The Spiral Path

Sometimes I find my painting experiments take me to unexpected places. And the results aren’t always what I’d like them to be.

“The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral.

You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.

Barry H Gillespie

Funny how, no matter how many times we circle past the same landmarks on this spiralling journey, the same things can appear new again and again.

This is the fourth time I’ve taken on the year long color a month adventure, and with each iteration, each color is establishing a familiar pattern. And still, each time, this surprises me.


Moving around the color wheel from Yellow-Green to Green, stepping from green-ish to full on green, once again has felt brought with it a familiar sense: it’s an amplified sense of something oppressive and stifling.

And with that, a little confusion.

The first time I wondered if it was just my mood of the moment, outside life reflecting back in my studio practice, but it’s returned each time, so I suspect there’s more to it than that.

Hidden Links

Every color has connections and associations, some commonly accepted and some more personal to the individual.

Rolling meadows and fields, lush long grass, deep forests with winding paths with their curious rustlings (usually squirrels). These are all things I love, and I’ll instinctively seek refuge here when the modern world gets too frenetic.

I think it’s something primal that connects the color green with a sense of soothing tranquility.

And yet none of those feelings, which I’d expect to accompany a month of green painting have turned up. Just the opposite.

All this led me to wonder if the problem lies in the synthetic nature of green paint. Maybe when my unconscious brain sees so much green but doesn’t sense any chlorophyll, it gets agitated. (when it comes to landscape painting, there are a bunch of recipes for natural greens that don’t involve any readymade green paint. But I digress…)

Maybe, maybe not. I’m not here to dig out a reason, I’m here to seek a solution. I’ve circled back around to a lesson I picked up early on in TWELVTY:

When single colors are too intense and overwhelming, dilute the intensity with tonal contrast:

  • Darken the darks and lighten the lights – right the way up to black and white if need be.
  • Leave white space, add white to desaturate the color.
  • Water down ink or paint to build up delicate layers, increase intensity in places but leave ‘quiet’ places.
  • Begin with black or darkest green background, add elements of brighter, lighter green.
  • Pull color back by adding water to wet paint or ink, dabbing & wiping with a rag or sponge.

Simple is not always easy.

All that said and done, I don’t find holding back on color easy.

One way around this is to paint across a few pieces at once, setting pieces aside before they get too covered and moving along to the next one. Sometimes I’m a bit heavy handed, but I know I can always go back to and tweak the tones with white or black once they’re dry 😉

With that in mind for some first layers, let’s play.

Join me next week to find out what I did with these bits of greenery next.

“Twelvty” 12 Colors in 12 Months

Every month this year I am making a series of pieces in just one color. At the end of the year I’ll combine them into one big multicolored work. 

I’m sharing my process throughout this adventure here in this blog. (So far this year I’ve explored Yellow & Yellow-Green)

I’d love for you to join me. TWELVTY is open to everyone, and better yet, it’s free!

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Author: Mixy

artist, thing maker & idea magpie. I am making it all up, one bit at a time.

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