Tag Archives: ellen cathcart Trezevant painter in Bruges Belgium

A Piece of Me #05, oil on panel over cotton. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #05, oils

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #05.

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #05.

A Piece of Me #05, oil on panel over cotton. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #05, oil on panel over cotton. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

I can’t believe it, but this panel marks the end of the line. It’s the final oil panel as well as the final panel in the whole project of sixty-four. Soon begins the work of mounting and assembling. And from there, tweaking decisions. I am expecting and welcoming a certain amount of visual dissonance but I also know that (just like in American politics) too much dissonance can destroy the unitive vibration of the whole. So there may be some changes to make? We’ll see. But for now there’s cause to celebrate! The champagne is in the fridge. It’s been almost two years.

So again, this was the last panel. One quarter of my face. For those of you who have been following this project you will remember that in any particular medium I tend to leave the more important/challenging panels for the last. I begin with the abstract compositions, then proceed to the body parts compositions, then the complex figurative groupings, leaving my face (which was cut up into four sections) for the last.

To render this panel I began with the underdrawing in pen and ink over a yellow imprimatura. See above, right. Then I covered the face area with an underpainting of terra verte (green) and let it dry. After a few days I laid in a  clear glaze and set to work, moving from background to foreground. There was: the back wall, two heads of hair and one face. After three hours of work I had achieved what I was looking for – a rendering of the forms with spontaneity and freshness. I’ll leave it to dry and see if anything else begs for my attention. But I’m pleased with what I have so far. If I make further changes they will be small ones.

A Piece of Me #25, oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #25, oils

A Piece of Me #25, underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #25, underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #25, oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #25, oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

The challenge on this panel was simply dimensionality. The man’s pants and sweater were both quite dark, so it was difficult to read where the fabric folds and shadows were. Of course, I could guess a bit, given its placement relative to the whole image, but in any case, I wanted to create interest and motion there. So I introduced that in the underdrawing. See the image to the right.

Thus on the oil level I had three basic shapes to render: the ledge, the pants and the sweater. I rendered the pants in dark gray and reserved black only for the creases and deepest shadow accents. Same with the sweater, two tints of dark green accentuated by dark gray and/or black for the deepest creases/shadows. As it turns out, the buttons on his pants piqued the interest, interrupting an otherwise monovalumatic field of grey (hey, I just created a word!). BTW: those buttons were created by removing paint so as to expose the substrate rather than adding white back in on top (which I avoid whenever possible). It’s one of my pet-painting-peeves.

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 #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 #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 #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.