Friday, January 16, 2009

Chuck Close & Colored Pencil?

In addition to the portrait show at the Brattleboro Art Museum is the show Chuck Close: Self-Portrait/Scribble/Etching Portfolio, 2000, which is open until February 22nd.

The fun thing is that the show has a colored pencil connection!

It is a show based on one small self-portrait done in soft-ground etching - a medium I am not familiar with. Here is a description of his process from the BMAC website:

Placing a piece of paper over the soft, waxy “ground” that covered each of twelve different metal plates, Close used a different colored pencil to make scribbled drawings on each plate. When he lifted the paper from each plate, some of the waxy ground pulled away, leaving bare metal where the pencil had made its impressions. Next he immersed the plate in a bath of acid that etched only the bare metal exposed by the drawing.

Close then inked each plate with a color corresponding to a different one of his twelve colored pencils. He printed each plate three times, creating a plate proof (a print with a single color), a progressive proof (a print showing the progression of the image as each color was added), and the final print (the accumulation of all the colors).

for a more complete description of the process go to the BMAC website:

Although the end result is ink and not colored pencil, it remarkably "looks" like colored pencil. The show is set up with a finished proof that is numbered and signed as you walk in, and then going around the small room, a finished proof alternates on the wall with each color printed alone in between, so the viewer can have a look into the process. Each color that Close used was bright, but at the end they created more muted tones when the eye visually blends them together. The result reminds me of the circulism work of Maggie Toole since his scribbles are so controlled.
I took a photo or two while I was there, but I feel more comfortable sending you to the brochure to see what the print looks like.
brochure with photos:

At the top of the brochure is the finished print and if you scroll down to the second page you'll see the original colored pencil drawing that created the print with the corresponding Prismacolor numbers written below. To any colored pencil geek (a club with which I belong) it is incredibly exciting to see Chuck Close write these numbers to which I can identify the colors! :)
I actually did a life-size SCRIBBLE self-portrait in white and black charcoal for my final project in figure drawing during art school... that must have been in 1996? I'll try and scrounge out the photo I have of that portrait. It was so big I got rid of it before my husband and I moved to Seattle in 1997 (it wouldn't fit in the Neon). I remember it being very fun to do and the scribbles allowed me to finish the large project ahead of schedule. One girl even said I cheated because the scribbles made it easier on me, lol. Anyway, if I can find that I'll post it - despite my '90's hairdo!


Rhonda Bartoe Tucker said...

Have always admired Chuck Close and his work. Did not know about the colored pencil connection, so thanks for sharing. Great blog.

Paula Pertile said...

Oh, cool! Thanks for sharing that with us.

Robyn said...

Fascinating. Thank you so much for this post, Nicole. Very inspiring.