Friday, February 04, 2011

Charts and Murals

There's an interesting project that I'm involved with. In downtown Asheville, there's an area called the Block. It's an historically African-American neighborhood that has been left behind in economic development over the past 20 years. Now, however, a local non-profit affordable housing development group called Mountain Housing Opportunities is going to refurbish and enlarge an existing decrepit building. When done, it'll have apartments, offices, and retail spaces. The project won't start for another year, though, so in the meantime, MHO has asked the Asheville Mural Project to put some murals up over the boarded-up windows. The murals will be images of African-American leaders. The AMP asked me to do a couple of them, and so I wound up doing one of Rosa Parks and another of Booker T. Washington. That's Booker on my easel above.

Okay: so how does something from my easel wind up as part of a mural? Well, the images are being painted with acrylic paint on what's being called "painter's dropcloth". It's not really a dropcloth, it's a special kind of paper. In the studio, I temporarily taped the paper to an existing stretched canvas so that I could adjust it on my easel as necessary. Now that the images are done, the AMP will laminate the paper onto plywood and attach them to the windows. This is much easier than trying to paint the images onto plywood onsite, especially this winter.

With Booker completed and out the door, I went back to my other project. I've been doing color charts lately. This is something that I do every few years, both as a refresher and to learn something about new colors. And I always learn something new, even about colors that I've had on my palette for years.

Here are some of the completed color charts. If you look at the one on the bottom in the photo above, it has Burnt Sienna (a brownish red) straight from the tube in the upper left corner and Viridian (a bluish green) straight from the tube in the upper right. In between, left to right, is Burnt Sienna with a bit of Viridian; a half & half mixture of the two; and Viridian with a bit of Burnt Sienna. The two rows below are the top row colors mixed to a mid-value and then to a light value with Titanium White. So these charts give me a good idea of how the two colors interact with each other, and how they look when they're lightened. Yes, I know, it looks pretty anal, but my peabrain likes things organized and logical.

My focus this time has been creating charts that cross the color wheel: reds with yellows, greens with reds, oranges with blues. These are giving me a rich variety of neutrals. Some of my discoveries have been very surprising. For example, the Burnt Sienna made by Utrecht is very different from Burnt Sienna made by Gamblin. The one by Utrecht looks like a dark brown straight from the tube, but is really a strong dark orange, and when mixed with Cobalt or Ultramarine Blue, it gives a nice muted green. The one by Gamblin is much more muted; I'd almost call it "dead" next to the Utrecht version. Never would have thought that.

New subject. I've had a subscription to Art in America magazine for several years. It keeps me in touch with what's going on in the art world and I've found some really good artists in its pages. When I get a new issue, I go through the whole thing and flag the pages where there's something of interest - which, to me, show painters doing interesting narratives. (Hey, I'm a narrative painter, after all!) My new issue arrived yesterday and hit a new low. I only found one artist of interest. One. The rest of the magazine was filled with images, ads, and articles about artists doing installations and other things that I couldn't care less about. Art in America has always been a source of new ideas for me, but there are fewer and fewer interesting painters in its pages. If this keeps up, my subscription will have to lapse.

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