The artist that invented pointillism, Seurat, had his color theory down to a science. I wish I knew how he did it but I see so many variations of pointillism I guess most artists put their own spin on it.
Last week when I got to Back Bay the clouds were so pretty I couldn’t resist trying to paint them. It was windy and the clouds were moving fast. I got some general shapes dotted in for the cloud shadows and when I wanted to puff them up with more volume they were all different so I decided to wing it when I got home.
I can’t tell if this experiment is working or not. If it’s not, and you can tell me how to improve next time, please don’t be afraid to advise me. I’m not sensitive about a critique and I don’t feel emotionally attached to my paintings, so my feelings don’t get hurt easily if it’s a flop.
The thing about painting at home is there are too many distractions here. When I go out to paint in plein air I’m leaving everything behind and concentrating on the drawing and painting. It might seem like people out in public would be a worse distraction but the people don’t bug me. I like when someone is interested in what I’m doing. Most of the time I’m alone out there except for walkers passing through.
You know that funny feeling when you walk out on a wooden pier and you can see down between the boards and the water is moving under your feet? That happened to me yesterday at Back Bay.
There was a nice breeze and the water was moving pretty fast and so were the clouds. It made me feel a little dizzy but I’m a landlubber. I got used to the movement. It was beautiful out there, sunny windy and not too hot. I hung around for hours dotting my pointillist painting and mixing colors so I could continue dotting at home.
Some people were there but not too many, which I was glad for because dotting paint would look weird to the average tourist and I didn’t feel like explaining that I’m trying to do a pointillist painting.
I enjoyed the experience even more than my ordinary plein air experiences, and that feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day. It was real zen.
There are two experiments happening here, pointillism and masking fluid on oil paint.
I can’t find much technical advice on pointillism, like did the pointillists do an underpainting? Did they mix colors or use paint straight out of the tube? Are the dots supposed to touch, overlap or should there be space between all the dots? I’m going to have to guess. I know the rules of the academy. If I knew the rules of pointillism I’d try to stick to them for the learning process. Maybe there are no rules.
There’s an app for making dots if you like to do digital paintings, but I’m not into apps and it might be better for me to just wing it so I can improve my painting skill.
In this close up you can see the masking fluid dots which are covered by ultramarine blue.
I want to save some bright orange dots to represent shiny reflections of the sky on the water. It would be easier to have bright orange dots showing ( if this works) than if I paint the orange on top of the water when I’m finished with painting the water dots because the orange is a transparent color and if I want to put orange on top of blue and gray dots I’d have to underpaint them with white like I did with my azaleas, which are a transparent pink. I need to put water colored gray dots on top of the blue and that will make a thicker layer of paint on top of the masking fluid and also take over a week to dry before I can try to take the masking fluid off the painting to show the orange dots. It might not work out or it might work. Either way, I’ll post the results.
This is a color experiment in more than one way. I under painted my paper with orange because it’s the complimentary color of blue. The sky isn’t really blue but kind of hazy when I go to Back Bay lately. And the water isn’t really blue but kind of a mixture of two different grays.
You can see the underpainting of the foliage on the opposite shore. I did it with a red gray because it’s mainly a greenish gray and the red gray would be the complimentary color.
This was a real no no at the academy, tinting the painting with an unnatural color to start. They would call this “forcing color”. It might take away any depth and the academy was into creating the illusion of depth. Modern art doesn’t care about aerial perspective which is the illusion of depth. Pointillists were modern.
I often see a landscape with a bright tint showing that isn’t there in nature. Some artists like violet or red and will tint their canvas with a bright color because the landscape around here doesn’t have any bright colors and the artist doesn’t like to paint mostly grays. You can see spots of violet or red or some color showing through between brush strokes. It’s a modern look and it does take away any aerial perspective. When I see a bright tint showing through I say to myself, “forced color is weak.” Now I’m doing it.
This is 18 x 12. Dotting the whole paper will take some time. That’s ok. Patience is my super power! hahahah
Pointillism is a scientific style of painting. I never saw a class offered on it but I wanted to try. I read a few articles and they don’t give much information so I had to make my best guess. I’ll give you my questions and if I got it wrong please tell me.
The first thing I could get from my research was that Seurat used the paint straight out of the tube without mixing colors on the pallet. Did he thin the paint with turp or not? I guessed not. Then I saw my dots forming peaks. Did Seurat have peaks on his dots? How large are the dots supposed to be? Can the dots overlap? Can the paint mix on the canvas when the dots overlap?
One article said Seurat had 11 colors and white. It didn’t say what the colors were. I bought a tube of veridian green for this painting. I never buy tubes of green because I have a few yellows and a few blues so I can mix the green I need. But to try to stay true to the no mixing colors on the pallet rule, I bought the green. Then I broke the no mixing rule when I added white to cobalt blue and then I added white to the green. I didn’t use gray because I know modern artists don’t like gray and Seurat probably never used it.
One of the articles said there should be an underpainting. I usually tint my canvas before I do my underpainting, but this time I did my underpainting on a white canvas.
It’s important to keep color theory in mind in pointillism. I took a class long ago in color theory and remember some things like using complimentary colors and using tints of equal value to create the visual mix of gray or the visual mixing of colors that vibrate, and how colors look different on top of other colors.
Is this experiment a success or a failure? I don’t know, but this is my first attempt at pointillism and I’ll try again some time in the future.