Paint like Jasper Johns numbers in color – Template painting
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Paint like Jasper Johns numbers in color – Template painting


Who would you use numbers for a painting? Pop art Jasper Johns does it. In this Jasper Johns art lesson I will use template painting … … to show you how I paint like Jasper Johns numbers in color. Just after this. Hi there, my name is Albert van der Zwart, welcome to Imperfect Paintings … … where it is all about improving your painting skills by looking at art, yourself and the world around you. Jasper Johns is an American painter, born in 1930. He often paints around a subject like flag, target or maps. An interesting video about one of his maps paintings, link above. And there are these Jasper Johns numbers paintings. By painting relative prosaic symbols, that are not usually the subject of high art … … Jasper Johns challenges the viewer to see something new, look again … … to question beliefs or opinions. Why not look a second time with a more curious, rather than a complacent eye. Would you take a second look at a house number plate? A License plate or a fire hydrant marker plate? Again, to appreciate the beauty of the numbers? We know our numbers 0 through 9. But we don’t look at them unless they are Jasper Johns 0 through 9. I start with a simple but interesting exercise using templates and a pencil. To add some color I partly go over the lines of the last added number with Lyra oil pastels. This charcoal one by Jasper Johns was the inspiration. The templates I use are made with an enlarged number of the font Stencil in MS Word … … printed on two sheets of paper (and added lines to align them correctly). Cutting them out, copying the shape on a new sheet … … cutting out the shapes and there you have the template. For my painting course I made 15 templates and it took me about 12 minutes each. Besides the templates I had a lot of waste paper … … but a lot of it I will use again in later projects. Oh and sore fingers of the cutting. I feel like Alice in Wonderland, the book by Lewis Carroll … … when she goes down the rabbit hole and enters this strange new world. In this case I enter the world of Jasper Johns … … for me a world of options and choices, choices and even more choices. Because every choice creates a different outcome. How many numbers to use, which numbers to use in what order … … where on your artwork and what materials to use. Do you put the numbers upright, or turn them a little? Use them complete or only partly? Do you use a black pencil or colored pencils? So I take a scrub sponge, cut it into pieces, choose magenta and start painting. Jasper Johns once stated, quote “Take an object … Do something to it. Do something else to it.” Unquote. It can be as simple as that. The next color will be yellow, but I don’t like how they mix … … so I will only paint the empty parts next to the magenta. Again a choice. Let’s get back to this one. I will use red, blue and yellow. When you have created all the shapes you almost automatically start to fill them in neatly … … just as everyone learned in school. I use transparent paint so the lines will stay visible. When you choose the next shape, you can think of a checker board. No two adjacent shapes in the same color, only where they meet in the corner. This will take some time so I skip to where I change to the next color. With blue I make a different choice. I create a kind of line from left to right by painting connected shapes. Next color, yellow. I choose to fill the border part where no shapes have been drawn. I get recalcitrant and start coloring adjacent shapes and by doing so … … I create in the top left corner a sort of blue-red island in the yellow sea. For the rest I fill in the shapes just to finish this painting. Maybe it would have been more interesting to leave some shapes open … … what would be just another choice. I take white paint and follow the curves of some numbers … … to see if this will make it more interesting. But I forgot to press record so you’ll only see the endresult. Every time you make a new one, try to start in a different way. Jasper Johns artwork doesn’t always look tidy … … so I work more quickly and try to keep the colors clean and only where they meet they will mix a little. For the 5 I use a scrub sponge and white paint that will mix with the previous ones. I take some black Ecoline liquid watercolor to see if it will add an interesting extra, but I don’t know. I was looking for extra information on Jasper Johns artwork … … and I often look for auctioned artwork. I notice the stunning number of $ 17 million … … but also the used materials: ‘Oil, encaustic and collage on canvas’. So I take a glossy magazine, take an interesting page and cut out a piece. Next a leftover scrap of paper from the template making. And a local newspaper. I get the three parts of the figure 6 but by placing them apart from each other … … you open a whole new world of options how to use the numbers in an artwork. Oh, and you can glue them to the artwork with a little paint. Over to the next one. Some of the paint was still a little wet and I make a print of the previous one on a new sheet. I take the same already messy 5 template … … and follow the shapes only partly with a brush and again a scrub sponge. And some yellow ecoline liquid watercolor Because it stains terribly on your clothing I take a paper towel … … to get it of my tablecloth and get the idea to use it to make some marks. Jasper Johns uses also compressed charcoal sticks. This result might look messy to you … … but it is a great way of playing with techniques and it got me to the next idea. Because you made it to here in this video, thanks for watching … … I will show you two more bonus ways to get creative with numbers in this Jasper Johns art lesson. Gesso is the white chalk based material used on most canvasses to create a layer where you can paint on. By using a lot, when dry, the gesso will result in a bumpy surface. When you look closer it looks like this. To create an interesting effect I first paint a layer of white paint on the dried gesso. Now, when the white paint is still wet, take a pallet knife or an old membership card … … and create an awesome artwork with Prussian blue. Frame it and your done. Look at all these details. You can get overwhelmed by looking at this, or just feel lost … … and a passe-partout can help you focus. I bought these passe-partout cards and choose some spots. But your mind will look for familiar things what can keep you from finding others. If you want to surprise yourself you can just randomly draw rectangles on the back. This is what is left after I cut out all the rectangles and this is the art I got. Make your cards and send it to the people you love. Or you can also take an interesting frame and make great art. And this hero for a big part of this video deserves some credits. I take a black sheet of paper, gold paint and by placing the number upside down … … you get an interesting piece for your wall to show the other side of numbers … … inspired by Pop Art Jasper Johns paintings. And here is the artwork made by the participants of my painting course. Enjoy. Painting in an other way then you might be used to, can help you get more creative. The art world is a great place to look for inspiration. I can introduce you to an artist who works with symbols. Click on the link and I will see you over there in the next video.

About Roger Trantham

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8 thoughts on “Paint like Jasper Johns numbers in color – Template painting

  1. I appreciate your hard work to teach us something new each week🤙🏻🤙🏻🤙🏻keep them coming! Thank you🙏🏻

  2. Thanks for sharing your talents. I would love to share your videos on my art blog. Would that be ok? I'm doing a piece on Alexej von Jawlensky right now and I'd like to share your video if that is ok– with appropriate credit, of course. https://coil.com/u/LeslieJoyArt

  3. I learnt so much from this video, thank you! The concept of every stroke being a choice is somehow made less daunting now. Every choice you made created something completely different and authentic. Brilliant! I’m going to try playing around with this. You’ve helped me understand so many artists whose works were complete mysteries to me. Thanks again.

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