I figure it was time again to pull a random painting off my shelf and have a look at it. This one one of my eight by ten inch acrylic on canvas paintings. I don’t think I’ve made one of these in a while. I have a bunch of blank canvases that size so I’ll have to get some more done in the new year. Meanwhile this one has the date on it of October 3, 2006. Being that it was done that long ago I don’t remember it specifically. After I do these I scan them in, put the originals in a large envelope to keep the dust off it, and then put them on a shelf. I seem to remember this as a scan more than I remember the actual physical painting. That’s too bad because the physical painting is much more interesting than a scan of it.

The first thing I notice about this painting is how crisp, dark, and sharp the black line is on it. Maybe that’s because I’ve used a violet line in my larger acrylic paintings of recent years but the black line really jumped out at me. I think this painting is very much about the black line. Often my paintings are about shape and color and the line takes a back seat. But here it doesn’t. I think that has to do with the sweeping nature of the lines and how they squeeze the shape and color. Take the orange hair across the top of the person’s head for example. That orange is one of the two brightest colors in the painting (yellow being the other) and should stand out and move forward in space. But it doesn’t because the thin shape of it is corralled and knocked back by the strong black line. The black line is the positive shape that the colors sit behind. The black line was obviously the last thing painted as it is so strong.

The colors is this painting look a bit different than I normally use. I don’t usually use brown as a dominant color but here I do. It’s a deep and strong brown too. I think I use lighter browns more often. The depth the brown is really helped by the brightness of the orange around it. The brown picks up a little of the reflected light of the orange and that makes the brown a bit more lively than it would be otherwise. I really like the way the orange seems to flow like air around the solid anchor of the deep brown. This is also helped by the shape of the orange going from thin and referencing a hair band into some flowing waves that reference hair blowing in the wind. The three blocks of orange on the top of the painting connect the top to the bottom visually even if there is no subject in common. They also make a vertical gesture of color up the right side making that the side the painting is weighted to.

When I make these paintings I tend to mix a bunch of a color and then store that color in a plastic cubby. Or sometimes I use the color straight from the tube of paint. But straight or mixed my color palate tends to change over time. I either run out of the particular color that I mixed or get some new tubes of new colors. I’m not really picky about the paints I buy. I buy different brands and always want to try out new colors. So a certain shade of blue ends up in a bunch of my paintings for a while and then disappears to be replaced by s different blue. I say that because I like that purple I used but don’t remember what it is. It’s better than a lot of the purples I’ve used. I find purples to be the most problematic of all the colors. It can tend toward red or tend toward blue so much that it’s tough to find a purple that says what I want it to. This one seems to be a nice one. It looks like it has a bit of white in it and therefor tends towards violet but it’s staying out of the lilac zone. I generally like lilac but it would be way too light to work in this painting.

I like the purple here because it created it’s own no-man’s land. If I had made it a lighter purple or even a blue it would scream out as “Sky”. It would push back in space and change the whole dynamic of the painting. Instead it sits in the mid-ground. It measures out at about a fifty percent grey and sits right in the middle of all the colors. The green and the red want to be darker than it an push the purple forward but black line and the purple won’t let it.

I also managed to use red and green together and not evoke Christmas. That’s because they’re not the dominant colors. The orange, brown, and purple own this painting and the red and green are just along for the ride. They make things livelier and move the eye around but they’re not the main show. The black like keeps the red and the green in their places and away from Christmas. The long swooping line that define the red and green on the top left allow for the black line to dominate better than if they were straight lines.

One last thing that I notice on this painting only after I notice all the other stuff it the small dots and dancing green lines. I often use such touches in my paintings but in this one they are more understated than in most of my paintings. They exist in their own gentle space. They are all single color dots that work in subtle color harmony with the other colors. The bright green swoops near the hair stand out the boldest of them but are paired with the bold orange of the hair and so seem a bit more calm than they might otherwise. As a matter of fact I find most of the color dots calming. I often use them the wake things up but here they sit back and mellow.

So there you go. An eight year old painting that I haven’t pulled off my shelf since I made it. Time does slip by.