April 20, 2009

Reflections: Worlds Collide

I set aside the weekend to take a break from looking outward to the urban landscape for forms, compositions, and subject matter, and to dedicate studio time to a relaxed study of color theory as it relates to sketching, drawing, and plein aire painting.

Through exploring color, I discovered the need to expand, by half, my personal definition of "sketch hunting". It became clear that looking to the external landscape as the sole source from which to translate perceptions of the world into representational sketches is only 180o of the sketch hunting terrain. A fundamental subterranean 180o of the sketch hunting grounds is to be found within and adds the soul source to the sketch hunting creative process.

This weekend's color study included exploring "color chords", the intuitive attraction and arrangement of a color set (Connie Smith Siegel's "The Spirit of Color") . In lieu of stacks of colored papers, as proposed by Siegel, I arranged color chord (or "theme") palettes through readily available digital tools. I found Adobe Kuler and Color Explorer to be extremely useful. The first surprise was the pure joy of perceiving color arrays and relationships for their own sake. Having intuited a color chord I reached for drawing media at hand, hard and soft pastels, found sticks to closely match the chord colors I'd chosen, and created my first color improv study. The two color studies below use the same color chord, though expressed with different media.

colorImprov_01 (7" x 5") | hard/soft chalk Pastel | 4.19.09
copyright 2009 b. scott shaevel | studio712; This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Freed from the confines of representational sketching, the next discovery was that my awareness was more fully focused on the two elemental forces of the sketching exploration, color and the medium itself. A flowing surprise was an emergent meditative appreciation of the physically expressive influence of the drawing medium on the "aiki" of the sketching action. It was refreshing, literally, to experience a visceral connection with the "dance" of the drawing movement as it expressed into form. When sketching the external world I often notice "pressure" or cognitive "demand" driving the process, and into the medium, in the effort to "muscle" visual perceptions into representational line and form. Communion with the physical act of drawing can be overpowered, and the act of sketching becomes merely an expedient to the visual end product. This driven tension was replaced during this improvisational color sketch with a relaxed flow of enjoyment and receptive internal exploration of a meditative expressive state. Creative "tension" still existed, but it's nature is very different, rather than the sketching actions being driven to "represent" some thing(s), the meeting of the medium to the "matte" was fueled by an energetic and expressive response to breathing and color through movement.

A final surprise emerged when I picked up the oil pastels for the second color improv study. I was struck immediately with the elemental differences between the oil pastel and the hard/soft chalk pastels.

colorImprove_02 (7" x 5"; thumbnail 3.5" x 2") | Oil Pastel | 4.19.09
copyright 2009 b. scott shaevel | studio712; This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

The nature of the oil pastel, it's maleable blending, and receptivity to scratching and lifting of pigment, felt familiar and intuitive...it's reminiscent of the many hours I've spent scrimshaw etching. Being able to etch and draw/sketch into the color was like returning home after being away for a long time, though no "real time" had actually passed.

The season has officially opened on internal sketch hunting, an endless source of discovery and experimentation as two intimately related sketch hunting grounds coalesce!

1 comment:

  1. Had a great time at the museum yesterday. The building and exhibits are just fabulous, not to mention the scenery and setting which I just love. I just checked your color improvs and love your choice and use of design and color. Could be hanging right up there at the Blanton or Louvre whichever you prefer! Keep up the great progress. Loveyou, mom.