thumbs up – slash and dash

looking at the unfinished painting, my eye is distracted by the top and bottom of the picture plane.  the stools and counter are only under construction, and the ceiling is a few major shades too light, and these incompletenesses make it difficult to see how to proceed.

so, where i would normally save the large washes of darks for the end, to tie everything together, i’m finding that i have to do a lot of the slashing and dashing at this point instead.  i’m sure i’ll have to do more in the end, but right now it’s kind of anticlimactic because you want the flash and dash to make an impression on your audience – a how did she do that – and at this point it’s just one more area of darks that you can’t really tell has been worked on.  oh well, so much for drama.

today’s (yesterday’s) work just gave me more millions of tiny things to do.  here i’ve refined the reflections on the kick panel and the shadows on the stools.  i’m trying to retain the highlights on the vertical slats of the counter panel, but you can see how little luck i’m having over the top of the reds.  i’m still going to have to scrape those lines white and then tone them back down before i’m done.

after filling in more of the details of the counter kick panel and stools, slow incremental work, i got to take out my large squirrel mop, wet down the ceiling, and start charging in color.  i wet the right half first, using clear water, and then put in lots of burnt sienna, then into that i charged a bunch of burnt umber, and then a little ultramarine blue (which darkens unbelievably well), and then some moonglow.

it’s hard to see it in the shot above, but the dark mess in the middle is just about as close to mud as i can come and get away with it.  it doesn’t show well here, but when pigments turn to mud they get a heavy, lifeless appearance that really detracts from the painting.  this means i have to stop now, in this area at least.

over on the left side, i did the same thing, but a heavier application of burnt sienna and nowhere near as much blue and black.

one interesting thing here.  you can see some splotches in the left hand part of the ceiling that i just painted.  they aren’t paint spots, they showed up when the paper was wet and didn’t go away when it dried.  that means they’re some kind of damage or contamination of the paper.  since this painting has been variously in my portfolio or thumbtacked to my studio wall for the past six years, it’s been exposed to everything from grease to smoke to mold, and this is the result.  stained paper.  mold spots.  areas that once wet, won’t dry, like the little circles of what should be white on the right side of the ceiling.  they were supposed to be recessed lights shining out of the ceiling, and i carefully painted around them every time, but with the paper in the condition it’s in, the wetness spread into the dry area, and the pigment followed it.  this also happened around the bottom of the light fixture in the middle, and i had to seriously sponge and blot to get the burnt sienna to fade back out.

this is a conservation problem.  i can’t find the reference at right now, but these little spots are why you keep watercolor paper in a quiet, dry, dark place away from contaminants.

anyway, in this case they’re just going to add some texture.  but the tendency of the water to crawl into dry spaces is really annoying.

here’s the whole thing at this stage.  by filling in the whites and lights in the floor and ceiling, i’ve managed to show just how much work the middle needs.  in fact, all the details that will make the painting are in the middle of the painting, and they are all the things i’ve been avoiding by doing the periphery first.  so now i have to go back and tackle them.

the first things, i think, will be the cake plates, because they’re the things that’re going to give me the most trouble.  then i can finish the cook’s stove and the counter behind kavanique next, and the stuff on the shelves to the right, and then get the stuff on the counter in the middle, then finish the stools and tone down the counter kick panel, and find somewhere to sign the damned thing.  the frame will probably have to be rather massive, and with this kind of complexity it’s going to need a wide mat.  i’ll be gluing and varnishing it as i have been with my watercolors, but i think i’ll frame it behind glass at first, because i’m planning on hanging it in the diner itself, and seeing if anyone wants to pay loads of money for it.  they won’t, of course, but they’ll probably be happy to hang it for a few months.


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