Silverpoint underdrawing on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint underdrawings, batch #2

Silverpoint underdrawing #05 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint underdrawing #05 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

I’ve completed six more panels, so I figure it’s time for an update. Illustrated here are a few of those that I that have found to be particularly interesting/beautiful for various reasons. The most evocative appear to be those whose compositions include human beings or parts thereof. It’s as though each one is from some unwritten comic book – captions not included (Hergé would have understood). Additionally, the abstract panels cause me to wonder/admire anew at how the iconoclastic impulse of Islamic art continues to produce such interesting varieties of texture and pattern.

Silverpoint underdrawing #07 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint underdrawing #07 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Further, one very general note. I feel I am serendipitously creating 21st century daguerreotypes(!). (Who knew?) It’s as though by using silver to recreate images based on a digital photograph the mechanistic process has come full circle: human to machine back to human. And again, because the drawing stylus is silver it’s almost impossible to achieve a line that is darker than a 50% grey value. All values are compressed thereby, necessitating a multitude of small decisions. Adding in the white highlights makes each panel come alive – my own gevoelsmatig pleasure.

Silverpoint underdrawing #11 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint underdrawing #11 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

The raison d’être for these remains as underdrawings. And I have no doubt that their beauty and subtlety will contribute to the whole in as-yet-to-be-experienced ways. However, some will be held back for individual display and appreciation. For this, I think I have a plan…

Silverpoint over tinted acrylic gesso ground, highlighted with (acrylic) titanium white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 /1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint Studies, Batch #1

Panel #10, Silverpoint over tinted gesso ground, highlighted with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 /1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #10, Silverpoint over tinted gesso ground, highlighted with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 /1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #01, silverpoint underdrawing over tinted gesso, highlight with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #01, silverpoint underdrawing over tinted gesso, highlight with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

I’ve been doing some underdrawings for a new project. It will be a different approach to the same image/subject matter as the “A Piece of Me” project, completed in December 2020. However, instead of being executed in a full textural and chromatic range this one will be untextured,  monochromatic and ghosted back. It will be done in silverpoint on acrylic and overpainted (in acrylic or oil, TBD) on sixty four panels.

Here’s a selection of some of the individual panels I’ve created so far with some notes. 1) Using silver point means that I can never reach a rich dark value (this is not india ink!). So that’s fantastic and exactly what I’m looking for. 2) In addition, since I’m creating them on tinted grounds, the darkest value provides less contrast than if I were starting from a white ground. Again, excellent! 3) The tinted ground itself establishes a middle value and allows me to lay in white washes to bring in some highlights. 4) Inevitably, the value range is compressed and subtlety reigns. Nice.

Panel #02, silverpoint underdrawing over tinted gesso, highlighted with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #02, silverpoint underdrawing over tinted gesso, highlighted with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #03, silverpoint underdrawing, silverpoint on tinted ground touched up with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #03, silverpoint underdrawing, silverpoint on tinted ground touched up with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

I can already see that, when the composition warrants it, a few of the panels are or will be worthy of individual display, though I’m not sure how to handle that. Should I create them (only) for integration into the final piece? Or should I create some for appreciating in isolation (only)? It’s a great problem to have which, at the moment, I don’t have to solve. I can simply create the little panels, fall in love and see where it all goes.

Anna, Back. Multimedia on panel. 44.5 x 63.5cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

Anna, Back – a Mixed Media Project, March 2021

Anna, Back. Multimedia on panel. 44.5 x 63.5cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

Anna, Back. Multimedia on panel. 44.5 x 63.5cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

I recently completed the back side to this double sided portrait painting. See left and above. The front had been completed in 2011, however for many (mostly technical) reasons, I had not been able to fully realise my original vision until now.

Anna Front. A mixed media painting on panels. 44.5 x 63.5 cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

Anna Front. A mixed media painting on panels. 44.5 x 63.5 cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

The front side consisted of 25 independent individual blocks, which were painted separately. See linked image on the right. However, I had always wanted the back side to present an etherial yet unified mirrored image of the front. That is, an image of the inherent witnessing consciousness of a human being. However due to the piecemeal nature of the substrate, the whole had lacked any structural unity for realising such a vision. So I had to create it. See glueing and framing Anna on my companion blog site atelierartisanal.com.

Original egg tempera underpainting for Anna - Back. 2011

Original underpainting in egg tempera for Anna – Back. 2011

As for the painting of the back, my idea was simple enough. Create a chromatic underpainting in egg tempera as a mirror image of the front, yet lighter in value, say, 50%. See left. Allow that egg tempera to cure long enough – which turned out to be 10 years! (certainly not my original intention). Then add in some white (oil) scumbles (to lighten and unify) followed by a transparent blue glaze (with clouds) to send her skywards. But since ten years of storage had elapsed – as well as the intervening necessity of glueing the substrate together – I had some additional preparatory work to do before realising these plans. You can read about grouting and glazing Anna here.

In addition, texture had always been part of my original vision. So, because some of the front panels were textured, their mirror image on the back was, too. That meant that besides the grid as a definitive texture, there would also be a variety of textures on some panels. These elements would influence the global glazing in a way that was not under my control(!). Nevertheless, after letting my white scumbles dry, I took a deep breath, lay in a transparent blue glaze and threw in some energetic white clouds for accent. After forty years (of leaving the unpainted blocks to languish in storage), ten years (of curing the egg tempera), two months (of repairing) and forty five minutes of actual painting I was finally done. Whew!

I don’t think I’ll try something like this again. Ever. 😉

Two birds, inseparable companions, perch on the same tree,
one eats the fruit, the other looks on. The first bird is our
individual self feeding on the pleasures and pains of this world;
The other is the universal Self, silently witnessing all.
From the Mandukya Upanishad 3.1.1

A Piece of Me, mixed media collage. 168 x 106.4 cm or 66 x 42 in.

A Piece of Me, the final assemblage

A Piece of Me, mixed media collage. 168 x 106.4 cm or 66 x 42 in.

A Piece of Me, mixed media collage. 168 x 106.4 cm or 66 x 42 in.

A Piece Of Me fully assembled and hanging on the wall. 168 x 106 cm or 5'6" x 3'6''

A Piece Of Me fully assembled and hanging on the wall. 168 x 106 cm or 5’6″ x 3’6”

I have finally been able to create a digital version of this mixed media painting project, A Piece of Me. The physical assembly is illustrated here on the right. After the painting of the individual panels was complete, the assembly entailed framing each one, mounting a backing board onto a wall and then velcro-ing each panel into place. That took me about a month to do. The digital version presented here on the left and above is a pretty good representation of the in-the-flesh version, though the physical version seems to reflect even less dissonance. Who knew?

This then is a life size self-portrait in sixty four pieces. But it’s not about me. Actually it’s about you, since you, as viewer will have to create that unity for yourself. Or not. Alternatively, you are welcome to wander in the individual panels, each of which I strove to create as stand-alone aesthetic unities. The panels were divided into five different painting techniques: egg tempera, encaustic, mixed technique, acrylic and oils. Additionally, approximately fifty percent of the panels are highly tactile. Some were collaged, some were pre-sculpted, some were created with the painting knife and some were done in encaustic (which is already a highly tactile medium). That means that it is half painting/half sculpture – something to be encountered and to allow it to encounter you.

 

A Piece of Me #05, oil on panel over cotton. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #05, oils

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #05.

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #05.

A Piece of Me #05, oil on panel over cotton. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #05, oil on panel over cotton. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

I can’t believe it, but this panel marks the end of the line. It’s the final oil panel as well as the final panel in the whole project of sixty-four. Soon begins the work of mounting and assembling. And from there, tweaking decisions. I am expecting and welcoming a certain amount of visual dissonance but I also know that (just like in American politics) too much dissonance can destroy the unitive vibration of the whole. So there may be some changes to make? We’ll see. But for now there’s cause to celebrate! The champagne is in the fridge. It’s been almost two years.

So again, this was the last panel. One quarter of my face. For those of you who have been following this project you will remember that in any particular medium I tend to leave the more important/challenging panels for the last. I begin with the abstract compositions, then proceed to the body parts compositions, then the complex figurative groupings, leaving my face (which was cut up into four sections) for the last.

To render this panel I began with the underdrawing in pen and ink over a yellow imprimatura. See above, right. Then I covered the face area with an underpainting of terra verte (green) and let it dry. After a few days I laid in a  clear glaze and set to work, moving from background to foreground. There was: the back wall, two heads of hair and one face. After three hours of work I had achieved what I was looking for – a rendering of the forms with spontaneity and freshness. I’ll leave it to dry and see if anything else begs for my attention. But I’m pleased with what I have so far. If I make further changes they will be small ones.

A Piece of Me#30, oil over acrylic modeling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #30, oils

Underdrawing over yellow ochre imprimatura for A Piece of Me #30.

Underdrawing over yellow ochre imprimatura for A Piece of Me #30.

A Piece of Me#30, oil over acrylic modeling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me#30, oil over acrylic modeling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Wow, sculptured texture. Twice. This panel is a celebration of the painting knife. It all began on the preparation phase. I applied an acrylic modelling paste to the lightly primed panel. (The design had already been transferred.) I started with the rear tiles and worked my way forward, the fabric folds and my beloved leather handbag. At that level it was white on white: a polar bear in a snow storm (toting a handbag).

After that dried, I covered the panel with a light yellow ochre imprimatura, and transferred the design (once again), this time to lay in the underdrawing (see above right). I find as I work on these panels, in acrylic, encaustic and (pure) oil, that the hard lines of the pen nib are much preferable to the light washes created  by a brush. Both can render a design and set up formal values, but the nib sets up texture in such a way that a few covering strokes can soften but not eliminate them. Nice! Egg tempera and the mixed technique – as media – do not possess the covering power needed to soften this harshness, so it’s necessary to use washes for the underdrawing.

Underpainting for A Piece of Me #30, oil on panel over pre-sculpted acrylic modelling paste. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in..

Underpainting for A Piece of Me #30, oil on panel over pre-sculpted acrylic modelling paste. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in..

During my first painting session (see second image, right) and after a few hour’s work I had introduced the main colours of the compositional forms. Overall, it looked good but was too coarse, light and sketchy. Something more was needed. But what? I let it dry for about a week as I wondered.

Then yesterday after detailing the tiles, my linen jacket and glazing the lady’s blue shirt with some ultramarine blue, I decided to bring that blue glaze into the purse. Everything darkened in a nice way but now there was nothing left to do but reclaim that beautiful russet glow of the leather with the painting knife. I spread on burnt sienna, just like buttering toast. A delicious bodily opacity emerged. Oh yeah, this is going in a good direction. Then I had to dig out the highlights and shadows describing the form now buried under this avalanche. I added detail where needed, letting the form tell me what to do. (See above left as well as the spotlighted image in the online view of this post.) It took me about an hour, but wow, just as dinner was ready, I was satisfied, ready to surrender to different kind of knife.

A Piece of Me #15 oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #15, oils

A Piece of Me #15 oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #15 oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #15.

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #15.

The original photographic image which was cut up into 64 sections for rendering separately contained a horizontal background swathe consisting of groups of small tourist figures receding into the far distance. So there ended up being five panels containing these figural groupings as well as the architectural backgrounds behind them. Because of the need to employ a sliding scale of finely tuned (gray) values to describe these distances, rendering these panels (in any medium) is proving to be one of the most challenging tasks of this whole project.

This panel then was no exception. I worked on it yesterday and a few hours today. In general, I’m happy now with the hues and the values that have been established. The distance reads well enough. There is a red/green complimentary colour contrast, too. I’m posting it now as a beta version. After it dries I intend to clean up some passages that became muddy. When that’s done (and I’m satisfied) I’ll update this page.

Another interesting challenge was my decision to change the hue for the guard-rail (that you see in front of the girl in the dark green sweater). In the original photograph it’s a bright viridian green, but since that guard-rail is the only element in the whole photograph requiring such a pigment – and because on this panel I wanted to create more distinction between the figure and the rail in front of her, I switched the hue to an olive-green. That means I’ll need to do some additional tweaking on two other guard-rail panels but that’s not a problem. Artistic license rules.

A Piece of Me #10 oil on panel over pre-sculpted relief. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #10, oils

Underdrawing over yellow ochre imprimatura for A Piece of Me #10.

Underdrawing over yellow ochre imprimatura for A Piece of Me #10.

A Piece of Me #10 oil on panel over pre-sculpted relief. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #10 oil on panel over pre-sculpted relief. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This panel has been one of my favourites from the get-go. Back then I was pleasantly surprised by the serendipitous composition. Foreground, middle-ground and background all very well stated in a figurative sort of way. It felt like a comic strip panel from Archie and Jughead, evoking an untold story.

The call out for the panel then was oil over low sculpted relief. I prepared that relief with GOLDEN acrylic modelling paste, then primed it with a few layers of oil based (lead white) gesso and let that cure. (That curing turned out to be almost one year!). Not my  intention, just, what happened.

To begin I covered the whole panel with glaze, let it dry fifteen minutes and wiped it off. The surface was slightly tacky, receptive. Then I started painting, wet-in-wet. I began with the background primarily as gray values, progressing forward to the stronger, definitive, more colourful statements. Although I prefer to work with as limited a palette as possible, this particular panel required all the usual earth tones plus the main primary colours. I’ve included a photo of the palette below – just for fun. BTW: red and green are complimentary colors, which in their natural saturated state, are also of a similar value. So together they always create an interesting vibration in a painting. The two shirts of the two men then in this panel presents no exception.

The whole project took me about four to five hours to do. That’s longer than usual, but these panels with a more complex composition tend to require that. Nevertheless, I was happy to set my work aside and call it done when the dinner bell rang. Another curry for a hungry artist.

Palette for A Piece of Me #10

Palette for A Piece of Me #10

 

A Piece of Me #25, oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #25, oils

A Piece of Me #25, underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #25, underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #25, oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #25, oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

The challenge on this panel was simply dimensionality. The man’s pants and sweater were both quite dark, so it was difficult to read where the fabric folds and shadows were. Of course, I could guess a bit, given its placement relative to the whole image, but in any case, I wanted to create interest and motion there. So I introduced that in the underdrawing. See the image to the right.

Thus on the oil level I had three basic shapes to render: the ledge, the pants and the sweater. I rendered the pants in dark gray and reserved black only for the creases and deepest shadow accents. Same with the sweater, two tints of dark green accentuated by dark gray and/or black for the deepest creases/shadows. As it turns out, the buttons on his pants piqued the interest, interrupting an otherwise monovalumatic field of grey (hey, I just created a word!). BTW: those buttons were created by removing paint so as to expose the substrate rather than adding white back in on top (which I avoid whenever possible). It’s one of my pet-painting-peeves.

A Piece of Me #20, oil on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #20, oils

A Piece of Me #20, oil on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #20, oil on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #20, underdrawing over collage..

A Piece of Me #20, underdrawing over collage..

Collage on panel. What can I say? These kinds of panels go quickly. The oil level took me just two hours. Sometimes I think I should put more time into them on the final stages but then I remember how much time I put into getting the collages right, so I don’t.

This time around I did the underdrawing slightly differently though (pictured to the right). The panel posed a further challenge after resolving the underdrawing adhesion issues that I had had earlier. That’s because I didn’t want to create a large cross-hatched value using a pen nib for the black shirt area. instead I wanted to set in a darker wash quickly and easily, plus I knew the collage with its uneven surfaces would present challenges to a pen nib, anyway. So I mixed up a thin wash of mars black oil paint and laid it in with a brush. After a few days of drying time it helped me to achieve a dark, undulating mass rather quickly.

The linen jacket to the left required the most “effort”. I put that in scare quotes because it’s actually a process of discovery which, though it does take time, does not feel like work. The reason being that because the collaged shapes did not entirely match the highlights and shadows of the jacket folds in the original design, I had to do some tweaking. In the end I’m really happy with how it turned out. It reads quite well and I think will pair nicely with its neighbours in the final assemblage.