A Hundred Reds

I recently aquired a commission to paint a paint.  A “paint” is  a multi-colored horse, usually with large white and brown splotches.  They can be black and white like holstein cows or even palomino and white but generally they are brown and white. Like Tonto’s horse in the Lone Ranger.  A popular color, the term “paint” is used for Quarter horses, a particular breed of horse.  Other breeds of splotched horses are called pintos.  All charming nomenclature aside, this particular paint horse was part white and part bay, a reddish brown color with lots of variation.

No where in the palette of colors available to artists is the color, Bay.  And if one ever looks closely at this horse color, one will find a shade of red, a shade of brown, a shade of blackish brown, a shade of mahogany, etc, etc.  And one  had better have an arsenal of browns at one’s disposal as well as some mad mixing skills.

I was given a photo of the subject, an iffy quality digital print.  Chetoh is a nice looking boy with good color and a kind eye.  The picture was low in pixels, but what it lacked in clarity, it made up in posture.  The pose of Chetoh was perfect and I didn’t have to do anything to change his position.

I sketched him out and outlined his shape with orange.  This is a technique I have been doing for some time now and I like to leave a little of the outline peeking through my final layers.  It’s like an aura and adds a little oomph to the final piece.  I like it, and that’s the important part.

I took stock of my browns and reds and dabbed out 4 kinds of browns (sienna and umber, both burnt and raw) two red oxides, black, white and my go to blender: naples yellow.  I love that color… it’s my butter.  I rounded out my palette with cerulean,thalo and ultramarine blue.  And yes, I used ALL these colors to make this bay horse look like a bay horse.  They are layered, blended, adjacent, glazed and somewhere in some version became Chetoh’s highlights, midrange and shadows.

cheeto 001

Getting the colors in their proper place by referencing his mug shot.

I don’t know what the math looks like when you take 12 colors and mix them with each other one at a time and/or in combinations with the rest, but I know it’s quite a lot.  It felt like a hundred reds; but I really don’t know since I try not to think about it.  When painting, I try not to think at all.  I just look, compare and choose. It’s judgement call after judgement call… too light, too blue, too this, too that.  Add, subtract, scrub, twist, smooth out, swoop up.

Working on his chest and mane.  Painting white on a white canvas is always fun.

Working on his chest and mane. Painting white on a white canvas is always fun.

Once he came together, I roughed in the background.  This took me longer than I had expected.  I made the sky very light at first, but when I stood back to look at the composition, his white blaze didn’t stand out like I wanted.  A heavier dose of Ultramarine was pressed into service and I popped in a few clouds for good measure.  The final result, an elegant Chetoh on a windswept hill.

Cheeto

Chetoh the Paint Horse

Seattle @ Night

SEATTLE@NIGHT

Several years back I was approached by a local nightclub owner for a mural.  While I  love painting murals, they have a habit of eventually being painted over; which may be great for the new owner of whatever wall has now been transformed, but not so much for me.  I don’t know if I will ever get used to the notion that my artwork may be scrubbed out by a fresh coat of paint.  I realize public art (of which most murals are) can be transitory, but rarely do I get any input as to how long or by what decision that temporary status is given.  I may have released the need to interpret my art to others, but I have yet to let go of it’s destruction/transformation at the hands of others.  I’m working on that.

All this prefaces my suggestion to the owner that the mural become instead a large canvas that could be moved when and if the nightclub ever undergoes renovation.  We agreed, I created a sketch for approval, the commission was negotiated and I went to work.

seattleSketch

Seattle sketch

At the time, I was a professional color consultant for a Benjamin Moore retail outlet as well as working as a painting contractor.  BM had a new product line that I found pretty impressive and decided to paint the mural using these new, very dense and very opaque  latex house paints.  Their new line of paints was called Aura and they were being showcased nationwide in the BM trade publication Profiles as well as a variety of marketing outlets.  Seizing the chance for self promotion, I contacted the company magazine and told them what I was doing with their paint.   Which led to this featured article:

My first national magazine article!

My first national magazine.

This project was the biggest thing I’ve ever had in my studio.  The studio itself isn’t that large, so a huge canvas was a challenge.  I pushed all the tables and work surfaces out of the way to make room.  When working large, you need space to be able to step back and see your work but I was hampered by the size of my studio.  I still have a desire to enlarge the space, but that will have to wait.

9 feet long... barely fits!

9 feet long… barely fits!

The other challenge was working with house paint.  I used to be such an artistic snob.  In college I had even learned how to grind my own paint, so quality ingredients was embedded in my idea of who I was an artist.  But I was a few years out of school at the time, and well past my art teaching days.  I’d learned to “make do” and freed my mind from snobbery to the possibilities of alternate mediums.

While Benjamin Moore isn’t paying me for this endorsement (though in the past they actually have)  I’ve gotta say that Aura is excellent paint.  Very high quality, gorgeous color and great coverage.  I mixed my own to create my palette, and used extra pigments not generally available to the public.  You can ask your paint store to sell you tinting agents, they are designed to be used with house paint, so while you can mix your own colors, don’t use them in other brands or types of paint.  Warning: tints are super strong.  Think of them like bouillon cubes… a little goes a long way.

Anyway, the challenge of the paint was how fast it dried.  Aura products are designed to dry fast so painters can get in and get the job done.  I’m predominantly an oil painter so anything that dries in less than a week is hard for me.  This stuff was dry in minutes so I had to work fast.  When you work fast, brush strokes become very fluid… there’s no time to coax your colors into being.  No sweet talk here.  Wham bam…. well, you know the rest.

The result was energetic and electrifying.  And one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Seattle@Night

Seattle@Night

PS:  Thank goodness I had the foresight to paint on canvas.  The nightclub shut down a year later and the painting was moved to a martial arts/art gallery in Eugene.  Weird combination of venues, but it actually worked in that space!