I made some tea and set it on our coffee table to steep. The tea pot was a very nice clear glass tea pot and the coffee table had a glass top. It’s a nice coffee table that we still have although we are looking for a new one; it’s long because it sits in front of our sofa and spans it from one end to the other, so it’s proving difficult to find a replacement.

As I was sitting waiting for the tea to steep, I was shocked when the tea pot began to slowly move towards me. It looked surprisingly like someone, or something, was pushing it, since the motion was not completely smooth as it stuttered slightly across the surface of the coffee table. I just froze and watched it move toward me. There was no discernible sound, just the steady movement of the teapot. This so alarmed me that I don’t think I said anything to my wife-to-be.

After thinking carefully about this, and doing a number of experiments, this is what I decided. The tea pot was a little wet and when placed on the glass table top made an air tight seal. The air between the pot and glass table top heated up, because the tea was hot, and began to lift up the whole pot. At first, I thought this was just completely impossible since a full teapot is fairly heavy but the amount of air trapped between the teapot and glass tabletop was small and the area of the bottom of the pot fairly large. I got my level and checked the table and it did have a very slight slope in the right direction. It was this that made me think I was on to something although the slope was completely unnoticeable without the level. I did a number of experiments and found that the tea had to have been just made so the water was hot and the bottom of the teapot had to be slightly wet. There were a number of variables so it didn’t have the same result every time but it worked most of the time.

I was watching a video of a child who appears to talk to someone not in the room and then something on the table tray moved. This certainly isn’t exactly the same as my moving teapot but it’s possible to put something down in such a way that it is unbalanced and small vibrations can make it appear that the item seems to move by itself when it’s sliding to a new stable location. Small movements of items, apparently without good reason, can be frightening but can also have a reasonable explanation. In this particular case the video presenter concluded that the child was talking to a spirit that couldn’t be seen on the video and the item on the tray moved because the ghost moved it.

 

Worn Down Brushes

I see images on the Web of worn-down brushes where the only thing left is a few small bristles. I am incredibly jealous of this since my brushes are generally clean and largely intact, if a little stained.

I just can’t paint that much.

I try to tell myself that those artists using such decrepit brushes must be starving to the point that they just can’t afford any new brushes but I don’t think that is the case. Modern brushes last longer and are made of better materials than they were 60 or 100 years ago and are often less expensive. Paint has gotten easier to clean up and pigments are better and more varied. Maybe the brushes were inherited and are very old or perhaps children got hold of them and they sat uncleaned for years.

I’ll keep telling myself that.

Repainting

As you can see from this image of the work on my easel, I am in the process of altering one area of it. I don’t really know why, other than it doesn’t look right. It doesn’t exactly look wrong but it isn’t right either. So, what was wrong about it? I don’t really know. I think it was because the leaves in that area appeared a little too dense and to fix it I’ve decided I need to start over in that area.

Does everyone else see it in the same way? I have wondered about this for some time now. I have my wife and one or both of my two daughters critique my work at various times during the process. My daughters usually agree with me but my wife is the wild card and as such often provides the most useful criticism.