Monday, June 21, 2010

Color Chart

I'm working on a wedding portrait.  When I am preparing to start a new painting, I choose a group of paints that I plan to use and spend some time mixing the pigments to see what mixtures are possible.  After I settle on the mixtures I want I usually make notes in my sketchbook about the proportions I used.  This helps me re-mix the colors if I need them again for future paintings.  

If I want to experiment with a wider range of pigments, as in this wedding portrait, then I make a color chart.  This is a more tedious process but it ensures that I try all possible combinations and  leaves me with an easy-to-read chart that I can refer to later.   

This chart took a couple of hours to complete.  Even though this chart is a means to an ends for me, it helps me understand how artists like Josef Albers could make a career out of exploring the interactions of color combinations.  There is something peaceful about seeing related colors organized on a grid.   

For my painting I need three groups of colors: reddish brown, yellowish brown, and gray.  I chose Cadmium Red + Raw Sienna for the reddish brown and Burnt Sienna + Cadmium Yellow Deep for the yellowish brown.  For gray I chose Sap Green + Venetian Red.  I want a warm gray and a cool gray so one mixture has more red and the other more green.   I mix lighter versions of each group so that I have a light to dark range within each group.  

To keep my mixtures from drying out, I scoop them onto plastic dinner plates and keep them in a freezer.  They will remain "wet" for months.  This lets me work on other paintings without fear my paints will go to waste. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Studio Space


The studio I currently use is one of five studios at George Mason University built especially for painters in the MFA program and it has served me well during my first two semesters of graduate study.  The way my work space is organized is an important part of my creative process.  Of course, the spatial dimensions are fixed at 18 feet by 11.5 feet with the ceiling 15 feet above.  The door at the front, at 8.5 feet tall, gives me plenty of room to get large paintings in and out of the space.  Natural light comes in through a small window facing southeast.  To maximize wall space, the faculty asked the architect to place the windows high on the walls in all the painting studios, so the bottom edge is 9.5 feet above the ground.


I have divided the studio space into areas with specific uses in my creative process.  The small drafting table at the front of the studio is used for planning and calculation.  It is in the mathematical area of the room where I work out perspective and scale issues and make use of my still-functioning dark blue TI-81 graphing calculator. This corner of the room is about the lines and measurements used to determine the framework for other drawings and paintings.  I also do reading and research at this desk.  The large, black drafting table is for drawings in pencil and pastel.  


Books about artists and ideas fill the black metal bookshelf near the door.  The bookshelf is placed as close to the door as possible so that I can maximize space on the longest wall.     


The floor space of the back two-thirds of the studio stays empty so that I can use as much of the walls as possible.  The longest wall and the back wall (the one with the window) are used for paintings.  I hang them directly on the wall rather than using an easel.  


The middle sized side wall on the northeast side is reserved for drawings too large to fit on the black drafting table.  These drawings are usually tapped and pinned directly to the wall.

In January I built a taboret and it has greatly improved my work flow and peace of mind.  It keeps all of my materials nearby, provides a generous working surface with glass on the right side for mixing paints, and moves easily on wheels to whichever painting or drawing needs my attention.

Dividing the studio into areas based on function allows me to work on several projects at once.  The drawings and paintings surround me and face each other as though they were people seated around a table for discussion.  I often think of my studio as model of my mind.  The variety of images and objects placed around the room represent my thoughts, interests, and inquiries.  Even though the images and objects may seem to have little connection, they still occupy the same space, much as disparate and random thoughts inhabit the brain.