The thrill of color in paintings by JW Harrington

From the start of my time painting, I’ve been a colorist, fascinated by the visual and emotional impact of color.  Form certainly matters as well – as Mark Rothko showed so powerfully.  In my decades of studying paintings, I’ve always wondered – still wonder – why Rothko’s color-field paintings enthrall me.  I’m not alone, though I’ve read quite-good explanations.

Mark Rothko's Yellow Over Purple (1956).

 While Rothko’s paintings seem to demand that the viewer look internally for meaning (and defy that meaning to be “programmatic,” since they convey emotion and introspection rather than a “story,” Clyfford Still conveyed drama in his paintings’ value contrasts and jagged forms.  I see action, even fighting, and if I want I can see narrative.

Clyfford Still’s 1949, No. 1.


I started out painting Color Abstractions, each focused on two complementary colors: 

red and green,

orange-red and blue-green,

gold and purple,

yellow and blue (with a little orange).

Not too much orange, though:  orange is quite powerful, quite jarring.


In closing, I have to acknowledge the master of color and color theory, Josef Albers.

Josef Albers, Interaction of Color (1963), Plate IV-1.


Next: what happened when I’ve added texture to color?