Rainbow-obsessed perfectionist spends glorious morning playing with color at Sloop Jones’ Workshop.
My body vacillates between delicious bubble and anxious buzz.
You’d think that after months of knowing I’d soon be at a Sloop Jones’ Workshop, my ideas would be all flushed out. Or at the very least, brainstormed.
Yet, here I stand stupidly, on the edge of analysis paralysis over what colors to mix and what designs to create.
Luckily, I have some time to learn and practice before actually putting paint to shirt.
The three hour workshop unfolds in roughly three segments: color experimentation, banner (now a cap instead) design, t-shirt design.
Upon arrival, we pick out our t-shirt style: a cap sleeve (cute but not for me), a v-neck (cute and comfy, my choice) and a regular men’s-style crew neck. You can most certainly paint a dress, tank or camp shirt if you wish, but will have to drop some extra moolah for the upgraded garment.
Four grown women turned briefly into child scientists.
For the first hour of the workshop, we are briefly instructed in color and then given free time to mix our own hues from six options: red, yellow and blue in both warm and cool varieties.
Rootsy rock music plays on the radio as we pour paint into little clear cups, experimenting with what feels like infinite options. Sloop walks around with books on color, showing us things and answering our questions on how to mix certain shades.
After a few minutes, we get some diluted white paint to lighten / soften our color mixes if we like. Ever drawn to bold tones, I add a sparing amount of white but to very satisfactory effect with a bright shade of turquoise that ends up in both of my projects.
These minutes are thrilling. Mixing paint colors, dunking Q-tips and spreading the results on paper towels…the opportunity to play like this with utter abandon…Oh my goodness. Pure joy for this girl. Pure. Joy.
I’m pretty sure my fellow workshop attendees feel the same. They aren’t as expressive as me. Or maybe I’m just so wrapped up in my own little world that I don’t notice their exclamations of delight and despair alongside my own.
We’re fixated on our projects, all aware of the limited time we have to create our masterpieces from what feels like unlimited possibilities. We all seem to know that any sort of satisfying outcome will be a result of focused intent.
Despite our mostly quiet concentration, the one sentiment I keep both hearing and saying is: “I could do this all day!”
…And we’re still on the paper towel exercise.
The envy. How it hurts.
After 30 or so minutes of color experimenting, I look over at my neighbor Flossie’s progress. My eyes blossom into emoji-style hearts at her color combination.
Her paper towel has transformed into a stained-glass-tissue-paper-wonder composed of what seems at that moment to be the most vibrant combination of lemon, grapefruit red, lime and turquoise I’ve ever seen. It is 100% intoxicating.
“I want my colors to look like that!” I blurt over her shoulder. “Oh man! I’m jealous! Ugh! They look so beautiful! Wow.”
I look back at my paper towel palette. It’s dreadfully void of oxygen compared to Flossie’s.
Channeling envy into inspiration, reinforced dedication and focus, I return to my paper towel more determined to create a palette I simultaneously want to ingest and bathe in (a common urge among color junkies).
Contemplating my color collection, I see that yellow will add life. A bright, cool yellow—lemon, as opposed to mustard or daffodil or gold.
Wise Words Lead the Way
At this point we are given our blank banners, an 18″ square of fine linen napkin.
“UGH. I’m scared to start! I don’t know what to do.” I sigh and slump onto the painting table, forehead on forearms.
Sloop comes over, offering some characteristic sage advice:
“You don’t have to know where you’re going in the beginning. You will find it along the way. I often don’t know what I’m doing when I start.”
I know this intellectually but need reminding. I feel equal parts terror and glee.
With this limited time, I decide to embrace the color and symbolic fixations that have been with me since childhood: rainbow colors and hearts. I also include a more recent favorite, the infinity sign, which adds a necessary touch of sophistication.
For the composition, I want balance, not symmetry. I choose red, take a fresh Q-tip and hand draw a heart on the lower right side of the banner. Across the center, I draw a scroll-y thing, and in the top left, an infinity symbol.
I am pleased. Which leads to overconfidence. I rashly draw another infinity symbol below the first one. Immediately, I know it doesn’t belong. I will paint over the errant figure eight until it is hidden. ( Sometimes mistakes dictate the direction of design! )
In the end, I am about 70% satisfied with my banner.
But I desperately want to try again. I yearn to revise.
T-Shirt Painting is an Artistic Journey!
The banner teaches me that for the t-shirt, my palette needs to be limited instead of indulging myself with the full rainbow spectrum. My favorite color so far is the turquoise and so that stays. I also want a bold red.
Cool colors will come from the turquoise and two close cousins: one with a little more blue, one with a little more green. At the very end, I will add a sparse amount of lemon. Yellow does not become me, but I know from experience it will breathe life into the design and is essential to the overall palette.
With less than an hour to go, I opt to stick with the heart and infinity motif, drawn in Q-tip. Starting on the back of the shirt, at Sloop’s suggestion, I draw a red heart in approximately the place where my real heart lives.
I decide to draw several infinity signs, also in red, filling out most of the space. Then using the same outline technique I employed with the banner, I contour the hearts and infinities with a medium brush using the three cool colors.
Finally, I use both a Q-tip and a brush to add in small drips and drabs of yellow wherever white space remains.
Now…the front of the shirt!
My fellow workshoppers are nearing the end of their projects. Some are hanging theirs to dry already! And here I am with only one side finished.
I turn my shirt over and am delighted to see that the bleed-through effect from painting on the back is splendid. And so I decide to intensify the front of the shirt by thickening the lines of paint on the back.
In the end, I am happy with the overall color mix of my Shirt of Art and will wear it proudly.
What I really want is a do-over on both projects.
I’m already plotting ways to get to another workshop.
It’s so much fun, I don’t even feel the need to liven up the experience with mimosas.
Although, I wouldn’t necessarily argue against mimosas either.
I mean, let’s be honest. I always welcome mimosas.
Either way, I want more.
How about a daylong workshop for the color-obsessed?
Who else is in?
Want to experience the Sloop Jones Workshop for yourself?