When you think of a nasty, windy, damp day in fall, you’re on the right track. It was the kind of grey Saturday that made me wish for flannel pyjamas and the fireplace channel, even if it was only October.
It was the kind of day that made me wonder, upon pushing open the door to leave the Green Valley Community Centre, if the wind would galvanize and thrust the door right out of my one free hand to slam into the wall, the building shuddering as we all do with the cold discomfort of late autumn.
I held onto it though. No slamming, just my own shivering as I held an oversized cardboard box precariously on one arm, and my purse and lunch bag, bunched up under the other. As I made my way to the car, I tried to keep my eyes trained on my three little, poured creations, colourful and still very fluid, lying at the bottom of the big brown box. It would be two days of drying before I could judge their final appearances.
In my mind, though, the day was already a success. The Luminous Colour Workshop took place October 27, 2018. Led by Andrea Warren, Certified Working Artist for Golden Artist Colours, it was six hours of hands-on learning and playing with a plethora of Golden acrylic paints and mediums. The warm, friendly atmosphere and positive feedback afterward confirmed the day was a success for the thirteen other artists who attended as well. We were a mixed group, as the Collective and its events often are. There were members, non-members, the prolific, and the curious.
Most of the day was a foundation of colour theory and practice. As an artist and art teacher myself, I’ve worked extensively with colour theory, colour wheels, and value scales. However, that certainly doesn’t mean I’m above them. Many artists and students are tempted to skip the theory, the practice exercises, and the experiments, believing instead they can get right into making their own masterpiece to put on a wall. But just like athletes, we need the learning, the training, the failing, and just playing around, if we’re going to deliver for the big event.
In addition to supplying us each with a little goodie bag of paints, Andrea also walked us through an extensive array of sturdy worksheets and colour charts. Painting knives in hand, we worked through colour wheels, discovered masstones and undertones, and created tints and shades.
Have you ever wondered why white isn’t simply white? Why black isn’t just black? Try testing them. Try mixing them. You’ll quickly see the differences between your Titanium White and your Zinc White, and the differences between your Carbon, Mars, and Bone Blacks. We learned about value, creating depth, kinds of pigments, tinting strengths, and chroma. We also learned about the differences between heavy body, open, fluid, and high flow options of Golden paints.
Highlights for me were the Interference colours and Iridescent paints, both new products to me. While iridescence is a familiar concept for many, interference may not be. An area painted with Interference colours looks different from different angles. Think of the changing, colourful swirls of oil on the surface of a puddle. In working with both types, we didn’t merely lay down a glob of each colour, but also mixed them with other colours to see the effects. Some of my favourite combinations include Interference Blue on black and Interference Gold mixed with Phthalo Blue. Iridescent Pearl mixed with Dioxazine Purple created the nicest purple I have experienced. I can also see myself using the Iridescent Copper to warm up colours such as Dioxazine Purple, Quinacridone Magenta, Hansa Yellow, and Phthalo Blue.
Any chance to put paint on a palette feels like play to me, and so the hours of mixing and applying patches of paint with a knife and brush to worksheets were great. I wasn’t in a rush to switch over to the pouring segment of the day. With the worksheets, I was still in my comfort zone. I was playing and learning, but not yet stretching.
I admit, for painting, I’m more of a brush person. However, I signed up for the workshop with a deliberate goal of playing, of going with the flow, if you will.
To an outsider, that last hour inside the community centre might have looked like a good party was about to kick off. The tables were scattered with dozens of little plastic shot glasses, bamboo skewers, and big red Solo cups. A buffet table displayed an astonishing array of tubes and bottles, and way too many colours to choose from. After learning about the paints, mediums, marbling techniques, skins, and dirty pours, we were free to begin. For many, this was the moment they waited for all day. It was time to get the party started.
Immediately I hesitated. I looked at my three cradled wooden panels, white with gesso, and walled with masking tape to hold the coloured fluids. They were ready for action. I looked at the cups. I looked at the people milling around the paint buffet table. I looked back at my panels. Then I picked up my brush and painted one of my panels black. That’s right. I started with a brush. And I wasn’t alone. It was a safe and comfortable first step, but it was how I worked myself up to the pours to come. That black panel also became the base of my favourite pour of the day.
Around the room, artists poured from cups and delicately drew bamboo skewers through the paint pooling on their wooden bases. We stood, we sat, we tilted our panels this way and that, all of us marvelling at the colours rolling and transforming before our eyes. Sometimes we mixed on the panels, sometimes we mixed in the cups. All of it was new to me.
The acrylic mediums we were working with are white as a liquid; therefore, the colours we mixed were very milky versions of what the final product would look like when dry. We had a small sense of what our final panels could look like, but larger was the sense of uncertainty. Will they be too dark? Will they be too light? Where is that fine line between success and a muddy, overworked surface?
I found the answer to that last question. Twice. Both times, that line was way behind me. Two days later, after all of three had dried, the verdict remained the same: one work that I was happy with, and two that I overworked.
But that’s how we learn, right? We play, we learn, and if we can do that with a group of other artists, even better. It’s also one of the best ways to warm up a cold, damp day in the fall.
The Glengarry Artists’ Collective has organized previous workshops and demonstrations with Golden materials, acrylics, and image transfers. Look for the next workshop in Spring of 2019. You can follow the Glengarry Artists’ Collective at cagac.ca.
Jessica MacLeod is an artist, writer, editor, indexer, and educator living near Alexandria, Ontario.