Caution: Wet Paint!

Posted by Arlo on Feb 2, 2007 under Photography

Caution: Wet Paint

A little more than a year ago, our department decided to spruce up the office with an art project.  We decided on collaborative Jackson Pollock style painting.

Our canvas, once stretched, turned out to be around 6′ x 6′.  One fine fall day, we took it out on the deck, laid it down on a plastic drop-cloth, and cracked open many undesired cans of paint.

I didn’t actually take part in the painting; I was there with my camera, documenting the process.  It was a slow start.  As people experimented with the paint — dripping it, pouring it, splattering it — the white background disappeared slowly.  Too slowly, in fact.  There were some great early splatter patterns that were covered over completely as the paint was layered on enough to cover the canvas from frame-edge to frame-edge.  At one point, I worried that the whole Pollockness of the painting would be ruined as the most enthusiastic painters used their hands to smear the colors into an almost uniform shade of greenish-brown.  I shouldn’t have worried.  They were simply coating the canvas for the next few dozen layers of paint.

Most of the shots I took that day are dynamic:  People flinging and spattering paint, posing with dripping orange hands.  Surprisingly, my favorite shots happened to be of the artwork itself.  At the end of the session, before the paint was dry, I crawled all around the canvas, trying to find interesting angles from which to take a picture.

In choosing the photo for my website, I grudgingly eliminated three others that I really liked.  One had amazing glossy highlights that showcased the texture of the layered paint.  Another had great depth of field.  Two of them showed the sheer scale of the painting — the loops, squiggles, and drips are revealed to be quite complex.  But this one…  This one doesn’t have a lot of texture, almost no highlights, and just a bit of depth.  This one is about the color.

It only took a few days for the painting to dry, but we didn’t hang it up until months later.  I always felt a bit guilty about that; it was the longevity of my Post-It Note idea that monopolized the wall space…

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 23 September 2005
Focal Length: 55mm
Shutter: 1/200 second
Aperture: F/5.6
ISO: 400
Photoshop: Negligible Auto Color adjustment