In 1960 when Jasper Johns sat down to create Grey Alphabets, 1960, he had years of training, experience, confidence and much expertise with lithography, color theory, painting and more! Me, not so much.
After a trip to the local artists supply store yesterday I had at my disposal:
- a spiral bound notebook of cold pressed 140 pound watercolor paper
- an alphabet stencil
- waterproof drawing ink in black, grey and violet
- graphite pencils in a variety of weights
- ruler and square
- multiple sizes of paint brushes
- an idea in my head of what I hoped to create
I knew it was going to take a lot of trial and error to create what I've decided to call "After Jasper Johns, 2010" (aka my poor-man's copy of Grey Alphabets, 1960) so I told myself to spend the day becoming familiar with my tools, rather than trying to leap ahead to the end project.
Ipod-enabled, I spent nearly 3 hours playing with my artist's tools. I created a 7 x 9 grid of 3x3cm squares. In each square I stenciled a lowercase letter. Then using the grey waterproof ink, and the thinnest paintbrush I had, I colored in some of the letters. After a time I switched to graphite pencils and tried different techniques. Next I switched inks and tried out violet and then black. Once the ink dried, I tried washing the paper with watercolors first using shades of grey but then switching to colors to experiment with the interplay between the letters and the different color washes. I filled the first page of my spiral notebook with lots of experiments.
- Trying the color washes first, then coloring the letters
- Water coloring the letters and inking the background
- Inking the whole grid with different colors
- Exploring how to create the grid lines in a more dynamic way