Studio Work and Color Tests

July 26, 2013


I’m in the process of developing a strategy towards creating a new, updated body of paintings for exhibition that I’d like to have on display around 9-12 months. I have no idea, really, if that’s feasible with a new baby on the way. But I’m optimistic.

I’ve built a couple surfaces that hover around 4′ x 4’… a little too large and time-consuming to make to just let myself arbitrarily run above them with overly-improvised painting. Improvised? Yes. But not without a plan or some sensible momentum.



So I’ve been sketching a lot for the past few weeks, experimenting, seeking out a plan to use when I tackle those bad boys sitting out in my garage.

I’ve learned a few things about myself in the meantime while doing this:

I’ve learned that I’m naturally very slow on the macro-level of the decision-making process when making art. Answering questions like Where am I going in my art? and What are my big plans in creating a style? take some grinding inside my head. This is good, I think.

But with micro-level decisions, such as when to lay down a brush stroke, what color, and where, I can often be a bit hasty with those decisions, especially with color.


sketch 0719-2

I’ve learned that what helps this problem is just better focus.

Making decisions about color is like riding the line between science and art. Certain colors do certain things, and they do these things differently on different surfaces, and look completely altered under certain atmospheres of light, and on and on and on.

Symbolically, we, as a species and culture, can sometimes be in agreement about some colors and their combination; like red is warm and symbolic of fire, blue is cool and symbolic of water, etc.. Most of the time though, color remains extremely subjective. Like, I think pink is a “powerful” color, while I’ve heard somewhere – I can’t remember where – that orange is “whorish”…

… or was it green that was “whorish”?.

Wall Art Test_0709_1_Ritter

sketch 0709-1

Anyway, I can’t possibly wield all of color’s capabilities. But it’s useful to know that even though I can’t make symbolic predictions, I can and should learn everything I can about its more consistent interactions. Red will always warm an adjacent color, while blue will always cool. And these ratios of effect are very consistent. If I can learn more about how color operates in this sense, I will make better predictions about its more objective behaviors and I will achieve the focus I seek.

One of the things I’ve done to help me do this is limit my palette in some of my works; sometimes down to two or three hues. It helps make the effects more easily observable, while also maintaining a consistency in the composition.


sketch 0719-1

One other minor, but incredibly effective adjustment that I’ve made is I’ve moved to using flat brushes more often. As you can see, above in 0719-2, there is not as much control with the edges of  strokes using the filberts I own. After buying a cheap package of flats from Michael’s has made a huge difference in what I sketched, as I hope you can see, below. The brush strokes are more consistent and give me a better confidence in drawing with the brush, which I think I’m going to need for the pictures I am planning for the surfaces you see at the top of this post.


sketch 0720-2

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