What can I say about avant garde artist Paul Klee except he really knocks my socks off! I’d forgotten how much he has influenced me until a recent visit to the Making Visible Exhibition at Tate Modern (on London’s South Bank).
Katie Harrison (‘honorary daughter’) made me go with her boyfriend Hugo Manual (my youngest son aka Chad Valley) because as a creative herself she’s very keen on the idea that you need to ‘feed yourself’ as an artist; and she’s absolutely right! But I need to be told this as otherwise I just keep my head down and work. So seeing the Klee show spurred to me to produce new pieces AND to think about the nature of colour.
What’s the key to Klee?
To my mind Klee (1879-1940) was a great colourist and colour has always made a huge impact on me.
He was a very measured artist, very very thorough – though when you first see his work you think he is (oddly) lyrical and light, and quite slight. In fact when he gets into something he’ll do it again and again and again really understanding it. He’s actually quite a mathematical artist, which I really appreciate as I love the mix of art and science. Klee was exploring a whole system: take a look below at Fish Magic (1925, 77 x 98.3 cm oil and watercolour on canvas).
It’s his exploration of colour using squares and rectangles on other background colours that knocks me out as below with Lowlands (1932, 30 x 48 cm, watercolour on paper) ...
The watercolour that impacted the most for me was Polyphony (1932, 66.5 x 106 cm) and on seeing it I knew I had to get home and work something up from this. In this work, he creates layers and layers of colour using a pattern of squares overlaid with different coloured dots.
It’s all about how colours are affected by the colours underneath them… how colour works and I’m tremendously interested in that. This piece made me think I want to do something like that, so I went to work when I got back to the studio.
Klee-coloured chest of drawers
1. I painted the whole thing using Chalk Paint® in Paris Grey first for a good neutral background.
2. I then ripped off various flaps from cardboard boxes and painted onto them. I used a limited number of colours from the Chalk Paint® range to keep the effect similar in tone (but not so similar that you couldn’t differentiate i.e. nothing very contrasty).
3. Next I printed (i.e. pressed) the cardboard squares onto the cabinet which gave a slightly uneven effect. The flaps of the cardboard boxes were a good size to cover fairly large areas (if the cardboard bits are too small it gets boring trying to cover a large area – so be bold use big!).
4. Then when that was all printed (and using the same colours) I roughly applied paint onto some bubble wrap.
5. Finally I pressed the ‘tips’ of the bubble wrap onto the surface of the chest of drawers to create the dot effects.
Be bold, be experimental
So basically you have two layers and yes it’s very messy, your hands are covered with paint and there are bits of used-up plastic and cardboards all over.
I want to do more because now I’ve finished it I realise it was like a rough first draft and that’s fine because it’s interesting and unique and I am very pleased with it. But having done one experiment I can see other ways of doing it – just as Klee would have seen it – you don’t have to be perfect and precise and that’s what makes it so beautiful. So I’m going to try another one, perhaps this time with a more neutral finish all in greys, beiges and white. Watch out for more Paul Klee-inspired pieces!