Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shoals of Vermont

oil on stretched canvas, 20x16 inches

This is either finished or almost finished. I am not sure which yet. I put it away upstairs so I won't be tempted to fiddle with it. I do need to do a little touchup and minor adjustments once the paint dries enough, but I am feeling that I want to leave the composition as it is now.

I began this painting with a general sense of its composition (I usually sketch it out on paper or on the canvas in a general way first). Then little houses spontaneously began falling off into the midground, which somehow became watery rather than fieldy.

The title bobbed up from my somewhat warped sense of humor. I think the painting itself emerged because of my feelings of having my life stranded with no way to escape (note that none of the houses have windows or doors). But the painting, and the title, took on a larger meaning. And of course, it must: there are all these houses, all these people around me whose lives are full of uncertainty. My own foundation is pretty secure in comparison to many of the people I know and see.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sentinal Tree, finished

oil on stretched canvas, 20x16 inches

This is the same canvas I posted on February 8th (you can see it here), now finished with the terra rosa on the branches and the distant vista misted in. I added a little color to the sky, too.

While I was showing it to a friend the other day, she mentioned that though the outside is scarred from lightning strikes, the inside is still green and thriving. "Like you", she said. Her words startled me, but when I reflected I realized that there is truth in what she said. Perhaps it is why I was so drawn to this tree in the first place, and may be why this painting resonates so much for me. In some fundamental way this is a self-portrait. When I look at it, I feel very connected, and very at peace.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Anders Zorn's palette: an experiment with green and blue

Yes, two posts in one day again!

Periodically, the issue of Anders Zorn's limited palette comes up in artistic circles. Zorn is famous for his stunning portraits and nudes with very rich skin tones. His paintings are a feast, in color, composition, and form. His palette is said to have consisted of Ivory black, white, scarlet, and yellow ochre, though he probably occasionally used other pigments on occasion. There are some who find it difficult to believe that he could actually used that palette, as many of his paintings show blue (albeit subdued) and some quite vivid greens. Thus, these nay-sayers claim, he must have used blue, or he could not have achieved green. Some allow the blue, as warm grey tones will read blue when placed in context with warm colors such as yellow and orange.

However, I know from my own experience that it is possible to mix greens without using blue pigment. So in response to a blanket statement by one of those people who are adamant about their assumption regardless of the facts, I did a quick little demonstration. These may not be the exact pigments used by Zorn, but they are nonetheless a clear demonstration that it is indeed possible to achieve both blues and greens with his limited palette.

I use M. Graham oil paints, and already had a selection laid out for a painting. From those, I used ivory black, zinc white, azo yellow, terra rosa (one of the iron oxide reds), and quin red (a modern scarlet pigment that Zorn could have used). I chose the two reds because I wanted to see what the differences would be. I found the results quite interesting, and learned something in the process. Here it is:

On the left: Ivory black and terra rosa, tending toward green.

On the right: Ivory black and quin red, tending toward blue.

The top two patches in each line have azo yellow added.

I found it interesting that with the quin red, adding yellow created an olivey shadow leaf green, while with the terra rosa, the yellow brought out an intense grass green.

The bottom patch on the left is not as dark as it appears here-- it is distinctly a deep green.

I was surprised to see how much blue showed up in the quin red/ivory black combo, especially when white was added. In real life, it is slightly greyer than shows here (the paint was still wet, so reflection probably increased the blue). But perfect blues for water, and certainly in contrast with warm colors the blue would stand out. It would be interesting to try this with other reds and yellows to see what kind of greens and blues would emerge.

Mixing colors is fun. And Zorn is vindicated once again (many, many people have demonstrated this, but it is worth doing just for the learning exercise).

Feline performance art

The Lamp, post performance.

The culprit: Jellybean, aka the flying squirrel cat

Performance objective: to leap over lamp onto sofa. Somewhat disadvantaged because of lack of skin flaps between extremities.
Performance only partially successful.

Presently considering possibilities of incorporating embellished origami bird into next performance.

Yes, this is a post about art. And life. At least in my house. I had regarded this as simply normal feline high-jinks, but a friend of mine, more astute than I, pointed out that I clearly did not appreciate the artistic abilities of my feline owners. I quote from his review: "As performance art it remains a statement of primal angst combined with the silliness of the human belief in the domestication of cats."

I stand corrected. His assessment has caused me to reevaluate a number of events involving my cats. And maybe someday I'll tell you about them. And maybe I won't. (Bet you're relieved to hear that...)

This has nothing to do with me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Seeking series: "Dreaming"

oil on linen panel, 12x9 inches

Yes, two posted today. These have been upstairs drying until I could photograph them. I think this is the second I started, and did go through a few changes before it said what I think it was trying to say. Another one that led me to a place I didn't know about.

There's some personal background in all this. Life has markers that delineate shifts you may or may not recognize at the time-- possibly because all one's energy is taken up with just getting through life. Those I have seen only in retrospect. But this winter I experienced one that clearly was a marker, a boundary that made me see myself in life differently. One day that side, next day this side. Simple as that.

The details don't matter. It is the sort of thing that we all experience at some point in our lives, some lives more than others. But consider this: Because matter is both stable and unstable, life is possible. Imagine all the living matter that has resulted from that fact. More, matter seeks to organize in such a way that consciousness becomes possible. We share this with all creatures, perhaps with all matter, to one degree or another. And at some point consciousness becomes awareness. So here we are, alive, conscious, and aware of being alive. And awareness carries with it the possibility of anguish and joy. We get to choose whether to let the anguish extinguish the joy. What I received was a reminder to honor this gift.

"Seeking" series: "Between"

oil on linen panel, 12x9 inches

There are a lot of layers on this one. Literally (in terms of paint) and metaphorically. I am enjoying doing this series quite a lot, and am always surprised by what emerges. Sometimes it's pretty close to my original conception, but sometimes a painting chooses what it is going to be itself. That's what this one did. It made me do a lot of scumbling and glazing and stretching myself to find the painting. I'm glad it did.

I have been painting on small linen panels and larger (20x16 in) stretched linen. When I was a young student, I found that I preferred to paint on a solid surface rather than a springy one. I prefer canvas or linen laid on a panel, for instance, over stretched. I also like wood panels, and am having some made up for me by a local mill. I'm having some larger ones made with cradles (a back-frame), so that I can begin working at scales that feel more comfortable to me. I am also having some very small panels done. I'll call them "itty-bitties". I like doing those too. It's the middle sizes I find constraining.