Dawn and Dusk on the Pocket Door

Not teaching this semester means I’ve got more mental and emotional energy for art projects, including ideas I’ve had for the house. While I’ve already painted a bird or other animal in each room, I’ve also been meaning to carry out some larger concepts. For the past several months, for instance, I’ve wanted to paint the pocket door connecting our two bathrooms, an idea that Brandon first suggested during the summer. I’ve also been meaning to take some of my 2019 daily abstractions and paint them on a larger scale to see how they work as bigger pieces. So I combined both objectives into one project, covering the door with something colorful while also carrying out aspirations I’ve been considering for years. Let’s take a look!

My newly-painted pocket door. Because of the extreme verticality of the door and the smallness of the two bathrooms, I can’t show you the full door.

I hadn’t always planned on using my daily abstractions for this project. Initially, I was planning on doing an original design incorporating the various local vegetation in the area, particularly vines. I also considered doing a seasonal theme, with fall and winter rendered on one side of the door, and spring and summer on the other. As I started working up sketches, however, I found myself getting overwhelmed with the potential busyness of the composition. It could easily take a few weeks to render all the plants, and I worried I’d lose interest in the project before I’d finished. Given that the door would be concealed in its pocket most of the time, moreover, it seemed a shame to have such details hidden. Add to that another project I’m planning for the living room (more on that later), and it seemed my best bet was to do something simpler, something that introduced some bright color to the space without overwhelming it or me with all its details.

It was around this time that I remembered my 2019 abstractions and my long-held interest in rendering them on a larger scale. While I’ve painted small abstractions for years, I’ve always wanted to try something on a larger scale as a means of more fully embracing an abstract creative practice. Rather than go out and buy a new canvas, I decided to use the door itself, figuring that its vertical format already suited most of the abstractions I’d done.

Having settled on using the abstractions, my next step was to find two that would be appropriate for the bathroom. I wanted compositions that would harmonize with the colors already there, primarily gray, purple, and blues. Given that the pocket door never sees natural light, I modified the colors to work well in artificial lighting. I also wanted the abstractions to relate to one another both compositionally and thematically, as though they were intended as a pair. Initially, I focused on seasons but decided that a dawn/dusk theme fit the two sides of the door better.

After flipping through the booklet, I settled on two scenes: a pink sky that Brandon and I witnessed one December morning while driving to Florida for Christmas, and a harvest moon I had seen a few months earlier in September. I decided to place the pink scene on the side facing the larger bathroom, as the floor had recently been replaced with a more grayish vinyl. The moon scene and its creamy yellow sphere, in turn, would face the smaller bathroom, which retains the old yellow-hued linoleum that was present when we bought the house.

Image: the two studies I worked up for the door, taking the two unrelated abstractions and rendering them into a pair mirroring one another

Now that I had found my abstractions, it was time to adapt them to the door. I worked up two sketches that adopted a more vertical format emulating the door’s shape so that I could stretch out the two abstractions in advance. I adjusted their colors so that they better harmonized with one another and with the bathroom door, with the hues of both scenes becoming more saturated overall. I also added details to each scene that heightened their mirroring of one another, with a hazy sun appearing in the dawn scene, and a mountain in the dusk image. In essence, I took two images that initially did not relate to one another beyond being part of a year-long painting experiment and reinterpreted them as a pair.

Once I had planned out my compositions, it was time to paint. I used quick-drying acrylic paints so that the cats wouldn’t accidentally get paint on their faces while (inevitably) investigating it later. I rendered each scene over the course of a weekend, painting the dawn scene on Saturday and the harvest moon on Sunday. Each scene took about two hours.

Overall, I’m pleased with how these turned out. They add color to the space and have given me a better sense of what my abstractions could look like on a larger scale. If anything, I feel more motivated now to do an entire painting series with them, with my color blocks taking up a whole wall or even a room.

That is, as soon as I finish the other projects on my list.

Categorized as Art

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