Marianne Dunn: Bringing Order Out of Chaos

My paintings are attempts to capture my emotional responses to the world around me. In trying to get those responses down in paint, I first create a composition of strong abstract shapes. Then I cut loose and build on these shapes with layers of transparent acrylic color.

Merci, Monsier Monet (acrylic, 30×40)

In the early part of my painting process, I use a palette made up of yellow ochre, cadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue and phthalo blue. With these six, I can mix just about any color I need. Later, when I need to mix opaques, I add white to my palette. If I?m working in the studio, I often augment my palette with cadmium orange, magenta, dioxazine purple, sap green, viridian green and raw sienna.

Of course, you can?t have an entire painting screaming at you, so I incorporate neutral colors throughout my paintings. Placing a neutral next to a pure color really allows the pure hue to sing. I usually create neutrals by mixing complementary colors. The three basic pairs of complements are blue and orange, red and green and yellow and violet. Mixing these pairs in equal amounts results in wonderful grays; if you mix these pairs in unequal amounts, the results will be neutral, but one of the colors will dominate.

Mexican Still Life (oil, 24×30)

I rarely begin a painting with a drawing, so when I?m ready to start a new work, I use a large brush and transparent color to define the most obvious shapes as well as any other shapes that need contoured edges. Then I switch colors and apply more shapes on top of my initial colors. By glazing different colors over one another, I create new colors and new shapes. Ultimately, the transparencies are like an underpainting and because I love their clarity I try to never cover them entirely.

I usually leave the sky and any bodies of water untouched until the end of my painting process. Establishing those areas too early would dictate too much about the colors in the rest of the piece. I prefer to use my imagination to develop these colors, then make the sky and water fit the look that?s evolved.

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