Experiments in colour and failure

Last week’s passing of Ted Harrison reminded me of a challenge I had posed to myself, but hadn’t yet followed through on. So, here we go…

My attempt at recreating a Ted Harrison

My attempt at recreating a Ted Harrison

About a year ago, I decided to take an acrylic painting class. (Sometimes I like to take classes and just learn new skills: like my wood working, dark room, photography or clay wheel turning classes I’ve done.)

While I have a tonne of craft supplies, I don’t necessarily always feel knowledgable about how to use them. And I feel like I have a fairly strong portion of creativity in me…but I don’t always know how to express it. So the class seemed like a great opportunity to learn some technique and feel a bit more comfortable playing around.


A van Gogh pastoral

And, it seemed like a good way to challenge myself to fail. Which is something I’m not very good at.

In fact, there have been many times in my life where I avoided trying things because I’ve been afraid I might not be good at them. There are still things I avoid for fear of looking foolish or failing. But I’m trying to say yes more. And I’m trying to be better about admitting those fears and accepting the failings…about being more forgiving of myself when I can’t achieve what I’d like to. (Probably a good lesson to really embrace before becoming a parent.)

And that’s where the challenge comes in. I made a mental commitment to show people my attempts at art…the good and the bad.

Oh O'Keeffe...how do you do it?

Oh O’Keeffe…how do you do it?

There are some here I’m pretty proud of. And others that really amp up the challenge part for me. (Hello Georgia O’Keeffe: how do you make a tightly cropped, painted flower look so obviously like a calla lily? Mine is awful.)

What did we do in the class? We learned about various techniques by recreating the work of great masters. We picked our favourite Ted Harrison to recreate so we could learn about tinting and mixing paint hues. (Thus his death finally inspiring this post.) We copied van Gogh to study the length, layers and weight of paint strokes. Georgia O’Keeffe was the inspiration on blending. Mondrian taught us the visual weight of various pigments and importance of white. And we picked our own masters to recreate…using pointillism to interpret them.

And I did learn from the process.

Blue is a heavy colour

But, more so, it turned out to be an amazing way to shut off the loud voices in my head. It forced me to just be in a quiet space for a short time – three hours where the chatter of conference calls, political meetings and life’s commitments all just faded into a distant hush. A break so lovely, I’d take my projects home to spend another five to ten hours to finish them up.

Pointillism Degas

Pointillism Degas

So, now I have a stack of slightly dusty canvases in a room I’m trying to empty (baby room awaits). No idea what to do with them…but here they are. My successes and failures.




(Forgive the quick iPhone photos of them all…a little more yellow and dull than they should be. But no energy to light them properly for the post. 🙂 )

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