April 16, 2011

A New Painting: "Signs"

Signs, egg tempera on parchment, 6 1/2 x 5 inches.

Working on this painting was a breeze and a joy. For some reason, it went easily and smoothly, the layerings of color changing, but with fun rather than with struggle, as is more often the case. I tried the blue at different values and ended with a stronger color than at the start. I played with the long shadow, finally finding that scumbling a lighter warmer green over a darker gave a greater sense of transparency. I painted the yellow several times until the value looked in balance with the large green plane. For me it's a jolly painting, even with the danger sign. But I also feel that it's closer to work I was doing a year ago because of the composition and level of detail. I like the tension formed by the cable stretching across to the pipe, but maybe it has too much of the 'realistic' as opposed to the 'real' in it.

Another reason this painting seemed so pleasurable to work on is that it is painted on top of a failed struggle. I worked for 3 or 4 days on another image on this panel. It did not go well: the composition wasn't quite balanced, so I kept changing it around; the color and light looked off no matter how many times I adjusted them. Finally, I realized I was so uncomfortable with the work that I wiped it off the panel, which turned out to be just the right size for Signs.


  1. I like all the color on this but that cable is remarkable. I feel like I could grab a hold of it.

  2. no doubt Altoon this one from you look as much real as possible, good work!


    Deva Sanskrit

  3. Interesting comment:"maybe it has too much of the 'realistic' as opposed to the 'real' in it."
    To me there is just enough realism to expose the real. For me the cable is not exerting tension but exposing the potential. Otherwise the blue would show behind the loop. The flattened pipe exposes weakness, even subservience in spite of the relative size difference between pipe and cable. The second cable nut is a fail-safe and suggests intent. I love the shadow as silent witness of time...and the warning sign. There is a sense of something being controlled, but we don't know what it is, the hint of a number...something regulatory. Then there is the lovely light, the warm and restful sunlit green. Blue sky/water...beyond form...spacial, defining. Love it.

  4. John, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I very much like "enough realism to expose the real"; I didn't know if my remark was clear, but you make it evident that it was, and I appreciate the response. You've read such interesting ideas into the various aspects of the image, such as the subservience of the pipe to the cable.
    As with the staircase, your penchant for narrative is fascinating.

  5. Love this one Altoon, What is scumbling....a way of mixing or blending color?

  6. thanks Liz. Scumbling is painting a lighter color over a darker one, yielding a cool hue.

  7. Perhaps the realism also exposes the image to metaphor. I don't know what is true any more than I know what happened in that staircase, only that somehow I am invited to entertain the field of possibility; like a word without vowels...and I like it.

  8. A great play with the two and three dimensional aspects in this painting. I agree with John's comment of just "enough realism to expose the real". It's a lot of fun to look at!