Thursday, June 30, 2016


The next composer I would like to translate into color is Henry Purcell.  Working around the same time as Corelli, he was none the less using more notes and a more complicated palette as a result.  Corelli was in Italy and Purcell in England.  Did they ever get to hear each other's music?  Unlikely.  How things have changed.

I have chosen to "translate" the first 8 measures of Purcell's Festival Rondeau, this time C is Green.

Go HERE to listen to the music.

Here is the top part.

 Second part.

Third part.

4th part

Whole 8 measures of Purcell's Festival Rondeau

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Sorry I promised Mozart for today but he will have to wait for some of his predecessors to take the stage and show their colors.

By the time Arcangelo Correlli was born in 1653 musical notation was an established way of sharing compositions.  Music had gotten more complicated with more rhythmic variation.  Composers by this time are using a greater range of tones instead of confining themselves to two octaves they are delving into many more highs and lows.  In this Sonata by Corelli the top voice alone spans more than an octave.  And the bottom voice has the piece complete three octaves.  You will notice I have faded each note into black.  I decided to do this as when each note is played it fades after it is played.  In yesterday's piece the notes are held until they blend together but in this performance the notes are clearly defined.
To hear the whole piece go here and click on "listen".

top part of first 8 measures of Corelli's Sonatina in A Minor

Bottom Part of 8 measures of Corelli's Sonatina in A Minor

Two parts together

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Color Music

Why does the music look as it does?

You see the sheet music so you know that the first note of the piece is going to be
high D or Light purple so that goes in the center and it will take up two spaces, the next note C will take up two spaces as well, and the next, but then there is a little variation and the C or light red will only take up one space with the B taking up a half space and so it goes.  The amount of space each color takes up is determined by the amount of time each note is played.  So in affect the sheet music allows us to see a color pattern.

The top part is then placed with the bottom by dividing the parts into equal parts.  In a large piece (60" square or more) I used a 3/4 inch strip of color because it seemed to mix in the eye best when standing the usual distance from the work.  In these smaller pieces I have used very small strips of color.  Today's version has smaller strips than yesterdays and I think it works better.  I also like the rests in grey rather than white as it is more of a 'rest' instead of a stop.

rests in grey, smaller divisions of color

I did think these colors were beautiful together.  They were not anything I would have chosen but they really sang.  And so I began to see what other music would look like using this system of translation.

Tomorrow Mozart.

Please pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Back in the attic it was time to try a piece of music and see if the colors were beautiful together.  I decided to start with the first music I could find that was written down.  At this time I did not have a computer as it was in the 70's so I had to go to the library and see what I could see.  It was all very interesting and I discovered that although there probably was music in Egypt and Rome there is no recorded history of notation that has been found.  There is however notation from the Greeks. This is one of the most marvelous things about music, that there is notation that allows us to see exactly what notes any given composer has in mind from hundreds of years ago and reproduce the music today.

Here is eight measures of the music I chose and the translation of all the words.  You might like to listen to the music as you read the words.  You'll notice that all the notes are very close in tone, nothing very high or very low and the notes flow into each other without a pause.  This is typical of early music.  It holds together because of the tones, rhythm is not very important.

Compose a tearful melody,
weeping in elegy;
a time for lamentation has come,
a time that steals joys.
At this eclipse sorrow’s night
distorts what we see;
Let sadness rule, for the
cause of sorrow stands in the watchtower.
The star of the Rhine
casts Latium into ruins;
the star tumbles, and the star’s fall
holds the lands in darkness.
The truly Italian region
lies concealed, afraid to be seen,
For darkness is the friend of sin
and crime seeks his old haunt.
O what a definitive demonstration
of the falsity of the world!
Through experience Truth proves
what the world is;
it delights in disasters
and is constant in its inconstancy;
Death, the prince of this terrible law,
rules without pity.

Top notes of Tange (rests are white)

Bottom of Pange

Whole Pange Melos Lacrimosum

I have taken the liberty of softening the edges of the colors a bit to echo the way the music  is performed.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Now that the Plein Air painting experience is over I can get back to the attic where I was thinking about how to paint music.

I had my keyboard ready to go.  The problem that had me thinking so long was how to represent something that happens in time.  Notes touch only the one before they occur and the one after that.  If color interaction is what is going to create color music and there is any relationship between musical vibrations and color vibrations, then the way the colors interact is key.  I began with a scale.  I placed the first note in the middle, a low C or dark red, the second note D or violet I placed around C so that it would only touch C.  The next note E or blue went around D so that it would only touch C and the next note E or blue green. And so it goes up the scale with each note/color touching only the one before it and the one after it.  This way of arranging the colors also forces the eye to the beginning - the center - and out to the edge - the end.

The colors are very close in tone, i.e. the amount of white and or black they contain, but do get slowly lighter as they move up the scale.

Since we are operating in space, not in time, we see the whole scale, not just one color at a time.  We see how all the colors relate to each other.  We don't have to remember the colors as we do when listening to notes.  Anything in time relies on memory.  A representation of any event in space does not.  We can look at it for as long as it pleases us.

The Scale of Red

Monday, June 13, 2016

Plein Air Painting

It was great to see those of you who stopped by yesterday.  They were refreshing moments in my frustrating day.  I didn’t paint a prize winning painting - not even I thought so.   I did learn a lot however and had a delicious mint chocolate chip cone to reward myself for trying.

Things I learned upon reflection in case you want to try your hand at plein air painting.

1. Do not under any circumstances paint in the sun. - I should know this as I have many very dark paintings that were a surprise to me when I brought them in the house.  The painting I finished was not too bad in the sun but had no life at all in normal light.
2.  Always be ready with a spare prepared canvas with no drawing on it so you can paint anywhere.  I was very well prepared for two sites both of which turned out to be impossible because of either sun, wind or a car in the way.
3.  Have everything nailed down in some way.  Most of my frustration had to do with being covered in oil paint a lot of the time as my palette kept blowing onto everything.
4.  Only enter competitions if you are feeling masochistic....or the prizes are really big!

The painting below is not the one I completed yesterday (that one is not dry yet) but another from Chestnut Hill that I painted last week.
Now I think the face in the window is me looking out on Germantown Avenue wondering why those people are out there on the street struggling with heat, wind and oil paint.

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Those who deliver our packages and our mail are an important part of every day that we can take for granted.  This guy is the star of the show.

Another painting from Chestnut Hill completed this week in preparation for the Plein Air Festival tomorrow.  Check out the Festival tomorrow from 10:00 to 3:00 all up and down Germantown Avenue with some special events and 40 artists trying desperately to finish a canvas.  I'm going to be working on a larger than usual piece just to keep things interesting.  I'm off today to buy some big brushes.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Nancy Herman
oil on stretched canvas
20" x 16"

This is one of the very old buildings to be found on Germantown Avenue in the heart of Chestnut Hill.  It is on the 8400 block on the East side of the street.  I will be painting on the West side this Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00 as part of the Plein Air Festival.  Come on out and watch artists trying to finish a painting in 5 hours while dodging sun, wind, cars, and people kibitzing.  Not for the faint of heart!

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Last you heard from me I was in the attic thinking about how to paint music.  Well for literary purposes I am still thinking about that.
In the mean time I have been getting ready for the Plein Air Festival in Chestnut Hill by painting scenes from the part of Germantown Avenue that I am assigned.  It is the stretch opposite Graver's Lane Gallery so I am in luck as I can duck in there to get cool if it is a scorcher.
The event will take place next Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00.  This is the rain date.  Not sure if there will be another rain date if it rains on Sunday.

Here is one of the paintings I have been working on to get ready for the big day.

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Friday, May 27, 2016


After I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 I went into my third floor and spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to go about making colors do what musical notes do so well. 

Nancy Herman
8" x 6"

I decided to see if I could somehow “translate” music to color and see if the colors made any sense to me.  Were the results beautiful or not basically.  I had already constructed my keyboard.  I placed red in the C position because red and green are in the middle of the spectrum in terms of how light they are.  My choice of red over green was arbitrary, but years later I read that Sir Isaak Newton also associated red with middle C, so at least I was in good company.  As we will see later on it is more important that the colors are tuned in a slow progression from dark to light than that any one color is in the position of C.

      Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 3.45.43 PM.png

Notice how red and green are about the same tone or shade.  (These terms apply to the amount of light a color reflects)  Yellow has a lot of light and purple keeps its light to itself.


to be continued....

Please pass along to anyone you think may be interested.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


So you can get an idea of how one color changes another, here is an exercise from the Josef Albers course THE INTERACTION OF COLOR. The two small squares are exactly the same color.  The background color changes our perception of them.   The one on the left seems darker than the one on the right and the one on the right also seems to have more of a yellow tint.

tomorrow...getting started in the attic.

Please pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Although there was never a time in my life that I was not making some form of art, after my four children were off at school, I decided to go back to college to get my degree and see what I could see that would inform my work.

At that time at the University of Pennsylvania they taught Josef Alber's course the interaction of color.  Neil Welliver, then the head of the department of Fine Arts went to Yale where Albers taught.  As a result the thrust of the department was a combination of the Bauhaus courses of Albers and painting outside from nature.  Welliver painted outside in Maine.  My instructor in painting was Rackstraw Downs who paints very large panoramic views of New York while sitting on the street.  I have been painting nature and examining color ever since.

In the Alber's course it is necessary to see the way one color changes another when they are juxtaposed in order to complete various exercises.  It is really the only class in art I have ever taken that taught something that is not subjective.  You see it or you don't,  but it really does happen.

This changing color felt like music to me.  Could there be a way to present colors in a sequence that would move the emotions the way music does?

Gould's Hill
Neil Welliver

80th Street and Broadway
Rackstraw Downs be continued

Please share with anyone you think might be interested.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Color of Music

People have asked me how I arrived at my ideas about color and music and what inspired me to spend so much time on this project.  So I here we go.  A lot of this material is covered in my book IF C IS RED, with many illustrations, but this is a more personal story.

My mother was the youngest of three sisters.  The oldest played the organ and painted, the second had a beautiful singing voice and painted.   My mother, although she played the piano and sang, never felt she measured up to her older sisters.  She had two unhappy marriages, and although she finally married someone who was just right for her, most of my time growing up was spent trying to cheer her up.  She was thrilled that I showed some talent at painting.  I was pretty much a failure at playing the piano however.  Is it any wonder then that I ended up trying to make art out of music?  This was certainly not a conscious decision but it does seem like a probable underlying motive.

I love music and really had a strong longing to make color sing in the same way that music makes sound sing. The more I thought about this, the more it seemed to me that if color were arranged in the same way that notes are, that might be possible.  So I began by constructing a color keyboard.

to be continued.....

share this with anyone you think might be interested please.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Brooklyn Building #2

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"

Everything dissolves into itself on a foggy day in Park Slope.

At auction on DailyPaintworks

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Nancy Herman
9" x 12"

While cleaning out my studio I found a small treasure trove of water colors of street scenes of New York. I was surprised at how spritely they were.  When I get back to painting I am going to try water colors again.

This one is on auction at Daily Paintworks. Here is a link to my gallery there.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I am starting to sell paintings on various websites.  Here is a promo from Ugallery an Amazon affiliate.  When I attached this picture to the site I didn't realize it included the martini as it shows up very small when you choose it from your files.  I guess it is ok to be seen drinking a martini.  I am after all not always painting. See what you think.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Yesterday was such a beautiful day I finally got outside and began weeding and planting.  While I was scooting along in my weeding chair/cart I noticed a small frog moving along with me.  He or she accompanied me all along the row.  Maybe I was stirring up some tasty worms or bugs, I don't know, but it was a pleasure to have his or her company.
Later in the day I walked to the post office through Merion park where spring is in full swing.  The new Redbuds are blooming as a greeting at the entrance.

As I was walking along the path by the creek I heard what sounded a lot like the mating call of an American Toad, the very creature I had earlier spent time with.

 What do you think is this a toad call and response?

Monday, April 18, 2016


I have been saving this wall hanging for a while because I really love it, but since I will soon be moving I am offering it for sale on eBay.  It is made of thin strips of unfinished satin, silk and cotton, woven together.  The loose threads further knit the colors together.  It is a fragile but lovely piece.  I will try to get a better picture of it on this sunny day.
Here is the eBay link

Joanna's Garden

Joanna's Garden
Nancy Herman
20" x 20"
oil on stretched canvas

Here is another painting I have been saving that has to go.  It was done several years ago in the beautiful gardens of Joanna Reed, who until a year before she died at 85 could be found working in her garden at almost any time of the day. She gardened for more than 60 years at Longview Farm, creating what many considered a living work of art.

  bid on eBay

postcards from Brooklyn

Since I have two children with families living in Brooklyn I often am inspired by the shapes and colors I find there to paint.  As a result I have just published another book in what seems to be developing into a series of Postcard books.  This one has lots of images and musings from Brooklyn and has just hit the news stands.  It is available from Amazon for only $15.00.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Song #15 Weeping Cherry at Dusk

The weeping Cherry I planted in memory of my mother, as it usually blooms on April 15th, her birthday, looks like it may be in its last year.  It is a grafted tree and the graft is oozing a lot and there do not seem to be any leaves forming after the blooms.  It bloomed quite a bit early this year so it will be the first year it has not bloomed on her birthday.  These are all bad signs.  I have painted it repeatedly and rarely gotten it just right.  Here is one more stab at it with a cheery song to lift the sad story.  It is very dark so if you want to see it best view it large by clicking on the button in the far right corner of the screen.

Here is a photo of  the tree at dusk.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Nancy Herman
8" x 10"
gicee print
(signed limited edition print on archival paper with archival ink)

In my ongoing attempt to bring art into the world at reasonable prices I offer this
print.  I created it with the software Procreate.  It has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks and it always makes me smile.  Here is the video of me "painting" it in case you forget.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Chanticleer Aloes

Nancy Herman
20" x 20"
oil on canvas

Today's painting was done in Plein Air at the beautiful gardens of Chanticleer in Wayne.  I have been saving it for a while but along with some of my other favorites it has to go to make room for new life.

Here is a link ( I hope) to the eBay auction.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Song #14 - Gridlock

Hi I am busy with spring cleaning but had to take time out to try another song.  Here it is Song #14, GRIDLOCK.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Spring is beginning to happen again.  It is still a bit cold and grey but the crocuses are up!
Shall I paint them again? And if so will I be able to do as well?  How will I have changed?
Here are some images from years past.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

color and music

This week I heard Mahler’s Symphony of a thousand at the Kimmel Center with Yanick Nezet Sequin conducting.
It was a wonderful performance balletically conducted by Sequin.  But even before it began the whole scene was beautiful to look at with the combination of red wood tones, the black and white of all the performer's formal wear and the huge glorious organ at the back of the stage.

 As the oboist hit the perfect A440 the concert master tuned his strings accordingly and all the players tuned their instruments, I once again wished that there was a tuned instrument that allowed me to play colors in time and that others would have tuned instruments with various textures to play along with me.  How glorious it would be.
We take for granted that musical instruments are tuned to a finite set of tones and because of this music can be written down and performed by anyone. This makes possible great symphonies with multiple instruments producing magnificent sound.

It could be the same with color if only someone would design an instrument to play a tuned set of colors in real time to get the ball rolling.

Pass this along to a techy friend or two.  Times awastin!

Here are a couple of examples of what it might look like for one instrument to play colors.

or maybe like this

or even this

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on gesso board

Will these two young men grow old together waiting for an opportunity to escape this corner?

This painting is for sale on ebay.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Nancy Herman's February Newsletter

Winter finally arrived this month and even though I hate the cold I was glad to see that things were back to “normal” for the sake of nature.  Plenty of art to see and a small contingent of our art lover’s group did manage to see several exhibits at Woodmere Art Museum.  We were fortunate indeed to have a private tour led by museum director Bill Valerio.  Bill has really created a kind of heaven for Philadelphia artists and art lovers as Woodmere produces one interesting show after another using the art of predominantly local artists.

The glorious show of Eileen Goodman’s water colors really took my breath away.  If you have ever struggled to control water color media you have to be in awe of these large carefully managed pieces.  I could not help but wonder why one of these beauties was not included in the still life show at PMA.  These paintings should be seen in person as the delicacy and scale of the work is amazing.  The show is there until March 13th.

Eileen Goodman

Eileen Goodman

Next we moved on to the large show in the grand rotunda space LOOK BOTH WAYS : ART AT THE CROSSROADS OF ABSTRACTION AND REPRESENTATION

This is an interesting conceit.  Is it the abstract qualities of a painting or sculpture that make it memorable?  Does the reference to “reality” disqualify a piece of art from being a strong abstract composition?  These are a couple of the questions that come to mind when looking at this selection of art.

In Bruce Pollock’s work FRUITFUL DARKNESS he has created a form that seems quite organic using abstract elements, yet it has nothing to do with the representation of any living plant.

Bruce Pollock
oil on canvas (inset)

This book made out of cut out paper and paint certainly has references to reality but the references are not what makes it arresting.  It is the juxtaposition of the paint and the paper and the choice of color, all abstract elements.

Bettina Nelson

This handsome painting definitely represents an easel but the painting is really about orange and blue.  I was  surprised to note that the blue and orange never directly touched, which would certainly have set off a strong vibration.  There is a margin of three or four colors carefully laid down between these two colors at the opposite end of the color wheel.  Very interesting and quite effective.

Joshua Marsh

This painting by Stuart Shils is one of the most representational works in the show, but like all of Shils work it is very loose and painterly.   Shils often creates paintings that are completely abstract with no obvious connection to representation and here there is a strong sense of composition, but the sky is up and the buildings are down and it is definitely a street scene.  The ability to keep a feeling for paint, an eye to the reality of what you are seeing and a strong composition is a skill that very few possess.  It is a juggling act well caught by Shils.  The buildings dissolve into paint and make the city seem mysteriously beautiful.  No graffiti on these walls.

Stuart Shils
oil on linen

I recommend both of these shows.  One for its simple beauty and the other to stir the grey matter.

Earlier in the month I visited my good friend Eleanor Schimmel’s show at Rosemont College’s Lawrence Gallery.  It is a beautiful show of her encaustic paintings.  In this group of work she lays down many layers of color and then digs into the surface to expose the layers.  Her surfaces are rich and voluptuous and the colors, partly because of the waxy texture, really sing.  There are occasional sprinkles of glitter on some of the paintings adding little fragments of colored light.  Here is a close up of one small painting.  You can see here the amazing variety of subtle color created by the combination of paint, wax and glitter. These paintings should be seen in person to appreciate their complexity.  The show is up until March 4th.

fragment from
10” x 10”

Another good friend, Alan Soffer is showing his work in West Chester at the Church Gallery.
I have not seen the show yet and it is over in 1 day so I had better hustle (you too).  It looks luscious.

If you got this far - thanks for tuning in.  While writing this newsletter I realized I have been experimenting all month with some of these ideas about abstraction and representation while creating ‘songs’ as I learn how to use the app Procreate on my iPad.  This software for the iPad allows you to “paint” using your finger or a stylus.  For me the interesting thing about it is that it records what you are doing and you can then play it back.  It plays back very quickly so the whole process takes a few seconds to view.  It is something like creating jazz with color, except of course it is not in real time.  The challenge is to make each mark matter.  The image you end up with is no more significant than any one second of the video.  I have set these experiments to music which is really the fun part.  This is a link to song #1   There are 10 songs and they follow each other if you stay on youtube.  See what you think about the difference between the abstract and the representational songs.  As you probably know if you have followed my work this is the latest series of pieces about music and color.  This time the color comes first!
Let me know what you think.  Talk next month.