Wednesday, January 6, 2016

So Long, Chromaphobia

I've spent nearly a decade with an aversion to using color. This stemmed from my initial love for etching and aquatint--what's the point of introducing color when you can play endlessly with undulating values?!--as well as a fear and lack of understanding color itself and how to use it.

I've discussed my fear of painting with many friends. The biggest drawback to me is that there are too many variables (brushes, marks, materials, translucency, etc) and then on top of it, color and all of its endless avenues.  As my friend Keegan pointed out, I enjoy being able to make a mistake--hence using the typewriter, etching an image in steel, or using permanent marker and rubbing alcohol to make a drawing. I enjoy using tools which provide some kind of limitation. Light masochism? Cowardice?

Anyway, for the last few months, while actively in a frenzy of high contrast black and white portraiture, I have spent a lot of time passively staring at, thinking about, and appreciating color, as a voyeur. I contemplate the subtle yet overwhelming effects of light on a beige wall alongside the dazzling appearance of vivid colors in nature, ordinary human-made objects, photography, and painting. I have spent a lot of time building imaginary palettes, wondering how things were created, considering the changes in house exteriors I see on my daily routes while illuminating light upon surfaces paired with the sky in the background alters the same view so drastically.

Precious Cargo, in progress
typewritten blue and red ink on Rives BFK

Now that I have finally shrugged off the fear of using color, I'm taking steps to using it directly--and it is mind-bendingly exciting.  Even just pairing two colors--knowing that blue and red make purple because I'm a 30 year old person with rods and cones--is a thrill to watch, and maybe more so because I'm watching it change as it moves through the typewriter.

I'm super excited to use this decade to further consider and actively use color.  I remember an instance pointing to my color-use-paralysis in litho class my sophomore year of college, with Lynn Tomaszewski.  We were doing two- to three-plate printing, and while my other classmates were playing with the overlap of various colors and values and how that affected different areas of an image, I was resigned to using an fiery red, shapes of color without texture or changes in value under a black plate which held all of the outlining visual information. The same went for my color work in screen-printing and intaglio, too. I am still working through this--in Dominic In Blue, it's hardly an exercise in color use, but it's a fun monochromatic study--a focus on using different tools (I used only "/" for the flesh).  And I just drool over that cerulean ribbon!

Dominic In Blue, 2016
typewritten blue ink on Rives BFK
8 x 10 inches

I am looking forward to escaping this paralysis, this rigid thinking I have with color.  The typewriter, since it naturally provides limitations (in mark-making, width allowance, material), is actually helpful in allowing me to hand myself over to color.  By providing these limitations, it allows me to be more flexible and carefree within the realm of color.  While color choice is still limited--there aren't endless ribbon colors like there are tubes of paint, but as we all know from living in a world covered in CMYK-printed things, I still have a pretty free range. Plus I recently learned that Ace Typewriter has pink and green ribbons in addition to the blue and purple that I've already added to my chromatic collection!

This rigidity is still present in my first attempt at creating a four-color CMYK typewriter-drawing.  I separated the layers of a color photograph in Photoshop and had each layer printed so that I could copy the predetermined colors exactly.  Being that I haven't yet located a yellow ribbon, I have substituted the use of Saral yellow transfer paper secured to the Rives BFK and running it through with the photocopy secured on top and typing over all three layers, doing the Y-layer blind, so to speak.

Self Portrait, in-progress 4-color typewritten ink and 

I plan to continue working in a way using the CMYK process, but instead of relying on the predetermined layers given to me, trying to use my own brain to imagine how hard/soft or dense/loose to apply each layer.  Though I bought this book years ago, I'm currently reading Island of The Colorblind by one of my favorite authors, self-proclaimed neuro-anthropologist Oliver Sacks (RIP). I recognize my privilege in being able to see and appreciate color.  In the book, he discusses his friend and colleague, Knut, an achromatope, "who has never seen color...has experienced only the positivity of vision, and has built up a world of beauty and order and meaning on the basis of what he has." I am excited to navigate this new personal appreciation and bask in the magic of color.  Now go read the book.

Top-Heavy, 2016
collaged typewritten purple and red ink on paper
10 x 13 inches

The last thing--I look forward immensely to exhibiting my latest typewriter-drawings (some in color) at my upcoming shows this February: first a solo exhibition at Darling Press (endless gratitude to Nele and Jen for connecting us and making this show happen!) and several pieces will be featured in a drawing show curated by Robert Tomlinson at the Western Oregon University. More details to come...stay tuned!

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