Susan Lichtman Before I start talking about this painting, before I analyze it all over the up and down, telling you this thing and that thing about the colors and shapes, take a long moment to enjoy and experience this painting above by Susan Lichtman. I’m about to talk about it in a way that will prevent you from seeing it fresh again, so really – take your time here. When you’re ready, continue reading. Where the first place your eyes go? I don’t always start in the same place, but in most glances at this painting, my eyes tend to land on the orange arm and orange chair near the middle. I believe I’m drawn here because it has the greatest amount of color contrast – the bright orange is surrounded and interrupted by the bright blue. As a little extra attention grabber, to the left of the brightest color contrast is the brightest value contrast in the painting: the cup and the shadow. BOOM! I’m glancing through paintings on the internet and this painting reaches out and tells me to look at it. It even gives me a clear landing spot in bright complementary colors: orange and blue. It says LOOK HERE, and I do. Then what? Where is the second place your eyes go? Next I tend to look down and right. There’s a repetition of similar shapes and colors there. These aren’t as bright, but they’re the next brightest after the first. See how the spotlight area on the table is similar to the color of the skirt? And can you sort of see how maybe the shapes and angles are a bit similar? It’s not a perfect match, but could be a sort of jumbled up echo. By using slightly more muted versions of the first blue and orange, and by using slightly modified shapes, the painting has directed me from spot one to spot two. Now I wander a bit, following directional angles, repeated motifs, and related colors. After the initial impact, my gaze has slowed quite a bit. Now what? Now I’m able to look around, less of an instant reaction and more of an investigative curiosity at this point. I follow lines, and I leap to connect repeated colors and shapes. Below are a few notes on the painting’s suggested directions “GO THIS WAY” marked with pink arrows. This painting uses line, shape, repetition and motif, value, and color in a unified way to effectively direct me around the composition, deftly showing me where to look first, then second, and then putting on the breaks so I slow down and meander to look at the more subtle areas. For that reason, I also credit this painting with the infusion of time. My first looks dart around like a pin-ball, but then as the painting lets me in, I start to notice elements that are more subtle, and then in the third passing, I start to notice elements that – opposite the high contrast – have been disguised by low contrasting values and colors. I have been looking at this painting for several minutes, seeing all there is to see, and now suddenly, much to my surprise, I see the cat. Did you see the cat? The cat is painted with low contrast, so unlike the high contrast shapes that said LOOK HERE, the cat hides like an Easter egg and waits for us to discover it. Delightful! Camouflage and Reveal Take a minute to look at the painting below. Susanna and the Elders, Tintoretto, 1555/6 Don’t read on until you’ve looked at this painting for a minute. The painting above shows Susanna, a young married woman, sitting on the edge of a small pool, preparing to take a bath. She is a large pale form against a dark background, thus the highest contrast, so our eyes will tend to look at her first. As we follow her gaze and her arms down and to the left, we might notice the mirror she is gazing in before we eventually make the uncomfortable discovery that behind the hedge holding the mirror, there is a man hiding there. Had I seen the man first, I would not have entered the painting feeling private and intimate, I would have stayed outside at a comfortable distance. But I was with the bathing woman, and now I have been caught off guard. Suddenly I am uncomfortable, and I wasn’t before. Following the lines slowly back into the painting, I discover a second creepy man, also camouflaged by color and value, his shape repeating the verticals of the trees. Creepy!!! As the story goes, these two disconcerting men are lustful acquaintances of her husband. They are trying to find an opportunity to catch her alone in the garden. The painting unfolds it’s story in sequence, by the use of value contrast and shape. That’s a valuable trick. *Thanks to Zoey Frank for the lesson on Camouflage and Reveal!