Category Archives: PAINTINGS

Artworks created through the use of brushes and various liquid media.

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 #13, encaustic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #13, encaustic

A Piece of Me #13, india ink underdrawing

A Piece of Me #13, india ink underdrawing

A Piece of Me #13, encaustic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #13, encaustic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This is the final panel of the encaustic series. It’s been an interesting journey dipping my toes back into melted wax. I’ve learned a number of new tips and tricks, many of which are best summarised in my recent post on my companion website atelierartisanal.com.  I also have understood how important it is to protect my own health. The fumes arising from the melted varnish (which is combined with the beeswax to create the medium) are bad enough but then you also need to avoid oxidizing whatever solvent you may be using – even so called “bio-solvents”. By the end I was wearing a vapour mask from outer space as well as goggles. No gloves or hazmat suit, though. 😉

Thematically this panel was an important one: one-quarter of my face, plus part of the neck and shirt of the lady standing behind me. I had left it for the end, knowing the subtlety that would be required for those precious skin tones. And even though I did have an electrified painting nib, I did not use it(!). Instead I discovered that small bright bristle brushes (held together by a metal ferrule), could be warmed on the palette so that the paint would retain its fluidity a few seconds longer. Of course, this tended to destroy the bristle brushes but it is well known that encaustic eats brushes. So I just buy plenty of cheap bristles and throw them away when death is nigh.

I am pleased with the way the skin tone shaped up. Lots of small strokes which allowed the green underpainting to poke through here and there. That mottling became contrasted to the long strokes of black for my shirt, blue for the lady’s shirt or the waves of the linen jacket. I used  my electrified drawing nib for all the fine, linear details. See for example my necklace. In the end it reads well and I am happy to move on the fifth and final series of this overall project: oil.

A Piece of Me #28, encaustic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #28, encaustic

A Piece of Me #28, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #28, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #28, imprimatura and underpainting.

A Piece of Me #28, imprimatura and underpainting.

This is/was such an interesting panel to do! The design call-out for it was collage and encaustic. Two very textural and graphic media. You put the two together and the effect can be exponential. On top of that, it was a strong composition: strong contrasts of black (shirt) and white (pants). Gestural elements of a wavy linen coat flowing into a resting but sculpted hand. I enjoyed the result at each step along the way. The finished collage was enticing (no photo of that); the underdrawing phase, too (see above, left). I could almost feel that hand. Well, of course I could since it’s mine, still it was being objectified in black and white. So from the beginning his particular panel reinforced my goal for the overall project, I want it to speak viscerally to the viewer.

To begin the encaustic phase I laid in a coat of yellow ochre and proceeded to melt it back off. This had the effect of unifying everything in a golden imprimatura glow. Unsurprisingly the melt off accentuated the textures of the collage, creating white ridges. See the side-lit photograph above, right.  Then I painted a green tone to the skin and melted it back off, too. Again, see the hand in the photo above, right. This concluded my prep.

A Piece of Me #28, encaustic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #28, encaustic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

With the exception of the skin tone, the black shirt, white pants and linen jacket went quickly and were pretty straightforward. That was because so much textural variation had already been built into the under layers. However, achieving a variegated chiaroscuro skin tone of the hand in encaustic was more difficult than one might imagine. I opted for creating a sculpted, veined hand in variants of warm and cool tonalities. The result reads well enough for my purposes. Though I must say I had increased respect for those Fayum mummy painters of old.

Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest challenge arrived in the “burning-in” phase. This phase happens when you have completed your painting but you still need to rewarm/remelt the whole surface in order to fuse the paint to the panel. I use a hand held heating lamp for this step. However, because it is a collage, the surface is heavily sculpted: it is not flat. The wax melted and pooled in ways “retrograde to my desire”. Edges blurred. Contrasts merged. So I had some clean up to do after the burn-in. No problem, a small scraping tool along with the little encaustic pen (with its drawing and painting attachments) could be pressed into service. Once completed, I was ready to hang up my guns and call it a day (or two).

Technical write up of using encaustic for an indirect painting technique here.

A Piece of Me #53, encaustic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #53, encaustic

A Piece of Me #53, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #53, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #53, encaustic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #53, encaustic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

I’m nearing the end of the encaustic series. This panel was both interesting and challenging at the same time. I had white pants, a very light yellow wall, some skin tone and tan socks, so four different regions of highlights and quarter-tones. The subject (me) is strongly lit, which created strong shadows particularly between the two legs. How to render this in encaustic in a way that stays true to the subject matter but also creates an attractive painting?

First step (after already laying in the underdrawing see right) was to cover the surface with yellow ochre and then aggressively melt it back off. This left me with a golden imprimatura. Nice. Then I did the same thing but this time only to the skin tones by adding green to the two leg sections and melting that back off. Then I had the distinctly green underpainting that I wish for in my skin tones.

After these preparatory steps I set about painting in the various sections: the white pants with its shadows, the skin tones, the shadowed socks, the wall (with its big shadow in-between the two legs), and the shoes. When I had something that appealed to me I decided to try to gently melt it off. Principally, I was not happy with the big central shadow section. It was too dark and too opaque. So I knew I needed to lighten it up somehow. The iron/cheescloth routine beckoned. So I set about it, and as usual, took off too much. 🙂

The electrified encaustic pen with three attachments, a pen nib, a brush nib and a small iron.

The electrified encaustic pen with three attachments, a pen nib, a brush nib and a small iron.

BUT, no problem, the underdrawing began to shine through in all the places where it had become lost. I liked that. Encaustic is such a thick, impasto, opaque technique. It’s the opposite of what I have been trying to do for so long in using an indirect technique to make use of layers to build up a painting. So suddenly I had an underpainting where all the different regions, with their shadowed sections were already very well indicated. This could be something to build on. Painting backwards in encaustic(!). Some forward moving opaque touch ups to give it all body and I might be done?

I came back the next day and did just that. Some large swathe brush strokes of white on the pants leg. Some quick highlights and shadows in the socks. Skin tone modelling. Redid the light plaster wall. That worked fine for the large fields but I had to pick up the electric pen nib (see right) to add in the finer details that are otherwise so difficult in encaustic. The shoelaces and fine lines on the pants leg. This is the result. I’ll take it.

Description of the entire project here. Technical write up of using encaustic for an indirect painting technique here.

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. Technical write up of using encaustic for an indirect painting technique 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 do 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. Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this 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.

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