written by Johannes Itten
from Design & Form: Basic Course @ the Bauhaus
In my Vienna painting class of 1918 I had a talented student of a most characteristic type.
She was delicate, small, shy, and soft-spoken. Her eyes were like moonstones, and her pale skin was transparent.
She wore her hair loose, and while she worked it sometimes fell over her face like a veil.
Her drawings and watercolours were without lines, in gray tones as if veiled;
they conformed exactly to the appearance of the artist.
This observation led me to recognize subjective forms and colours also in the works of other students.
Simple people, unspoiled by schools, nearly always work in their subjective forms and colours.
Where false instruction had destroyed the aptitude for original form,
I found exercises which led the various students back to their appropriate forms.
The subjective character can appear in various ways:
in the proportions, the form character, in light and dark,
in lines, in textures, in colours, and often in combination of these means of expression.
There is a relationship between the shapes of man and the forms which he designs.
The same forces which produce the specific shapes of a man
according to his physical, spiritual, and intellectual constitution are able to influence the man's work.
When a man is genuine, everything he does becomes a reflection of his own formative powers.
Fig. 184 illustrates the problem of these forces in a moving way.
A curiously twisted figure sits on a cube, it seems unbalanced and lopsided.
The student actually suffered from a hip ailment. All her drawings lacked balance until I pointed this out to her,
and she was able to correct the fault rationally.
Another student never used tones in her compositions and drawings, always lines -- crinkled and curly, if possible.
She was blonde, fair-skinned, with strands of curly hair.
Everything simple became complicated in her mind; she did not easily find her way in life.
Figs. 187 and 188 represent a student with broad, large-scaled features, black hair and eyes.
Her strong, simple, and large-scaled appearance is clearly reflected in the two designs which she made at the beginning of the first lesson.
The first goal of all teaching should be to develop genuine seeing, genuine feeling, and genuine thinking.
Empty, superficial imitations should be removed like warts. Encouraging a return to original creativity frees the students
from the constraint of mere outside learning. Every subjective form is genuine when it corresponds to the temperamental constitution of the artist.
I distinguish three basic types, the naturalistic-impressive, the intellectual-constructive, and the spiritual-expressive.
Figs. 189 and 190 show a clear example of the naturalistic-impressive [type]. The drawing is the result of sharp visual observation
and precise representation to the smallest details. The naturalistic-impressive type starts by observing the natural varieties
and represents them realistically without expressive additions.
The spiritual-expressive type is guided by intuitive feelings; he neglects the constructive forms
and studies the tone values with special care (Figs. 191 and 192).
When we compare the two portraits, Figs. 192 and 194, we can easily see that these two students have entirely different temperaments.
They worked side by side.
One experienced the variety of light and dark tones emotionally;
the other sough concise, clear, and constructively secure forms.
Figs. 193 and 195 show another pair of wholly different personalities. The roses (Fig. 195) are designed quite freely in tone values. The organic form relationship is dissolved into free emotional and expressive forms. In Fig. 193 the same roses are drawn in constructive, organic, and clearly geometrized forms.
In teaching drawing from nature I often gave the following assignment: Interpret the object first expressively, then constructively, then naturalistically, and finally in a generally valid design synthesis. Naturally, the student always succeeds best with the assignment which conforms to his own temperament. Such exercises shed a clear light on the strong and weak points of each constitution. Through his reason, man is able to recognize the impersonal principle and to use it objectively. In a deeper sense, all measuring and constructing is a method to overcome personal limitations and shortcomings and to arrive at an objective and generally valid statement.
When dealing with subjective colours or subjective forms, it is valuable for teachers and artists to know and consider these facts. Such study leads us to recognize our own powers and to respect the other-ness of our fellow men.
Teachers should be careful not to urge their own forms and colours on the students. Every student's own subjective gifts should be unlocked. The objective principles of form and colour help the student to strengthen his own powers and to expand his creative talent.
This is so interesting - referring to the first half: could it then be possible to predict what sort of expression the artist would use by merely looking at them?
If I had to place myself in one of the three given styles it would have to be intellectual-constructive (not that the former is necessarily true) but I am obsessed by straight and bold lines and even in life drawing the person drawn always appears with corners and geometric shapes.
It pleases me, but others don't like them at all.
^ i would say the same thing to you too looking like your drawings
very nice to see you here again btw! & thank you
C_D that is a good point
Being able to see what they are like by looking at their face
but faces can sometimes be deceiving i think...
i can't say if people would say i look like my work. they seem maybe more, pleasantly surprised
i notice my drawings in high school look very much like the girl in post#3 and i had curlier hair back then haha. i don't think i was complicated though.
In my design class we made colour harmonies/ colour palettes;
The story is based on something about ourselves
This was mine (circa early 2007)
I wrote that most of them were tinted or shaded to express a reservedness in behaviour, and also that the majority of the colours were blue and grey blue. Then here and there few sparks of saturated colour scattered throughout: unorganized and unpredictable. Unexpected changes in mood.
In the centre complementary red and green like "yin and yang." The red is softened to say that the contrast or opposition between the two colours is not very extreme. They are almost 'friends.' There is also a very, very light red near the corner to show an imbalance/ instability.
Camera's not very good on this computer so the streaks are lost in the photo. They also change, horizontal and vertical all over the grid.