Monday, April 28, 2008

Pacal: The Mayan Emperor

I came came to grips with the image of Pacal's tomb when I arrived at my guesthouse on my stay at Tikal in Guatemala. The rooms were white clay pods and an American Vietnam veteran lived in the back spending his nights staring out through his telescope at the stars. Someone had drawn with a black pen, a perfect representation of Pacal's tomb on to the white clay wall of the pod I slept in.

As I fell asleep I would see the outline of Emperor Pacal, reclining but with his head forward, moving his arms, surrounded by magical forms and dancing symbology.

Tikal is one of the greatest jungle-pyramid worlds that one can visit. While I prefer the vastness of Angkor Wat, I was enraptured by the detail of information and glyphs that depicted the Mayan's deep understanding of life, science, and spirituality. Mayan astrology is interpretted here.

Pacal's tomb was discovered in Palenque (in Chiapas, Mexico) in 1952. The Emperor Pacal died on August 31, AD 683 at eighty years of age after ruling for 63 years. detail picture of Pacal's Tomb

Interpretations of what the figure of Pacal on his tomb meant have been helpful, for instance:
  • In the Maya dialects, "bone" and "seed" are synonymous.
  • The bone piercing Pacal's nose as the symbol of rebirth.
  • The object depicted above Pacal is the Tree of Life from which he is said to be falling.
However, he is not falling.

He is no more moving than the universe around him is. The object below him that gets interpreted as the setting sun is escorting him. He embraces his fate. His arms navigate the changing complexity of his surroundings.

Falling asleep with the glyph of Pacal painted on the wall, I found the that the inscription on his tomb was not so much about death, but about the process of transformation, any transformation.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Color Magic: How many colors do you see?

I just completed Dick Nelson's color class and have had my sensibilities of color completely deconstructed. Nelson was a founder of Art Maui 30 years ago and is a former student of Josef Albers.

Try this exercise:

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This is a natural phenomenon of our eyes. The background, or context of a color, affects how we see it. What the evolutionary traits of this are, I have no idea, but we've learned in the class how a painter can use these phenomenon to create luminosity-- vibrancy among colors.

The homework in the previous exercise was to make 4 different colors look as if there were only 3. The effect is not based on any tricks, if anything it is simply the illusion created by the natural state of our eyes. Our eyes are constantly adjusting not just to the light in a room but as well to the variance of color.

Impressionist painters used a similar effect in their work.

These insights on color have profoundly affected my own work.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Meet two colors, we'll call them the parents.
On the left, Purple, on the right, Blue.

By mixing each color equally, we achieve the middle child.

By adding the middle child and creating an array you will see halation.

The middle color seems to vibrate a little. If you look longer, you will note that the middle swatch of color has a little of the purple on the right and a little blue on the left.

Here's a full array of different colors with equal steps of 5 children.

How do solid colors start to look a little 3 dimensional?
Where does this gradient come from?

The effect is counterintuitive. Each of the seven rectangles above contains a unique and solid block of color. Each square is a single color and yet each appears not to be.

It's beautiful.

The colors begin to vibrate beyond their individual recognition. They suddenly know about eachother and they become luminous.

This is called halation.

Halation, as an artistic term, is the spontaneous effect of the eyes spreading color beyond it's actual realm.

When you start to see the individual color swatches as gradients, you are seeing halation. It's a phenomenon of our eyes to find a vibrancy in specific placements of colors. In the examples above, the placement of each swatch was based on equal steps to parents. Halation also occurs between equal steps between hues of equal value
definition of halation