As I prepare for a solo painting show in Bear River April 15 – 23, my 1st step is to create a colour archive of all my acrylics.
There are so many ways to approach creating a body of work for an exhibition. I have to tell you that my head space up until late December was far away from painting. Our elderly cat was very sick. She’s quite a bit better, but time is catching up with her. She is such a sweet kitty, it’s hard to see her age. And, like the rest of you, I was and am still distracted and distressed by the political scene south of the border.
Meanwhile, the studio patiently waited.
I wanted to be able to focus again on the beauty of the natural world. I wanted to find out if I even had another painting in me. I set myself an easy task while listening to positive podcasts like On Being.
As you know, I adore using vibrant colour in my paintings. So what better way to get in the mood again than by painting luscious colours onto 100 little cards.
Even the action of squeezing out a pure colour and picking that up with a squared off brush with lots of spring and it, and applying it to a textured piece of paper made out of cotton is a good feeling. I hoped this exercise would restore my painting muse.
Many decades ago, I spent a total of 5 years at 2 different art schools. I don’t remember learning much about colour theory. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. I have been satisfied to let my intuition guide my colour choices but last year after taking an online colour course, I decided to become more intentional about my choices.
Artist Jane Davies is a painter, printmaker and multimedia teacher whose work and colour choice in combination excites me. She loves to experiment, has a great blog, and is very generous with her free painting tutorials. If you love working with colour, check her out.
Some of the assignments in her colour course involved covering 5″ x 7″ card with flat gradated colours. My big “Aha” moment was realizing that I could use these big swatches to guide my colour choices in painting. It’s so much easier to imagine a large area of colour using a big piece of paper than it is with tiny squares. I’m sure this applies to fabrics too.
Loving colour as much as I do means that it’s difficult limiting my palette. With this series I decided to be intentional about the colours I lay down. So 4 weeks ago, I pulled out most of my fluid acrylics and painted 3 cards for each color. One card had the pure colour, one card had white added and one had black added to the colour. Instead of mixing white with the various blues, I mixed them with the yellows. I wanted to see how many different greens I could get. In the end I had over 100 cards. (If you do this, remember to write which colours you used on the back of each card!)
Just looking at these colour swatches is exciting for me. I started to group them by what combinations appealed to me. I tried to limit myself to 3 or 4 colors per painting. It’s so much easier making the colour decision by playing with the cards. I realized that even handling colours is therapeutic for me!
Here is an example of one of the paintings I’m working on. Last summer at an artist retreat, I painted the scene on an 11″ x 14″ canvas. Recently I photographed the painting and then simplified the form in Photoshop and rendered it black and white. This helped me to take a fresh look at the shapes in the painting and the light and dark areas and to decide what I liked and what I didn’t like. I selected a few colors to use from my swatches.
The end result is a painting from a computer rendering of a painting from life. Each time it’s once removed from the original scene and more abstracted.
In this series I am working towards:
- a transmission of the energy I feel when I’m immersed in nature’s beauty
- a simplification of colour
- expanded use of gradations in colour
- more intentional use of colour, while still welcoming happy accidents
- simplification of shapes
- abstraction of subject
Every painting reveals new questions, presents some answers and is a teaching tool for the next one.
So far, so good!
But there are still many considerations:
- theme of paintings
- style of paintings
- number of paintings
- painting the paintings!
- promotional materials
- timing of opening
- goodies for opening
Yikes! 10 weeks to go. Breathe.