January 2, 2013

A New Painting: "Hemisphere", with Some Notes on Composition

Hemisphere, 2012, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 7 1/4 x 5 1/2 in. 

This painting is the last I completed during 2012; there will be changes to come in the new year. In this image, I enjoyed the big bulbous form at center, the way it changed the environment of flat planes into something more tactile. The cast shadows repeat forms, creating visual rhythms. 

Each painting I do is a selection of found elements, photographed in the field and often cropped further in the computer. Sometimes I use the composition as found, but other times, as with Hemisphere, I make various adjustments as I work, trying for tensions that will settle into balance. I marked the photo source for this painting to point out the changes I made:

  • I pushed that top diagonal upwards, since I felt the downward tilt made the painting slide off to the right. The top form became something of an arrow pointing to the sphere.
  • I moved the hemisphere off a little to the left, again so the composition wouldn't be weighted to the right. Although the form is toward the left, it appears fairly centered. 
  • The bottom slight diagonal, another rightward tilt, was straightened. I also moved it down so the shape at lower right would overlap it.
  • Got rid of the hay; too real world.
  • Got rid of two little holes and a bolt; simplify.  

These compositional changes and adjustments are part of the painting process, and that's without even mentioning color, which is always different from the source, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. Although the painting is "realistic", it's still a painting, a thing that represents the world, but is itself a flat object made of pigment and binder. As Magritte wrote on his painting of a pipe, The Treachery of Images: "Ceci n'est pas un pipe." (This is not a pipe.).

Hemisphere, detail


  1. There is a great brilliant sphere in the eastern sky here this morning. I believe it is the sun. I barely remember what it looks like. Yes, the sun. There will be a chance at some shadows as those in your painting. The sun does bring everything to life. Looking forward to more of your work. Welcome 2013.

    1. hi Lisa, the sun has been barely visible here in northern Vermont during December; let's hope for a bright new year.

  2. How fun and interesting to see this, a process I'd assumed or Imagined, illustrated like this - thank you for sharing the view!

    1. You're very welcome, Ravenna. I thought it might be fun to do this one time.

  3. Excellent choices! Hay, too real world or maybe just too stringy for the strength of the other forms. What a green you have growing for you in this white time.