This week I’m going to write about a painting that I just took off of my wall. It’s an 10×8 inch acrylic on canvas painting called “Dropped and Dragged”. It’s dated 7/10/09 and though it has been one of the paintings that hang on my wall I don’t think I’ve given it a thought since I finished it. I don’t know why that is. It’s probably my habit of always thinking about the next piece rather than the ones I’ve already finished. I guess this bit of writing is reversing that habit. At least for the time it takes to write this.

This was never one of my favorite images that I’ve come up with but as I look at it now I like it. It’s not really about a face as the face takes up less of the composition than is usual for one of my face paintings and it’s not so much about the body as the body is much more hunched and formless than many I have painted. So what is it about? It seems to me to be mostly about shape and color.

The first color that strikes me is the yellow background. It’s an unusual choice for a sky but it works well with the two tone orange sun that is on the right. The yellow continues the idea of the sun in the sky except in this case the sun is the sky. That little triangle of yellow on the left is what really completes the idea of the yellow being the sky. The color yellow is the brightest color in this painting and makes the background move forward in space more than one usually does. That makes the figure look like it’s sunk into the sky. That is an interesting bit of yellow.

The pink face is a shade less bright than the yellow but due to it’s position far from the mass of the yellow it sits forward in space without fighting with the yellow. The face is rooted in place solidly and hangs on as the only thing in the painting that my eye sees as undoubtably real. The rest of the painting tends to slide towards abstraction but the face remains real.

There is a lot of color in this one to look at. A lot going on. It’s not easy to make all those colors play nice together and I think the key to it all is only having a small bit of red. Aside from following my “Always make the lips red” rule the rest of the painting has none. Even the orange is toned down. The full strength orange of the sun is in a cage of purple, blue, and green and up in a corner. This is the strongest orange but it’s under control. The orange on the shirt has been toned down to almost brown and placed next to an actual brown to give it a visual anchor. The dots of orange on top link it to the sun without being overpowering. Color dots are goof foe that.

Blue and purple, being next to each other on a color wheel, are analogous colors. This means that the play well with one and other and blend into each other. Not that I’m doing any blending here but the blue and purple form an arch over the top of the brown/orange shirt. It’s a main thrust of the painting but a subtle one. The colors don’t leap out at you as the pink and yellow do. They sit back and form the main visual shape of the painting. The field of blue under the face is an interesting bit of color. It flattens out. The rest of the drawing follows some simple rules of perspective and makes a relatively real figure but the blue collar stands up where is isn’t supposed to. It changes the space in a way that I like. In a world where things are obviously not real some things are even less real than others.

The green hair is on its own. It has the same grey scale value as most of the blue around it and that helps it not stand out but it still does a little bit. That’s its point. It’s a little bit different than the rest of the painting but not so much that it calls out for too much attention. It plays a little bit of the game with the red lips that complimentary colors do when near each other. Complimentary colors fight for attention in our eyes and can make you bounce between them. That happens here but not as much as if there were more of the two colors.

The final parts to this painting are the dots and brush strokes of color. They get put on last and sit on top of everything including the black line. Mostly they are made up of the same colors already used in the painting but in this case one more color is introduced. The blue/green strokes on the left and throughout the person’s shirt. This new color brings everything into balance for me. It links the analogous greens and blues and makes all the colors play nice together. The color lines are there, in general, the help things out. They emphasize shapes and create gestures for the eye to follow. The brush strokes and dots become part of the decorative, abstract, and painterly nature of a painting but the strokes of color are more specific. They go in specific places as opposed to the brush strokes which can take up the whole top or side of a painting.

One final thing about this painting. The three purple boxes on the upper right are odd in that they nearly disappear to me. They are part of the cage that locks the orange sun in place but I barely notice them. They do their job and stay in the background. Sometimes you needs stuff that does that.