from crayon box to powering my soul… color defines me

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In the Studio with a MOMA MOOC

The second course I signed up for on Coursera.org is much more experiential than the Learning How to Learn (LHTL) course I wrote about 2 posts ago. I took a leap and signed up for “In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting”. We’re exploring the Abstract Expressionists of the New York School. I knew 2 of the artists by name, the rest are new to me, which is exciting. I still think about my favorite undergrad classes: Art History 101 and 102, which pushed us to experience an onstage presentation, a play, a musical, an operetta, an art show, sculpture, and architecture.

Forty years later, I am studying art again. Through my latest class at http://www.coursera.org we have learned a bit about Barnett Newman, who’s pieces were huge, often 18 feet in length (at left below). My exploration resulted with this interpretation of his process I call “Grounded” (at right below):

Newman made what he called “zips” and I practiced a couple of different types of zips on my much smaller version (11 x 14″). The course instructor is Corey D’Augustine, artist and curator at MOMA. I naively presumed this studio exercise would be simple; Corey made it look easy, however I was surprised at how difficult it is to try to ensure your lines are straight. I used all acrylics: Raw sienna covers the entire canvas, then I taped the left zip and covered everything with yellow ochre. Next I taped the 2 right zips. I mixed Payne’s gray with Titanium white & gloss medium for the thicker of the two stripes and use straight-from-the-tube Payne’s gray for the thinnest stripe or zip. Finally, I used Naples yellow with palette knife for far right imperfect edged and textured zip.

Next up was Willem de Kooning. I think his work is interesting because it changed so much over the years; there is not one phase of his work that I can readily conclude is de Kooning’s style.

I used the same color palette as Corey did in the studio exercise video. I couldn’t find Titanium Buff so I tried to create my own flesh tone; it is a bit darker and pinker than I expected. This is my first experience using oils and I liked mixing in linseed oil, varnish, and mineral spirits, even water. My favorite parts of the de Kooning process were the charcoal pencil and the removing processes, like scraping, scratching, and rubbing off with turpentine on a rag… love that look! On the downside, I hated the clean up process of oils. I’m a messy artist and my hands were covered in oil paint. I just threw away my yogurt cup “bowls” and inexpensive brushes. I think I’ll stick with acrylics for future studio exercises. I like the final result, but am clueless as to whether it’s “finished”! I named it “Macaw” for the colors and textures.

Look for more from the class as I continue to explore in upcoming blogs…