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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Three Abstractions in Search of a Conclusion

Any project that's a fun project is already a successful project. My collaborators, pals, and students: Catherine Bullinger and Brad Van Auken.
This being the dirty shirt-tail of a long winter, we inmates are longing for color. Three of us hit upon the scheme of collaborating on non-objective paintings. We would switch canvases each week until we’d each painted on every canvas. The only rule was that the first week would be treated as an underpainting, with flat, thin paint.

As-yet-untitled abstraction by Brad Van Auken, Catherine Bullinger and Carol Douglas, 16X20, oil on canvas.

 For some, a blank canvas is the most difficult part of painting, but for us—heedless wanderers that we are—that first step was surprisingly easy.

As-yet-untitled abstraction by Carol Douglas, Brad Van Auken and Catherine Bullinger, 16X20, oil on canvas.
During the second week, Catherine Bullinger painted multicolored balls all over the canvas started by Brad Van Auken. The shapes built on the underpainting in a way that strongly reinforced the light streaming out of the center of the canvas. I, on the other hand, flailed around for about an hour before I realized that I should have asked Catherine about her intentions in laying down such rosy, sinuous base.  After all, it’s not collaboration if one runs roughshod over one’s collaborators.

As-yet-untitled abstraction by Catherine Bullinger, Carol Douglas, and Brad Van Auken, 16X20, oil on canvas.

The third week was easiest for me and most difficult for Catherine. She was left with a painting that had two wildly disparate ideas vying with each other. Her answer was to tread lightly. Brad happily laid organic shapes over what had gone before, and his style married those earlier layers well. Since I was faced with an already-completed idea, I contented myself with simply tidying things up a bit.
The first week, Brad painted a pastel composition grid and then mashed it up, Catherine painted a sinuous snaking form in red tones, and I painted something that looked distressingly creepy.
The second week, Catherine painted a series of balls on the first canvas, cleverly tying them to Brad’s frame with color temperature. I seem to have painted a human face into the second canvas, although my primary goal was to cool down the reds and give the painting more depth. Brad painted a gazillion gold Cheerios a la Gustav Klimt, leaving Catherine with a tough job to unify the two levels.
We batted around ideas for another collaboration:

-- An enormous landscape on which we all paint simultaneously;
-- A multimedia project starting with modeling paste moving up through various media;
-- An assigned subject where the single variable is the palette each person can use—one getting lights, one midtones, and one darks.

Do you have any suggestions? We’d love to hear them, especially since the forecast for next Saturday is—stop me if you’ve heard this before—more  snow.

There's still room in this summer's Maine painting workshops, and I promise you it won’t be snowing! Check here for more information.


SqUaNg said...

The one that you said "a la Klimt" is actually more like a marriage between Klimt and Kandinsky. My favorite artist. :/

SqUaNg said...

Also, I like how the abstract paintings came out happy looking and not sad and stoic.