Ongoing Art Project: Colors of Winter

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to work on my art on a more regular basis. Although I did a lot of painting and sketching over the break, I barely drew anything during the semester itself. Shortly after the semester ended then, I picked up a small sketchnook that I could carry around in my bag, perfect for small, impromptu drawings.

The main way I’ve been staying creative, however, is through my color blocks:

Colors of Williamsburg, January

The color blocks are 2″ x 3″ pieces of watercolor paper I cut up over the break. Each day, I take one of these papers and paint an abstraction based on something I’ve seen during the day. Some are inspired by sunsets, for example, while others take a cue from tree bark or the plumage of birds.

Colors of Williamsburg, February

Essentially, anything is fair game, as long as it’s based on something I’ve observed.

This isn’t the first time I’ve painted color blocks. The practice goes back to my time in New Mexico, when I painted several small studies over the course of a year. Aside from their own merits as tiny paintings, I used these color blocks as templates and incorporated their hues into other projects. Since I was only just developing the concept, I didn’t paint them in a methodical manner, just whenever the mood struck me. This time, however, I’ve decided to make it a daily activity.

This scene is based on a cluster of dried grasses I saw outside my apartment, and is reminiscent of the work of Elmer Schooley.

What I like about this project is that it encourages me to look around more closely. As an artist, I create pieces in dialogue with my local surroundings, so painting color blocks is a natural extension of that work. In seeking out striking color combinations, patterns, or textures, I actively look at the world around me rather than passively move through it. In short, it encourages me to slow down and be more observant.

It’s also a great opportunity to experiment stylistically. As an artist, I respect abstraction, but I struggle to incorporate it into my practice. With these color blocks, however, I have a chance to play around with pattern and line. The block above, for instance, is inspired by the plumage of a hooded merganser. This is among the most abstract things I’ve done in a while, yet it still takes its cue from direct observation.

I already have ideas for these color studies in terms of larger projects, but for now I’m just focusing on painting the blocks themselves. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with stopping to smell the roses, so this exercise will continue.

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