Sunday, February 23, 2014

Random numbers in charcoal and pastel

 John Terwilliger, "Brown Branch Dance", Pastel on paper, 22"x30", 2014-02-16

Many artists will tell you they do not know exactly how a painting is going to turn out when they begin as the picture speaks to them and guides their hand.  This is certainly true for me.  While I have a good idea of the bones of the picture, i.e. what the subject matter, main colors will be a lot is determined as I go.

In my treetop drawings after I sketch the basic trunk/branches onto the substrate (usually paper) I stand back and decide what the background will be.  Now I normally have an idea about the background before I start but the composition may make demands; so I usually oblige.

Random numbers/random choices take the knowledge of the final piece out of your total control.  In a lot of the works I use a grid pattern of some sort in the background.  Why grids you ask?  Well that is for a different post.  Within the grid pattern I will frequently use a random number formula to determine which color to use.  To generate the random number I use dice.  I have four, six, eight, ten, twelve, and twenty sided dice to choose from. As I write I am doing this very thing in the studio.

The drawing in question, see above, has a two square thick grid around the edge of the paper as a sort of border.  The colors to be used in the grid are light blue, dark blue, and lime green.  I have chosen my six sided die to generate numbers and the formula is as follows:
  • 1-3 = light blue
  • 4-5 = dark blue
  • 6 = lime green
As you may imagine there is no real way to know how the grid pattern is going to turn out.  Obviously it should be about 50% light blue with an even spacing of dark blue and green, but there is no guarantee of this happening.  I could shake ones all day long and never even get a six.  I do not go against the dice even when it puts the composition out  of balance so I just have to make it work around the random choices.  In the example there is only one square with green in the bottom left corner and the other corners have more. 

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