Saturday, April 30, 2016

Beyond the Colour Wheel, Lesson 6

For the final lesson in Jane Davies' on-line course, Beyond the Colour Wheel, we were asked to refer back to the 3" mini-collages we made in Lesson 5, and to make "Colour Field" paintings inspired by them. Having a Mark Rothko calendar in my studio didn't hurt in making my first tentative steps in this new direction.

Because I'm not a painter, I appreciate having a structure imposed on me, and I was happy to use this opportunity to explore colour, texture and the handling of paint by doing this exercise. All these paintings measure 10" x 10", and required many layers. I just kept modifying the colours / transparency / texture until each began to look interesting. I found I preferred rather feathery, irregular and roughened edges.

Here is one of the mini-collages I made in Lesson 5:

and here is one of the paintings that followed:

and the second:
I prefer the second one, because of the texture / transparency achieved both in the yellow square and in the background. I like the hint of dark under the blue of the foreground and on the "horizon". With #1, I like the little dribbles in the foreground.

Another mini-collage:

and the painting that resulted from it:

The central, mauve-y shape has a bit of gleam from overhead lighting. Here I like the way the red merges, melting with the orange. The magenta was very hard-edge to begin with, but that was softened with a transparent overlay.

Another mini-collage:

and the resulting painting:

Again, some gleam from the overhead lighting, which obscures the feathery margins. I'm planning to mount these on birchboard cradles, which should minimize the glare by flattening the painting.

The mini-collage:

and the two paintings inspired by it:

Again, a bit of glare on the yellow shape. This one looks more interesting in real life, because the contrast between the yellow square and the ochre background is more obvious, though still subtle enough to be engaging.

The mini-collage:

and the two paintings it inspired:

Trying to build up an interesting series of layers sometimes led to a shift in the colours. I think that in both of these, the transparent overlay of the smaller rectangle is interesting.

Another mini-collage:
Original mini-collage #2

Couldn't quite capture the right shapes, and their relationship is not as interesting as in the maquette. Also, the background could use more texture and depth.

The final mini-collage:

With this one, I used some sandpaper to give it a little extra texture.

One of the reasons I took this course was that doing the exercises would give me some experience with abstraction, which was very rewarding. I hope to build on this experience with painting and transfer some of what I learned to my work with cloth. I would highly recommend Jane Davies' classes, and hope to take another.

This was my third on-line class with her. Good feedback from the instructor, and it is also helpful to see how the other registrants handle the assignments. Having deadlines for each lesson is useful too. Though taking a real-life workshop with Jane would be exciting, I think I respond well to the on-line format, because it gives me time to digest the material. Less frenzied.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Beyond the Colour Wheel, Lesson 5

For this fifth lesson in Jane Davies' advanced colour class, we looked at the way colours interact. 

Have you ever had the experience of trying to determine whether that jacket is black or dark navy? One approach is to compare it to something you know to be black. The contrast with black can help you see if there's a difference.

Below, as part of this week's assignment, are three examples where I paired a fully-saturated background with a lighter background made from a tint of that same colour. The small squares are actually the same colour, left and right, but they look a little different depending on their background.

When I squint, I can see that the small square on the less-saturated background appears more saturated than its mate. The strength of this effect seems to depend on the difference in saturation between the two larger squares. Or the phenomenon could be described in terms of value: the small square looks darker against a light background, and lighter against a dark background.

I'm finding the results of these "temperature experiments", below, barely perceptible.

Above, a neutral grey set on a warm orange and a relatively cool green. The grey on the right might have a subtly warmer cast, because it contrasts with the coolness of the green.

Next, a slight variation, using a different neutral and warm and cool backgrounds. The same effect holds.

Another variation, with an icy cool turquoise to replace the yellow-green. The effect is still barely noticeable, at least to me.

So then I started to wonder whether, if I used small squares with more saturated colour, the warm/cool effect would be stronger.

And I think that's true: the small violet square on the right (cool background) seems a bit warmer or redder than the one on the left (warm background) which seems cooler or bluer.

And here the orange square appears warmer or redder on the right (cool background) a little more yellow (paler, lighter) against the warm background on the left.

And perhaps the most obvious result here, with the small magenta square redder (warmer) against the cool turquoise background and bluer (cooler) against the warm orange background.

So I would propose that the more saturated the small squares, the more evident the temperature shift against warm vs. cool backgrounds. And the bigger the difference in temperature in the background squares, the more obvious the effect.

Still with me? 

Having made about 80 painted swatches for the above experiments, we were asked to find exciting mixes using just three colours. We were to make little 3" collages, not paying attention to composition but just to look for a trio of colours that play well together. Below are some fun examples that I cobbled together. Our instructions were that the third colour was to be used in a smaller quantity, as an accent.

Submitting these trios wasn't enough, though. We were asked to explain just what it was that we found intriguing about our colour combinations. If they have some "zip", why? 

#1 - Pyrrole Red / Quin Red / Manganese Blue + Diox Purple

#2 - Pyrrole Orange / Quin Red / Pyrrole Orange + Cad Yellow

#3 - Pyrrole Red / Quin Red / Pyrrole Orange + Cad Yellow

For #2 and #3, I said that it was intriguing that red-violet is on the border between warm and cool colours. Technically, it's warm, but when paired with a true red or an orange, it is relatively cool.

#4 - Quin Red / Raw Umber / Green Gold
#5 - Chartreuse / Pyrrole Red / Quin Red
# 4 and #5 involve the pairing of chartreuse and red-violet, which are complementaries. Both are on the borderline of warm and cool. In #4 the dissonance between them is buffered by the neutral taupe, but in #5 the red-violet is supported by the pure red, and I find both interesting.
#6 - Cobalt Teal / Chartreuse / Mang Blue + Diox Purple
Is the chartreuse in #6 warm or cool? Technically it's a cool colour, but paired with cooler blues, it appears to be warm.
#7 - Hansa Yellow / Graphite Gray / Light Graphite Gray

#7 is a showcase for the pure, bright Hansa Yellow, with its intensity heightened when paired with neutral grays.
#8 - Raw Umber / Graphite Gray / Diox Purple

And in #8, there is very little "chroma" in the neutral gray and taupe. There is chroma in the purple, but it is almost too dark to be seen. So that makes it interesting too.

We're going to use our little samples to make colour-field paintings in Lesson #6. It will be intriguing to see what combinations the other class participants come up with. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Renwick Gallery - Wonder

One of the more recent developments in the art world is a focus on "materials". For example, Concordia University here in Montreal awards a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in "Fibres and Material Practices".

Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2014
styrene index cards, metal, wood, paint and glue

While visiting Washington DC last month, we had the good fortune to drop by the newly-renovated Renwick Gallery. The building dates back to 1859, and is the first building in America to be designed specifically to be an art museum. It is now home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum's collection of contemporary craft and decorative art.

Patrick Doherty, Shindig, 2015
willow osiers and saplings
Thinking we would see a selection of modern furniture, glass and ceramics, we were delighted to encounter "Wonder": nine contemporary artists have created site-specific installations, each taking over a different gallery.
"The nine artists are connected by their interest in creating large-scale installations from unexpected materials like thread, tires, marbles, and blocks of wood - commonplace objects that are assembled, massed and juxtaposed to transform the spaces and engage visitors in surprising ways."
Chakaia Booker, Anonymous Donor, 2015
rubber tires and stainless steel
This is the kind of show we see more and more often in today's museums, which are looking to expand their audience to include people of all ages and backgrounds. No knowledge of art history is required to enjoy this show, which continues until May 8, 2016. The first-floor installations continue until July 10, 2016 and the installation in the Grand Salon will remain on view through 2016.

John Grade, Middle Fork (Cascades), 2015
reclaimed old-growth western red cedar
John Grade, Middle Fork (Cascades), 2015
"To commemorate the Renwick's re-opening, Grade selected a hemlock tree in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle that is approximately 150 years old - the same age as this building. His team created a full plaster cast of the tree (without harming it), then used the cast as a mould to build a new tree out of a half-million segments of reclaimed cedar. Hundreds of volunteers assisted Grade, hand-carving each piece to match the contours of the original tree. After the exhibition closes, Middle Fork (Cascades) will be carried back to the hemlock's location and left on the forest floor, where it will gradually return to the earth...."
Jennifer Angus, In the Midnight Garden, 2015
cochineal, various insects, and mixed media

Jennifer Angus, In the Midnight Garden, 2015

Jennifer Angus, In the Midnight Garden, 2015
"Angus's genius is the embrace of what is wholly natural, if unexpected. Yes, the insects are real, and no, she has not altered them except to position their wings and legs. The species in this gallery are not endangered, but in fact are quite abundant, primarily in Malaysia, Thailand and Papua, New Guinea, a corner of the world where Nature seems to play with greater freedom. The pink wash is derived from the cochineal insect living on cacti in Mexica, where it has long been prized as the best source of the colour red. By altering the context in which we encounter such species, Angus startles us into recognition of what has always been a part of our world." 
And finally, for fans of actual fibre:
Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1, 2015
thread, wood, hooks and steel
Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1, 2015
Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1, 2015
"Dawe's architecturally scaled weavings are often mistaken for fleeting rays of light. It is an appropriate trick of the eye, as the artist was inspired to use thread in this fashion by memories of the skies above Mexico City and East Texas, his childhood and current homes, respectively. The material and vivid colours also recall the embroideries everywhere in production during Dawe's upbringing."
Wonder is a must-see if you're in the Washington DC area. Or you can always view photos of the show on Google Images.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Beyond the Colour Wheel, Lesson 4

Three areas of overlap, created by collaging in the shape of the intersection
Jane Davies organized Lesson 4 of her on-line class, Beyond the Colour Wheel, around the topic of transparency. She had us overlap shapes of different colours, and trace the overlapped area. We then mixed a colour that was mid-way between the two overlapping colours, painted a scrap of paper with this mixed colour, and cut out a shape to collage into place, creating an illusion of transparency.

This was challenging, though it is easier to create this effect when using colours that are dissimilar in hue and value, as seen above.

Two areas of collaged overlap.
Stencil was painted a second time where it overlapped with grey shape.
Another way to create the illusion of transparency is to paint the mixed colour directly over the overlap. I modified this approach by using a stencil, masking some of the stencil for the application of the second, mixed colour. Using a light with a dark is relatively easy, I found.

An example of two complementary colours (green and red)
that produce a neutral colour when overlapped.
Two collaged overlap areas and three instances of painted overlaps.
Two areas of collaged overlaps, and two using just paint.
All these colours are close in value and hue, making the effect more subtle.
As a final challenge, we were required to make a patterned shape and adjust the colour of the overlapping area with a paintbrush. An example of this effect is above.

When working with cloth, this effect of transparency can be created by using sheer fabrics like organza and netting. Artists like Kathleen Probst skillfully choose colours of opaque cloth to create the illusion of transparency.

Rising, Kathleen Probst, 2015