Color wheels from a demonstration at Hawken’s Mastery School in Cleveland. On the left is the Zorn palette, on the right is a primary or prismatic palette (plus black).

Color has a rather mercurial nature. For centuries, artists have chased after it.  

If color has ever been caught (so to speak) for the purposes of representation, it has been by putting it on top of a tonal structure. This is to say that the basis of illusion in representational art has to do with color’s relationship to  black and white, not color’s saturation.

Color is, of course, linked to the physical properties of pigment and every pigment has a particular chemical composition. All of this helps root the experience of color to materials and a methodical process. 

Color becomes evasive when we consider its’ ever shifting nature.  Color can be viewed as an event involving three participants and each participant acts independently from one another. The Perception of color comes from a combination of 1)Light (the visible light spectrum), 2)A Light Sensitive Instrument (ie. The Eye), 3)The Absorption, Reflection or Transmission of Light by an Object.

This event never stops changing. 

The good news is that artists and scientists have codified, with pigment, a use of color to represents our sense perception. These simulations of a color event are attempts to substantiate a certain sensation. 

We also have a set of words to describe the properties of a color event. For a painter, the hue, value and chroma of a color are considered when mixing pigment. Hue refers to the color category or family, as in, red, blue, green, etc. Value is a color’s relationship to black and white. Chroma is a color’s saturation or intensity. Of these, I believe that value is the most important. 

It is worth noting that the color wheel for a painter is not the same as the color wheel for a photographer, for the reason that light behaves differently from pigment. With light, color comes together to compose white (additive). With pigment, all colors mixed together make mud or something like black (subtractive).

Nor are the primaries the same. The red, yellow and blue on a painter’s palette are not the CYMK found in a printer.

We can get lost in the weeds pretty easily when addressing color. and the infinite expressive possibility of color can easily overwhelm us. Of help to artists, however, is that Color can be a source of awe. It can be cause to never stop searching and trying to catch it, if only for a moment.


Mind of the Master

Here is an interview I had a while back with the Cleveland Museum of Art about the Michelangelo exhibition: Mind of the Master –


Cleveland Zoo

Visiting a zoo with a two year old is so fun but does not allow much time to develop drawings. Here are a few gestural type things from our recent visit to the Cleveland Zoo .


From Lake Erie to Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cleveland is a unique city in many regards. One of the exceptional resources it has to offer is the towpath, a network of biking and hiking trails that connect the city to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and beyond. These are plein air paintings made along this stretch of land.

Sunset from Perkins Beach at Edgewater Park.
One of several willow trees along the coast at Edgewater.
A colony of gulls on a rainy day at Edgewater.
The Cuyahoga River on a snowy day.
The Columbus Bridge at night.
Scanton Flats at night.
Scranton Flats
From Scranton Flats toward Tremont
From Scranton Flats toward Tremont
Looking downtown from Tremont.
The river and towpath at Rockside Rd, Lock 39.
Alongside Canal Rd.
Morning light over Oxbow Orchard
Sunrise at Oxbow Orchard
A footbridge near Brecksville Station.
The towpath north of Brecksville Station.
A turn in the river near the Ira Trailhead
The towpath near Ira Trailhead
Waterlillies at Beaver Marsh

Salamander Trail

A few photos from a recent hike along Sagamore Creek, in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Replete with creek crossings, waterfalls and dense woods, it is one of the best hikes I have found so far in the park. A trip into the park is incomplete without stopping at Oxbow first.


Oxbow Orchard

Matthias and I rode bikes from Cle to Cuyahoga Valley National Park to visit Oxbow Orchard. Here are a few images from the orchard.



Micha meets Matthias and me in Fresno and together we drive to the Valley. Yosemite is of a scale that is hard to fathom. It feels great to be in such a spectacular place, in good company.

We spend the first night outside the park at the Rt 140 Entrance in El Portal. After an early start the next morning, we go to the Camp 4 Rangers Station and are able to get a site.

Then we head up Royal Arches, a long, moderate, classic route toward the East end of the Valley.


Back at Camp 4, Micha gets a haircut.

Here is the view of El Cap from Central Pillar of Frenzy, another classic climb in the Valley.

Next, we have a go at the South Face of Washington Column.

We spend the night on the dinner ledge of Washington Column, a large enough ledge to share with another group of four, mostly from Texas.

Barely discernable, Micha leads through Kors Roof.

Next, we gear up to climb The Nose on El Cap.

For the next four days and three nights we are on El Cap. We spend the first night on Sickle Ledge, second on Dolt Tower and third on El Cap Tower. Travel with three is slow and we haul a lot of weight in water, food and gear. On Dolt Tower, we are passed by Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold on their way to set a speed record of under two hours. After three nights, we choose to retreat. 12 rappels and we are back on the ground.


Kristina arrives the next day.


Picnic in El Cap Meadows.

Rachel also visits from LA.

A day trip to Devil’s Bathtub.

Scenes from Camp 4.


Then we explore the high country of Tuolumne Meadows. Here we are outside of the park near Inyo Lake.



Bon AppeTetons

Kristina, Rob and I have just come off a trip from the Tetons, a majestic mountain range in western Wyoming.

On the Road in Rob’s Honda Civic – little climate controlled pod that carried us across the country.

Our welcoming committee. An adolescent moose at the American Alpine Club Climber’s Ranch. He was send into a paroxysm of anger when we and several other cars arrived, stampeding and kicking his hind legs. Fortunately at no one in particular.

The next day’s watercolor paintings.

Swimming at Jenny Lake.

Back at our cabin. Cabin 5. A great place to lounge during the midday heat.

A pretty unreal mountain range. It dramatically juts out of otherwise flat country.

Hiking up Burnt Wagon Gulch from the Climber’s Ranch with Rob and Kristina.

Parting ways. Rob and I carried up Garnet Canyon to climbing the Lower and Upper Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton and Kristina went up to Surprise Lake.

Rob on the hike and our view from the Lower Saddle.

Flaking out the rope.

Getting some exposure on the 5th pitch of Lower Exum.

Coming around the V-Pitch on the Upper Ridge.

Rob on the ridge to the summit.

Summit photo.

Rob rapping off the Owen Spalding Route.

Back at the Lower Saddle, we broke everything down and made the 7 mile hike down to Lupine Meadows under moonlight. Kristina was kind enough to pick us up there at 2 am.

We bade our cabin and the Teton’s adieu, vowing to come back soon.

We slept in Veduwoo our first night and somewhere in Iowa the next.

And a great meal back in Cleveland.



Murals of New York City

Kristina and I just returned from a trip to New York City. The trip had several objectives- celebrate our one year anniversary, visit and stay with dear friends in Dobbs Ferry, celebrate David Dunbar’s transition away from formal teaching, have lunch with my parents, pick up my motorcycle and to visit as many murals in NYC as we could. What a whirlwind!


The self-guided mural tour was informed primarily from the book, Murals of New York City; written by Glenn Palmer-Smith and photographed by Joshua McHugh. It is a pretty large coffee table book and no small task to carry around with us. Special thanks to V. Galgano for turning the book into a weight training program.

The classic, Grand Central Station.  Even though commuters rush under it without a glance, this one is a marvel. Such soothing color harmony and easy integration with the architectural elements around it. Man’s attempt at drawing the heavens down to earth!

Through Grand Central Market, with its over-priced but beautiful goods, and across the street, Kristina, Vince and I entered the Chrysler Building. What a testament to inter-war vitality in NY.

Compositionally, this piece by Edmund Trumbull emanates in v shapes toward the apex of the spire. Full of information, it reminds me of the geometric period of ancient Greece.  One has to only wonder if it has been returned to its original glory after varnishes have dulled its color. Nevertheless, it is wonderfully unified tonally and chromatically and in accord with both the Moroccan marble and art deco interior.

Next stop, Rockefeller Center.

This cycle of grisaille paintings certainly aspires to the monumental. When you enter, you stand below a towering Colossus. It is even slightly uncomfortable, or just funny.

This is the infamous site whereupon Diego Rivera’s mural, Man at the Crossroads,  was chipped off the walls. I have had the good fortune to see a replica that Rivera made in Mexico City and I believe that Rockefeller Center is worse off for the choice to remove it.

We hopped on Citibikes and rode down to Tower One, the Oculus and 9/11 museum.

This piece was surprisingly powerful. The artist chose to paint with water color different tints of blue, trying to recollect the color of the sky on 9/11/01 above the World Trade Towers. The papers surround a relevant quote by Virgil.

The museum was pretty rough. We chose to abandon our bikes and take the Staten Island Ferry. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island were good reminders of NYC’s profound, challenging but also uplifting, human history.


The following day we visited the Met, where we took in exhibitions on Caravaggio, Irving Penn, the Modernists and Classical Greece. A walk through the park on a spectacular day took us to Old King Cole Bar. 

Maxfield Parrish’s mural is a strong delivery of whimsy and polish. He knows what to subordinate and what to accent, all in service of the depiction of a fart!


Back to CityTerm in time to celebrate with David and company. It was a wonderful evening, full of inspiring educators, toasting an extraordinary man.

Back in the city the following day. We checked into our hotel on Ludlow St. just in time to avoid a deluge of rain. We had a great meal at the Leopard, of Cafe des Artistes and got to watch Misty Copeland perform as Odette and Odile in Swan Lake.

A morning run over the Brooklyn Bridge and then it was time to hit the road. Over all, a trip for the books!


History Painting and the Problem with Art Education

An article by Robert Zeller