Tag Archives: artist living in Brugge Belgie

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.

A Piece of Me #38, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #38, encaustic

A Piece of Me #38, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #38, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #38 underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #38 underdrawing in pen and ink.

Compositionally, this panel had some interesting elements: a long off-white slash on the left side, some highly contrasted graphical elements at the top and earth toned trapezoids to the right. This could get interesting. The panel was prepared with a layer of pastiglia sculpting, so the shapes were already lightly formed. In addition, of course, the india ink underdrawing was available to do its magic.

I began first with the off-white section. It developed quickly using the iron/cheesecloth method to lay in and melt off a woven texture. I really like how the verticality of the strokes came to accentuate the linen weave. Then I began to depict the strong contrasts above, middle. I started using a small bristle brush but then brought out the electrical encaustic pen nib to draw in the fine lines. Finally, the gray and brown tiles for the background areas on the right. There, a judicious application of paint and iron/cheesecloth brought out a variegated mottled pattern which also allowed for the underdrawing to show through in places.

Nice. A few hours work and I’m satisfied. It will be interesting to see how it integrates into the final assemblage.

By the way, in case anyone has been concerned: my studio is well ventilated. I have a fan next to an open garden door, which is right next to my electrical pallete. In addition, I still have a few N95 masks left over from our transatlantic return flight at the end of May. So I protect myself accordingly.

A Piece of Me #48, encaustic on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #48, encaustic

A Piece of Me #48, encaustic on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #48, encaustic on panel over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #48, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #48, underdrawing in pen and ink.

An abstract floor tile composition. Should be easy, right? Wrong. This was one of the most difficult ones yet.

Why? Well, the panel prep called for collage, so I had glued on some fairly heavy squares of cloth to represent the dark, grey-blue tiles on the bottom half. I liked the collage level. It was heavily textured. But as I began laying in the encaustic I found the coarseness of the technique (using a bristle brush) along with the coarseness of the collage made the drawing in of fine, thin grouting lines next to impossible(!). It was an ugly mess.

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.

Also, I discovered that my collage was somewhat inaccurate, so I had to correct some of those grouting lines. What to do? Bring in the troops! I brought out my handy-dandy-super-duper encaustic craft tool, the electrified pen, pictured to the right. I had picked one of these up about 10 years ago. Cost, maybe 25 Euros? I inserted the pen nib attachment, plugged it in and began drawing in my grouting lines. It took some time but in the end that level of detail worked out fairly well.

Along the way there were two other nice surprises. One, while using the big household iron/cheesecloth method to melt the paint partially off on the two large lighter value upper planes, different colours began to emerge in places, along with the india ink underdrawing. Nice. Two, during the “burning-in” phase, the heavily built-up levels of blue-grey paint on the lower tiles began to fuse, creating a dreamy, creamy mottled look. Again, nice nice.

I am happy to put this one aside for awhile, wondering how well it will integrate into the larger piece? Grey balance can be notoriously difficult, but at the same time, that’s precisely where the chromatic vibrations can be so interesting. We’ll just have to wait and see.