Tag Archives: Ellen Cathcart Trezevant

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

A Piece of Me #29, acrylics

A Piece of Me #26, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #26, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #26, acrylic on panel. 21 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #26, acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This panel presented an interesting contrast of values and hues. Strong black shirt and effects of light and shadow contrasted to a muted linen jacket and nuanced flesh tones. Additionally, the panel was untreated. I am coming to recognise this treatment (or lack thereof) presents a particular challenge to the painter. The paint is simply more difficult to manipulate.

Given all that I am pleased with the outcome. The jacket undulates, the shadows read, the flesh pulses. I wonder what time it is on that watch?

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

A Piece of Me #09, acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #09, acrylics

A Piece of Me #09, underdrawing in pen and ink

A Piece of Me #09, underdrawing in pen and ink

A Piece of Me #09, acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #09, acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Moving into the figurative pieces now especially those with serious flesh tones. This composition was mostly sweater, a little shirt and a piece of neck.

The approach called for an un treated panel (so no cotton or linen glued to the substrate to soften the blow). That meant that the strokes would speak for themselves and also would be a little slow in drying. If you take that into account, no problem, but if you try to work too fast (which I did) you can experience “holes” where the paint suddenly lifts off the surface whenever you work back over it. So this happened today while working on the man’s neck. The paint lifted off revealing two green blotchy holes (exposing the underpainting) in the highlighted area. Ha! I had to just stop and take a break. An hour later the surface was dry enough that I could stipple in a patch to match. This evened it all back up. No problem.

Nevertheless, the skin tone itself was a success story of indirect painting. I laid a green toned underpainting over the yellow ochre imprimatura. Then I mixed up three tints of venetian red (the Renaissance painters called that sinopia) to develop the form. When that work dried, I sponged in a yellow ochre glaze. Pop! Yummy flesh.

Another fun challenge was the sweater. I wanted to give it some movement as well as indicate the chiaroscuro of the body form beneath it. The underdrawing already indicated some movement, so I tried to let it speak though my strokes. After I was done working in the large forms and movements, I adjusted the colour with a sponged in glaze of cadmium yellow (bright!). That turned it from an almost dark-olive grey to a bright, delicious green. I’m pretty happy with the way it all turned out.

I might not want to eat that sweater but I wouldn’t mind a quick snuggle.

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

 

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

A Piece of Me #58, encaustic

A Piece of Me#58, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me#58, underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #58, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #58, encaustic over pastiglia on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

Ah, one of my favourite spontaneous compositions: the cigarette butt. I remember when I first started laying out the design for this panel, I had to ask myself, what is that? When I realised it was a cigarette butt I had to laugh. Who knew?

It turned out that the treatment for this panel called for pastiglia. Ha! So I had the opportunity to sculpt this inconspicuous little guy, wondering how that 3D element would play into the final assemblage.

Then I realised that the painting method was encaustic, which is a bit of a double whammy, since the burning-in (the melting in) phase can enhance any substrate dimensionality. Which it did. The paint receded just slightly around the form, accentuating it. No harm. No foul.

Otherwise, the painting consisted of three planes of reduced earth colors, accentuated by a few strong accents of almost-black. Like the panel from yesterday, it was another foreground piece, so I felt could afford the strong accents.

Two hours of work. One and done. Technical write up of using encaustic for an indirect painting technique here.

A piece of me #27. the mixed technique on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #27, the mixed technique

A piece of me #27, the egg tempera underpainting.

A piece of me #27, the egg tempera underpainting.

A piece of me #27. the mixed technique on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A piece of me #27. the mixed technique on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

This panel represented a few challenges mostly due to the very dark shadow of the man’s gray/black pants leg. It’s a strong element, front-and-center, commanding attention. So I wanted to represent it accurately, but also I wanted to depict enough other dark accents surrounding it to encourage the circulation of light (or lack thereof). The ring and the shadow of my linen coat work rather well for that. But is it enough? The shadow is strong and also uniform. So I still may try to introduce some scumbled detail into those deepest leg-shadows after this level dries.

However, that is or will be complicated by another, technical complication. After I had started laying in some very dark gray pigment into the medium/glaze (in the pants leg), I found that the paint dried almost immediately (!) – too quickly to manipulate. In painter’s parlance this is called “sinking in”. This happens when the ground is too absorbent. In this case, I think the absorbency was caused by the combination of the linen fabric that I had glued onto the HDF panel as part of my substrate preparation as well as the siccative nature of the particular pigment (Payne’s Gray) that I had used in that area. “Sinking in” is remedied by a localized treatment of retouch varnish, which I applied before reworking that area yesterday. Though improved, when this area thoroughly dries I still may try to supply more balancing nuance (the scumble mentioned above). However, I am not dissatisfied with the result. I think the treatment of the linen jacket, the tile work upper left, the plaster wall lower left as well as the ringed fingers are delicious. So these are the comments of the-always-critical-chef.

BTW: sorry for the glare – that’s only in the photograph – not the image.

Full description of the whole project here. Write up on the mixed technique here.

A Piece of Me #17, mixed technique on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #17, the mixed technique

A piece of me, #17, the egg tempera underpainting over the india ink underdrawing.

A piece of me, #17, the egg tempera underpainting over the india ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #17, mixed technique on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #17, mixed technique on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This panel was pure painter’s delight. Took me about an hour to do. My challenge: how to make a field of dark green with some slight shadowed undulations interesting

So I mixed up five shades from the deepest shadows to the highest highlights and set to work. And though I did use some lead white for the tints, I was also careful to make use of the white of the gesso substrate, too. This was done by using a fan shaped dry brush to brush the pigmented paint into its neighbor. When the manipulation was vigorous enough the dry brush tended to reveal the substrate – which made the whole panel more luminous. Finding light in the shadows. And relative to the composition, I was careful to introduce whatever hard lines it offered as a counterpoint to the amorphous fields of green. This is the result.

The whole is already more three dimensional than its underpainting. I’ll take it.Full description of the whole project here. Write up on the mixed technique here.

A piece of me, #52, the mixed technique over collage on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #52, the mixed technique

A piece of me #52, egg tempera over collage

A piece of me #52, egg tempera over collage

A piece of me, #52, the mixed technique over collage on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A piece of me, #52, the mixed technique over collage on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

One of the most interesting aspects of this particular collaged panel was my pants cuff. It projects a few millimeters from the rest of the composition (!). Really. During the oil level, I found that balancing the warm whites of my pants, socks and the plastered wall with my skin tone was all made possible by the value adjustments inherent to the composition (and the judicious use of a warm-gray pigment from the tube). BTW: I prefer my grays warm and I don’t mix them on the palette. It’s too difficult to consistently achieve an elusive neutrality (which may not exist anyway). Full description of the whole project here. Write up on the mixed technique here.