so here i am back with the painting, having run away scared from the baby quilt because of the final decisions i have to make. but here i am at the painting with final decisions to make. how come this painting with its constant demands for precision is easier than a slapdash baby quilt that they’ll either love or will never see the light of the baby’s room?
i only had an hour downstairs tonight, and no matter that the grandbaby left midafternoon and that i started heading down to the studio before 4, it was still 6 before i actually started any work, and jim and i ate at 7 and then went to bed. i’m up with my usual midnight intestinal issues, so i figured i might as well gnaw at two bones instead of one. but, back to the studio.
here is a picture of my studio, set up to paint watercolor. it’s actually set up to paint anything, and in the background is my palette where you can see a lot of little upside-down cups covering piles of encaustic paint that are just waiting for me to go back to the microwave painting…the paintings on the back wall are from various of my mentors – jim yarbrough, diarmuid boyd, jim bianchi. there’s gesso brewing on the stove for one of jim’s paintings. you can see my giant plastic watercolor palette in front of that on a rolly cart. and i’ve got the watercolor flat on the little table in the foreground, along with the reference photos and my precious jar of aardvark‘s yarka kolinsky sable brushes (with a small palette of mayan pigments in front). i just wanted to show you what it looks like because i love my studio.
today i continued tackling the awful old broom on the top right. the main problem i’m having is that i originally drew in this area thinking, “i’ll figure it out later.” which of course never happens, because later on you rely on your original drawing. and if the drawing is fucked up, then your painting sucks. simple as that.
except when you break the rules. so at this stage, it becomes all about breaking the rules. i guess when did it ever not…
the rule i’m breaking here is to stick with the program. it’s not working for me, so unless i want to scrub the whole area and go back to square one with a pencil, which i don’t, i have to do something else.
altho it looks really ugly at this point, the truth is that it’s got to get darker before it’s going to look better. there are a whole lot of branches and vine things going up the fence to the right of the boy, and because of the crappy drawing, none of them are in the ‘right’ places. by right i don’t mean faithful to the photograph: that just makes it easy. what i mean is that it makes sense by itself. i need a complex structure of dark vines in among dark foliage with a light grassy field showing thru and subtle pink flowers shining in both the darkness and the light (which are two different pinks, and a range in between).
for for my rule breaking, i simply squint my eyes at the reference, and bare the structure to the minimum, and then i look at my painting until i can see it.
this is nearly impossible, and i get lost immediately. but i eventually sit there with a fingernail marking the place on the photo, and my brush marking the place on the painting, and i go in there with burnt umber first, followed by ultramarine and a third color, in this case i’m still using green earth. terre verte.
i’ll have to say a word about how i mix my darks. i started out with a mixture of phthalo green, alizarin crimson, and prussian blue. but that was thirty years ago. alizarin is fugitive; i no longer use it. my current mixture for darks is burnt umber, ultramarine blue, and some other color. i mix my darks in threes. i mix quite a lot of my colors in threes, actually. but for the darks, the difference between my old way and my new way is that when i mixed darks before, i used the staining, transparent colors, to avoid getting muddy darks, which is every watercolorist’s anathema. and using staining transparent pigments, you do in fact get wonderfully clear darks, deep darks. but they’re also staining pigments, which give a quality that i have some trouble with these days. i prefer the earths, the liftable pigments. at any rate, i’m no longer afraid of getting mud.
there was a little done to paint in behind the grass that arches up from the far pond, but it’s slow going, and is waiting for the steam to power me up so i can slash and dash my way thru the finishing stages.
basically, today i stared at the painting and the reference, and tried to build a viable network of vines on which to hang the dark shadowy greens and the shaded pink flowers. i had to scrub a spot or two with the toothbrush, and i covered over a good bit of the light spots with dark earth greens, but i made damned sure it was necessary with every spot. even with scrubbing, you can’t really get a light back once you’ve painted it out. so you have to be careful.
the beauty of using umber is that it’s transparent. i can go right in over previous attempts and not worry about it looking horrid. but i’m very judicious with the ultramarine because it’s the stuff that mud is made of, and i dot the earth green in with abandon because it’s transparent, and i can. and it all sits there beaded up on the paper until it dries.
all in all it’s coming along very well. i still tremble in fear for what i’m going to have to do on the left. jim made fun of me tonight. he thought i wanted to make the foliage all misty and indistinct, but i said no, i wanted it as crisp as anything else in the painting. and he got this evil grin on his face and wrinkled up his fingers to illustrate all the little tiny details of foliage i’m going to have to draw and paint around and fill in. i balk at that, too.
but somehow, the pleasure of painting drew me away from the pleasure of sewing a quilt, because the quilt is at a more delicate stage, believe it or not, when i have to make actual do-or-dye decisions that will form the finished quilt, where in the painting it all leads inexorably to the finished painting, but at no place is any one detail overwhelmingly important (except the kid and his face).
anyway. my guts have quieted down and i’m tired now. i just heard jim stirring, so i’m going to sign off and go back to sleep.