Black and White, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches.
While I was plying my brushes during the painting of this work––and, by the way, I use round synthetic bristle brushes, Rydal Gold by Stratford & York––I was considering how much variation I wanted to show in the "touch", the visible movement of paint. For me there's always a balancing act between achieving a clear sense of form and having the paint look lively and fresh.
Irrigation Equipment (detail), 2002, egg tempera on gessoed panel.
When I began using egg tempera in 1995, paint handling seemed more straightforward: I used the traditional method of cross hatching to build the form with many layers of translucent, pencil-like strokes. A dozen years later I decided to leave this method behind, as I described in this blog post.
Untitled, ca. 2007, egg tempera on gessoed panel, 7 3/4 x 5 3/4 inches.
Around the same time I was doing a series of non-objective paintings, brushing on many layers of color for a shifting, atmospheric effect. I was playing with paint and having a very good time. Doing these works helped me to figure out the way forward with my representational paintings.
In Black and White, the whitish part of the painting has smoother handling, while the black has a more visible varied stroke. Some of this is to express a difference in the surfaces depicted; some is a result of the pigments and how they demand to be used. The black pigment, Mars Black, did not want to sit still, calmly and opaquely; I went along with a painterly stroke, which would provide a textural contrast to the quieter white, and add some physicality to the forward planes. These strokes don't come easily; I often repaint for a more graceful mark. Seeing the orange abstraction again and thinking about its surface has made me realize that there are other ways I can enrich my paint handling, perhaps with more layering of color. I'm grateful for the learning process that comes with writing this blog.