Thursday, September 3, 2020

Lessons from Stripes

If you've been following me on social media, you'll be aware that I've been addicted to stripes for the last few months. Here are a few things I've learned from immersing myself in this format:


Value is at least as important as color, if not more so. We sort of know this intellectually, but it has really hit home with this stripes series. It is the lighter values that give a piece its sense of space and presence. I go through a lot of white paint!

Detail of work in progress
 

The lighter values are deceptive: they look almost white on the palette, but in the piece they are much darker. The paints do dry to a slightly darker value than they are wet, but still, the difference between the palette and the context of the piece (next to other colors) is surprising.

Detail of work in progress
 

Color is SO relative. Something that looks like a dull terracotta on the palette (alizarin crimson + white) is clearly purple on the piece. This happens over and over again, the color 'changing' between the palette and the piece. And it is not the lighting, I swear.

A very little of the dark, bright, and sweet colors go a long way. By 'sweet' I mean mid-light values of 'pure' colors, not muted with grays. 'Pastels' is probably what I'm referring to.

Sunshine Stripes, 11"x14", acrylic and collage on paper. This piece looks bright, and it is. But look at how much square footage is occupied by muted, neutral, and very very light colors.

 

This is a detail shot of the above, turned 90 degrees.


A detail shot of a piece that includes the high contrast of black and bright red.

This is the piece in its totality. 12"x24"

I enjoy playing with degrees of contrast. Subtle contrast, medium contrast, and dramatic contrast. Contrast of value seems to be the strongest language, but contrast of color and of intensity are also interesting.

So it's great to play with all of these formal issues in this prescribed format of stripes - the exploration could go on and on! But what are the stripes about? What can they express? These are very slow paintings, so I spend a lot of time contemplating while steeped in color. I see mostly geological phenomena in these: layers of sediment, clay and earth, seawater, sand, rocks, and also landscape. But they are also inspired by the Quilts of Gee's Bend, which are made of fabrics worn out and given new life. The stripes, by their nature, set up rhythms, based on spacing of the colors, and the improvisational aspect of them (I never plan them out, but make them up as I go along) is like visual jazz. I leave them open to the viewer's interpretation, and hope you enjoy them on may levels.

13 comments:

  1. WOW! I really enjoy going on this journey of exploration with you. Art is such a fascinating study and can stimulate AND frustrate, but the search never ends.

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    1. Glad you are along for the ride, Jo!! Thanks for your comment.

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  2. I have been working on something similar. Not quite stripes, more like squares and rectangles, but the colors are the same as yours. In my mind, it looks like looking out a plane window while flying over farmland.

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    1. Oh, I love that image. And, truth be told, I do love flying, especially when the weather is clear.

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  3. For me the value of your immersion into this work with stripes is in modeling to me, the novice: immersion, passion, persistence, curiosity, dedication to learning, color principles, beauty and the work of Joseph Albers color theory. Love it and Thank you!!

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    1. It's the curiosity that is key, for me. There is just always more of 'what happens if...."

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  4. Can you discuss how the viewer connects emotionally to pieces like this? I've been reading about how, more than anything else, a viewer's emotional connection to a piece of artwork is what influences their need to have it. I see it time and again in our gallery. One might love stripes or the colors you use, but what is the emotional hook in this work? I'm trying very hard to understand this in my own work, so thanks.

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    1. The emotional 'hook' is MY sense of what is interesting or exciting. If you are trying to make work that connects emotionally with others, without your own internal sense of what YOU respond to, then you won't really be making your own authentic work. Make work that jazzes YOU, and it will 'ring true' for viewers. Not all viewers will like or connect to your work, but it is not your job as an artist to be manipulating your viewer's emotions. Do you see what I mean?

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    2. you bet I do. The more jazzed I am about what I'm doing, the more others catch the vibe. Thanks for your reply.

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  6. I'm an artist, teaching color theory for 40 years. I've delved into the science of visual perception. Our brains, in trying to make sense of the world, tend to exaggerate the differences between things. With color, the value, hue, and purity of a color will appear different depending on what that color is put next to, or is surrounded by, because our brains notice and push the differences. With all my experience with color, I am still constantly surprised when one color goes next to another and shifts character. I'm loving watching you play with this! Also, regarding people's emotional response to color, I find my students tend to love the colors they look good wearing, and the colors of the natural environment they grew up in.

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    1. Thanks for weighing in, Charlene! It is so interesting to delve into color theory and the science of visual perception, and STILL to comes down to an intuitive or visceral response. I love how color offers so many surprises.

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  7. Hi Jane. Since finding your videos on Youtube I have gained more confidence in my own work. In college, I was told to make work with meaning... I ended up forcing work which I wasn't really happy with. You have inspired me to make intuitive art, to play and experiment and have fun! Thank you for your generosity. You have added so much to my life.

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I have had some spam comments lately, advertising of stupid stuff. So I am moderating comments until I can figure out a better way to prevent spam. THANKS!