Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Abstinence, Sacrifice and Constraints

I know these words make me want to reach out and grab my cocktail shaker and pour myself another martini. But hold on, wait! Hear me out. Theses words have a positive side and become challenges instead of obstacles. I have a friend who is abstaining from…all the colors of the rainbow. He is calling it a limited palette but for this blog post abstaining sounds better. I admire the guy for doing this and I have seen the results. It’s amazing what you can do with just 4 colors. Just look at any full color magazine. They are all printed in 4 colors. They call it CMYK, cyan, magenta, yellow and black broken down to little dots arranged in such patterns that they become a multitude of colors. It’s no longer seen as a “no, I can’t do without” but an opportunity to experience color, hue and value while not using the ordinary premixed colors found in the tube.

Now that he is abstaining, I was going to try my hand at sacrifice. Don’t get any ideas, I’m not slaughtering our chickens and using their blood to make red paint. It’s more along the lines of forfeiting or surrendering to something of greater value. For me, it’s sacrificing some of those extra brushstrokes and overworking a painting. Could it be a true sacrifice if there is no bloodshed? I hope the art gods inspire me to make a few loose gestural brushstrokes that suggest rather than fully describe my subject. Lord knows that I have killed many paintings by overworking them into a banal kaleidoscope of chaos, which often turned the painting into mud. 

To help me control my desire to want more, add more and need more, I set up my own list of constraints. This is for my own good so that my gnat like attention span doesn’t keep running off to the next shiny thing. One of my constraints is format. I try to paint on a square. Another constraint is subject. I use three elements and one of them has to be dots. All of my paintings have to have text or a word. These aren’t laws or rules. They’re just little constraints to help me along.
Think how much fun it is to break the rules. It was pure joy when I painted on my first rectangular board. It was new! It made me rethink the square and use the space more efficiently.
It’s about changing your attitude about the word. Diet sounds horrible, but think of the new wardrobe you can buy. Dieting is a chance to go shopping! Every advertising firm puts a positive spin on our week. Meatless Monday sounds fun but it’s a constraint on my eating habits. It makes me want more meat on Tuesday. Thankfully there is Taco Tuesday, then Wednesday, which is hump day…Well I digress and should start looking at that limited palette.

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