As a teacher, Dick Nelson shares wholeheartedly his decision-making process, strategies and discoveries. Dick prefers to present the questions and let the student find the answers (or new questions). This technique guides each student to make discovery the process of his or her unique creative path.
Here’s a sampling of memorable questions, quotes and teasers from Dick’s classes:
- Artists are problem solvers. They thrive on their ability to SEE, UNDERSTAND, and visually RENDER the realities of their external or internal world.
- Creation requires decisions.
- Knowledge of visual options serves the creative individual.
- Without knowledge of our options, we are simply prisoners of our own ignorance.
- Omit any of the formal qualities of art only by conscious choice—not out of ignorance.
- Do not let your creative freedom be imprisoned by assumptions.
- Nothing is wrong with your first idea, but it is seldom the final plan.
- Begin with the attitude that limitations are launching pads rather than stifling prisons. By first identifying the preconceptions we all bring to problem solving, we improve our ability to recognize true limitations from those that are self-imposed.
- Art is seldom created by committee. Individuals, creating personal and independent statements, follow a course which they alone map. List, in the order of priority, a set of personal and realistic “commandments” that might serve as a map for your aesthetic course of action. Include a “why” with each commandment (the primary reason for its inclusion).
- Identify what is “real” for you, individually.
Perception & Artistic Creation
The Big Questions
- What was I trying to do?
- Did I do it? Was it worthwhile?
- How can I use what I have learned?
What three questions might you always ask about a piece of art?
- What is the artist trying to say/do?
- Did the artist do it?
- Was it worthwhile?
What questions might you ask about your own work?
- What am I doing?
- Is this what I intended?
- Have I overlooked other possibilities?
In art, a whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts.
Which visual phenomena can be used to integrate form and color?
Perception involves many visual clues that tell us, for example, the degree of transparency, the intensity of light, and the distance between forms in space.
“Artists seeking to recreate visual phenomena must first see the phenomenon and understand why we see it as we do, then find the means to communicate this information…This requires seeing shape, value and color…”
…the art form should have a focus or an idea around which all elements of the composition respond to. Saying too much…or omission of essential elements loses the message…”
We should be aware of the difference between making an objective, descriptive statement and being judgmental.
- “Cropping is a form of editing.”
- How can a composition invite you in as compared to holding you out in the audience?
- How can we compare linear and painterly compositional interpretation in art?
Examination of an Impressionist painting reveals colors that are, in most cases, toned or grayed. Step back a few feet, however, and marvel at the luminosity created by vanishing boundaries.
Paintings were traditionally viewed as a window to the world. We looked through this window into an illusion of reality. The Realists, and those who share their views of reality, ask us to look at, not through, this window.
What is more real, a colored square or a portrait?
A student of James McNeil Whistler stated, “I tend to paint what I see!” Whistler replied, “Aah! The shock will come when you see what you paint!”
“Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.”
– John Ruskin
“Your own authenticity is sacred. Don’t give up your own story.”
– Joseph Campbell
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Don’t follow the critics too much. Art appreciation, like love, cannot be done by proxy: It is a very personal affair and is necessary to each individual.”
– Robert Henri
“You can submit to materials, which is the ideology of the truth to material. Or you can display your mastery in making the material submit to your will.”
– Ernst Gombrich
“…the student should first become aware of form problems in general, and thereby become clear as to his own real inclinations and abilities. In short, our art instruction attempts first to teach the student to see in the widest sense: to open his eyes to the phenomena about him and, most important of all, to open to his own living, being, and doing. In this connection, we consider class work in art studies necessary because of the common tasks and mutual criticism.
“I was thirty-two…threw all my old things out the window, started once more from the bottom. That was the best step I made in my life.”
– Josef Albers
- Any image that appears three dimensional on a flat surface must be an illusion.
- There are two kinds of space, real and illusional.
- What is local color?
- What is a vanishing boundary? What visual phenomena did the Impressionists use to create luminosity?
- What is halation? How do you create this phenomenon?
- What creates luminosity in a painting?
- How do you create the illusion of atmosphere?
Interaction of Color
- Color will change according to its strength and surroundings
- The trained eye can discriminate some 240,000 colors. In addition to its hue, each color has a value. Determining the value of a color is not a simple task.
- We may choose to create integration and harmony, or conflict and dissonance.
- Hues and values can either contrast or blend with their surroundings.
- What are the true primary colors in pigment?
- What is Tri-hue watercolor?
- Is color absolute or relative?
A Pre-Course Inventory of Color Knowledge (This is a partial list) True or False?
- Gifted musicians with “perfect pitch” can hear a note, memorize it and then recall it when asked. A similarly talented visual artist can do the same with color.
- Color blindness is more common with men than women.
- Primary light colors are different from primary colors in pigment.
- Tints are colors with white added
- A blue light produces an orange shadow.
- Shadows, films and veils are transparent.
- A tangerine will appear more the color of an orange in a basket of lemons.
- A lemon will appear more green in bowl of yellow bananas.
- Color cannot be seen without light.
- Colors lose chroma, or become less intense, when mixed with white, black or their complement.
- Red, blue violet and green are the secondary colors in pigments.
- Colors of equal value appear as the same gray in a black-&-white photo.
- Color constancy is a term that explains why we perceive a color to be unchanged although it may appear darker in the shade and brighter in sunlight.
- Convincing the viewer that he is viewing transparency, when in fact he is looking at opaque paper (or opaque medium), requires the following: First, the hue and value relationships must be correct. Second, the format must avoid ambiguity.
- What is the difference between a film and a veil?
- Three elements must be present in order for us to sense a translucent surface. First, we must know the source of light (reflecting highlight). Second, we must see the shaded area and the shadow it casts. Third, that surface which is translucent appears more full in chroma.
Light and Shadow
- Light reveals form. Light and shade unify a picture. Forms absorb and reflect light.
- What are the primary colors of light?
- What is ambient light and how does it affect the colors we see?
- Why is “light” considered “additive,” while “pigment” is considered “subtractive”?
- How does one create the illusion of light and shade?
- In what way is the illusion of light and shade similar to that of films and veils?
- How can a correct shadow be plotted?
- Recognize that nothing can be lighter than the color and value of the light source.
- In order to create the illusion of light falling across different colors, and values, artists must recognize how light and shadow modify color.
- We perceive light on color only when it is accompanied by shade. When a shadow falls over any color, it will always appear darker and shaded (shadows act as a gray film).
- The direction from which the light comes, determines the shapes of an object’s lights and shadows. Colored light creates complementary shadows.