Thursday, February 7, 2008


2/6. Mango, oil on linen panel, 5x5 in. SOLD

According to the Golden Artist Colors website,

The story of Indian Yellow pigment seems more like myth than fact. In the Bengali province of India, farmers raised herds of cattle fed only on mango leaves and water. The urine from these cows – bright yellow in color – was collected and dried to produce the pigment for Indian Yellow. Unfortunately, the cows were extremely undernourished, as mango leaves did not supply the cattle with sufficient nutrients, and they lived for only a very short time. The process was considered inhumane and, since 1908, Indian Yellow pigment has been prohibited from the market.
Wikipedia says, "In Girl with a Pearl Earring, Vermeer's patron remarks that Vermeer used 'cow piss' to paint his wife." Actually, if true, the practice described above would have been inadvisable to begin with, as mango leaves are toxic and cattle in India are sacred. Also from Wikipedia,
In her 2004 book Color: A Natural History of the Palette, Victoria Finlay examined whether Indian yellow was really made from cow urine. The only printed source mentioning this practice is a single letter written by a Mr. T.N. Mukharji of Calcutta, who claimed to have seen the color being made. Aside from this letter, there appear to be no written sources from the time period mentioning the production of Indian yellow. Finlay searched for legal records concerning the supposed banning of Indian yellow production in both the India Library in London and the National Library in Calcutta, and found none. She visited the town in India mentioned in Mukharji's letter as the only source of the color, but found no trace of evidence that the color had ever been produced there. None of the locals she spoke with had ever heard of the practice. It is possible that Indian yellow came from another source, and that the cow urine story was fabricated by Mukharji, but came to be accepted by later authors. As such, the viability of producing Indian yellow from the urine of mango-leaf-fed cows is unknown.


LAUNCELOT: ... At last! A call, a cry of distress! This could be the sign that leads us to the Holy Grail! Brave, brave Concorde! You shall not have died in vain!!
CONCORDE: Uh, I'm - I'm not quite dead, sir.
LAUNCELOT: Well, you shall not have been mortally wounded in vain!
CONCORDE: Uh, I - I think uh, I could pull through, sir.
CONCORDE: Actually, I think I'm all right to come with you, sir -
LAUNCELOT: No, no, sweet Concorde! Stay here! I will send help as soon as I have accomplished a daring and heroic rescue in my own particular... [sigh]
CONCORDE: Idiom, sir?

'I'll just stay here then...'
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975.

I’ve been in one of those periods of uncertainty, when I wonder if I might ever get my particular idiom figured out. I know that all along I’ve been honing certain qualities that are definitely "me," but there are infinitely more trials and errors to make and more paths to explore.

Painting isn’t so difficult when you don’t know ... But when you do ... it’s quite a different matter!
So Degas said. I envy those who are seft-taught, because I’ve always believed they can retain more of their original selves in the learning process. Sometimes I feel so detached from my old way of seeing (my creatively boundless, high school art class way) because of good teaching - some unlearning of it here and there will probably be necessary forever. Of course this detachment could have been caused by the gradual filling in of my brain’s more potent recesses by all that cortisol from depression. If only I had a Pythonesque cartoon brain-cleaning guy up there to scrape away the residual plaque.

(For those who have never seen this, and those who have:)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Flag of the U.S.A.
Flag of the U.S.A., wood, 9.3x17.7 in.

I hope everyone who lives in a Super Tuesday state took part today in this complex rigamarole (our voting day is next Tuesday). I can never figure out this process, but I guess that’s why they have panels of pundits on TV to talk about it.

While watching the tiresome, recycled news analyses last night, I decided to start something I had been wanting to for a while - a painting of the flag in its
proper proportions. Is this a big deal? one may ask. I don’t know. But I know that almost all of the U.S. flags I have seen in my life have been drawn wrong, and I’ve seen a million of them just as anyone else has. Seeing the flag as it was meant is to me like a fresh reading of the Bill of Rights, so maybe it is sort of important.

Our flag is a beautiful thing. Graphic artists, more than anyone, should care that our most important symbol be reproduced like a trademark exactly the same everywhere. Imagine any famous company’s logo and lettering printed at different proportions from one location to the next. For whatever reason our flag ended up with the ratio of 1:1.9 – although "Executive Order 10834" permits official flags in three other sizes with different ratios. One of these is 3:4, which is also great for a bumper sticker, but I'd prefer the flag be more than a mutable and generalized pattern of stars and stripes. Do a search of U.S. flags and see the differing dimensions and the usually careless arrangement of stars in the union which leaves too much extra space. Notice the flag in the background when a government official speaks on TV. Perhaps many flags used by government are drawn to the specifications but I've seen a wide variety. Even if they're all being made in China, I would think their measurements could be regulated. If shirt companies can lay out embroidery according to a specific pattern, why can’t flag manufacturers do the same?

Some people don’t care about etiquette, and some don’t care about flag etiquette (I might not if I owned an inaccurately drawn and cheap piece of visual garbage). Some people refuse to salute the flag, and a candidate for president (I won't say who) was recently photographed doing this while the national anthem played. It seems bizarre to me that a person hoping to become the representative of the people would refuse to honor that symbol which represents them all. It represents each and every one of us and we really ought to treat it well.

Here I’m drawing it in its right proportions. I find sometimes I need this kind of mindless, mechanical and masochistic exercise. There’s no way to get it wrong because the numbers tell me what I need to do - I can’t imagine how long it took the person or committee to officially decide on these measurements, but they are what they are. Originally I had wanted to use a large wooden board, but last night I went with a small piece of scrap just under 18 in. (45 cm.) across. I hope all the little stars don’t drive me crazy....

Sunday, February 3, 2008


2/2. Grapefruit, oil on linen panel, 5x5 in. SOLD

I fought with the grapefruit's surface colors, going around in circles trying to make the form more solid. This was just under two hours I think. I'm happy with the coloring overall though, and am ok with where I decided to leave things. A teacher once labeled me as a colorist (based on the few things he saw me produce, he added) and I'm always glad to have some decent colors if nothing else.