Ongoing Art Project: Colors of Spring

As you know, I’ve been painting small abstractions every day since January 1st, as part of a goal to make art all year, however small or quick. With spring now just giving way to summer, I’ll show you what I’ve been up to since the last installment.

Colors of Williamsburg, April 2019

In keeping with my ongoing experimentation with abstraction, I’ve been moving away from simple color blocks to more complex compositions exploring the styles of different artists and artistic movements. The pieces below, for instance, take inspiration from Art Nouveau, Piet Mondrian, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings. All art is inspired by other art, after all, so I’ve been using these studies to explore the visual vocabulary that these artists have used to synthesize my own interpretation of abstraction.

While I continue to prefer painting these studies, I have been exploring other materials when they seem fit. For a study of pollen on water, for instance, I brought out my old marbling kit and marbled the paper. I’ve also occasionally used colored pencils when my paints weren’t available, as was the case with a group of studies done in South Dakota when I flew out there for a conference. I later used my paints to enhance the color, but the texture of the pencil still peers through.

Aside from stylistic experimentation, I’ve been enjoying the changes in palette that come with the shifts in season. I’ve been especially taken with the flowers cropping up here, as Williamsburg takens its gardening very seriously. The three studies below take inspiration from tulips, for instance, while other blocks channel roses, foxglove, iris, and roadside wildflowers. With flowers changing throughout the season, there’s always new blooms to study.

If there’s one thing that has captured my visual attention even more than the flowers, however, it’s the rapidity and quantity of the greenery. Having spent the last several years in the high desert, I’d gotten accustomed to a spare landscape. Not that it isn’t colorful in its own way, but green appears sparingly out there. The most vibrant colors tend to appear in the soil or the sky. To live in a place then, where the landscape goes from dormant, to furtively budding, to lushly verdant within a couple of weeks is a big change for me. Of course, I knew it was green when I moved here in August, I just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.

I’ve also been experimenting with more representational blocks, particularly landscapes. By exploring different types of brushwork, I’m learning to more confidently apply abstraction to naturalistic imagery. I’m finally embracing the fact that I don’t have to delineate every leaf to make a treeline legible.

For the most part, these studies depict the Williamsburg/Richmond area, but I have done a few studies of other regions I’ve traveled to for conferences and other events. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether to only paint when I was exclusively in Virginia, as this is where I’m based, but I decided to go ahead and include the places I travel to because that’s an important part of my life. The truth is, I’m never in one place for an entire year because I’m too restless to stay put for that long. I might live in a particular town for several years, but I’ll definitely be checking out other areas while I’m there, whether it’s for a conference, family visit, or just curiosity.

These four studies were done during my trip to Michigan for a conference. The two middle ones were inspired by things I saw in Ann Arbor, while the other two developed out of the drive.

Another change I’ve noticed since starting these studies is my attitude toward sketching at the end of the semester. Normally when the term ends I go into a frenzy because I haven’t done any drawing all semester. This time around though, I didn’t feel an overwhelming desire to sketch as much, because I’ve been doing it all along. I still have been going out to draw flowers and other subject matter, but since I didn’t deprive myself this semester, my approach is much more moderate. It’s not good or bad, just different.

Colors of Williamsburg (with a little Roanoke, Michigan, and South Dakota), May

I look forward to seeing what the summer brings in my daily art practice, whether it’s in my own backyard or another state altogether.

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