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The Story of "Red Pepper and Onion"

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Out of My Comfort Zone

 

It's been over a month since I last painted. And like, I forgot how.

For the last month, my brain has been in high gear to get this web site done. Lots of lots of left-brained activity. In that mode, I think fast and I run at it to get it done. Plus, I've had some high octane projects to do at work, so speed has been my way of getting around.

But not so with painting. It's about slowing down, and getting to know the subject, and seeing past my preconceptions. Which of course, I didn't do.

I bought a grill today. It was a cheap grill, but a grill nonethless, and I'm probably the only 40-year-old man in America who has never used a gas grill in his life. So in honor of my first grilling and since I've been away from it for so long, I thought I would paint. I chose a picture of a red pepper and onions, which was part of tonight's very scrumptious steak dinner.

Nice picture. And in my mind, I thought, well this should be easy.

But that's the trick, see. Every painting is equally as "hard." I forgot to rid my mind of the idea that I'm painting a red pepper and a sliced onion. So my first attempt at this gorgeous red pepper looked more like a sketch of Bob the Tomato.

Painting is good for me. I'll take a crack at this in the morning.

 

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Tags: painting | watercolor
by Brett Rogers, 3/5/2005 10:18:26 PM
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The Morning After

 

It is the next morning, and I've slowed it down a bit. I started with an outline sketch...

My sketch is a bit taller than the original picture, but I'm okay with that. On to the color, eh? Let's start with the pepper itself.

When I first looked at it, I wondered if I had a red bright enough to paint this. I mean, that looks like a brilliant red.

But on closer inspection, other colors began to come out. It's not really a true red; it's more of a rich pink. There's a bit of white in it. And there is yellow and purple in the highlights.

To confirm it, I loaded it into Microsoft Photo Editor and zoomed in. Check this out.

You see the yellow and the purple? And then I color-matched the reddest pixel in this close-up and its RGB value is red-255, green-29, blue-21. The green and the blue make a white shade when combined with the red, so this is like 8 1/2 parts red and 1 part white.

Also, at this close view, you forget that it's a red pepper. I believe that anyone could paint that little swatch and be fairly accurate. Why? Because it's no longer a red pepper. It's now just colors: reddish-pink, yellow, purple, and white. Paint a bunch of little swatches like this and it's - ta-da - a painting of a red pepper and a sliced onion.

It's hard work to unlearn. It's also critical to learn how to do this.

The Creating Passionate Users blog has a very succinct post on this.

Yes, we're under pressure to learn more and to learn quickly, but the future goes to those who can unlearn faster than the rest, because you can't always learn something new until you first let go of something else. And learning to let go of rules is one of the first things we (and our managers) have to learn to be quicker at.

Sometimes that means letting go of something that served you well for a long time.

They point to smart guy, John Seely Brown. Go read it.

All of this is a good reason why today's schools don't teach what people need to know - especially MBA colleges. Jack Welch said, "I am convinced that if the rate of change inside an organization is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight."

The same could be said of us. I think seeing truly and unlearning are two of the greatest skills in life.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 3/6/2005 10:42:55 AM
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Anybody But Bob...

 

Worked for about 15 minutes on the red pepper. Time constraints prevented more work on it, but it's better than what I had first done yesterday. And no longer resembles Bob the Tomato.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 3/6/2005 9:04:31 PM
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Red

 

More progress on the vegetable still life.

Comparatively, painting a face or a complicated street scene is much easier, I think, than painting a simple vegetable. For that reason, I'm enjoying this.

I'm applying the washes and getting a sense of the detail. Still using big brushes for this. And for some reason, my monitor has taken to an occasional flickering that removes all of the red and leaves only blue/green. Which makes a red pepper look more like an eggplant.

I hope to finish this during the weekend. I have all five kids this weekend, and they like watching me paint. You know, when I'm programming, I'm not social at all. But when I'm painting, I actually like talking with people while I paint.

Jacob and I discussed the finer points of silent "e" as I painted. He was reading a book, and the notion of long and short vowels is a new concept. He's in kindergarten, and his progress in reading this year has been wonderful. So he sits in the chair next to me and makes comments as I paint ("Dad - that's pink. I don't think it's pink like that in the picture.") And reads a snippet or two from his book. Or asks about words that are complex. Later, we'll probably watercolor together.

One of my favorite books - just to look at - is The Treehouse Book. And we're not talking little simple treehouses... no, we're talking houses in a tree.

Now that's a treehouse.

I find this sort of thing very appealing.

 

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Tags: painting | watercolor | jacob | treehouse
by Brett Rogers, 3/12/2005 9:06:14 AM
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Coming to Life

 

And now for the finer brushes...

You know, oftentimes we start out with a rough sketch in our heads - a vague notion - and if we bother to take repetitive passes at it, we hone it and make it better and it starts to come together. Not just about painting or drawing, but anything in life.

Persistence will hardly ever bring failure. A friend of mine has a favorite quote that goes something like: It's not success or failure that defines us, but the effort. It's all about the journey. Which is why we shouldn't be afraid to just stick our feet into whatever it is that we wish to do.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 3/13/2005 12:52:52 PM
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Still Life, Um, Standing Still

 

I took today off work, which was fabulous. I slept for a while, hung out with my kids, who are on spring break starting today, and I painted. Here's the current red pepper and onion painting, with a view of the transitions between each sit down.





But now what? It needs a background, but I don't know what I want to do with it... cutting board? Plate? Dinner table? Fade to white?

Beats me... I'll noodle it through.

Aaron has his friend, Sonny, over and they are conquering the Covenant in HALO 2.

He'll be staying for dinner tonight. Should be a great evening here at home.

I am so glad that I took the day off.

ETC: The kids all like this painting. My daughter, who is smart about things like this, suggests that I paint a black-and-white tiled countertop. That seems smart to me because it's a good background without detracting from the color of the pepper and onion.

ETC, ETC: After scrounging through Google images and doing some sketching, I think a gray marble tile countertop would be nice. A pattern, even as simple as black and white, would pull too much from the focus of the vegetables.

 

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Tags: my life | painting | watercolor | halo | aaron
by Brett Rogers, 3/18/2005 5:49:57 PM
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