Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 34--Tomatillos

I love tomatillos, and I love the salsa you can make with them. For painting, the contrast between the apple-green and incredibly waxy/glossy skin of the fruit and the papery translucence of the covering husk is enticing in and of itself. The board this was painted on had a very glossy surface, leading to the brush scraping off almost as much paint as it put down. Ordinarily the way around this is to pile on more paint until you're painting on and into paint (Sargent's maxim that the brush should never touch the canvas, only the paint), but I thought I'd like to use the scrapiness to try to depict the papery grain of the tomatillo husks, with limited success.

Day 33--Perfume

I love perfume. And cologne and eau de parfum and any and all manner of smelly stuff. I love it for the history, I love it for the chemistry, I love it for the sheer sensual enjoyment, and I'm learning to love it for the wit, smarts, and creativity of its makers. Perfumes: The Guide, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez is permanently installed in the bathroom library, and is a simply phenomenal book that critiques, in depth and with great precision and strong opinions, almost every perfume or scent available on the market.

This bottle came into my possession when it was deaccessioned by a friend who knew I like different shaped bottles to paint, as well. I used Dorland's Wax Medium to paint it with, as an experiment. Dorland's is a great, fun medium: a proprietary mix of beeswax and damar resin among other things, it's very smooth under the brush, translucent, and dries to a dead-matte finish that can be buffed to a semi-gloss if the wax is thick enough. I love painting matte, which is unusual for an oil painter, simply because I find it forces me to push contrasts and chroma more than when I can rely on a glossy surface to pump them. If ypu can make a painting look like it's been varnished before it's been varnished, you've got a decent effect there, and one that can actually be looked at in more lights without glare. I didn't quite succeed with this, hence the gauzy look, but it was really fun to try.

Unfortunately, Dorland's takes a bit of getting used to and dries very slowly, so I think I'm going to delay getting into it too deeply until I'm back to feeling more confident in my speed and skillz.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 32--Tea Tin

What does it say that when I do a good painting I almost feel guilty? I mean, I know I can paint metal pretty well, so it's almost a stunt of the sort that Robert Williams (of JUXTAPOZ fame) used to pull in the 1960's. Still, after tormenting myself with the skulls for the last couple of days, I thought I could use a little buffing of my self-esteem. Usually I buff it along with my shoes, since it's right down there and accessible. The fun part of this was the alternating bands of dull and shiny metal.

I'm a big fan of caffeine, but unfortunately allergic to coffee and mate, so I drink a lot of tea. I get mine in bulk from Upton Tea, and keep about six kinds always on hand and reasonably fresh in these tins. As such, the subject is near and dear to my heart.

Day 31--Coyote Skull (again)

A better result, at least in terms of finding the bone texture more clearly defined. It's always tough to paint thin, highly contrasting things like teeth in a decisive manner. You have to get it right on pretty much one stroke because any adjustment is really obvious and usually makes things worse, anyway. If you've thought ahead, or if it's really central to the painting, you can paint the teeth and other such shapes by using the negative space. In other words, put the small tooth down boldly, but then go back and make it smaller and clean up the edges by going around it with refining strokes that whittle away at it until you've got the right shape. Of course, this presupposes that you're using opaque paint (I usually do, but some colors, like some people, are more opaque than others) and that your shape isn't surrounded by other, equally small and tricky shapes, as teeth tend to be.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Day 30--Coyote Skull

Flush with success after the mango, I thought I might try another complex subject; this time a coyote skull. Of course I was somewhat overconfident, aka deluded. Naturally, I chose the most complex point of view: highly foreshortened, revealing lots of fine structures and concealing most of the flowing, larger forms. Oh, well. I got caught up in the interesting lighting on the turbinates of the nose. That's like saying that, in the commissioned portrait of the king, you became fascinated by the nose hairs.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Day 29--Mango

It's a mango. Trying something less intimidating this time, with grater success. I'm finding that the super-smooth surface I have on the canvas boards--I cover the too-grainy cotton duck canvas with a coat of white stain-killing primer--presents interesting challenges for painting. Namely, if I paint too thin, I pick up a lot of the paint that just went down. Paradoxically, I get more control the thicker the paint. The trick is in balancing the effects gotten through thin paint with the effects gotten through thick paint.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 28--Gateway to Day 29

A friend who knows my love of crania gave me a raccoon skull he'd found. Quite clean and seemingly demanding to be painted, and yet it's taken....three years? for me to get around to it. And of course it's taken its revenge by being a completely baffling shape. Cursed skull, you shall not win! Not like that damn squirrel!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 27--Starting Again

Otherwise known as "pulling teeth". I've gotten too caught up in doing big paintings, with all the concomitant psychological baggage of is-it-good-enough and who-do-you-think-you're-fooling-anyway. Rather, I've gotten too caught up in not doing paintings, so it's back to the dailies to try to restore a little sanity and devil may care joie de vivre to the process. As I write this, I've been at it for eight days straight, with the expected mixed results, but as the paintings build up there's definitely a feeling that might almost be akin to cutting myself some slack. It's rare, but appreciated.

I painted a bird's nest because I look upon them as a sort of good omen--they're fun to paint, and they have a sort of casual quality that belies the great labor it takes to construct them, which is something I'd dearly like to emulate.