As in colors. Day 1 of our second annual trAction Painting camp, in Pittsburg, CA.
Twenty or so kids, ranging in age from really young to less young, apply the underpainting to a 7 x 15 foot canvas, already primed with yellow gesso impregnated with sand to make the surface less slippery. Their job: to cross-hatch the yellow with blue and red, applied with Razor scooters. The end product will serve as an underpainting for what will hue-ensue over the next three days. What will ensue: a study of geometry in two pleins?given that the kids are painting in the open air. Scooter-painting styles range from diffident to hot shot; some take a slow roll, others race and jump. But all artists collectively lay down layers on the capacious canvas in an effort involving teamwork and cooperation.
Keeping the process moving are Rosemary Hatcher, program director for the camp, and associates Bill Carmel, Chris Diggins, and Lisa Nicolini. Bill is the paint person, Lisa, shoots video clips, and Chris marshals the kids on and off the canvas. Rosemary rides herd on everyone, keeping potential exuberant chaos to a reasonable level. These kids are having fun!
We start with blue, lines going mainly longitudinally. Dew point is high, but so is the temperature as filtered sun streams through the haze and bakes the canvas fairly quickly between colors. Midway through the blue, I ask the kids to give me a word or phrase that describes what we've done so far. "Art(istic)," "pretty," "beautiful," "bluish," "amazing," "cool," "squiggly lines," "X's," "shapes," "colorful" are some of the immediate responses. In addition, they are keeping journals during the 4-day project.
When the canvas is dry, we roll it up in anticipation of day 2, when we will unroll it in the multipurpose room, out of the projected higher heat and humidity. There the kids will draw geometric figures on the underpainting and tape over the drawings with 1-inch masking tape. The third day will see them painting in pastels on top of the taped underpainting.
Day 4 is revelation.