Once again I decided to pull a painting off my shelf to look at and write about. It’s been sitting on my shelf among my other 8×10 acrylic on canvas paintings for quite a while. I’ve got a lot of them on those shelves and they’re in various envelopes, bags, and boxes to keep the dust and light off them so I don’t often get to see them often. This one in named “Annie Enigma” and had the date I finished it on the back. October 3, 2006. Wow, this painting is going to be twelve years old this Fall. Time sure flies.

The first thing I notice about this painting is that I nailed the simplicity. It’s made up of only eleven colors, five of which are shades of blue, and only a few visible brush strokes. The color has a very flat and even surface. My acrylic painting has gone in a busier direction in the last five years so seeing a painting that captures a face and hair with such simplicity looks novel to me right now. I think I managed to capture something nice in this one.

The main color in the painting is blue. At first glance I thought there were only three blues in the hair but there are five. In the hair in front of her face I used two shades of blue and in the hair behind her face I used three other shades of blue. That is a lot of shades but they work well together. They remind me that I used to have a lot of different shades of paint mixed and at my disposal.

One of my habits I developed when I first started to paint in acrylics in the early 2000s was to save my paints in small plastic containers called cubbies. I would buy tubes or jars of acrylic paint but even though I bought many varieties of colors that wasn’t enough. I would usually need a slightly redder version of a purple, a lighter version of blue, a greener yellow, or some such. Color right out the tube is great but mixing my own colors from them was essential.

I was always searching for the perfect shade of a color to make my painting with. As a consequence I mixed a lot of paints. After I’d mix the color I wanted I’d save the extra in a cubby and place it in my box of paints. I’d even put a sticker on the cubby with what paints were used for the mixture for when I needed more. I ended up with about ten different shades of blue to chose from and the five I picked for this painting work well.

Alas, I haven’t been doing a ton of acrylic painting in recent years so much of the paint in those cubbies has dried out and is useless now. When I made an acrylic painting a month ago I had to start all over again with my color mixing. As a consequence I don’t think that new painting has the same subtlety of color as this one does. That doesn’t make the new one worse but it is different.

The black line on this painting also looks good. It’s a really dark and rich black. When I first started painting with a black line, way back when I was in college, I learned about Ad Reinhardt and how he mixed his black paint for his all black paintings. He would start with color paint and then keep adding more colors into the mix until there was so much pigment it made black.

I tried this technique to mix the black for the black line of my painting and it worked out pretty well. I kept at it over the years because I liked it but every now and then I mixed a black that was extra special. I never kept a recipe for it because it was too complicated to keep track of but every time I mixed one of these extra dark special blacks I wished I had. I think this painting has one of these blacks. Or at least the black line sure seems to be extra dark and shiny to me. It could be that I’ve been using a more subtle purple line for the last five years or so but the black line really pops for me.

Her face is a straight-from-the-tube color. It’s portrait pink. I like it. I had a lot of different pinks mixed that I used for faces but this color worked best when I was looking for a vibrant pink that bordered on the unrealistic. I also notice that I didn’t draw a nostril on her nose as I often do in a side view of a face. That allows the pink color not to be interrupted by a black shape and makes the pink work as an object a little bit better.

The lips stand out not only because they are the main red in the painting but because the red paint has been applied thicker than the rest of the painting. That gives the lips a little more literal and figurative volume as compared to the rest of the face. They’re in a spotlight.

I think the orange headbands are from a tube of orange paint that I liked a lot but they stopped making it. It was a Windsor Newton paint and I can’t remember the name of it. I was sad when I read they stopped making it. They replaced it with another orange but I liked this orange better. Oh, well.

The final thing to comment on are the green lines and colored dots. They are at a minimum in this painting compared to others I’ve made but they serve a function beyond the decorative. The green lines hem in the composition and keep the eye from wandering off the top and bottom of the canvas and the blue and red dots add the sweep of a line without interfering visually with the other lines in the piece. The green lines also help balance the eye color.

Overall I’d say this is one of my better 8×10 acrylic on canvas paintings.