It Is What It Isn’t

Battle of the Senses Series, No. 63

  • Size: 14″ x 14″ x 1.5″
  • Substrate: Canvas
  • Medium: Oil pen on Acrylic

I found the inspiration for this piece in a basement office underneath a gallery in Oldtown Sacramento. While on a 5 minute break from the 1st day of debuting the TENxTENxTEN collection at Stage 9 Gallery, I found myself stuffing this massive sandwich down my mouth as if I was in an eating competition, and simultaneously drinking coffee to keep myself afloat (as I had been up since 4:30am for ABC and CW’s “Good Morning Sacramento”). In minute regret over my speedy lunch, I sat there in wild confusion while sitting at this conference table. I was so engrossed in my meal that I didn’t pay attention to my surroundings, and then I found myself transfixed with everything that suddenly blossomed in my carb induced vision.

This office was covered from wall to wall with notes, drawings, artist scribblings, and flyers. There were so many things to look at, so many post it notes, so many pinned tiny pieces of paper… that when I focused back to look at the big picture…. it made it seem the walls were wearing fake fur coats of paper.

I knew that I only had 2 minutes left on this break, and yet there was so much to look at… My eyes wandered in wonderment over all the little details that this office contained..

… and then I found it. .. This one piece of paper.

It said “Try to name the colors without saying the word”. Underneath this sentence was the name of colors, and I read them out “PURPLE, BLUE, RED, GREEN, PINK, YELLOW”

I didn’t really understand the concept of the note, so when one of the people from the gallery came down to ask me to come back up, I asked them about the note.

“Oh, yeah, the words have actual colors in them that aren’t representational of the word, so you have to say the color, and not the actual word”


They explained it to me again.. and then it all made sense.. because the one color I could see, wasn’t in the word yellow.. it was registering as another color I couldn’t even begin to decipher.. It was then that I realized that this game could play an integral part of the Battle of the Senses series.

I took this painting, and worked on it in Denver, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. In each city, as I worked in restaurants, cafes, parks, planes, and other public places.. people would walk by the portrait… and would begin to tell me automatically “Oh these are all the wrong colors” or “What are you doing?” To which, I would begin to play the game with them and ask them to say the actual colors without slipping up and saying the actual word.

It was fascinating to watch people’s brains work. .. as if the clockwork in their heads began to break over the separation of word .vs. color // definition .vs. object. Their eyes would scrunch and strain, their mouths would cup over a word, but then move slowly to say the actual color.

Furthermore, this brought people to understand how I use color objectively. While each of these pieces are wrong in color coordination to the objective word, this in the right way, is how I am able to determine how I can paint to the rest of the world.

Color, to me, is just a word. And that word connects itself to other colors like grammar. There are colors that do not go together in a pleasant format, and I treat those combinations as if it were an incorrect sentence. There are colors that compliment each other, and I view those colors as words that go politely together in a sentence. AND THEN, there are the colors that POP and CONTRAST, and I view those colors as slang .. as they are words that are not meant to go together, but they do, and when they do, they POP.

This piece is titled “IT IS WHAT IT ISN’T”, which is a opposite play on that popular phrase “IT IS WHAT IT IS”. This is the 9th in the Battle of the Senses Series, And 72nd in the TENxTENxTEN collection.


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