Tag Archives: a life sized mixed media self portrait

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.

A Piece of Me #59, acrylic on linen over panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #59, acrylics

Fourth in the series. Muted earth tones of yellow plaster and tile, gray mottled or a light umber.

A Piece of Me #59, pen and ink underdrawing

A Piece of Me #59, pen and ink underdrawing

A Piece of Me #59, acrylic on linen over panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #59, acrylic on linen over panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

At this point I think it’s important to say something about palette. I think a reduced palette creates an aesthetically satisfying painting (whatever the subject matter, or no subject matter at all). In this case I restricted myself to yellow ochre, titanium white, neutral gray and raw umber. I had used the same pigments for the last panel (#49) too. OK, so the composition in either case was not very complex, nevertheless you still want to think about how to create  a unity from the contrasts of hue and value while using a minimum of means.

From a texture point of view, I used the painting knife once again for the light plaster wall. Then I picked up a small piece of sponge to create the mottled gray tile work below it. The first pass was in neutral gray and the second pass was in white. Immediately I had a touchy-feely texture that just needed a little subduing and integration. The darker value of the raw umber gave me a solid horizontal line across the wall/floor crease. I used the same pigment as an echo in the broken line of the front diagonal. Of course, the underdrawing and the imprimatur work to provide a solid foundation, adding interest and depth, kinda like the bass line in a popular song.

Nice. Done.

Description of the overall project here.

A Piece of Me #49. acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #49, acrylics

A Piece of Me #49, pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #49, pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #49. acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #49. acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Third in the series. Still concentrating on background abstract compositions. This one, a plastered wall in the foreground of the overall composition. It’s heavily chipped providing a nice contrast between the yellowish plaster and the gray stonework beneath it.

I began, as I do with most panels in this series, with an imprimatur wash of yellow ochre. Then after mixing up a much lighter tint I used the painting knife to pretend I was a plasterer laying on plaster. I avoided the gray areas as indicated by the underdrawing. Then I lay in the gray cement. The whole design took shape rather quickly: some might have called it done. I set it aside to dry.

The next day I added some white highlight to the plaster edge, giving it dimensionality. Then I added some lighter gray areas to add interest to the concrete. The final touch was light washes of raw umber to reflect the weathering stains on the wall.

Amazing how something so simple can be so satisfying.

A Piece of Me #24, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #24, acrylics

Second in the series of acrylic panels. This one was executed over a textured collage, which essentially consisted of two planes of fabric. The paint however flows quite different over a heavily textured weave than over a modelled surface of acrylic gel (as it did in the previous panel).

A Piece of Me #24, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #24, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #24, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #24, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

The composition is quite simple with very basic geometric shapes. Actually, it’s almost identical to its companion piece (#23) that I recently completed in encaustic. Both paintings are quite similar yet also quite different. It will be interesting to place them side by side in the final assemblage: to feel the simultaneous vibration of similarity and difference.

BTW: I did not expose the underdrawing at all in the horizontal wall stripe but I did leave some of the pen and ink detail exposed for the crease and floor tiles. I expect to continue to take advantage of the underdrawing in this way in the future. Otherwise, why do it?

A Piece of Me #34, acrylic on panel over acrylic molding paste. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Final version.

A Piece of Me #34, acrylics

Started on the acrylic series today. Had to stop the encaustic series because of the summer’s heat and the new mask I had ordered (but not yet received) to protect myself against the toxic fumes arising from the (heated) encaustic paint.

A Piece of Me #34, acrylic on panel over acrylic molding paste. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Version #1

A Piece of Me #34, acrylic on panel over acrylic molding paste. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Version #1

A Piece of Me #34, acrylic on panel over acrylic molding paste. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Final version.

A Piece of Me #34, acrylic on panel over acrylic molding paste. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Final version.

Ah bon, so acrylic. Most people learn to paint with it. Some never leave. It dries fast, it’s cheap, and easy to manipulate. What’s not to like? Well, for me, it’s plastic. And for that reason alone I’ve avoided it like the plague ever since my college days. That may seem like an irrational reason – which it is – but since the tactile quality of the substrate, the gesso, the medium and the  pigments has always been my navigational compass I’ve heeded this aversion. So now this project offers me the chance to dive back in and re-examine my distaste.

I began with this panel. It’s an open field of a plastered wall in the foreground of the overall assemblage. The original composition then is: nothing, a blank canvas. These kinds of open compositions are a lot of fun and a great way to acquaint myself with any particular medium (which in this case, is acrylic). There was no underdrawing, so I began with an imprimatura in yellow ochre to set the tone and began slashing in paint. Because this panel called for modelling in the prep phase, the surface was already modelled to reflect the movement of a plasterer’s trowel. I used the painting knife to increase this tactile movement. When I was satisfied that there was enough variation in the surface, I splashed on some toothbrush dots for graphical and value contrast. I was done – or so I thought.

Yet after I had completed the whole series I returned to this one. The main reason was hue. I noticed that this one was too pink. It might work fine as a stand alone painting but if I wanted these panels to integrate into one vibratory whole without TOO much dissonance then it seemed best to alter the hue. I mixed up some titanium white with a pinch of yellow ochre and troweled it on using the painting knife. Much of my subtle modulation disappeared. No problem. I mixed up some raw umber with clear glazing gel and water to create a light wash. I drizzled it down from the top, allowing gravity to imitate the stains on the original wall. When that dried, I tooth-brushed on a tint of dots and was done. You can compare the original panel above right with this new one above left (as well as spotlighted above). I think the new version is an upgrade, don’t you?

In both cases, the whole process took me maybe an hour. That’s acrylics.

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Final Version.

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Final Version.

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Final Version.

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Version #1.

A Piece of Me #43, encaustic on panel over linen. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. Version #1.

Another graphical composition. This one, the tip of my linen jacket top right, against a light yellow stuccoed wall with two strong shadows left and right. The panel as substrate was not heavily textured (like collage or pastiglia) but I had glued some linen to it before coating it with gesso. I have already seen in the past that untreated panels (so plain wood) do react differently to paint than those with a covering of linen or cotton. The cloth covered ones are somehow softer, more receptive, while the wooden ones are harsher, more clinical. It’s a touchy-feely thing that comes down to the surface’s ability to absorb and respond to the paint.

All this to explain my dissatisfaction with the first version pictured above, right. Partially due to the receptivity of the substrate, the shadowed sections were just too opaque and heavy. There had been too much build up of impasto paint, especially along the inner edges, making the painted panel feel thick and overworked. So I decided to melt off the shadowy section and repaint it. I am more satisfied with the final version now, above left, as well as spotlighted above (online only). There is more light in the shadows. While I was at it, I also lightened up the yellow wall. Got a little heavy with the tooth brush speckles though, so I may need to edit a few of those out? But for now, I’ll let it sit.

Description of the overall project here.