August 24, 2011

A New Painting: "Tied"

Tied, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 x 7 inches.

Each spring I go out to farms to gather images for my paintings, and each year my eye – how I see what is in front of me, and what I notice – is a little different. It often surprises me when I realize that an image that so excited me the year before is there in front of me: there's the machine, there are the elements of the painting now finished in my studio, but the thrill is gone. I don't think this is because I've already turned the image into a painting so have moved on; I believe it's that my thinking shifts slightly each year, with new ideas guiding my choice of subjects. Tied pictures a farm implement that I painted before, in a different way. This year I was excited by the two strong simple orange bars, slightly curved, surrounded by black forms.

What made the image extra special to me was the flat strap tied around one of the bars. It adds tension, and hints at some emotion or narrative.

Orange Crossing, 2010, egg tempera on parchment, 6 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches.

Here is the earlier painting I did of this same farm implement. It's a painting I love, but as you can see, it is very different from the one I completed a couple of days ago, with more movement and energy in its curves and diagonals. For better or worse, I am moving towards greater simplicity.


  1. Simply beautiful. Love the shadows and the tie looks like I could reach out and pull it loose.

  2. "Tied" is wonderful. So's "Orange Crossing."
    Altoon, where are all these parchment paintings?
    Are they sent to a Gallery? Do the Martians nab them?
    I have visions of them stacked
    miles-high on a desk in a barn in Vermont
    waiting for me to dive into them someday!

  3. Thank you Lisan and William.
    William, most of the paintings are in my studio, though I have sold a few, including "Orange Crossing" which has a wonderful new home. You're welcome to visit the studio if you ever make it to Vermont.

  4. interesting how 'tied' has so much more potential narrative than 'orange crossing'. implications abound in 'tied' whereas 'orange crossing' is (to my mind anyway) almost entirely aesthetic - though, granted, any image can be read into....
    the somber tones (yes, even the orange is somber here), the tie - keeps reminding me of a stage where something is about to happen or the echoes of something that's already taken place....

  5. rappel, I agree that there's something about that knot, the fact that someone must have made it, that it pulls and droops, implies a story. Something poignant, to me.

  6. Yes, Rappel articulates well. To continue: it seems the more you move towards abstraction, the more potential points of connection. Or is it: projection? Lush color too.

  7. What I like the most about "Tied," besides the focal point of the knot (can't find the right word in my brain at the moment to describe what I'm sensing!) -- are the shapes that are formed by the sunlight striking the objects and the reflections of the orange in the grey and vice-versa! I like the direction you are going Altoon!

  8. Julie, that's an interesting paradox you bring up, with abstraction bringing more of a connection, maybe because your mind can wander more easily. As for the color, I'm writing this on my mother's HP laptop and the color looks terrible on it, nothing like the vibrancy of my iMac. Thank you Steve Jobs!
    SVG, thanks so much; I really enjoyed painting those varied grays and the light on them, also the reflections which make the surfaces glossy.

  9. What a beautiful painting! My first glance said, "W O W".


  10. An instant favorite, partly because I am drawn to subdued colors. Amazing how subtle you've made the orange shapes given that there's a pair of them and verticals, no less. That tie is the clincher, though. It lets the viewer feel they are part of the action. Why is it tied and will I untie it?

  11. Beautiful little painting packed with a kind of mystery. Made me think of pure, simple Japanese designs that your eyes can delight in because there is a capturing of essence.

  12. thanks, Dona, and how I love being compared to Japanese design!