furthering the progress

today it’s progress on the oil paintings, both on panel and on linen, and starting an encaustic on the new luan panels i cut from a big lumber-store sheet ($1.42 per 16×20 1/4″ panel, can’t beat it).

continuing the oil on panel painting of the beach at night from our cabin, i mixed up a very small amount of phthalo green and put it over the plants.  this will need some toning down, obviously, but i wanted a transparent wash to work from.

then i scraped up some ultramarine blue and mixed some of my white into it, and added some linseed oil, which is the first time i’ve done that.  so far, i’ve been using the calcium carbonate and sun-thickened linseed oil in a tube that jim made up some years ago, and if it needed thinning, i added some orange oil.  but this time i thinned the tube stuff with oil, probably going way too far with the fat over lean rule.  i mean, from orange oil thinner, which is like turpentine in that it evaporates immediately, to a way oily veil of blue and white – there have to be several steps of oilinity that i’ve passed over at once.

after that i mixed up some raw umber, another transparent color, and stuck it over the green, hoping to make it look like proper plants in the almost-darkness.

yesterday i mixed up some chrome green, and some ultramarine green into separate pools, and used each in different parts of the painting to represent the actual things that you can see are green.  there are lots of the painting where what you see isn’t really green, but reads that way.  these are actual green things because they’re either out in full sun, or are catching and reflecting the light while in the shade.  i also mixed up the smallest bit of cadmium red dark and after awhile a little white too, and put it on the barn and in the trees.

when i’d finished putting the sky in on the beach painting, i still had a bit of blue paint left, so i washed it over the sky and the house, and in fact made it stretch over all the background trees.  the result is mainly so spectacular because i let photoshop do the correction automatically, which is usually not the way i do it.  the photo above was done by hand, and you can see there the colors just aren’t right.  the automatic value correction is actually too garish, but at least the colors seem more true.

when i got done with the paintings i’d been working on, i turned my attention to my new luan panels.  this one is 16×20, which is large for the modern encaustic painting, but actually quite small for me.  the reason it’s the size it is is because it’s going in my luggage with me to ireland, and that’s as large a standard size as i can fit into my bag.  will i take all 14 with me?   stay tuned.

this one got a coat of clear acrylic gel medium, my ideas about sealing and priming my surfaces having changed after i lost a goodly amount of wax to the underneath side of my fabric during the previous attempt at encaustic.  i would still be working on panels jim made years ago and stacked against the wall if i weren’t gearing up to go on an artist’s residency, and going cold turkey on my reliance on commercially prepared paint.

at this stage the painting looks like a francis bacon.  i started with charcoal, and quickly ran into trouble, because i didn’t know which lines to mark down.  i was actually trying to represent the white lines by using the black charcoal.  so i got out my pastels, which jim gave me for xmas one year, and started in with the real colors.

and thank god.  there are white lines, and gray ones, sienna walls and prussian glass in the windows, black and brown shadows, and they all follow their own paths in all directions.  it’s a nightmare trying to get all the lines right, because you actually have to draw a web, working in all directions and making all the edges meet.

working in pastel is maybe not the greatest idea, since it’s really hard to rub it out and start over, especially when you’re working with a board that has an incredible amount of tooth once it’s been coated out with acrylic.

i was surprised how quickly i finished the pastel underpainting.  i noticed yesterday, when i was just starting the drawing, that i had an enormous amount of artistic resistance.  looking at the reference photo overwhelmed me immediately, especially when i was trying to draw it in with charcoal.  the complexity is maddening, but the distortions all have a rhythm, and all match up with another distortion in another part of the painting.  it all fits together, and if the proportions aren’t right, it looks awkward.

except you don’t notice, because you don’t have the reference photo to judge by, and one distortion looks like another when it comes to water.  so you won’t notice that the middle-left of the painting is squinched up too much, and i had to compensate by stretching it on the left side.  water could well do that, especially if there was some other disturbance interfering with the interference.

this isn’t the first time i’ve painted this image.  the first was several years ago, in oil on canvas, and 30×40, and hangs in my studio.  so i’ve been looking at it and wanting to do it in wax.  for an exercise painting, to see how well it’s going to work in the field, i really shouldn’t have chosen such a complex painting, one that will take weeks to finish and be every bit as complex in wax as it in in any other medium.

but i had to paint it again, and so i started on in.  it takes pastel really well, and i can see no reason why it won’t take wax even better, so i can stop now, and leave this painting until i get back from europe (or else take it and the reference photo and complete it at the residency).

jim actually painted the image first.  he did it up with acrylic on canvas, 30×40, and i remembered wanting to paint it when i took the photo, so the minute he was done, i grabbed the photo and started my own painting.  for awhile his hung on the studio wall, but then we switched out and now it’s my painting, but we take his back out for comparison when people want to see our work.

jim’s is different from mine.  he took great care rendering the walls and the moss and the boat, and was kind of slapdash about the reflections, whereas i’m not too good at rendering moss and boats and walls, but i get way into reflections and distortions, and mine are much more accurate than his.

after awhile of working on the impossible reflections, i began to notice that they looked like animals, or faces.  that’s our human tendency to make sense our of chaos, and i’ve always done this – after working on a jigsaw puzzle all day i’d go out for a breath of air, look up at the trees, and see giant jigsaw pieces in the treetops where i would normally see treetops, leaves and branches.

i thought last time i did this painting that this time i would paint the animals and never mind making lines out of them.  the eye will do that at a distance anyway.

i may not proceed with this painting, as i only have 3 weeks left to come up to speed with my materials.  i may stick it aside, but i’ll link back to this post if i do.

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