Color Calisthenics

Color Calisthenics no. 1. Acrylic, aquarelle, ink on mixed media paper
Color Calisthenics no. 1. Acrylic, aquarelle, ink on mixed media paper. 40-minute exercise.

An artist friend, Anna, told me – making resolute eye contact – that I need to electrify the apparently drab color palette I have allowed myself to succumb to. We were having an “art day,” which means we get together on her covered patio with Molly, her incredibly cute dog, chat for awhile, have a coffee, spend way too long getting our works space and materials set up, and try our damndest to advance our current projects while sort of cheering each other on. Anna was flinging colors around on a silk canvas in wide bars so vivid you could have mistaken it for a black-light luminescence poster we all know from our teenage years or stoner friends. I, five feet away, was scribbling blue ink into a tiny patch of bare canvas and diluting it with medium-heavy titanium white, carefully planning which color will come next, wincing at the surface like a math problem. I wasn’t having any fun with that, and predictably, I found myself staring at the colors an hour later and wondering how I had come up with such a stereotypical, elementary pairing of orange and blue without much else going on. Anna was right, I think, as she hands me a white wine spritzer (choice Art Day drink – or we are just women-around-thirty). My color capabilities have become flabby. Glug.
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Periplaneta americana: la cucaracha!

Periplaneta americana underpainting
Periplaneta americana underpainting. Acrylic and graphite on watercolor paper.

This was a quick project that I’ve put aside for now, as predictably I have moved on to something else I find a little more interesting than a painting about this ubiquitous insect. Cockroaches live all over the world and come in several species, the worst of which I hear are migrating to my part of the world at a terrifying pace. The initial inspiration came from finding some small specimens in my sink and my subsequent battle with the seemingly limitless reinforcements that back up their fallen compatriots. Luckily, there are some handy dandy and non-toxic ways to deal with minor infestations of them.
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