November 6, 2014

A New Painting: "Circles, Light and Dark"

Circles, Light and Dark, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 9 x 7 1/4 in.

I shouldn't admit to this, but when I looked at this painting when it was almost finished, the title that kept popping into my mind was "Funny Face", and now you won't see anything else. But it's an admission that at times my paintings are humorous; the combinations of forms add up to an amusing set of relationships, which is fine with me. Painting doesn't always have to be deep-down serious; sometimes it's lighthearted. The making of the painting is always serious, in that I try to balance color, shape, form, light, into a convincing whole. The blue-green color comes from mixing heliogen green (I use a color paste from Kremer Pigments) and titanium white. The tint becomes a lovely aqua hue. 

Circles, Light and Dark detail

I enjoy the challenge of painting dark spaces behind the light planes. I figured out a couple of years ago that I could get a richer dark by layering color––in this case ultramarine blue, cadmium red purple, and heliogen (phthalo) green––than by using black. You'll notice in the photo a couple of wandering lines on the lower right; these are natural imperfections in the parchment.

Circles, Light and Dark detail

Balancing the deep spaces of the dark circles are the raised portions of the wheel. I have to play with warmer and cooler hues to make the light and shadow. There are so many things to think about while painting, but it becomes like habit, where you do things without thinking consciously about them. Which is not to say I'm unaware of making choices, or that I don't struggle at times and fail at times, but that much of the decision making is fairly intuitive, learned behavior from over 40 years of painting. William James argued that habit is a positive force, and I am inclined to agree.


  1. Your "you won't see anything else" reminds me of the Rufus Porter trees I used to love so much, in their imperfection, that I copied them in the farm-scene I painted on the lid of a blanket-chest, until, that is, I was looking again at a photo of his original trees and out from the negative space between the trees jumped a colonial soldier, complete with tri-corn hat! Going to my photos of the chest, I found that he was there, too! I can't see the trees anymore. Such a loss.
    These things do take a while to jump out at us, the FedEx arrow, for example.
    After they do, forget seeing anything else.
    I rotated your painting to see if I could banish him, but he's always there, with slight expression-changes.

    1. At least the expression changes, JBS; that's a positive thing!

  2. I love this painting -- and the face is inescapable! That's what we're wired for. I'm so glad you made it anyway, it is very beautiful with its green blue and yellow green, and funny in its expression.