January 16, 1917 Tom’s Laws

January 16, 1917

I’m at the Public Reference Library on College St. and I found this book with Chevreul’s Laws. Chevreul invented, or discovered, the ‘Chevreul Illusion’ that bright edges seem to exist between identical colours that are of different intensities. Back in 1914, Jackson taught me about Chevreul and helped me to experiment with my paintings. By the fall of 1914, when we were up North with Lismer and Varley, Jackson was shocked at what I was doing with colours. I told him I owed it to Chevreul.

By chance today, I found a book that has Chevreul’s laws. I thought it would be handy to have these written down when I’m painting back at the Shack (I can’t take this book out of the library). I know what they are by practice, but it’s good to have them written down.

Chevreul’s Laws:

  1. Colours are modified in appearance by their proximity to other colours.
  2. A light colours seem most striking against black.
  3. All dark colours seem most striking against white.
  4. Dark colours upon light colours look darker than on dark colours.
  5. Light colours upon dark colours look lighter than on light colours.
  6. Colours are influenced in hue by adjacent colours, each tinting its neighbour with its own complement.
  7. If two complementary colours lie side by side, each seems more intense than by itself.
  8. Dark hues on a dark ground which is not complementary will appear weaker than on a complementary ground.
  9. Light colours on a light ground which is not complementary will seem weaker than on a complementary ground.
  10. A bright colour against a dull colour of the same hue will further deaden the dull colour.
  11. When a bright colour is used against a dull colour, the contrast will be strongest when the latter is complementary.
  12. Light colours on light grounds (not complementary) can be greatly strengthened if bounded by narrow bands of black or complementary colours.
  13. Dark colours on dark grounds (not complementary) can be strengthened if similarly bounded by white or light colours.

Since I am headlong into painting, they made me think of what might be: ‘Tom’s Laws about Paintings’. I’m not sure there are thirteen, but I’ll see what I can come up with.

  1. Paintings are modified in appearance by those who have feelings about what they see.
  2. Paintings are most striking when the subject is something that is otherwise viewed as useless or ugly.
  3. Two similar paintings (or sketches) when viewed side by side can have more power together when viewed alone.
  4. A series of paintings, one after another, can tell a story that no words can tell.
  5. Stories with no words are stories of feelings are best told by a series of paintings.

Only five laws before I came up with a good idea. As I was writing I began to think about the Bayeux Tapestry and started to realize why it is so powerful.  It tells a story – scene by scene – it’s a story, not of words, but of feeling.

This is the idea. When I go up in the spring, I’ll paint something like the Bayeux Tapestry, but with boards. I’ll record the events and transition of spring. I’ll paint something together everyday and when I’m done, I’ll put the whole thing together, the records of spring. It’ll tell a story of spring, not in words, but in feeling.

The bell is ringing. They’re closing the library. I have to pack up and get out.

I just thought up a law about artists:

  1. If an artist dislikes another artist, it’s best to leave it that way.

I’m afraid this applies to some of the artists that I know.