Sometime in December I was surfing the web and read about Tunisian Collaborative Painting.  Then on New Year's day I packed for a four day trip to meet NY friends at Troncones and stuck in three 13X13" pieces of corrugated cardboard for covering with muslin to make quick and dirty supports, gesso, some jars of acrylic paint, and 5 random brushes.

On January 2nd I looked at my husband, daughter, her friend Diana, and our friends Greg & Patty gathered around an outdoor patio on the beach and announced, "I'd like to make a collaborative painting with all of you, I hope you'll all participate. We're going to take turns. Each person can paint for as long as they want. No talking to the person painting, no commenting. Just make whatever marks make sense to you. After everyone has had their first turn whoever has an idea can go next. We're only finished when we all agree we're finished."

Everyone said they'd try it. I thought of a number (7). Patty picked 7 and went first. Her mark was that orange swirl in the middle. This is the end result:
Colllaborativo Art Project, Painting #1, 13X13" acrylic
On the second day the husbands dropped out. And Diana started by making 5 bold red swirls and a bold red snaky line. This is the result of the second day:

Colllaborativo Art Project, Painting #2, 13X13" acrylic

On the third day Alice said she didn't want to paint, so it was Patty, Diana, and I. Diana hadn't spoken much English so far on the trip but when I asked if anyone had a new rule to propose she said, "Yes! We must cover the whole thing with paint." So that became the rule for painting #3. After we each had a couple of turns, Alice joined in after all. 

This painting took a lot more thought and we had to take a long bogey boarding break in the middle when we got stuck. We liked the result and decided covering the whole canvas should always be the rule. Also, toward the end we did discuss where we thought the painting was weakest and what to do about it.
Colllaborativo Art Project,  Painting #3, 13X13" acrylic
On day 4 we were really looking forward to another painting. We decided we'd start with each person closing their eyes. I dipped a brush in paint and facilitated each person making some blind marks. This created an ugly mess. And from there it just kept getting uglier. We still were not discussing the painting while it was going on, but when Alice and Diana left to go swimming, I turned to Greg and Patty who do marriage success training and pointed at the canvas. "Can this marriage be saved?" I asked.

Greg said, "Always!" Of course he wasn't one of the painters... However, he was right, and in the end we all felt it was the best of the four attempts.
Colllaborativo Art Project, Painting #4 (The Saved Marriage), 13X13" acrylic
Patty wrote me today about the experience: 

We DID have the best time. I LOVED doing it and am actually pretty impressed with the results of day 4. You have stirred my creative juices! Thanks for providing such a great project to do together. I found it very liberating, as I did not feel responsible for the outcome and found the process interesting on a number of levels. While this was developed as a way for seasoned painters to open up a bit (I think), it seems to me a perfect, non-threatening art project for non-artists, including those who have some inhibitions about creativity.

I'm anxious to try this again with another group! If you're interested, give me a hoot!
The first two painters made their marks
The beginnings of painting #3 

Diana of the cover-the-whole-canvas rule

Patty and painting 4 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this idea and the results of your work. I am going to pass this on to teacher friends whom I know would enjoy doing this with kids. You are the best and I look forward to our efforts on Saturday.