October 13, 2009

Working on Opposing Angles, the Flat Plane

While working on my painting today, I thought a lot about the work of John Peto, which I'd discussed here. The intimacy of his paintings, and their delicate touch, seemed very relevant to my work now.

Yesterday, after hearing the weather forecast for the week––snow today, then continued cold––I decided to move my work from the big studio in the barn into the house, on a table under a skylight. Last year was the first time I did this, after getting a shockingly large heating bill for the studio in early winter. Because I was now doing some small work, it was possible to work seated at a table, which is how I used to paint my early egg temperas, rather than standing at an easel. I feel that I have a different physical relationship with the painting when I'm bent over it, seated on a stool: it becomes more intimate. Since I began this painting on an easel, the difference is notable to me.

In Peto's paintings, his brush sensitively finds the form and color, and adds enough texture to make each object an individual. The variations caused by wear and age seem to be a natural aspect of each thing; they don't overpower the essential form, as detail oriented painting often does. This was a lesson to me as I worked on the flat blue-green back plane of Opposing Angles. I began with a smaller #8 pointed brush, but realized that its marks were too fine, so switched to a #10. I worked mainly with a scumbling technique––putting a light value paint over a darker layer––while allowing for the color of a lower layer to affect one on top. In this way, painting loosely over and over, with an almost paste-like paint, I was able to get to a surface with very subtle color variations. This is definitely not traditional egg tempera technique, but it works so well with this semi-translucent, fast-drying paint.

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