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Where's the red.

For my first post I thought I would go over some of the things I've learned about oil painting today.

I love the science of art, how the light passes through the atmosphere, how it reflects and hits your eye. Things like frequencies that make it long distances, and those that disperse. There are so many sciences involved at once. Sciences like Geology, climatology, chemistry, so many. Psychology of course, how a color makes you feel, or why a composition or design puts us at ease. What amazing topics, but how are they useful? I want to focus on just those areas that apply to me actually painting. That means I'll ignore the parts about X-Rays showing what medium was used on a 17th century piece. I only want the pragmatic bits. But I want to taste every bit of the detail of it, let it swirl in my mind a while, so I'll try to get to the bottom of it.

Observation, There are no reds in the distant mountains (this is not a new observation, painters going back hundreds of years wondered about this). That's a valid, and important observation that is rooted in science. It's practical because now I want to be careful not to add red when mixing my distant mountain or tree colors in a landscape. Red is a close up color essentially.

The details:

The atmosphere is made up of oxygen & nitrogen molecules that vibrate when light hits them, High frequencies, make violet light. Lower frequencies, generate red light. The molecules can vibrate very at a very high frequency and scatter the violet and blue frequencies of light far more than the greens and reds. This makes the sky look blue. Bigger molecules like water vibrate at a lower rate, scattering lower frequencies of light. Water molecules in clouds vary in size, so each water molecule scatters a different frequency of light which mixes all the light together making “white” light, so this is why clouds appear white. Sunsets and rises are a mix of reds, yellows, but they omit blue and green because of how much atmosphere they go through. None of the blue and green are left, so we finally get to see those vibrant reds and yellows. It's all about the angle of light through the atmosphere, so a high sun appearing as red isn't realistic, but a low sun can be red.

Now, I wonder why they get lighter.... Will the wonder ever end?


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