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Andrew Michaelsmith
"Green Theme" Demonstration, 22 July 2005

Webmaster's Notes:

Very unconventional; very amusing, very thought-provoking. We were given the choice between a normal demo with commentary or an academic lesson followed by a short demo. We chose the latter.

To emphasise the academic flavour, the lesson was mostly in white chalk on an old fashioned school blackboard but with enough humour to give an old-fashioned teacher apoplexy. There was a lot of "meat" - what you see here is just distilled from the notes I happened to take and photo's by Peter Johnson
A coloured surface reflects only its own colour (blue paint reflects only blue light). This is another way of saying that it absorbs all colours apart from its own - white being the result of adding all colours of light together. Knowing this allows you to work out the effect of different lights on different coloured objects.

"Warmer" describes a move to the red end of the spectrum and "cooler" toward the violet end. Warm light (e.g. low sun) leaves a relatively cold shadow; a cool light (e.g direct overhead sun) a relatively warm shadow. This way you can indicate time of day by choice of colour.
Andi hates black (except for graphic work that has to be printed) "because it contains no light". He also has a thing about the word "brown".

He said we could talk of "earth red", and this lead him straight to his alternative to black: a mixture of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine. It's a very stable, easily controlled mixture giving "warm darks" (more Burnt Umber) and "cold darks" (more Ultramarine).
Webmaster's thought: Since there's some yellow in the burnt umber the blue meant we were approaching the greens, without realising it
Andi gave a useful run-through of the half-dozen important characteristics of a painting - Colour (hue); Scale; Tone (value); Temperature; Contrast (difference) and Chroma (a cross between intensity and luminescence).

High contrast, for example, need not just be between black and white: complementaries (red/green, yellow/violet, blue/orange) can be just as powerful.
What at first seemed a humourous digression into synasthesiat symptoms turned into a fascinating discussion of how people's emotional responses to stimuli (colour, for example) differ. There was broad, but not universal, agreement about the seasonal "feeling" within series of blues and yellows on a pre-prepared chart, and about how this carried into the greens that could be obtained by mixing them together and adding touches of different reds (a touch of the complimentary can do wonders to make a too-violent colour usable). Our better differentiation of greens had evolutionary survival advantages.
Those who had sometimes found the theoretical approach difficult to follow had their eyes opened by the illustrative painting that Andi produced in the last 20 minutes. Using only the blue/green to violet end of the spectrum, he illustrated the theoretical points he had been making by gradually working, far-to-near, with colours, mostly greens, of course, that gave the impression of the stormy weather we had asked for, whilst giving a great feeling of depth by gradually warming as he painted towards the foreground.

People seem to want him back.

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