Andrew Smith

Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Last year I exhibited a painting at a show accompanying the Bridges Waterloo 2017. It was a twenty-one-foot triptych, composed of nearly 300 polygons. I announced there were two ways to attribute distinct grey values to polygons. One was determined by their inner angles.

If a circle (having an inner angle of 180º) is 100% black, then the grey value of a triangle (with an inner angle of 60º) would be 33.33%. A square would be 50%. My formula for ‘Absolute’ Polygon Grey Steps (APGS) is simple: APGS=(360/n)/180(100), when n = the number of sides.

For this triptych, mixing enough paint to satisfy my ‘Absolute’ grey system would have proved prohibitively time-consuming. I was obliged to adopt an alternative, ‘Relative’, system.

The Relative Grey Step Protogon Painting Study
40 x 40 cm
Archival print on handmade paper.

Each seven-foot square acrylic painting used 98 polygons. The 98th has 100 sides.

Had I used my ‘Absolute’ system, the halfway grey point would have occurred by the second polygon, and the painting would have been unnecessarily dark. (The 100 sided polygon would be 98% darkness).

My ‘Relative’ system attributed the middle grey towards the design center. I chose to paint the even-sided polygons black and the remaining ones in equal descending shades of grey. This enhanced the depth and the inherent spiral. I had to mix only 48 greys, plus black and white. I reasoned a large version in just black and white would be likely encourage vertigo.

The Absolute Grey Step Protogon Painting Study
40 x 40 cm
Archival print on handmade paper.

One art critic had complained about my discussing paint-mixing. He felt I was diverting viewer attention from the emotion of my artwork. In contrast, a fellow exhibitor expressed disappointment I had not used my ‘Absolute’ system to paint the triptych. I more appreciate the artist’s interest. Because, as much as I seek to determine my own creative path, input from a fellow artist is often in tune with my direction. I sense the future beckons a large ‘Absolute’ version of my triptych.

(There is one big benefit of attributing grey values to polygons. I often work in vector graphics, such as Adobe Illustrator. Such apps allow me to determine how many sides a polygon has without counting it, by clicking on its ‘Absolute’ grey value.)