Color Class and a Nervous Breakdown

 
Conk Shell

Conk Shell

Final Project : : Second round colors : : 1984

Final Project : : Second round colors : : 1984

When I was in grad school, most of my time was consumed with required studio classes, seminars and thesis development. The undergraduate program was extensive and comprehensive, not only because of the variety and depth of the curriculum, but also because of the professors and the student body. I was lucky to be anywhere near it. It was a great opportunity to take as many undergraduate courses as I could. One of them was a winter session color class. Winter session is a six week accelerated semester between fall and spring semester.

The very first assignment was to create the color wheel which showed primary and secondary colors. The next couple of assignments isolated specific colors, like compliments, presented them as pairings to demonstrate various color relationships like simultaneous contrast. The next series of assignments explored value through black and white. I began to see interactions that I’d never seen before. For our final assignment we picked an object of our own choosing to translate in color and in black and white. This assignment doesn’t require painting on paper, cutting the swatches out and assembling them like the others, this assignment required you to paint onto a single surface. I picked a conk shell. A conk shell. What a ridiculous object to pick if you’re a beginner. A much simpler object would have been a better choice. I’m pretty sure Aki asked me if I was sure I wanted to use this object. I assured her it would be fine. It wasn’t. It was a huge mistake. I broke it down into approximately 22 colors for the color version and another 22 or so for the black and white version. If I hadn’t gotten impatient, it probably could have been more like 35 colors for each. I drew the conk shell within a 10 x 10 square format with a light pencil and began to outline general color breaks. Have you ever seen the inside of a conk shell? There are no color breaks. The different colors smoothly transition from light to dark. Once I had the composition determined, I began to mix my colors.

Mixing the colors for the assignments is the most time consuming and subjective part. When I mixed my colors I used small pans about the size and depth of a hockey puck. They seemed fine decision at the time. After completing them over the course of a couple of days, I covered them in cellophane. I don’t remember excatly what transpired, why I wasn’t around, or where I went, but I didn’t return to the studio for a period of time. When I returned to continue my work, I peeled off the cellophane and most of them were dry, almost dry and mostly unusable. I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I had to start completely over with the exception of a few colors that I could salvage. When I spoke with Aki to let her know what had happened, she was empathetic and let me know that a different type of container was a better way to go, like the ones above. My final assignment was racing towards a horrifying shit show. I remixed all of the colors and all of the matching gray values and began the two studies. I ran out of time. I didn’t finish either of them completely and she had evaluate them on what I had. It was ridiculous. Sometimes I still have ‘school dreams’ about that course during periods of high stress and and self doubt.

© C. Davidson