Alexandra Drysdale Artist



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Let There Be Light: the art and science of light in paintings
Out of the Blue: the story of blue in art
Red Vibrations: the story of red in art
Journey of the River from the Source to the Sea, in the company of artists
Air, Angels and Aeroplanes
Down to Earth: depictions of earthly delights
On the Way to the Wedding: depictions of love in art
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: German Art 1900-1940

Study Days:
Pulling Pictures Apart
Cardinal Colours: red, yellow and blue
Painting the Elements: earth, water, air and fire
Let there be Light: the art and science of Light in Paintings
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: German Art 1900-1940




Cardinal Colours: red, yellow and blue
Study Day: three one hour lectures

This Study Day explores the art, science and history of the three Primary colours, red, yellow and blue.

Lecture 1
Colour theory and Yellow

The day begins with an introduction to the history of Colour theory, starting with the first colour wheel made by Sir Isaac Newton in 1706. We shall then look at how the concept of the three Primaries influenced art, focusing on the Dutch 20th century “De Stijl”. This is followed by an in depth analysis of the use of yellow in art.

Yellow is associated with the sun and gold, with happiness and prosperity. But it is also associated with autumn and maturity, and with jaundice and cowardice. Today one probably thinks of High Visibility jackets and rape seed fields but it is only by studying the use of yellow in art that we truly come to realise its full range of significance. As a colour it has a narrow tonal range from light to dark but being one of the three Primaries it can have a multitude of tints, depending whether it is mixed with blue or red. Artists are dependent on the pigments available to them, so we shall look at the history of pigments and how this influenced the course of art, from the yellow ochre used in cave paintings to the chrome yellow beloved by Van Gogh.

Lecture 2

Red is the most powerful of all the colours and its range of expression is extreme, from demonic scarlet to angelic pink. Pure red is the colour of passion. This is because of its association with blood and fire. When we fall in love our blood is on fire! Like blood and fire, passion can be both creative and destructive. We will look at the way artists have used red to express these opposing energies.

Some artists use red for purely aesthetic reasons, typically done to draw attention to a small detail, other times red is used to express emotion or to symbolise social status or a religious idea. We shall look at the history and use of red pigments and red’s relationship to the other two primaries, yellow and blue.

Lecture 3

Have you ever wondered where the blue in medieval illuminated manuscripts came from, or how chemists of the nineteenth century invented synthetic blues?

The Ancient Britons tattooed their bodies in a blue dye, and, two thousand years later in a Parisian art gallery Yves Kline in a public performance painted his nude models blue and dragged them across his canvasses.

Why does the Virgin Mary wear blue and what is significant about the blue used by Gainsborough in his portrait “The Blue Boy”? These are some of the questions that I will be addressing.

The story of blue takes us from the lapis lazuli mines in Afghanistan to the studios of Titian, Vermeer, and Hokusai, Picasso and Matisse, to name but a few. The spirituality of Blue led Kandinsky and Franz Marc to name their art movement “The Blue Rider” in 1911.

As a professional artist myself, I pay special attention to the language of art within each painting: the structure, colour and tone.