All boarding, grades 9-12 in Alexandria, Virginia
Frank Phillips’ Painting 1 class jumped into a project of color mixing and pixelation this fall. Their creations are now on display in the Ainslie Arts Center main hallway… but there’s a high-tech twist to what might initially be a low-tech assignment!
Phillips’ introductory panel to the exhibit offers an explanation of the lessons learned and the added “smart” feature of the experience:
Academic painting first requires practical understanding about how to mix color. Traditional practice would involve creating a color wheel whereby the three Primary Colors pair to produce Secondary Colors; from those, students mix for the combinations in between. Then, each Primary and Secondary would receive greater investigation when nuanced with white, black, gray, and colors from the other side of the wheel.
The results of these exercises are akin to the importance of learning your scales, but leaves the student with an unartistic rote duplicate of his/her peers; and they don’t engage with the curiosity of how colors relate to one another compositionally, once mixed and put in place.
The paintings in the Ainslie Hallway Gallery offer a different approach to color mixing; each student was given an unknown-to-them pixelated masterwork, and asked to replicate it (square by square). Slow in the beginning, students quickly figured out how to mix the paints, using the correct pigments (similar to those steps performed in a traditional approach). Repetitive color-mixing, when reacting to what’s directly in front of you, engages one with specific problem-solving and will ultimately build the “wax on, wax off” skillset needed by a painting-from-life artist. During the process, students also realized that, though uniquely different, squares often shared similar root properties; this, too, translates to working from life and establishes color-balance understanding.
When assembled, the final paintings offer a glimpse into how the original masters constructed their works so that color supported and strengthened their compositions. Our students’ pieces are Modern/Post Modern re-imaginings of their sources. All masterworks are currently on-view at the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art. And all artists included in this survey have work that is held within the Episcopal High School Art Collection.
To virtually view the original work on your mobile device, download HPReveal, and follow FrankPPhillips. Open the App and point the viewfinder at an individual student work; the masterwork should emerge on the screen.