The Color Blue

Matisse/Diebenkorn at SFMoMA

TRUE BLUE AFFINITY

The image nearby shows two paintings. The one on the left is by Henri Matisse (French 1869-1954), titled The Blue Window, 1913, oil on canvas, 51×35 inches (MoMA). The one on the right is by Richard Diebenkorn (American 1922-1993), titled Woman on a Porch, 1958, oil on canvas, 72×72 inches New Orleans Museum of Art.

These two paintings were part of the exhibition Matisse/Diebenkorn that opened at the Baltimore Museum of Art (10/23/16 – 01/29/17) and travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (3/11/17 – 05/29/17).

I recommend you visit the Baltimore Museum online for images and information, including a link to a video “Richard Diebenkorn on Beginning a Painting” and additional links to exhibition reviews on TV and other media. Here are five (5) things to know about Diebenkorn that are part of the online exhibition site: (1) His work is in almost every major US museum collection (2) Diebenkorn moved between abstraction and figuration (3) He lived and worked in California – and the light and space of the West Coast infuses his paintings (4) He was influenced by several Modern European and American artists, including Henri Matisse, his greatest influence, but also Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cezanne, Edward Hopper, Willem de Kooning and Piet Mondrian, and (5) He is best know for his Ocean Park series, named for the Santa Monica neighborhood where he lived from 1966-1988.

 

The Baltimore Museum of Art was the only East Coast site for this exhibition.

I recommend the exhibition catalog, also titled Matisse/Diebenkorn, published by The Baltimore Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoCA) in association with DelMonido Books, Prestel. The catalog shows works by both artists on facing pages and includes essays that give a lot of information about the affinities and connections between the artists.

 

THE POWER OF THE COLOR BLUE

Blue is the most popular color in art, favored by artists and preferred by men and women alike. Diebenkorn used the same blue colors in his paintings as Matisse. If you check out images of blue paintings by Diebenkorn, you’ll see most of his paintings are blue, and the blues vary in hue and color from warm to cool, and pale to deep tones. His oil paints had to include Ultramarine, Cerulean, Cobalt and Prussian blues.

 

The color blue represents both the sky and the sea, and is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity. Blue also represents meanings of depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, stability, faith, heaven, and intelligence.

Blue can be strong and steadfast or light and friendly. Read more about the meaning of the color blue here.

 

HOW BLUE AM I?

 

My recent abstract geometric paintings have a focus on blue. Like Diebenkorn’s abstractions, some of my paintings include other colors like grey, green, orange, black and white.

 

Nikkal, Jacob’s Ladder 1, acrylic on canvas

 

The image nearby is my painting titled Jacob’s Ladder 1. It’s acrylic on canvas, 52×40 inches and includes triangles in a gridded space. A friend suggested the title. She said the painting reminded her of an old child’s game constructed with thread and wood blocks where the blocks change their location and shape when you juggled the threads.

 

I was playing with shapes and colors in this painting. I used Ultramarine blue as a primary color, but also used Cobalt and Manganese blue. I created blue greens when I added different yellows into the blues. My colors are layered and show blues are under or on top of other colors. Up close you can notice blue under white, blue under deep red orange, blue under gold and salmon pink, blue under grey and green.

 

Nikkal, Blue and White Triangles, acrylic and paper collage

I wanted to create a painting that showed blue with white variations. The image nearby is Blue and White Triangles, a diptych, 24×32 inches on two panels I created with paper collage painted with acrylic in Ultramarine, Cobalt, Cerulean Blue and Whites. I mixed the paints to create lighter and deeper blues. The colors are layered with blues over whites. You can also see I used greens under colors and added oranges. This work is about color relationships expressed with painted cut triangle papers.

 

Nikkal, Blue Triangles on Black, 12×12 inches, acrylic and paper collage

 

The image nearby is a small 12×12 inch collage on panel with blue and black painted papers. The blue triangles are cut papers painted with Cobalt Blue acrylic. The black papers are painted with a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber acrylic to create a dark tone that looks like black.

 

Blue is the New Orange

 

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas

 

Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964

 

The two images above are the painting Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh (oil on canvas, 1889) and Flowers, an acrylic and silkscreen print with pencil on linen by Andy Warhol. See these images and others in a fun read in the Huffington Post titled Blue is the New Orange – about the color blue, written by Katherine Brooks (12/6/16).

 

The author writes blue is now the most popular color in art. See 28 gorgeous examples, with art by Degas, Warhol, Picasso, Yves Klein, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, Matisse. Rothko, and more.

 

Yves Klein IKB 241

The image above is an untitled Blue Monochrome by the artist Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962). Photo credit: Levy Gorvy at Art.sy. Klein created a color field painting in a blue so rich that you have to see it in person because the blue is so intense and spectacular. In an artsy.net article titled Yves Klein’s Legacy is about Much More Than Blue (Jan 9, 2017), Tess Thackara wrote Klein was seduced by the deep cerulean blue of the French Mediterranean Sea and obsessed by the brilliant blue skies in Nice. Yves Klein worked with a paint dealer and created International Klein Blue (IKB), a matte version of French Ultramarine blue paint. The color is gorgeous.

 

CHOOSE BLUE

Some blues cannot be mixed. You have to buy the paint in tubes or jars to get the exact color. I work with acrylic. Visit Dick Blick online and see a color chart that shows all Golden heavy body acrylic colors sold in a paint tube or jar. You can see every color imaginable. Choices for Blue colors include: Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Teal, Cobalt Turquoise, Ultramarine Blue, Light Ultramarine Blue, Manganese Blue Historic Hue, and Phthalo Blue (green shade and yellow shade)

I have all these colors in my studio. I typically mix some small amount of one blue into another blue to create variations in hue and tone, and add other colors like yellow and white, grey or green to change the color absolutely. But, if you want cobalt blue, you have to use the tube that’s cobalt blue.

 

I hope you are inspired by the color blue. Your comments are welcome.

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2 thoughts on “The Color Blue

  1. Another interesting and informative piece, Nancy. And your explanations of your own art are fascinating! Thanks so much. Hoping all is well and that I’ll get to see you soon. Warmest, Valerie

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  2. Hi Valerie,
    I love to read your comments because you are so thoughtful. I hope you have a wonderful summer, do fabulous art projects, and that we get to see each other in person soon. Let me know about your projects. Best wishes, Nancy

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