Saturday Studio: Mirror Mirror

Alyssa Dumire, Director of Children’s Education

Abstract painter, conservator, and activist, African American artist Felrath Hines got his start as an artist in youth classes at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. Sachi Yanari-Rizzo, FWMoA Curator of Prints & Drawings, wrote about Hines two years ago in an installment of “Treasures from the Vault“, and you can read more about his story in that post.

We are going to focus on just one of Hines’ six works in the FWMoA collection for today’s inspiration. Take a look at the painting below. What do you see? Is it abstract or realistic? How does it make you feel?

An abstracted landscape in greens and blues, the foreground appears like a blue lake, reflecting a line of green trees in its water.
Felrath Hines, American, 1913-1993. Morning. Oil on linen, 1968. Gift of the Wife of the Artist, 2009.03. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

The work is entitled Morning, and to me, it evokes an early summer morning, with some light fog lifting above a tree-lined, tranquil lake. It feels like a scene I would very much like to step into. Morning was made when Hines was living in New York City, during a time when his work was slowly transitioning to the more geometric, fully abstract work for which he is better known. When we think about it in the context of the rest of Hines’ work, we might see it more as an abstract painting, rather than a landscape: what we interpret as trees or hills, sky, and water are really just bands of color! The tranquil feeling comes from the strong horizontal lines and the harmonious color scheme. The upper and lower halves of the canvas are almost mirror images of each other (we would say they are roughly symmetrical), which creates the effect of still water.

Today in the Studio, we’re making our own paintings inspired by Morning, using an easy technique to create mirrored, symmetrical images.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Any kind of paint and a palette for mixing (I’m using acrylic, but tempera, or even watercolor, would work)
  • Paper (this is a slightly heavier drawing paper)
  • Paintbrushes
Gather your materials and protect your work surface.

First, it’s a good idea to protect your work surface with some newspaper (or whatever you have around)! We’ll be painting all the way to the edge of our paper, so it might get messy.

Fold your drawing paper horizontally (hotdog style).

Next, fold your paper in half, whichever direction you prefer. I went for a landscape look like Morning, so I folded mine horizontally (hotdog style). Open it back up.

Choose a color scheme!

Now, choose a color scheme and mix your paints! The yellows and greens of Morning form an analogous color scheme, meaning they’re next to each other on a color wheel and feel harmonious. I chose blues and purples for a similar effect. Mix a maximum of three or four shades to use.

Remember: only apply paint to the TOP HALF of your folded paper.

Let’s paint! We will ONLY be applying paint directly to the top half of our paper. Start with the background (or the “sky”). Quickly fill in the entire area with your selected color, then fold the paper in half again, pressing to transfer the paint to the other half. Unfold. 

If you’re a really fast painter, or your paint isn’t drying too quickly, you can paint more than one “zone” of your image at a time before folding and pressing. If you have a spray bottle handy, you can also mist your paint to extend the working time.

Continue painting in the rest of your image, working background to foreground. Notice the different textures you can achieve by applying a thicker layer of paint, or shifting your brushstrokes in different directions.

Remember to only paint on the top half of your paper.

Once you’re happy with your painting, let it dry, then display it in your Saturday Studio Gallery! If your gallery is looking a little bare, try out the past projects pictured here: Circular Weaving, Stamping Like Shapiro, or Alma Thomas Paper Mosaics!

Remember to share your work with us here on the blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

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