February 7, 2013

A New Painting: "Untitled (Violet, Green, Yellow)"...Thinking of Edges

Untitled (Violet, Green, Yellow), egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 x 7 3/4 in. 

One thing I love about doing this new series of still life paintings is getting to play with saturated colors that I'd never see on a farm implement, my source material for previous paintings. I set up a still life with the basic hues, but invent from there. I take a photo of the still life setup––actually several photos, trying out different compositions––and use that as my "drawing" because it establishes a fixed point of view and light.

Untitled (Violet, Green, Yellow) detail

I also enjoy painting the soft curves of fabric, the light turning to dark, the sharper lines of shadow. In this painting I pushed the green curve up against the edge of the panel, thinking to have it interact with it, or with the space beyond. I like the idea of playing with the tensions inherent in form and edge; the yellow form also has a conversation with the bottom left corner. The Descent from the Cross, below, is a painting I often think of when composing:

Rogier van der Weyden, The Descent from the Cross, c. 1435; oil on oak panel, 86 1/2 x 103 in. 
photo courtesy Wikipedia. (click the link to see a high resolution image)

When I saw this grand painting many years ago at the Prado, I was amazed by the force of the figures squeezed into a shallow space. The compression added to its emotional power. One aspect of it that I loved is the way the two end figures lean against the frame of the painting, at left a foot, at the right a woman's hip; the folds of cloth also rest on the edge. This creates a incredibly convincing sense of actual space, actual form, on this brilliantly painted two dimensional surface. As I write this, and look at the van der Weyden, I realize that I should have turned the green form a little toward dark at the edge, to give it more of a look of resting against it. Maybe I'll change it, or maybe just let it go, and do better next time.


  1. The way you invite others into your process is inspiring to me. This is hard to do. Reading this post brought me closer to your work, and I feel as if I already have a very strong rapport with it. It just keeps speaking, this language of the eye, and going deeper is always an option. Thank you for sharing your work and for putting it in context of the exquisite van der Weyden. Your commentary on that painting, particularly in the context of your own work, was a perfect juxtaposition. Reading this was grounding for me on a morning that may soon transmogrify into a wildly unhinged blizzard. Thanks, as always, for thoughtful insight.

    1. Thanks so much, Deborah. Writing about my work and my thought process help me in moving it forward, so it's as much for me as it is for my readers. I'm so glad you appreciate it.
      Good luck with the snow!