November 8, 2013

A Strange Courage

Working with color is a challenge for me--one I confronted head on in my latest drawing...

El Hombre

It's a strange courage 
you give me ancient star:
Shine alone in the sunrise
toward which you lend no part!  

    ~William Carlos Williams 
   from his collection, "Al Que Quiere!"

I stumbled upon this poem while idly browsing the web a few months ago, and liked it enough to bookmark the page for later reference. Upon reading it again late last week, an image began to take shape in my mind. Things seemed easy enough starting from my comfortable home-base of black and white, but I realized early on that the piece would eventually require a more ambitious exploration of bright color.

As a kid I remember hearing somewhere--don't know where at this point--that in order to master color, an artist first needed to master black and white. It was a reassuring thought as I delved even deeper into my emerging preference for stark contrast, crisp lines, and austere form..."I'll get really good at black and white and then...just imagine the possibilities!" Maybe I got too comfortable. These days, if I use color at all, it's generally one shade, maybe two, and used without much nuance, blend, or shading--bold areas of color that mirror the distinction of their equally unambiguous frame.

 For El Hombre I envisioned a sort of middle road. I knew I needed a lot of color, but wanted to avoid ruining things with a sad attempt at shading or gradation. I just don't have that skill at the moment. I resolved instead to select a limited palette and apply it in big blocks--more in the style of mosaic or stained glass than a pencil drawing.

I'm more or less satisfied with the result...though I can't help but cringe just a little at its brightness whenever I look at it. It's like I'm practicing really loud excerpts on my trumpet and just KNOW that the neighbors are about to pound the door down with threatening expletives.