Donnerstag, 28. Februar 2013

FINISHED: the most extreme long time painting project ever!

Just found out that my last post was five months ago. Puh, how fast time is passing!
A lot did happen in these months, good things and not so good things. I am greatful for the two months off from work which I can spend with my family and for private projects.
Finally enough time for V. and me to finish
the most monstrous and extremely long time painting project ever!
No, true, a real ordeal.

Check out this video to learn more about the working process:

Here´s the story.
During the design studies at university I did a little project to learn more about chromatics. Every student should create a smooth colour gradient in ten steps from one colour to another, painted with guache on square paper pieces. Somehow like the colour charts from Pantone. Well, the colours should be mixed by hand using the primary colours of the CMYK system (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Sounds easy? But it wasn´t! Mixing colours manually, adding tiny bits of the next colour then painting a square, add a bit more of the next colour and paint the next sqare, and so on and so on. By chance, there were enough squares to form a smooth gradient.
That´s not the way a perfectionist like me likes it. There must be a better way! And there was: the way, computer graphic software and inkjet colour printers do it. The primary colours are measured and mixed using the colour values given by the graphic software. That is how it has to be done!
Once I should do a painting in this technique, I thought. Standing close to it, all you´ll see is pixel. The motive will only show when you are far, far away. A motive, disguised by pixel. That sounds exciting, doesn´t it?
Years went by...
Then, in 2006, I simply wanted to paint a really, really big canvas, I thought it was time to do so. So I did. But what should I put up there? And there it was again, I remembered this little project from university and I remembered my thrilling idea of painting a picture in CMYK colour mix mode...
So I looked out for a great motive and found it. I went to the art supply shop of my choice to get some acrylic paint in primary system colours, and found it. Highest quality, of course and - hey, even better - reduced price. Then the question came up about how to measure very small amounts of paint - by the amount of liquid or by weight? I looked for a cheap solution and found it: an ordinary syringe plus needle. The shopman in the pharmacy looked at me as if I broke out of mental home when I bought 25 syringes and needles ("the biggest you have, please") for the reason of "mixing paint". Chastening results. Have you ever tried to pull some viscous liquid like honey through an injection needle? Well, you don´t need to try, I did. It takes ages but it works. Anyway, I could start to paint.
This is how it looked:
The first colours are done.
Actually it took several days of work until this stage.
But wait! There was a little preparatory work to do. To convert CMYK colour values into amounts of liquid paint is a pain but sitting at the computer and measuring these values pixel by pixel out of an image in an graphic program and then writing all down with the line item specification is even worse. No joke, this is how it was done. Long live the command "Select/Color Range" in Photoshop!
I didn´t calculate in advance how much paint will be needed for a painting of 200 x 170 cm. After a few months I ended up with clotted paints and a dried white so I decided to get some new bottles. Haha, sold out, and better: the product had been replaced by a new product line with - of course - better qualities but different characteristics. That was the reason for the price reduction. To keep it short: to have consistent colours I had to start from scratch.
This time I was prepared and knew how much paint I´d need, and it was a lot of paint!
In these days I met my girlfriend V. She saw the canvas, I told her about the project, the measuring of colour values, the calculation, the coordinate system, the measuring of the paint, the painting. She just asked if I knew how many squares this are and how much work this means. I knew it very well: 1360.
Years went by...
I moved twice, first closer to her, then together with her. We now had 2008 and a great new appartment with a huge, empty wall and a really, really big canvas that looked something like this:
This are about all colours that fill more than two sqares. Sick.
To speed up the production, V. agreed to assist. As an engineer she did the calculations. I wanted her to build a machine that measures and mixes the paint. I´m a dreamer, she didn´t. So we still struggled with the syringes and needles. And there it was again, I remembered the alternative way to measure the paint and I remembered it was measuring by weight...
So I bought a special accuracy weighing machine usually used in laboratories (ebay and cheap chinese production were my friends). This little device really was an eye opener! As the syringes weren´t very precise and uncomfortable to use, this little device was accurate and the measuring of paint went off hands easier and faster than ever! But, as before, to get an consistent result we had to repaint the already finished colours. So it all started again from scratch. The big difference was this time: measuring the paint wasn´t a torture anymore.
Years went by...
In 2011 we moved to a new appartment. We now had a lot more space and even more big and empty walls and a really, really big canvas that looked like this:

We got married and will have a baby. So the painting needed to be finished soon. If we manage to get it done?
From now on nearly every pixel is painted in an uniqe colour.
Nope! In 2012 our baby is born.We hoped the painting was finished until he can walk. It wasn´t.
The stickers mark the coordinates for faster navigation and obviously false colours
Baby can crawl. Some friends came over for a dinner. We were discussing about the project. One of them asked why I didn´t have had it simply printed on canvas. Even the impreciseness on the pixel edges could have been simulated by a Photoshop filter. True. Next time.
We are getting there. More and more parts of the motive are showing.
Baby can walk now. We had to build a baby barrier.
Looks like it´s nearly finished but there are
still more than 55 colours missing!
The black pixel have been overpainted
with a CMYK mixed "black" and some more
wrong pixel have been overpainted. 
It´s simply phantastic how the motive is disguised by pixel. Everybody who happens to see this painting doesn´t realise the motive. But as soon as they look through the camera of their smartphones which actually scales the painting down to very small size, they detect the photo. Actually it is a photo with 1.3 Kp (Kilo pixel). Printed by hand in full colours.

Here are some facts:
It took 7 years (2006 to 2013) to finish it, including two start overs caused by no more available colors and a changed measuring technique.
The canvas is 200x170 cm big.
Each pixel is 5x5 cm big.
The motive is 40x34 pixel which sums up to 1360 pixel.
More than 502 shades of beige, brown and grey have been mixed by hand.
During the production of the painting I moved three times, met my girlfriend, married her and we had a baby.
The baby was over a year old when the painting has been finished.
I`ll probably never do a project like this again.
Never say never.