i put aside the dragon painting and took out another canvassed piece of masonite board. this one’s a litttle larger than the previus, maybe 9×12 or 12×18. i know my blog says ‘pigment on canvas,’ or color on cloth,’ or something, but i’m not violating this priniple by using encaustic. i’m still working pigments into fabric, it’s just glued down to a stable surface so i can use wax on it and not have it crack and flake off.
i chose a painting i’ve done before. way back in ’99 whwn i was first teaching myself to oil paint. i had gone to visit my brother, who was teaching english in taiwan – great scam, that. see the world and get paid for it. we went to the national palace museum to see the treasures of china, and they had this koi pond full of the most gigantic monstrers – maybe there since they brought the treasures acoss the straight in 1949.
i ran around and took pictures while my brother and my kid, then 6 or so, sat on the chinese bridge and fed these teeming masses of enormous koi, who climbed out of the water over their companions to get to the food. and made these loud sucking sounds like pigs snuffling, only different, because they’re fish.
and i’ve got to mention the elephant in the room, they look like a herd of dicks waving in the air looking for pussy. sorry to be crude.i had issues with painting several dozen phallic shapes in warm colors every time i did a koi painting. i did 20 or more koi paintings since 1999, but this painting i’m now attempting in wax, or part of that painting, was also my first koi painting in oil. (my only attempt at watercolor paintings of koi was abandoned when i realized the kind of complex washes i was going to have to do to accomplish it. that’s when i discovered that the medium is the message. you can’t talk about certain things in dutch because it’s a merchant’s language. you switch to french or german to talk about philosophy. or, they do. i’m an american and can only speak the one language.)
that is to say, my first koi painting in oil, koi 1, 1999, was 5×7 inches. it was a much larger part of the field than the small blowup i selected for this encaustic painting. my second koi painting in oil was 3 feet by 4, and theyy remained large for the rest of the series.
when i first taught myself oil painting, in my residency in amsterdam, the first attempt was miserable. i’ll never be able to paint. i should stick to what i know. on the other hand, fuck that. i looked around my studio, sat and gazed at the palette and the studio equipment i was borrowing for awhile, and then got inspired, whipped out a fresh iece of canvassette and started painting the palette and brush jar, with a daffodil and a bottle of guinness.
the next day i tore a piece of canvas paper into forths and painted the whole work area featuring the painting i’d done last night of the palete. the following day i pushed all that aside to paint something my kid had done, and the next day to paint some cool things we’d collected at the markets, and the next day i painted the veggies i’d brought home to cook for dinner.
anyway. i mixed up some raw umber and ultramarine blue with a dollop of wax paste. then i used a medium sized filbert brush and painted in the black areas. negative painting. it often gives a more accurate rendering of complexity because you’re not stuck in contours, but rather consider masses of color or tone.
when i was a kid, sorry, another aside, and bored in school, we’d have these books with black and white, halftone, pictures in them. portraits of a president, paintings of a battle. and i would sit theer in my seat, my arm over my desk, and draw on my textbook. with a pen. i’d sit there and outline the areas of equal light values. circles of white highlight, irregular shapes of black shadows, all the stages in between. fascinating.
i mixed up a bunch of napthol red with the wax paste, and put it on. it’s transparent, and didn’t show well over the gray. then i mixed up some yellow, and finally orange. the orange seems to be most opaque, but it’s likely the yellow that’s opaque i just can’t tell because it’s so light. i left the white at this stage. the difference you’re seeing in the picture is from light levels in my artificially lit studio.
i didn’t bother heating the gray after putting it on. it was thin. i moved some of the red and yellow when i got to this stage. only the blobs melted and ran. the est of it wa soaked into the canvas and only got darker. i’m not sure if the paint’s changing color or is it melting into the fabric.
then i mixed up more gray and put in accents, spots, eyes, ripples. and melted that. at this point i’m using a heat lamp, which is really a box of leftover security lights from someone who used to live here who had security issues. they heat up really well, and we’ve got them on hand, so that’s what we’re using. i’ve got one on clippy things, perching above my glass palette in the studio. you could boil water if you left something sitting underneath it long enough.
now i’ve gone and done it. i put white on. actually it’s kind of pink bcause my palette knife was tainted with the last mixing i’d done. i don’t follow the cleanest studio procedures, indeed i’m somewhat cavalier about my materials. i’m dangerous when i’m following an impulse.
so white on the fish, a light brush of white as reflections and more deeply buried fish parts. and then i went over it with the heat lamp, burning the wax in, making it all melt a little and start to run, and fuse solid with the layer of wax underneath.
it’s nice that i’m doing a painting i’ve done before in a new medium. it helps the considerable learning curve. i’m familiar with the way the fish are structured out of light and dark, i can see details that i would have overlooked before, i can tke more knowledgeable shortcuts and make wiser abstractions. this is why i do so many series of paintings. koi, farmhouses, city blocks, interiors, still lives, bottles.