Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Seeing Red

There's a story I've read about a couple of famous and now long-dead painters. Both had work accepted in an exhibit, a very important one, and their paintings for the show had been hung side by side. One painting completely dominated the other, not because it was technically better but because it was simply a more dramatic design.
A day or so before the show officially opened, the overshadowed artist removed his painting and shortly thereafter rehung it with one change, his piece now included red... where no red had been before. The tables were turned. The painting with red now was the one that attracted every eye.
Yes, there's a reason fire engines, fireplugs, stop lights and stop signs (as well as sometimes the dresses of pretty women) are red.
Though I can't remember the names of the painters involved in the above story, I can direct you to two paintings that use show-stopping red in entirely different ways. In The Red Kerchief, Monet uses red as accent, as a color "alien" to the rest of his canvas. In the amazing Red Room, Matisse uses red almost as a neutral to make every other color in his work pop with intensity.
My Stairway in Amalfi is a 24x20 oil.


  1. shirley, your paintings are beautiful!!!!!!

  2. I am happy to discover your blog, paintings, subjects, writings, I love all!

  3. What a striking painting. It is funny because I commented on my blog today that I liked the little painting I did even though it contained no red. Maybe I should add some....on her toenails.

  4. As an artist, I find one of the hardest questions to answer is "what's your favorite color?" (Mine pretty much changes daily.) For awhile I found myself almost afraid of red. It was a little too loud, a little too brazen. But Frankie can tell you, now it's a long-standing favorite! I love utilizing pops of red in my own art and even use it throughout my home decor and wardrobe.

    When I first saw Stairway in Amalfi, it instantly became one of my very favorite pieces... primarily due to the use of color! I love how red is the centerpiece of the painting but continues to peek out from every corner: on the frame of the poster, the edge of the building rail, the door frame, and the bottom of the flag. It's really the icing on the cake here, in my opinion!


  5. First thank you all for a wonderful bonquet of comments!
    Francie, I'm delighted I found your blog. Your work is lovely.
    Evhe, I so appreciate your comments. Your work is outstanding, and I consider you very lucky to live in one of my favorite countries.
    Christine, lol the colors in your painting are wonderful. Don't touch it!
    Amanda, such a clever, designing woman to see how much I enjoyed playing with red in the painting. Have I told you how much I like your blog? Isn't red a wonderful color!

  6. Hi Shirley,
    I am so glad I found your site through one of your comments on my own blog (thank you by the way!). I love your work and your commentary!
    Personally, I can't imagine life without red. I realize that it is obvious in my own work, though I never deliberately think that I need to paint "red" scenes or objects.
    On an interesting note, the majority of my paintings that are red in nature sell quickly. Keep up your great momentum!

  7. Thanks, Joelle. The fruit paintings on your blog are luscious. I may have to test what you say about selling and red!

  8. Hi Sirley, thanks for popping in and visiting me at my blog. I am glad I have found your site and the story with the two painters is fascinating. Kay

  9. Hello again Shirley. Corot loved using little dots of Cadmium red. Love it. Keep it up.

  10. Thank you, Kay and Julie. Cadmium red is such a wonderfully versatile color, isn't it!

  11. Love the painting and the story. Bravo!


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Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...