May 13, 2011

A New Painting: "Yellow Tilt"

Yellow Tilt, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 7 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches.

Like the previous painting, Reds, Yellow Tilt is an exploration of a single color, warmer and cooler, in light and shadow. I find yellow a difficult color to work with, in that I have a tendency to make the shadowed areas too dark, without the light that even they must have. Cast shadows are cool in color and it's also difficult to get that greenish yellow at shadow edges but still maintain the overall sense of yellowness. This might be a good time to ask the question: "if I am trying to move towards abstraction, why is it important that form and color are realistically convincing?". I would answer that it's because I feel that it is in the tension between naturalism and abstraction that a large part of the interest and meaning of my painting resides.

In other compositional notes, like the green rectangle in Reds, Yellow Tilt has two color shapes not the main color of the painting: blue and green in opposite corners. I tried to make the intensity of color similar so that your eye would bounce back and forth between them, top left to lower right. The painting has several curves, implying circles, but the only circular form is the small circle at top, held down by a bolt. For me, this shape and the dark lozenge shaped hole are the two main characters of this work.

In this detail, you can see some texture on the surface of the painting, much of which is the tooth of the parchment. I generally prefer parchment that is scraped very smooth, but some parts of the skin are thinner and more frayed than others, so there are variations in the surface. Such are the surprises that come from working with a natural product and not one made uniform by manufacture.


  1. I'd like to suggest that colors can be realistic while not being dead-on local. Neil Welliver made his overall palette cooler and Fairfield Porter made those fantastic yellow shadows in "Island Farmhouse."

    I think you prefer something closer to Naturalism proper, but I do think fudging the color abstractly, at least some, can work better to give the "feeling" of the observed color than replicate what it seems to be in purely optical terms. In that sense the pushed color can at times be more real.

  2. A., I completely agree that color can seem realistic without reflecting local color accurately. I am not at all interested in getting the exact color of the object I've depicted, but in making a convincing painting. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word 'naturalism', but by it I meant a thing seeming to have a real presence out in the world. I agree that "pushed color can at times be more real".

  3. Have you seen the John Storrs show at the Grey Art Gallery? Fabulous. I look forward to seeing your work when I hope we will visit on the way to Warebrook around July 12 or 13.

  4. Hand me that 7/16 wrench so I can tighten that nut.

  5. Susan, no I didn't get to see that show. See you in July...
    Lisa, okay, you're welcome to the job :-).

  6. Very strong painting. The sculptural qualities are very well realized.
    This painting is bigger than itself. Wow!