Notes on Navy - Works in progress (botanical)

All bar one of these works (Hair colour study) was painted this week as I explore the possibilities of a palette and revisit some ideas that have haunted me since studying the history of New Zealand painting.

All bar one of these works (Hair colour study) was painted this week as I explore the possibilities of a palette and revisit some ideas that have haunted me since studying the history of New Zealand painting.

A recent job has me pining for paint. It appears that navy is a design trend that is licking its way into many interiors. No longer tied down to being on school uniforms and military blazers, navy is getting a bit of its own swish back and I am digging it. 

I have been experimenting with colour. Navy and cream. Navy and duck egg blue. Hints of blushing pink, deepening creams and shocks of orange to make it all pop. I have been visiting the Botanical Gardens (a trip to Hamilton!) and going for local green loop walks armed with my camera. I have been getting more familiar with my own house plants with a pencil in my hand and I have been researching sophisticated navy interiors for further inspiration. I now have a pad of line drawings, a file of photographs and numerous sketches to refer to and I have been translating them into 'quick action drawings' so that the final works, when painted, will have an energy about them that won't seem too crafted, over-laboured. or 'flat'. 

Navy is a forgiving colour because it kind of goes with everything. I have used it as a base note to paint tropical bright green foliage over the top of, as an outline surprise in an otherwise black and white monochrome print, as a button detail on a dress or as an accent on an overlaid pattern. Researching palettes that go with navy has introduced me to some stunning greys and sandy colours that allow the navy to lay to rest a bit and eventually make a warming earthy impression overall. In particular I am loving the romantic partnership of deep navy with the most subtle of pinks. The rule here, though, is that provided you have an interesting composition and not too many colours in your palette, navy pretty much goes with everything.

If you have a tan couch, add navy cushions. If you have white walls, try a navy art work. If you have nude walls, add a navy throw or try adding a lean-to print against the wall with navy accents. It all goes.

What is it about this palette that is so appealing? Navy is a steadfast and reassuring colour. It has authority yet it is quite companionable. It doesn't dominate like black and it is less likely to date as monochrome black and white. Partnered with cream, navy is easier to keep clean or allow to age in the sun and despite being a cool colour, it is generally quite heart-warming.

One of my current projects requires me to use navy as the dominant colour with cream and blush, lilac or grey-blue as companion colours. So be it - the pic above shows you some of the results. I have a specific domestic space (a customer's lounge) I am drawing for but I am loving the journey and I keep sneaking in some new experiments to explore as I work because there is never any harm in building one's portfolio is there?

From left (clockwise) the first painting is inspired by my Peace Lily (actually a Mother's Day present), another botanical experimentation with washes and monstera-type silhouettes, a 'God finger' work inspired by something I saw in a Colin McCahon painting 'way back when' in High School (told you I was haunted by Art History), Piha landscape using a Resene paint palette and a palm overlay pattern from my textile design bank, Hair (a colour study) included because it works quite harmoniously in this collection, 'Rocks' actually a work in progress as I was working on an underlay/ground painting while looking out the window (the forms are all real rocks I can see) and daydreaming today inspired by the rock formations out my window and another Lily painting working through my chosen colours and playing further with composition. In the foreground is another Botanical series work with the same Palms pattern creeping in but getting painted out again as I have been experimenting with opacity.

Another experimental textile design which, it turns out, I absolutely love as a painting. Can you see the birds? I love the navy just peeping through and the subtle pink on Resene Kandinsky

Another experimental textile design which, it turns out, I absolutely love as a painting. Can you see the birds? I love the navy just peeping through and the subtle pink on Resene Kandinsky

And that is why I love drawing every day. It's more than just lines on paper. It's an academic investigation recorded in colour. 

One really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronised with your head and heart and you have it, it looks as if it were born in a minute.
— Helen Frankenthaler

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