My two students, J. & V. arrived with scones and tea, raspberry jam, butter and honey to celebrate my birthday. This is one of the unexpected benefits of my reluctant submission to being a teacher – you get treats. You get love. You get this feeling like you’re doing something of great value. J. also brought a sprig of Winter Daphne that had such a scent it sent us swirling. This was all extraordinary in itself, and then we started painting.

Continuing our exploration of Jenkins’ pouring technique, this time with Golden Fluid Acrylics (recommended as BEST by Bette Ridgeway), we loved the intensity of the color. J. & V. worked on the same piece, alternating pours, to explore the effects. The crucial part of this lesson was the discovery of the value of gray. Grayed tones. We are working with such a vibrant palette that initially we crave the clarity and transparency and intensity of the pure color…quinacradone magenta, phthalo blue, hansa yellow, that we don’t want to muddy it in any way. HOWEVER, there is an amazing spectrum of colors that occur through the combination of these three colors, the primaries, as we all know from 7th grade art class. An infinite array of grayed-down tones. Beautiful ochres, khacki greens, dusty mauve. And what we discovered is that allowing these colors into the painting, even adding them back in allows the vibrant colors to be even more vibrant.

I learned this lesson in 3 major ways. My painting teacher, EJ Gold, in his You Can Paint Classes would always reinforce the Three Dimensions of Painting: Light to Dark, Warm to Cool, Intense to Gray. As a beginner I took that in as much as a could, being more concerned with getting the paint on the canvas at all. With his encouragement I got a whole lot of paint on the canvas.

A few years later I had started producing a lot of very bright paintings. And just about then my artist friend Zoe Alowan walked through my studio and mentioned that I might want to balance the vibrancy with some gray. Oooh no, I thought. Not gray. Gray is dull and muddy. Mud is bad. I want brightness. No gray for me. Then a few days later, my artist/animator friend, Lin Larsen, walked through and said that I might want to add some grays to balance all the vibrancy. Okay. Okay. Okay.

So I set myself to color explorations, making color charts with grayed tones next to pure colors to see how they “popped”. I read color theory books and understood some of it, and I deliberately mixed grayed tones and tried them out. And finally, while reading a coffee table book about Jenkins –there is a section describing exactly how he worked on his canvases –I learned that when pouring, pools of paint would form, and Jenkins would carefully mop up the pools of mixed color with a rag, squeeze it out into a coffee can, and reuse that mixed color elsewhere in the painting. This color harmonized with the rest of the painting because it was a mixture of all the other colors already painted and it added a dimension and contrast to the vibrant colors, which added greatly to the depth and power of the final painting.ablab1juvien1bday

The learning we can do about color is endless. Mostly I try not to think about it too much. Color carries so much emotion, that feeling your way with color is of great service to you as an artist. Know about grays as a balance to clear colors and leave it at that. Let the artist inside you move toward just the right color and let it be the way it is.

This J. & V. found out in one morning by experiencing the accidental effects of this pouring technique. They signed their collaboration JuVien and a new artist was born. A magical time for all.

I have two students who come to my studio some Thursday mornings to explore abstract acrylic painting. This is the real abstract laboratory where we study techniques and run experiments. I didn’t want to be a teacher. But I didn’t want to be a painter either. Now I love both.

Today we started a new phase of experimentation with a pouring technique derived from the master Paul Jenkins. We also found a DVD in the same vein by Bette Ridgeway that truly inspired us. So this morning we jumped in and loved the flow and transparency of layers of paint on the white canvas.

Paul Jenkins -- Phenomena Violet

Paul Jenkins -- Phenomena Violet

When I get my new camera for my birthday I’ll have pictures to show. For now, this is a Jenkins painting called Phenomena Violet. I’ll be writing more on Jenkins soon because his work is extraordinary and phenomenal. My “students” (my fellow artists) and I can’t wait to resume our work next week.