I don't paint with red.
I have long had a strong aversion to its dominant, overly warm quality, and have never felt comfortable with it occupying my palate. In my undergrad studies at Mcmaster, I consistently sidled up to blues, purples, greens, browns, whites and blacks - feeling like I understood those colours infinitely more than the warmer tones. Yellow can go either way, and I use oranges who close enough to brown that I can situate them more intuitively next to their spectrum partners.
I spent about eighty percent of my undergraduate art-making hours with Nate, my partner-in-all-things. I would paint or draw, he would watch and we'd chat about our days, experiences, and under-developed theories about the world. I'd sneak him into the studio while our studio tech wasn't watching, and he sat in on far too many of my art history courses - I like to think his engineering studies became more well-rounded as a result of all this.
While I choose shades of paint to use when working on my projects, I can remember a handful of times that Nate would recommend, "Use red!" It became an ongoing joke: anytime I'd get a grade back on anything he'd say, "You know what would have gotten you a better mark..."
At the time, I think I knew he was right, but my aversion to red was stronger than my desire to get at those A's. Not only that, I felt a complete lack of connection to the colour. I just don't understand red.
Nate and I were hanging out, I was painting in my parents' basement. I was in the final steps of one my pieces, a painting/assemblage which marks the beginning of my fluid painting obsession (6 or 7 years ago now). I had created a wood panel with many different shallow boxes on its surface, whitewashed the whole thing, and filled the little nooks with drawings, found objects, fluid paint, and image transfers. As a final flourish, I dropped one small bit of red paint in an inconspicuous corner, mostly as a joke, but also as a visual salute to Nate's company throughout the piece's creation.
I presented the piece in our 3rd year Critique class. My professor, Graham had many comments for me - he really understood my work long before I began to. His last comment was, "I really like your use of red!"
Nate was so happy/annoying/proud.
Since then, I have dropped a small touch of red into almost all my fluid paintings, as a tribute to Nate, who still shows undying interest in the creative world, and to Graham, who encouraged me in more ways than I can say. His recent passing makes me all the more committed to honouring his life and work in a careful drop of red that has become deeply symbolic in my work.
Making & co-creating