1-1 THE MAGIC OF PAINTING - INTRODUCTION
'Give me some paint, brushes and canvas and
I will give you gold, silver, ruby and pearl. I will give you the greatest
treasures you have ever seen. I will show you magic. Artists are the greatest
alchemists, the best magicians of all. They can make gold from base metals,
they can make you laugh and cry and touch your very soul, and they do that
every day - and more ... JH from the 'Modern Illusionists'.
The Magician - A following story will
explain how these disciplines can interact and why the word illusionist
applies to the master painter as well as the best magicians. Early this
century a magician was sent to North Africa to quell a rebellion. He came
on stage with a large wooden chest which he placed in the center and asked
for the strongest man in the audience to step up. After some coaxing a
warrior champion, a lumbering ox of a man was propelled up on stage. The magician
told him not to fear but to lift up the simple wooden chest. This the man did this with
Next the magician told the audience he would steal the giantís strength and
render him as weak as a kitten. He clicked his fingers and asked the man
again to try and lift the chest. Now the strongman strained and pulled but
could not move the wooden chest, even an inch, and finally gave up. To
prove he had taken away the manís power the magician asked his assistant,
a slightly formed young boy, to prove he could lift the chest - which he did.
There was much consternation which the magician stilled by suddenly announcing he could restore the former strongman's
strength. Then after asking the audience if that was what they wanted, and with another click of the fingers, he did. Finally, upon ordering the strongman to lift the chest for a third time
the man raised it with his former ease.
The chiefs gasped and the rebellion was quelled for who could oppose such power?
Of course a steel plate in the bottom of the chest and an early electro-magnet
under the stage was the simple cause of the phenomenon. But what is important
is the story. It was the magician's manipulation of the minds of the audience
that was the real magic. That is the art of the illusionist. Not the trick.
It is the same with a painting or a play. A good painting will make you believe what you
are seeing has a reality in time and space even though you know it is an
illusion, merely a picture on a wall.
The Application - The techniques of
painting silk and satin, gold and silver or diamonds and rubies or anything
else for that matter requires the artist to embrace the same three disciplines
the magician uses in my story.
1. The artist must understand the nature of
the objects or things he or she desires to paint. Just as the magician
needed to understand certain principles of electro-magnetism the artist
also must be a scientist. To create the illusion of gold or chrome
the artist must know something of its molecular or crystalline structure,
something of light and refraction. In other words some elementary physics
2. The artist must be philosopher enough to ask and answer questions
regarding the nature of things in their ideal from - a conceptual analysis
if you like. The artist must understand how people feel about the things
he or she desires to paint. For the magician in my story it was his understanding
of peopleís feelings and their views and prejudices regarding a manís physical
strength that was the key. The concept and knowledge of how people feel
about something was - and is - essential for illusion to succeed.
3. Whereas the magician needs the skill and discipline of the actor, performer
so the artists must similarly have the ability to control the painting
in the totality of its parts. The artist needs to be creative and know
how best to construct and present his two dimensional painting as a three
dimensional illusion. The artist will need to know and apply the techniques
that painters use create form and depth (chiaroscuro
To summarise then: we have the technical analysis,
the conceptual analysis and the presentation technique. When we understand
these things about an object or subject we can then paint it.