Grays, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 7 1/2 x 6 in.
In the past I've painted grays––of rocks and concrete, of grain storage bins––but my recent work has been of brighter hue, so from the start this painting was going to pose a challenge. It turned out to be a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed as I balanced the values and hues to make a harmonious whole. The value relationships underwent some very dramatic changes: at first the ocher colored background was a much darker hue, the grays lighter next to it; the top plane was originally close to white. I didn't like the dark shape on the right, so wiped it off and began again with the lighter hue, which meant that the grays also had to be adjusted. They are all mixed with different pigments––ultramarine blue, cadmium red, cadmium yellow, yellow ocher, brown ocher, burnt sienna, earth green and white––and the color shifts subtle depending on the amounts of each. I painted many layers, adjusting each slightly, until I felt satisfied.
Arthur Dove, Fog Horns, 1929; oil on canvas, 21 1/2 x 28 1/2 in.
While I was working, I kept thinking of Arthur Dove; I remembered seeing gray paintings of his, and it's possible that the circular motif of my painting also brought his work to mind. I found a perfect illustration online in the painting above.
Ellsworth Kelly, Green Curves, 1951, ink on paper and gouache on paper, 7 1/2 x 8 in. From the collection of MoMA.
Ellsworth Kelly is one of my favorite contemporary artists, whose work has greatly influenced my textiles. As I was painting the large curve that begins at the upper right of the panel, I felt that I was drawing a Kelly curve. Like most artists, I am very beholden to my artistic ancestors, but their voices don't usually sound so loudly during the painting process; it was a pleasure to converse with them.