Thursday, December 11, 2008


Do you remember those stars you made as a child around Christmas? They were cut from cardboard and carefully covered with aluminum foil then hung from the tree proudly. They were misshapen and wrinkled, but to you they were the best thing you created and you loved them as they caught the light and twinkled.

That's why I bought this pale irridescent glass star. It reminded me of those tinfoil stars made many years ago. The colours change with every movement, going from pinks and lavenders to greens, yellows and blues.

I have learned that painting irridescence isn't easy to do. T.O.O. (the other one) suggested shiny paint, as my frustration with this piece reached the main floor of the house. The suggestion resulted in more frustration.

Then I decided that I need to really understand irridescence. Can irridescence only be recreated using pearlescent paints or man made substances outside of nature? Dichroic glass is a prime example. Or is it a matter of very detailed dissection of a subject through colour and value changes, not daring to breathe or move while you do so, lest the light and colour move with you?

Wikipedia states:

Iridescence is an optical phenomenon in which hue changes with the angle from which a surface is viewed. Iridescence may be easily seen in soap bubbles and butterfly wings.

Iridescence is caused by multiple reflections from multi-layered, semi-transparent surfaces in which phase shift and interference of the reflections modulates the incident light (by amplifying or attenuating some frequencies more than others). This process is the functional analog of selective wavelength attenuation as seen with the Fabry-Pérot interferometer.

The word iridescence is derived in part from the Greek word iris (pl. irides), meaning "rainbow", which in turn derives from the goddess Iris of Greek mythology, who is the personification of the rainbow and acted as a messenger of the gods. Goniochromism is derived from the Greek words gonia, which means angle, and chroma, which means color.

Erin Parish is one artist that I've discovered whose work gives that wonderful feeling of irridescence. She does use multimedia though and I wonder if that is the trick to making irridescence more believeable than in just paint.

I did find some information on interference pigments that may unlock some secrets to painting irridescence. I know the illusion of irridescence can be achieved on some scale in water, shells, etc through paint. This glass star doesn't present the lustre that I'm looking for. External influences in terms of lighting, movement, background surface and my skill level and reproducing it all come into play. I will keep looking for that lustre.


Lindsay said...

well you captured the irredescence very well here and I currently have some of those treasured ornaments on my tree.

I love the interference paints. I have a couple of shades and use them sparinly in some pieces.

I like these sorts of tiny joys of the season.

Anita said...

Interesting question, Jeanette. i think you should be able to capture irridescence with normal paint (but it will probably take some pra)ctice)- It must be rather like painting glass to look transparent or metal to be shiny. Don't you just love those suggestions T.O.O.s come up with - they are enough to drive you to distraction!
I love Christmas and the little things that make it so special.

Jeanette said...

I haven't used interference paints - or even seen them for sale in this little island. I shall have to investigate further and order a couple. Testing purposes only, of course... :)

Yes, I was thinking while I was painting...I can do this...I can draw glass or metal or water so why is this going all weird on me? I think I was being too broad with my paint application perhaps and need to get back to teeny detail to make irridescence look realistic.

Ahh yes, the T.O.O.s suggestions...practical yet not with an artistic eye.

Billie Crain said...

Jeanette, why not check out the works of Janet Fish?

she achieves irridescence with oils so it's possible.

Jeanette said...

Thanks Billie. I had a look and her work is lovely.

Its as I predicted I think, to get that effect, I need to get back into high detail and small brushes, not loose painting.