Category Archives: Abstract

As the name implies, images here are principally abstract in nature, sometimes – but not always – based on a mage in the mind’s eye.

Pieces of Me/Pieces of Eight. Titanium white over silverpoint. Final size: 106.5 x 168 cm or 42" x 66"

Pieces of Me/Pieces of Eight/Pieces of White

Pieces of Me/Pieces of Eight/Pieces of Light. Titanium white over silverpoint underdrawings.  Final size: 106.5 x 168 cm or 42" x 66"

Pieces of Me/Pieces of Eight/Pieces of Light. Titanium white over silverpoint underdrawings. Final size: 106.5 x 168 cm or 42″ x 66″

I’ve recently been able to complete this silverpoint inspired project – which is intended as a mix of realism and abstraction.

The underdrawing stage illustrated and described here consisted of sixty four panels rendered in silverpoint over a terre verte toned acrylic ground, then highlighted with titanium white. After applying appropriate fixative, the overlaying layers consisted primarily of titanium white (there was also a tidge of zinc white) – either sprayed or thrown – in alternating sessions.

It was fun doing this second phase yet challenging: it’s my first experience with throwing paint since my college days. So  I had an internal image, but didn’t know exactly how to get there. It was a case of trial and error. My guiding principle was “circulation de la lumière” (the circulation of light). Naturally, that circulation had to take into account the quarter-tones and half-tones of the underpainting. So the throwing involved a certain kind of chaos which I couldn’t really control, but rather at best, guide. The final size is approximately 3 1/2 feet x 5 1/2 feet. Basically, life size.

The final version displayed here is (of course) a photograph. As such it is a kind of compromise, not only because of my photography skills (but possibly anyone’s) to adequately represent this piece. The silverpoint layer reflects and resonates depending on the lighting conditions (and your position in the room) while the overpainted layer simply reflects. With ambient lighting conditions then, more of the underdrawing softly comes through, while with strong overhead light the overpainting emphasizes itself. My intention is/was to achieve an alternating balance between the two so that the viewer can receive alternating impressions. For all these reasons it’s important to cut this digital image some slack. So no, there will be no NFTs made available of this anywhere on the internet. 😉

With luck I hope to exhibit it somewhere, sometime in the relatively near future. TBD.

 

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A Piece of Me #45, oil on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #45, oils

Continuing with the series of oil panels in which (I’m hoping that) the underdrawing will be able to remain fully functional through its superimposed layers. Earlier, in the first four oil panels, I had some technical difficulties (now resolved). They were not show stoppers but they did set me back to the drawing board more than a little bit.  If interested you can read about it here.

A Piece of Me #45, underdrawing in pen and ink (a mars black oil paint diluted to a dense yet flowable consistency).

A Piece of Me #45, underdrawing in pen and ink (a mars black oil paint diluted to a dense yet flowable consistency).

A Piece of Me #45, oil on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #45, oil on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This panel then began with a strong pen and ink underdrawing over an already imprimatura-ed wash of yellow ochre diluted oil paint. I had such success with the yellow ochre as a staring point for my acrylic and encaustic panels, I decided to keep with it for the oil series. See right.

Similar to the last oil panel (#35) this was a relatively simple composition. There were three items to consider, the tip of my linen jacket above right, my white pants legs right and left and the intervening shadow. As with the last one, I glazed in the shadow and then followed it up with passages of opaque paint. The main challenge though was creating a visual distinction between the two linens, the white pants and the oatmeal jacket. Both had shadow and volume play to create interest. I’m really happy with the way it turned out. The forms are pretty delicious. Had to stop and eat lunch though instead of chowing down on it: the curry just had to be more nutritious 😉

A Piece of Me #35, oil on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #35, oils

A Piece of Me #35. Underdrawing in pen and ink (diluted black oil paint).

A Piece of Me #35. Underdrawing in pen and ink (diluted black oil paint).

A Piece of Me #35, oil on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #35, oil on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A simple composition executed on a panel pre-treated with linen. The underdrawing (to the right) laid out the basic design, the oil level (to the left) gave the forms dimension. So, for forms: there was my linen jacket on the right, casting its shadow against the lightly coloured plaster wall on the left. That’s it.

The shadow area in the middle took shape rather quickly with a glaze of raw umber. I liked the tonality but the cross hatching of the underdrawing was too visible, so I added some white to my umber and worked back in passages of opaque paint. Much better. As much as I love glazing (and I do!) it’s equally important to balance it with passages of opacity.

The linen jacket was pure pleasure to render, softly dabbing in light and shadow, accentuating its dimensionality so that it almost completed itself. In painting, in creation, there is a point where the form starts to take shape as if by itself. As form-giver, you need to remain especially attentive, listening to what is happening on the page/panel, asking for what else is needed. Strengthening (or modulating) contrasts, tightening up (or softening) edges, adjusting hues. The light yellow wall on the left, for example, was quick work but adding in those spots (freckles) gave this wide open area just that little bit of extra.

A Piece of Me #50, oil over pre textured acrylic modeling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #50, oils

A Piece of Me #50, oil over pre textured acrylic modeling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #50, oil over pre textured acrylic modeling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #50, the original photograph.

A Piece of Me #50, the original photograph.

Texture, texture and more texture. This panel was created with the painting knife, either during the modelling-paste-pre-painting-sculpting phase or during the painting phase, with thick slabs of light pastel coloured paint.

The grey areas were dug out from the paste as well as the paint in the attempt to mimic the cement behind the lightly coloured plastered wall. I don’t have a photograph of the underdrawing phase (was there even one??) so I’ll use this rare occasion to post the original photograph.

Except for the captions, can you tell the difference?

A Piece of Me #40, oil over collage on panel. 21 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #40, oils

A Piece of Me #40, underdrawing over collage.

A Piece of Me #40, underdrawing over collage.

A Piece of Me #40, oil over collage on panel. 21 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #40, oil over collage on panel. 21 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This panel had some particular challenges to it, both of which were my own creation. The first problem came from the lack of alignment of my collaged panel (created more than one year ago during the preparation phase) to my black and white transposed design. Although (I thought) I had used the same transfer process, my alignment was off by a few millimetres. Well, OK, I’ll live with that, knowing the texture of oil paint can mask things to a certain degree and also that I’m open to whatever happens in this multimedia process of creation. The only real accidents are lack of adhesion or longevity.

The second problem occurred with the absorbency of the black paint tinted underdrawing. Even after three or four days, it’s adhesion to the ground appeared to be insufficient. Parts of it came off when I used my kneaded eraser to erase the charcoal transfer lines (it was too heavily diluted). Since it’s an underdrawing this too is not a fatal error. Nevertheless I did go into this one with some caution, not sure I would be able to salvage it.

The photograph of the completed panel above left is side lit, so the textural pentementi of the misaligned collage are visible. Those (misaligned) highlights are visually fugitive so they don’t really bother me. Additionally, the lighter-than-I would-wish-for underdrawing did not pose a huge threat, either. I compensated by drawing in the white grouting lines for the blue tiles with white lead paint as an underpainting and let it dry. After a few days I was good to go. Thus, in this piece (and the whole project) I am not out to create perfection, but rather, a visually and tactilely attractive assemblage that ultimately will invite the viewer to unify for themselves. And hopefully experience aesthetic pleasure in doing so!

A Piece of Me #60, oil on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #60, oils

A Piece of Me #60, underdrawing over collage.

A Piece of Me #60, underdrawing over collage.

A Piece of Me #60, oil on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #60, oil on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Second in the new series of panels executed exclusively in oil. The underdrawing on the right shows not only the layout of the design but also its intentional graphical harshness. It’s supposed to be that way! You want that firmness, those hard lines and clear contrasts. Then the oil level enhances, softens and sensuously mitigates these things – see left.

Thus, after the yellow imprimatura and the underdrawing dried, I started with the oil level. I covered the whole surface with a clear medium and after fifteen minutes wiped it off. The medium created a slightly tacky surface for working wet-in-wet, painting impasto paint into the clear glaze. I began by developing the highlights and quarter tones on the left first, then the strong shadow areas on the right. My goal was to cover the entire panel, to finish it in one working session. I reserved the strongest shadows and highlights for the end. Using the dry fan brush I could softly blend adjacent areas into one another without smearing. One of my favourite activities!

I’m pleased with the level of detail/interest in the shadows. The impasto paint there is not so thick so as to obscure the ground. And there is enough variation to allow the eye to wander. I did have to contend with the collage: the tip of the shoe on the right edge protrudes maybe two or three millimetres? It’s very tactile but difficult to paint. The side-lit photograph in the top spotlight (online display only ) illumines its 3D aspect. Some of the strong highlights you see in the photograph are not paint but rather fugitive reflections.

A Piece ofMe #55, oil on linen mounted on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 ".

A Piece of Me #55, oils

A Piece ofMe #55, oil on linen mounted on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 ".

A Piece ofMe #55, oil on linen mounted on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 “.

Finally the home stretch. This then is the first of twelve final panels: all panels in this series will be executed exclusively in oil on an oil ground. This particular panel was painted on linen mounted on panel previous to the application fo the oil ground. All these slight variations in pre-treatment to the grounds mean that there will always be a slightly different relationship between the ground and the application of the paint.

Additionally, because this is an oil ground it’s not receptive to the india ink that I used for the underdrawings in the egg tempera, mixed technique and/or encaustic panels. In those cases the ground was a traditional chalk gesso, which is water based and also very absorbent. So I had to switch to a heavily diluted black oil paint for my underdrawings. The imprimatura too, was a heavily diluted yellow ochre. And after both of these treatments I had to let the panel dry for a few days.

However, because I had laid in this groundwork, the thicker oil level proceeded quickly. It took just one working session to develop the main forms and textures – although I did have to let that dry before painting in the final contrasts. When using an indirect technique for oil in this way means that the waiting times are not for impatient temperaments. I’m pretty chill, but even so I do chafe at the bit sometimes. 😉

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. Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.

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.

Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.

 

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.

Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.