Tag Archives: Self portrait of Ellen Cathcart Trezevant

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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?