There no reasonable excuse to ignore the basic elements of applying paint to a surface. The technology regarding  the materials to be used are scientific and discoverable. The visual components of the human mind are a little more complex but with a little understanding they reveal themselves. They may be either instinctive (genetic) or environmental (deterministic) - but whatever they are they not necessarily universal.

A few examples that have survived for thousands of years with a 'western or European' significance:

Color;  red - hot - danger - blood -aggressive. blue - ice - cold - distant, green - fields - calm - healing etc. - but remember, red can also mean good luck(Chinese) and green is the color of rotten meat.

Shape; round =) O  feminine - comfortable, rectangular = /M L- male - abrupt - unfriendly etc.

Lines; parallel //- calm - regular, Intersecting X- conflict - abrupt etc

Pattern; like order and habit is decorative, comforting and attractive to the young. Chaos has another effect but can be useful in solving problems and lateral thinking. More of shape, line and pattern later....

I often refer to colors as either primary secondary or muddy. If we mix a red with a yellow and add some blue we will get a grey. The percentage of the mix will determine its hue and saturation. The addition of white will affect its value. There are millions of muddy possibilities, but, if the grey tends toward red it is often referred to as a warm grey. Alternatively a cold grey tends towards blue.

In my demonstration painting above of the 'trout fisherman', grey forms almost 90% of the picture. When you view a new painting try and establish its percentage of grey and you may be surprised of how little saturated color there is. Here, to mix the greys, I used the cheaper opaque earth colors - light red, yellow ochre and a tincture of cobalt blue. Right on the horizon I used a little crimson. The man's jacket is a cadmium red. No other hues were used!

Contrasting a primary color in a sea of subtle greys is one of the most powerful tools an artist can use. Constable once remarked of a JMWTurner painting of a red buoy in a large grey sea, 'a coal has jumped from the fire and set it alight,' he said in amazement.

However, another Turner painting (below) is of an entirely different cast.

This is a violent and emotional picture and shows slaves being tossed overboard before an approaching hurricane. All the principles of perspective are in place with the addition of a couple of new ones.

1. When mist or cloud is placed in front of dark clouds and lit from the side they become bluish/violet (as shown in the left of this painting). The juxtaposition allows the artist to show great depth.

2.To quote JMW Turner, 'white can be used to for equal effect to come forward or recede.'

STUDENT ACTIVITY: Color and food have a close association and presentation of dishes is considered a main element in training to be a chef. Cut out five presentations from a magazine and paste them in your book in your order of preference (good to bad). Briefly explain your reasons beside each example.

OK now you understand something about perspective and color. 'But what should I paint and why?' you ask.

GO TO ... looking harder

....or lesson list