Art & Design Magazine

The Cure for Insomnia

By Ingrid Christensen

The Cure for Insomnia

4 am
16 x 12

The Cure for Insomnia

4 pm
16 x 12

So the title is a bit misleading.  Consolation for insomnia is more like it.  While on the retreat, I found myself wide awake at odd hours; the sound of the surf, a new bed, the excitement, and the farmer's hours (early to bed, up with the sun) conspired to have me staring at the ceiling when I should have been asleep.  But there's always a silver lining: this could be painting time.
I had my pochade box in the room with me and a perfectly-placed mirror so I got up, turned on the lamp over the bed and painted a self portrait by its distant, yellow glow.  It really was painting blind because I couldn't distinguish one dark color from another, but, since I lay out the paints in the same order each time, I knew what I was picking up.  Mixing was a total crap shoot, but I followed the simple rule of "warm light, cool shadows" and mixed a lot of green into the face to provide a temperature contrast to the yellow light on the hair.  My board was already dark from a wiped off painting a couple of days before but I felt that a warm, reddish tone would go well under the greens and keep them from getting too grassy.   By the time I finished "4 am" I was invigorated and ready to tackle the day's teaching; it was my warm up painting.   About the rather dire expression - it was 4 am, after all.
"4 pm" was done the next afternoon in the lull between the end of the painting day and dinner.  The light is considerably cooler despite being Mexican light, and came in from the window to my right.  That's the thing about color temperature: it's all relative.  Mexico's light is warmer, in general, than Calgary's, but still reads as a cool compared to an incandescent light under a yellowish lamp shade.  I could put a lot of blue in the lights of the face and there were warm mixtures in the shadow side.  Adding to the general lighting confusion was the fact that the walls in my bedroom were a buttery yellow and bounced color onto my clothing and face.  It was an interesting exercise.  I prefer the milder expression in this one, I must admit, but there's something to be said for the honesty of "4 am" so I'll post it, scowl and all.  

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