Author Archives: ellentrezevant

About ellentrezevant

I'm an artisanal painter living in Bruges Belgium. My work is figurative in the big picture and abstract in the details.

A Piece of Me #18, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #18, encaustic

Finally I am able to return to finish off the encaustic series. I had to stop for two intertwined reasons. First and foremost, I realized the the N95 mask I had been using may be good against covid-19 but it was not protecting me from the encaustic fumes. So I stopped and ordered a 3M certified vapour mask. Also, at that time it was the end of July and the studio was pretty hot even though I had a fan running and a door open to the garden. It seemed best to set it all aside until I got the right equipment and the temperature was a little kinder.

A Piece of Me #18, underdrawing

A Piece of Me #18, underdrawing

A Piece of Me #18, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #18, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

The panel composition for this one was mostly green sweater, with a bit of a hand, leg, wall and floor tile  thrown in for grounding spice. The preparation of the substrate included pastiglia, so the shapes were in light relief. I had laid in the design with india ink but before I began working with the melted wax I realized I had neglected to specify that the sweater shape also included the man’s forearm. So I added that to my drawing (not illustrated here) and set to work.

The delight in this panel consisted mostly in using the strokes of the melted wax to define the form. I had recently done another sweater panel in acrylics which had been quite successful in using the strokes to follow the flow of the form. Here I added some shadow chiaroscuro and the belly began to bulge.

Me in my new 3M vapour mask.

Me in my new 3M vapour mask.

Then came the man’s pant’s leg in the middle ground with its shadows, plus the hand, wall and floor tiles. That proceeded fairly quickly. In fact, I had already done those areas first before approaching the sweater (because it’s always best to work from background to foreground) but during the process of working on the sweater I had gotten a little too enthusiastic with the iron-cheesecloth method and had accidentally melted everything back off. Oops. Start over. So I did and this is the result.

Oh yes, and here to the right is a selfie of me in my new mask. An alien invader crashing the studio? Perhaps.

Description of the overall project here.

A Piece of Me #04, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #04, acrylic

A Piece of Me #04, underdrawing in ink wash and pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #04, underdrawing in ink wash and pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #04, after the imprimatura.

A Piece of Me #04, after the imprimatura.

Finally, the last of the acrylics series. I saved this panel for the last knowing it could be quick work if I was lucky, but I would have to be on top of my game.

Compositionally this included a section of my face and hair against a background of architectural shapes. The light came in strongly from the right.

The work up for the panel was collage. So I used sections of an old pleated linen shirt for the background, then cut up long, thin strips of cloth for the strands of my hair. When it came to sculpting my face I used thick pieces of linen and even glued in a thicker piece underneath for my eyebrow.

I drew in the composition with washes of india ink (above, left), then coated the panel with yellow ochre for an imprimatura and added in darker accents with pen and ink (above, right). On top of that I gave the face a green underpainting (no photograph of that stage). Painting skin tone this way always looks so ghoulish at the start but it’s fantastic for achieving chromatic dimensionality very quickly. After all, blue veins pulse under our warm, translucent flesh.

A Piece of Me #04, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #04, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

During the alia-prima painting phase I painted in the white tonalities of the background first, then proceeded to the hair and face. Things began to come alive very quickly. After the (cool, pinkish) skin tone dried I laid in a glaze of yellow ochre to warm it all up and decided to stop. Some might consider this to need more work, that is, to bring it to a fuller, more developed state of completion since the underdrawing is still quite visible in places. But I fear if I continued I would lose its freshness and spontaneity. There is plenty of suggestion; already there is a lot going on. So I will stop and call this one yet another haptic-happening.

Description of the overall project here.

A Piece of Me #14, acrylic over acrylic sculpted gel on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #14, acrylic

A Piece of Me #14, underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #14, underdrawing in india ink.

A Piece of Me #14, acrylic over acrylic sculpted gel on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #14, acrylic over acrylic sculpted gel on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Whew! one of the most challenging panels yet! Why so?

To begin with the composition was very complicated – in the middle distance. There were three explicit figures plus a number of other shadows, all jumbled up together in the original photograph. I had to disentangle and determine the significant shapes and forms. Deciding what to keep and what to toss.

Secondly, the values in the middle distance in the original photograph were darker than I preferred so I had to figure out t how to to modulate them appropriately. For me personally, the values are still too dark but I’ve found a compromise that works for an individual panel and should still work out in the final assemblage.

Thirdly, the set-up for this particular panel called for acrylic sculpting gel as part of the work-up for the substrate. The painting was executed upon this relief. This posed an additional challenge due to the undulations in the painting surface of the painting knifeused for creating the relief. It made the surface coarser and more textured than I prefer. But since that’s part of the self-imposed rules for this particular game, off I went.

Ninety percent of the work on this panel focussed on the middle ground figure groupings. The hues and values, the play of light and shadow. Also there’s a lot of detail there. Luckily I was working in acrylics which is far more forgiving to pentimento than oil is. After the middle ground was established, the foreground went quite quickly. The two shoulders, the plaster wall and green railing.  I’m ready to set this one aside and stop dreaming in fifty shades of gray.

A Piece of Me #26, acrylic on panel. 21 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #29, acrylics

A Piece of Me #26, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #26, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #26, acrylic on panel. 21 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #26, acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This panel presented an interesting contrast of values and hues. Strong black shirt and effects of light and shadow contrasted to a muted linen jacket and nuanced flesh tones. Additionally, the panel was untreated. I am coming to recognise this treatment (or lack thereof) presents a particular challenge to the painter. The paint is simply more difficult to manipulate.

Given all that I am pleased with the outcome. The jacket undulates, the shadows read, the flesh pulses. I wonder what time it is on that watch?

Overview of the entire project here.

A Piece of Me #09, acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #09, acrylics

A Piece of Me #09, underdrawing in pen and ink

A Piece of Me #09, underdrawing in pen and ink

A Piece of Me #09, acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #09, acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Moving into the figurative pieces now especially those with serious flesh tones. This composition was mostly sweater, a little shirt and a piece of neck.

The approach called for an un treated panel (so no cotton or linen glued to the substrate to soften the blow). That meant that the strokes would speak for themselves and also would be a little slow in drying. If you take that into account, no problem, but if you try to work too fast (which I did) you can experience “holes” where the paint suddenly lifts off the surface whenever you work back over it. So this happened today while working on the man’s neck. The paint lifted off revealing two green blotchy holes (exposing the underpainting) in the highlighted area. Ha! I had to just stop and take a break. An hour later the surface was dry enough that I could stipple in a patch to match. This evened it all back up. No problem.

Nevertheless, the skin tone itself was a success story of indirect painting. I laid a green toned underpainting over the yellow ochre imprimatura. Then I mixed up three tints of venetian red (the Renaissance painters called that sinopia) to develop the form. When that work dried, I sponged in a yellow ochre glaze. Pop! Yummy flesh.

Another fun challenge was the sweater. I wanted to give it some movement as well as indicate the chiaroscuro of the body form beneath it. The underdrawing already indicated some movement, so I tried to let it speak though my strokes. After I was done working in the large forms and movements, I adjusted the colour with a sponged in glaze of cadmium yellow (bright!). That turned it from an almost dark-olive grey to a bright, delicious green. I’m pretty happy with the way it all turned out.

I might not want to eat that sweater but I wouldn’t mind a quick snuggle.

Overview of the entire project here.

 

A Piece of Me #44, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #44, acrylics

A Piece of Me #44, underdrawing in ink wash.

A Piece of Me #44, underdrawing in ink wash.

A Piece of Me #44, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #44, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A foreground composition from the whole assemblage. It happened very quickly, but that was because I had already done so much preparatory work.

At the substrate stage I had glued in a collage to reflect the movements and folds of my pants leg. That was a lot of fun and ended up being one of my favourite collages. Then at the underdrawing stage I laid in some black and white washes to reflect the strong value contrasts of the composition, see top right. I covered the whole panel with a coat of yellow ochre imprimatura  and set to work.

I mixed up three tints of gray in addition to the titanium white and began filling in the chiaroscuroed pants. I mixed up raw umber with a touch of ultramarine blue for the deep shadow, then laid it in with a brush and a small celled sponge. I increased the value-intensity-depth of the shadowed side pock-marks to enhance visual interest. After about a half hour I had what I was looking for.

Amazing what a little suggestion can do.

A Piece of Me #19, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #19, acrylics

A Piece of Me #19, the underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #19, the underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #19, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #19, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Beginning to plunge into the compositions that contain figurative elements. In this case, a part of my linen jacket in the foreground, a plastered wall, tips of hands and shoes in the middle ground and tiles receding into the distance.

Primarily because acrylics are so siccative, brush strokes can be hard to mask, that is, if you don’t want them – and generally, I don’t. So you have to revert to other methods. Like the previous panel, I used the painting knife and a small sponge to achieve textures that were not dependent upon or dictated by a paint brush. For example, after freely brushing in the chiaroscuro of the linen jacket (and letting it dry), I used some raw umber on the sponge to darken but soften it all up. The same with the receding tiles. After laying them in somewhat graphically, I used the sponge to lighten and mottle them up.

Additionally, because this whole project is conceived of as an experiment in substrates, the texture of the substrate also needs to be accounted for. In this case I was painting upon a panel prepared with a coat of linen glued to it before the gesso coating. Fabric/linen is perhaps the most favourable substrate for acrylic. The linen easily absorbs the paint as well as its tooth catches the stroke in its weave. This is also true for oils.

In contrast, it’s a remarkably different feel to paint upon a wooden panel with no intervening cloth, just gesso. The stroke is what it is – and receives no additional assistance from the texture of the substrate. For egg tempera this is exactly what you want. Because the egg tempera is so fine and graphical the coarse texture of a fabric’s weave can interfere. Also, if you paint on panels with oils, there is the additional difficulty of actually getting the stroke to actually stick to the slick surface (at the beginning of a painting session a light coat of varnish that is immediately wiped back off before drying helps with that). Anyway, the choice of substrate does indeed play a role in the touchy-feely way that paint performs.

 

A Piece of Me #39, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #39, acrylics

The muted tonalities and textures of a pattern of floor tiles. Located somewhere in the middle ground of the overall composition.

A Piece of Me #39, underdrawing in pen and ink

A Piece of Me #39, underdrawing in pen and ink

A Piece of Me #39, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #39, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of creating this panel was the extent to which I did not use the brush. The lighter sections above and below were done with a highly flexible painting knife, while the dark grey and blue tiles were created though the sequential dabbings of a small celled sponge. It was only the grouting lines (and small touch ups) that necessitated the use of a brush.

So, open textures broken by linear graphical shapes, while neutral grey forms a pretty steady through line. From a purely chromatic point of view some people might feel that grey element to be a bit too somber for their tastes. I get it, but as a tonalist, I feel it creates a peaceful serenity – so I really like it.

A Piece of Me #54, acrylic over acrylic modelling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #54, acrylics

A Piece of Me #54, pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #54, pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #54, acrylic over acrylic modelling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #54, acrylic over acrylic modelling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

With this panel I began moving into some of the more figurative elements of the foreground in the overall composition. The preparation called for some pre-painting sculpting, so I used acrylic modelling gel. I sculpted the surface according to the elements of the composition: the tiles with their grouted grooves receding into the background on the right, on the left, the chipped plaster wall in front of which you see the undulating tip of my pants leg. Thus, fabric, plaster, stone.

I began painting with the yellow plaster wall. It had already been sculpted but I decided to increase it’s texture by using the painting knife. Then I dug out all the chipped grooves and lay in some gray paint. I painted in a good coat of white on my pants leg and let it all dry. It was already taking shape but the big fun began with the sponge. After blocking off the left side I daubed out tones of gray, raw umber and ultramarine blue into the tile design on the right. Results came quickly. Of course I had to move quickly to reclaim the grouting lines. But instead of leaving the grooves as a tint of the exposed substrate, I came back in with a neutral grout-gray to clean it all up. Pop!

After everything dried I used raw umber to apply some stains onto the plaster wall and to put some volumetric washes onto my pant leg. I’m really happy with the way this one turned out.

It’s very haptic. I could eat it for breakfast.

A Piece of Me #64, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #64, acrylics

Fifth in the acrylic series. An abstract composition of floor tiles. The painting was executed over a collage that already reflected the design of the panel.

A Piece of Me #64 pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #64 pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #64, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #64, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

My palette consisted of titanium white, medium grey, yellow ochre, burnt sienna and raw umber. I used lots of extra tools to assist in creating texture: a coarse sponge (large and small chunks of it), the painting knife and a piece of paper towel (to soak large areas of wash off the lighter tiles).

One of the most enjoyable aspects of doing these panels is that because they are bite-size (basically the size of an A5 or half of 8 1/2 by 11 U.S. letter), each one can be an open experiment in terms of execution. I can create a small unity using a variety of means. This would not be possible if the panel was, say 8 feet by 10 feet. If that were so I would have had to devise special brushes or sponges on wheels and pulleys. The scale then makes this freedom possible. The question then is how the final assemblage will function (also as a unity). But since I’ve done this before I’m not really worried – just curious.