Part of the allure of oil painting is the open time the paint affords. This refers to the time, during which, one can apply and rework the painting surface, allowing for revision and correction. Unlike acrylic paint which is dry to the touch in a matter of minutes or hours. Open time allows for more contemplation and doesn't demand immediacy. One can return to the palette over the course of the day without having to worry about whether all the paint has dried up. Like other paints, one can alter the viscosity of oil paint by the addition of additional oil or solvents such as mineral spirits, this results in different levels of flow and transparency.
Materials that transmit light (oils included) have what's called a refractive index. For example, that of water is around 1.3 (a unit-less measure) and diamond's is closer to 2.4 which explains why diamonds are so brilliant and characterized in terms of their "fire." The refractive index of many oils is generally higher than water but lower than diamond, which means oils will refract or bend light to a greater degree than water will. This results in a more intense, saturated color as thought the pigments are suspended within a crystalline matrix. Pigments merely mixed with water don't seem to have the same depth. Similarly acrylic paint (essentially synthetic plastic binder and pigment) does not give the depth of color that oil does. It can tend to be more shiny (reflection) than rich (refraction). In college I did a bit of acrylic painting, which my professor derided as "that nasty plastic paint." She had a strong visceral reaction to it, in virtue of her entrenched painting traditions.
One thing that professor did encourage was my synthesis of painting with my interest in Jazz, (often bringing up the painter Leland Bell, seen above, who was apparently a drummer) which gave rise to several musically themed paintings. One of those is seen above (about 3x4 feet) featuring visual representation of a Saxophone Quartet. Having had much experience playing the saxophone (10 years) I wanted to explore the possibilities of the instrument as a source of visual inspiration, especially the mechanics of the instrument. Keys, rods, curves and reflections provide a lot of information and opportunity to explore spacial relations and interactions of light with surfaces.
Music and Painting both capitalize on repetition, rhythm, tone, and terms/concepts like staccato and legato. There is an interpenetration of the descriptive lexicons between the disciplines, and often descriptions of the visual are framed in terms of music and vice versa. Sounds might be described as dark, bright, dull. Colors are muted, or toned up. Good painting and music both take advantage of and give attention to relationships, temporal, spacial and tonal. Painters might try to "lead" a viewer through a work slowly, breeding contemplation. Similarly composers of music vary their tempos so as to linger and draw out a phrase/passage. Variation in color both visual and musical derives from the use of a range of colors, some subdued, some more clear and vibrant. A balance of subtlety and energy, not a tendency toward extremes (unless the intention is thus).
A piece of music will not typically be built of sixteenth notes exclusively as the monotony overwhelms and bores, where-as the (perhaps more suitable) repetition in painting may be suggestive of something beyond the painting as seen in Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie, indicative of the Rhythms of New York City (see below)
The essential difference between music and visual art seems to be the time dimension. Paintings are viewed and reviewed at a pace that isn't dictated to as great an extent in music. To take in a whole musical creation one must endure it's totality through time. Paintings are in a sense grazed upon, each visit yielding a fuller understanding (like re-playing music) but not so mediated by time. Time often passes without notice in a museum (I usually need hours to go through exhibits), whereas a Waltz seems more temporally constrained. As time passes, both music and painting affect us differently and more profoundly, our experience opening up new understandings.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.