Thursday, March 12, 2009


AS a teeny tiny tot growing up in England we had a candy called LICORICE ALLSORTS, see top picture, and then think M&M's for the tasty American translation.  High- key colored delectable edibles.

I devoured these  treats with gusto as only a kid can and I still hunt them down at ex-pat British foodie stories All that neon-glo color! It EXCITES ME.  Grrrrrr...

But, truth be told, these color candies all tasted exactly the same. Pink interchanged with orange or blue. Basically color overkill with no subtlety of flavor which brings me to my painting journey, especially when I paint from life.

I was thinking about color overkill today. Why exactly did I liked the study I did in my teaching class at LAAFA this morning and why I don't like an awful lot of studies from thenot so recent past?

IN my adult art life one of the biggest problems I have faced (and there have been MANY), is having this urge to paint high key "raw" color.  Give me a hot sugar pink or ice blue and I wanna slap it down. Pure unadulterated art bliss. Just like those childhood candies. 

I see these beautiful tonal painters, Jeremy Lipking, la-di-da, but when that fuchsia pink is in front of me, well, padlock me down. I just don't want to grey it down at all.  Embarrassing in a Lipking workshop...I was there! Paint fuchsia on my art tombstone...may she R.I.P....Rest in Pink, the hotter the better. Quote me on that.

Look to Ovanes Berberian for an artist who I think does high-key color just right! ( Not easy.

So I was somewhat pleased today when the model turned up in a Licorice Allsorts colored head wrap. Most of  the delightful Marina,  from my angle, was in light shadow. But in that light shadow, I still saw that sugar plum pink, candy apple green, and Dunkin' Donut blue. Don't you just marvel at blue icing? 

I held back deliberately. Kept it muted. I was so proud of myself.

 I prepare for my class, a combined still life and portrait from the model event.  I take in props, whatever it takes to make the class inspired to paint. This can take quite some prep. time which I don't think students always realize. 

At 7 a.m. today I was  mixing a rainbow of colors on my palette around the color wheel, mixed from only three primaries, (see palette picture), cad. yellow, magenta, cyan blue. Yes, the old printers' color wheel. Still-life was daffodils today. Now that it sheer 'yellow' magnificence and one has to be prepared.

I have a feeling of wonder when I see what just three high key colors can mix. It amazes me EVERY time. All these people who want the perfect answer to color...the perfect tube of paint to buy from the art store to get you straight in to art history?...

Try just experimenting mixing from any three versions of the primaries (red, yellow and blue) and see what can happen. See what you can learn about color from doing it repeatedly over a LONG period of time. See what you can learn about color from changing those three primaries, say, going toward yellow ochre, alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue? Or vermillion, yellow ochre and black (Zorn palette).

Cut back to the candy I dipped into that Licorice Allsorts-esque  color wheel on my palette sparingly during my one hour of painting around teaching. It was there when I needed it which I surely did. But I kept it subdued.

Restraint, and an understanding of raw color,  used in just small tiny tot bites....ahhh...Now hand over the Licorice Allsorts. Prompto.

I'll get very gray otherwise.



Rhonda Hartis Smith said...

Lovely painting--can't wait for the text!

Marian Fortunati said...

It's a beauty, Johanna... Sorry I missed it.

And she DOES look like Rosie!!

Portrait Painting By Johanna Spinks said...

You know how Waterhouse painted THAT same face, that is what i am now doing it seems, except not nearly as well.....

Thanks Marian and Rhonda!

Deborah Ross said...

I'm the same way! Give me turquoise, fuschia, bright orange, hot pink. It's hard to not use them as is. You did a beautiful job- very color restrained.

Portrait Painting By Johanna Spinks said...

thanks everyone.

Deborah, would love to see more or your work. Will you email me your site or leave it here?

Marian Fortunati said...

Fun reading the text now... Yes... learning to mix color and subdue it but still keep it beautiful... A constant challenge.
Looking forward to seeing you in class!

Laurel Alanna McBrine said...

Also guilty as charged - I struggle all the time with how much chroma to include and end up graying stuff down way more than my initial impulse would dictate, but probably still not enough! Color, and lots of it, is why I got into painting rather than sticking with drawing. Sigh.