Friday, September 6, 2019

Color Field Painting Lesson

Happiness happens when, during a monthly Skype with your sister, who is an Art History professor, you tell her that you "taught Helen Frankenthaler last week" and she says, "I did too!"  Frankenthaler was a second generation color field painter and abstract expressionist, who exhibited her art for the six decades before her death in 2011. She was inspired by Jackson Pollock's drip paintings in that she moved her canvases to the floor, but rather than dribble and throw paint from a brush, she poured diluted paint onto linen canvases, creating a stain soak technique.  She would manipulate the puddles of paint by lifting the corners of the canvas, or pushing it gently with sponges and squeegees attached to long sticks.  I think I remember hearing that Robert Motherwell (who was her husband for thirteen years) also created mop-like brushes for his large paintings. Morris Lewis followed Frankenthaler's lead in creating images from overlapping areas of soaked color.

My students took this inspiration and ran with it to make their own, large and small color field paintings.  We used watercolor rather than thinned oil or acrylic, but there's still a similarity in terms of aesthetics and a new appreciation for color just for the sake of color.

For a fascinating look at the science behind color, take a listen at one of the most popular Radio Lab episodes ever:

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Planes in Portrait Paintings Lesson

It isn't always easy to understand how value (light and dark) works on a 3D surface, especially if that surface is a person. For our plane portrait project, I tried to help students learn how to use ratios to draw the basic features of a face before breaking it down into smaller, flat surfaces.  Basically, students were creating their own  paint by number type of drawing and value shifts would come with shape shifts.  It was met with various degrees of success, which isn't surprising considering the enormous range of visual and cognitive abilities of my students.
student divides pencil drawings into planes
student paints individual shapes on face

Some of my students needed to work in Wiki Stix, which I then hot glued their lines for them, while removing the waxy wicks. That way they could paint in the tactile borders. I would mix values of paint if they didn't have any vision.  One student had enough vision to draw and mix independently. He didn't get the planes as sharp or "robotic" as I'd hoped, but it was the best thing he'd ever painted, and it's of Stan Lee, so that's a good thing.