Saturday, November 3, 2007

Small log #4

small log #4
11/2: Small log #4, oil on linen panel, 4x5 in.

This is my first time on a linen panel and it's real nice. I lost the great smoky, tonal light I started with and ended up more and more "juicy," unfortunately.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Small log #3

small log #3
11/1: Small log #3, oil on canvas panel, 3.5x7 in.

I could paint this thing a hundred times from different views, but I won't. Here it feels almost like a small dog (some proportions were altered). At last I'm beginning to have a better understanding of my neutrals and can probably begin to push the grey-brown range more in the future, without compromising the strength of the other colors - which has been less than intuitive for me for some reason. This ended up going beyond two hours.

I thought I'd share here the mountain of paint blobs that has been accumulating at my easel. Made of palette scrapings, runaway brush hairs and the occasional flying insect that's fatally attracted to my paintings, it grows with every swipe of my glass scraper. Perhaps growing slower nowadays as I try to let less paint go to waste (it's good when the scrapings are mostly thin and wet and not big dried globs). It started with an old sock used for soaking up turps or oil, but thoroughly dry - i.e., not a combustion hazard, as everything dries flat before ever being folded up in this way. Watch the folds!! Don't let an oily cloth sit crumpled in a way that its heat gets trapped. I've seen, a long long time ago, one of my rags smoking as it sat in a bag of trash, maybe not remembering what I'd heard Marshall Arisman tell of the fire that wiped out his studio when he was younger (but he used/uses really oily rags). So make sure wet rags are lying flat before leaving the room for any length of time - it won't take long for a fire.

But, anyway, this is a thing my wife will point to saying, "That's nasty":
paint blobs

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Small log #2

small log #2
10/31: Small log #2, oil on canvas panel, 7x3.5 in.

Different view of same log (and I took more than a few liberties with the shape, as I did yesterday too). I like it but I probably could have pushed some of the dark purple more in the bark, towards the middle, and done more dry brushwork throughout. This ended up being about two hours.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Small log / a Middle English poem

small log
10/30: Small log, oil on canvas panel, 3.5x7 in.

I found this perfect little log and had to do something with it. There was a lot of dragging of paint in the beginning because I started when the underpainting was still a bit sticky, but I liked that. It was about an hour and a half, and overall it feels good to me.

Old English word of the day:

wudu [wŭd'-ŭ]: wood.
I wish some of my previous pieces were this loose, and I like the colors a lot. I'm starting to really like the blue-green that comes from lightening the weird Prussian blue/oxide red mix, as it has a watery and almost mystical feel to it. This makes me think of a fish in water, which brought to mind this Middle English poem I'd read:

Foweles in þe frith,
   þe fisses in þe flod,
   and I mon waxe wod.
Mulch sorw I walke with
   for beste of bon and blod.

Birds in the forest,
   fishes in the sea,
   and I must grow mad.
Much sorrow I walk with
   for best of bone and blood.

This is an ambiguous but incredible little poem, very personal no matter what genre you believe it belongs to. I don't know anything really about Middle English so I'm unable to elaborate on the large amount of material already written about it. Leaving aside the expert discussions I've found on rhyme, rhythm etc., and how it all comes together to create such emotional impact in a few lines, here is what I've digested.

The shift from a picture of harmony in the world to something personally troubling comes on the word wod - which if it means "wood" could continue the pattern of the first two lines, but which in this context apparently means "mad." I assume that these two meanings of wod were pronounced differently (either with a short or long vowel, none of which are ever indicated), so if there is a play on words it is a subtler one. But the real ambiguity of the poem lies in what was originally meant by beste, and therefore the source of the sorrow:

(1) To be a "beast" of bone and blood means to experience sorrow like the aforementioned animals of the sea and sky, as creatures of flesh; or perhaps the sorrow comes from simply being alive after original sin (everything being written in a Christian context).
(2) Or, being human, the "best" of bone and blood, means ironically to be the creature capable of actually knowing sorrow (and becoming mad), separate from the rest of nature. There would be no sorrow if he were a fish in the sea.
(3) It has also been suggested that this is just one of a large number of religious poems, the "best" signifying Christ - because Christ suffered, the poet sorrows; and in addition to carrying the weight of original sin, the poet knows what is expected of him in this life. Furthermore, this could be an echo of a verse in Matthew and Luke: "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
(4) Perhaps the most widely held belief is that this poem is of the courtly love tradition and that the "best of bone and blood" is simply the woman for whom the poet yearns.

It's for every reader to decide, but I prefer (2) or perhaps (3).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hubbard squash

Hubbard squash
10/29: Hubbard squash, oil on canvas panel. approx. 12x9 in.

I began using Venice turpentine for the first time the other day on this piece. The honey-like thickness is like some of the stickier stand oil mediums I've made, but unlike anything with oil it dries quickly and I found myself better able to layer and blend when I wanted. It smells wonderful too. And it's relaxing to me having something of this thickness along with Galkyd Lite and plain oil there in front of me to choose from (sometimes I dip into all three), and somehow I've been using turpentine less.

Idiot that I am, I felt I'd read enough about it in the books and went immediately to grab what's generally agreed to be the "finest" brand (and in the larger, costlier size), only then to find all sorts of blog/forum posts online (here's one) about getting the same stuff for ridiculously cheap in a can at an equestrian shop. It's used on horses' hooves or something....

Monday, October 29, 2007

Work in progress

in progress...

I painted for only an hour, after dozing off in front of the TV for a good while. One might ask, why bother if only an hour, when one has to stop and start again at a later time? But a short amount of time is better than nothing. In an hour a lot can be done to build on the work of the previous night, and it's not enough time to ruin a painting.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Work in progress: Hubbard squash

in progress: Hubbard squash
10/27: Hubbard squash, oil on canvas panel, approx. 12x9 in.

(This is not a very good photo.) It's a monochrome setup, and the various blue/green-greys here in the squash were trickier to pin down than I imagined, so there was no way I could finish it in one go. It's a big heavy thing and I'm hoping to capture its weight, but right now it kind of looks like one of those tiny white onions.

* * *

Something I wanted to mention several days ago: We were finally able to get our second car past inspection, owing in large part to Lee who runs the Honda & Acura Expert shop here in town. We'd been putting off some big repairs (big for us anyway) but brought the car to him as we've done in the past, and he was more than fair with us and even finished way sooner than we'd hoped. As always he went beyond our expectations for a repair shop, and I gave him a small painting as a sort of early Christmas present for the honesty he's shown us and for always taking care of us like a friend. I hope a couple of people in the Hampton Roads area may read this and consider taking their own vehicles there for service. So this would have fit under the topic of "grow," as we wish Lee and his family much growth and success in the future.