Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sycamore Leaf

oil on card 17x20cm

Putting the old wipes from the last painting out into the bins, I looked down and saw this early dropper on the damp pavement. I really liked its grey-greens and pinks.

I tried out a walnut oil painting medium on this one. Walnut oil is far more mobile than linseed and is very responsive under the brush. Its downside is that it takes a little longer to dry, but this can be improved by mixing it with damar varnish. This medium will dry enough overnight to take a second layer, but retains its working qualities longer than a linseed medium, which gets very tacky surprisingly quickly. Altogether, this small painting took about eight hours – an afternoon to lay in the heavier stuff, and part of the following day to tighten up and modify with thinner layers.

The more I looked at the leaf, and my image of it, the more it appeared to have female aspects, both physically and on another level. I quite like the idea of the leaf having a rush of sensuality as it decomposes and breaks down into fertile elements for the next cycle, and of the ‘fig leaf’ suggesting what it’s meant to hide.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Block Plane

oil on canvas 51x41cm

This is the same block plane as in last month’s ‘Three Watercolours’, but a lot bigger and using oil paint. Finished last Thursday.

The painted image is about three times the actual size of the subject and the set-up presented a few problems. The plane and the canvas were both just over 2ft away - I had to make tape footprints on the floor and stand in them so as to keep my point of view constant. Everything was so close that I was able to dispense with my glasses (multi-focal plus a slight astigmatism) and work without the distortions that they sometimes produce. I quite enjoyed that for a change, but it did mean that my nose was almost on the canvas, and some of my initial drawing went a bit astray. I spent a day and a half rectifying that, which was annoying.

The palette is very limited – all the greys of the plane were made with burnt and raw umbers with ultramarine, and I used a tiny bit of yellow ochre and burnt sienna in the wedge. I used flake white in most of the initial work, and the thicker paint, and slightly boosted it with titanium white in the odd highlight. For the soft translucent washes of the paper towel I used the more transparent zinc white. As an experiment, I painted the acrylic priming with a good quality French Grey satin finish alkyd, which produced a very nice tone and texture to paint on, and should be fine for several or more decades.

As usual I was listening to old comedy on BBC Radio7 while painting, but I had recently come across Michael Nyman’s ‘Fish Beach’ and started each session with it. During the period of painting this, Madam and I were watching the final couple of series of ‘Six Feet Under’ every evening, which was quite intense. Very melancholy stuff.

Overall I’m quite pleased with this one; the size is just about right, the strokes are neither over-fussy nor slapdash, and, I managed to write about it without once alluding to its progress as being Plane Sailing.