About A W Morton

Artist's statement



> Painting light
> Copyright essay
> Other publications


Morton, A W (not published), Painting Light —The theory and practice of painting Highlights and Shadows.

Bill has developed a new theory of painting highlights and shadows, which examines the underlying theories of painting light and provides a detailed account of the practical mixing and painting of highlights and shadows.

Painting Light - The Theory & Practice of Painting Highlights & Shadows - By A.W.Morton

Highlights and shadows theory

As artist and teacher, Bill Morton has made a wide-ranging survey of most of the published colour theories to date. It is accepted by most practising artists that a sound working knowledge of colour and colour theory is an essential prerequisite of good technique.

Apart from the obvious areas of harmonies and contrasts, colour and composition for example, one standout area of interest for this artist is that of highlights and shadows. From both a theoretical and practical stand point, this is a critical aspect of painting technique.

Painting Light - The Theory & Practice of Painting Highlights & Shadows - By A.W.Morton

The correct rendering of the effect of light on form is essential for the representational/realist artist. Paradoxically, no colour theory to date has satisfactorily explained the phenomenon of light and how it behaves when it falls on form/colour. For a long time this has been a vexed question for artists. It has even been postulated that Leonardo da Vinci left some works unfinished because he had not come to terms with this aspect of technique.

Against this background, Bill Morton has developed a theory for painting light, that is highlights and shadows. The theory has been subject to a peer-review process—thus far, it seems, successfully. It is hoped that the article will be published soon and available commercially.

Above: Page excerpt from Bill Morton's article, Painting Light.

The initial concept, the terminology, the very nomenclature of ‘master colour/highlight colour/shadow colour’ was that of the late, great David Fowler. As a young student, I found David to be a seminal teacher, one of those profoundly influential people one encounters occasionally on life’s journey. He conducted weekly classes out of his Paddington studio in Brisbane and I was privileged to be a student there during the 1960s. In those classes, he taught the techniques of painting light—that of highlights and shadows—and it was here that I was first introduced to the term ‘master colour’.

This is sometimes referred to by others, and indeed other authors, as ‘mother colour’, ‘local colour’ or ‘object colour’. The idea, however, the very term ‘master colour’, was essentially a David Fowler invention. I think he wanted to convey the idea that this was the ‘progenitor colour’, or the ‘mother colour’, from which the two new highlight and shadow colours are made. And, it must be said, the technique as set out in Practical mixing and painting: highlights and shadows is pure David Fowler methodology.

The business of painting light is as it was taught by David Fowler all those years ago. It involved a particular palette technique, which emphasised the importance of mixing highlight and shadow colours. Predominantly, the two new colours are obtained by adding red and blue to the master colour to make a shadow or by adding white and yellow to the master colour to make the highlight. In that sense, the master colour is the starting point; it is the ‘parent colour’ from which the new highlight and shadow colours are made.

Morton, A W (2008), 'Copying EssayThe Hazards of Copying', Toowoomba Art Society Newsletter, Toowoomba.

> Click to View PDF of Copyright Essay by A.W.Morton

Bill Morton has long believed that industry standards in the visual arts are being seriously compromised as evidenced by the standard of much of the work nominated for exhibition, both general and competitive. One of the most hazardous and questionable practices in this culture is copying.

It is unconscionable that some work resulting from copying has been known to turn up in exhibitions nominated as ‘original and unaided work’. In these circumstances, it must be incumbent upon teachers to issue cautions to students of the risks of such practices. The risks are as high for the student’s growth and development as they are for the possible breach of copyright.

Above all, copying is sending entirely the wrong messages regarding general art practice to student and novice artists. Further, it does not lend appropriate emphasis to the importance and the efficacy of the discipline imposed by the sketch book. There are undeniable benefits to working directly from the observed world and the virtues of drawing are indispensable for the development of all artists.

Against this background, Bill wrote and published in the local art society newsletter his essay addressing many issues and raising many important questions germane to modern art practice.


Other publications which feature A W Morton's work


  > Durack, N and King, P (1985), Downs Artists—A Changing Landscape, Darling Downs Institute Press, Toowoomba.

Left - painting featured

"Old Ironbark Tree and the Dumaresq Valley" (1983) Pen/Ink/Wash/Scrubb Drawing
Collection: Parliament House, Brisbane, QLD
  > Millington, J (1987), Tropical Visions, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane.

Left - painting featured
'View in the Road Paddock' (1984)
Watercolour/Gouache Painting
Private Collection
  > Germaine, M (1984), Artists and galleries of Australia, Boolarong, Brisbane.



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