July 21, 2011

A New Painting: "Funnel"

Funnel, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 5 x 6 3/4 inches.

I don't know if this happens to any of you who are involved in endeavors that require a bit of skill: when I began working on this painting it was as though I'd forgotten how to paint, and technical problems plagued me. I even decided to abandon the painting, but ended by returning to it, and I'm glad that I pushed through. Here is my approximate timeline:
  • On day 1 I transferred the drawing to the parchment panel and sketched in the color and felt pleased and excited by the image, which has a surreal aspect I like.
  • Day 2 consisted of firming up the drawing and beginning to layer colors to bring them closer to what I was aiming for. I started to feel uncertain about the composition.
  • Day 3 was a mess. I decided that the composition didn't work, so I added the second green horizontal form behind the first. I realized that this made the green space at the left ambiguous, but that didn't seem to matter. What really drove me crazy was dust: the dark red curving forms kept picking up specks of dust which lifted the paint; I tried picking them out, and ended by wiping off the paint altogether, but the dust kept coming back. And the reds were going gray on me and becoming translucent and uneven. I couldn't seem to make a graceful paint stroke to save my life. The painting looked cold and dead and I gave up for the day, not holding out much hope for a better tomorrow.
  • Day 4 saw me just about walk away from this work; the reds were driving me nuts and I couldn't seem to bring the color to life. I did walk away for a couple of hours, feeling I was better off just abandoning the painting. But then I gave it another try by warming the color in the funnel and hose and by beginning to make some headway against the dreaded dust.
  • On Day 5 things finally began to come together. I was able to get a smooth transition of reds in the curved forms without having dust make white specks in them. I mixed a light green and a foreground red that I felt worked better. My brush strokes seemed to have a little more life in them so the painting warmed in feeling. This might not be one of my best works, but I don't have to throw it on the reject pile.


  1. Altoon, its a beauty you made up there.

    I often take everything off again and again and then there are times it just works. the chaos is awful.

  2. thanks, Alicia.
    I've sometimes had to wipe part or the entire painting off, but it doesn't happen often. I agree that the chaos doesn't feel very good.

  3. I often walk away from a painting. I get disgusted that I can't create what I see. I am glad you didn't give up. This is definitely a keeper.

  4. Lisa, I've ditched two paintings in the last few months, which is after completing them and feeling that they just didn't work. Glad you like this one.
    I know about that disconnect with not being able to paint what you see; I used to feel that way when I was out painting landscape. The work usually looked better once I had it back in the studio without the reality to compare it to.

  5. I like the movements and rhythms in this piece and the color, deep & rich, feels very architectural.
    as for works that don't work out, sometimes you just can't see them, but you never know. put it in the closet for a year and see what happens. when Myrna and I were making monoprints we turned out some I'd've destroyed on the spot but she always said let it dry, look at it next week - and sure enough a week later it looked different - not always wonderful but it showed me the value of getting some distance from work in progress.

  6. This piece is very dynamic and engaging. It makes me want to engage and explore. I feel there is plenty there that is unresolved and that is compelling. Maybe some of your process is reflected here, but I believe that invites viewer participation.
    As for chaos, it is a given that it is always hovering in landscape design, to differing degrees and effects.

  7. thanks, rappel and Julie, glad you like this one.
    as for putting work away for a while, I do that with pieces I'm not sure of, but I don't often change my mind about them. With paintings, I give them a few months and then destroy work I truly don't like so that I can reuse the panels. I keep the photo documentation though.

  8. This painting is from the dark side where we all live occasionally.
    There is a saying I love, "don't give up the devil for that may be
    the very best side you." This is a good painting!

  9. I'm glad to show a dark side from time to time, Myrna, though I never set out to do so. Moods and feelings come unbidden. Thanks for liking the painting.

  10. I find it interesting that you work straight through on a painting. I tend to work on several paintings at once. I try to get as far as I can with the initial inspiration, but usually slow down towards the end. If I try to bull through I can easily over-work it. The closet can be a very valuable tool, even if it turns out to be an unsuccessful painting, it can be informative later. I really like this painting. Thank you for sharing the details of your working process.

  11. Thanks for the nice comment, Bettina. I prefer to work on one painting at a time, though I also work on a textile in the evening. When I used to paint landscape outdoors and was dependent on the weather, I had several paintings going at once for different weather conditions. Now I like to focus on one piece at a time.

  12. I thought that feeling only happened to folks like me who only make art occasionally. I haven't been drawing for quite a while and when I sat down recently it was definitely like I had never done it before. Was looking at some old drawings that are framed and hanging in the house wondering how I did them and where did I start.

  13. thank you Altoon for the informative and validating post. Forgetting how to paint happens to me from time to time. Struggling through happens as well. I like this painting and appreciate that lovely things can come from struggle and forgetting.