Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Color Is The Keyboard

Last week I referenced Michelle Ward's blog and her Challenge to MIYO -- “Make It Your Own”. There is just so much gold in her post that I decided to expand on some of her ideas today, making them my own, as it were.

It's June and the Art Bead Scene has posted another challenge to create a jewelry design using an art bead with a painting as the inspiration. I've been doing these Challenges since January and am amassing a nice body of work. I feel they are definitely more stimulating than anything I did in art school and I try to push myself by spending real quality time on the projects. This time it's Kandinsky's "Farbstudie Quadrate" (Color Study of Squares) and I'm doing a little research on the artist, his body of work and his artistic philosophy.

One of Michelle's points in her “Evolution of an Idea” is: Study -- figure out what it is that has gotten your attention? Color? Composition? Kandinsky, a Russian Expressionist and considered the first true abstract artist, went through several periods in his artistic life and I must say that I admire his 1911-1913 period the most for the ferocious energy of his brushstrokes and riot of colors.

"Angel of the Last Judgement" - 1911

But the task is to interpret this painting and as I suggested in my previous post, limiting your materials or, in this case-- your inspiration to just one work out of the dozens by any artist that you could choose – will force you to really look and start to appreciate what the artist was trying to express in that particular piece. So what got my attention about this watercolor study was the energy that Kandinsky creates by making the circles imperfect. They are in nice, square little boxes but they are not round, symmetrical orbs, they are edgy, torn, and random in color, size, and design. For Kandinsky, subject matter was irrelevant-- he thought the effect of the object interferred with that of the color, reducing its impact. Now I love circles but disintegrating circles are even better!

So for this project I decided to go with the idea of the deconstructed colored circles. I've explored the crackle technique I learned from the French blog Parole de Pate quite a bit in my work -- it's a technique that delivers color in an unpredictable way that I like. As with the mokume gane technique that's my favorite, you never know exactly what you'll get. It's like dancing with chance, an opportunity to break the bonds of technical perfection that too often become an end in themselves for polymer clay artists.

"Out of Africa" beads - in my Etsy shop

My spin--how I make it my own--for the crackle technique is to consistently reproduce the crackle effect with the colors I want, rather than simply using leftover canes and dried-out clay of random colors. I also make donuts with it, little cosmic rings of color. This is what I decided to go for with the Kandinsky circles. I think they ended up looking a bit like enamel work-- didn't expect that! Once I get the rest of these sanded and buffed, the necklace design is the next challenge!


My scholarly source says that Kandinsky was not only a painter but an art theorist, and believed that color, stripped of its associations [with form] communicated something essential about the underlying laws of the Universe. He said, "Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammer, the soul is the piano with the strings."


  1. You really hit the mark with your beads, can't wait to see your completed necklace. When I look at Kandinsky's squares, my eye catches the reds, golds, and oranges, and shuts out the cooler colors. My brain chooses to relate with these colors, even though I am usually drawn to blues and greens. Funny.

    I created some beads using your advice and instructions for marbling and posted pics on my blog, giving you credit for inspiring me, of course! And you do.

  2. I love those beads you made!

  3. Exciting! I love that you are making it your own. I have been letting that article by Michelle marinate in my brain. I am currently working on my own interpretation of the painting. I think those swirly donut beads are a great shape and the colors are amazing. I especially like your "dancing with chance" imagery....enjoy the day! Erin