February 28, 2010

A Miniature: Yellow Arc

I've completed a second small painting on parchment, very different from the first, Red Teeth, in composition, light and internal scale. The image takes in more of the object, so doesn't appear as much of a closeup, but it is still a detail of a much larger study. Here the object is situated in more of a real space, since we read the blue shape as sky, existing behind the other shapes. The yellow shape carries more light than the blue, and this heightens the illusion of space.

What you see above is the painting, 4 x 3.5 inches in size, the same size as Red Teeth, in an early stage, when I first put a layer of thin color on the parchment ground.

This detail shows the blue, which I thought was done, but then noticed, when seeing it in a slanting light, that it had gotten covered with bits of dust and tiny hairs. (you'll be able to see this better if you click on the image to enlarge it.) Oh dear. I was having as much fun doing this painting as the one before, but I didn't have this problem before. When I tried picking out the dust, all the paint came along with it and left white spots. Oh dear. So I did what I thought was my only option, tried scraping off the paint, and it worked! using a palette knife, the paint scraped off quite easily from the parchment and I was able to start again with the blue layers of paint. Sorry to say I had to scrape a second time, but the third try at painting was a success.

The calfskin parchment is a beautiful velvety feeling surface; because I'm a tiny bit uncomfortable with the idea of painting on an animal skin, I just went into the studio to look at my hand-made paper selection; maybe paper would work just as well. But no paper came close to the feel and look of parchment. I'm thinking of trying to stretch it over a wood panel, so the painting won't have to be framed; it might also solve the not-flat, a bit wavy, result of wetting the parchment during the painting process. I believe the paint, tempered with egg white, is tough, so won't have to be protected by glass.

Yellow Arc, tempera on parchment, 4 x 3.5 inches

I am so enchanted by this process of working on a small size, where I feel intensely tied to the surface of the painting by precisely observed details. My focus and attention are heightened; my brushwork must be exact, but this is a thrill and not a chore. I feel as though I'm becoming addicted. And where else would I be able to paint with 24 ct gold, limning a border around the image?

To give a sense of size, here's a photo that I shot of Yellow Arc leaning against the painting Black V: an amusing illusion ensues.


  1. An amusing illusion ensues; indeed!

  2. Beautiful, "Yellow Arc," on parchment! I have made a few paintings on parchment and decided to
    staple the hide to a gesso panel which became part of the presentation. When dampened the hid
    will stretch in any configuration.

    I used to watch my neighbor skin rabbits. So, I gave up painting on hide. The memory crept in.


  3. oh my, Myrna, there's that startling recognition of the life that was in our materials, or our food for that matter. In some ways I think it best that we acknowledge the animal origins of our food, clothing, art materials, rather than hide them.

    and thanks for the stretching tip.

  4. mysterious forms but cartoon-like - I'm intrigued by the black snake mouth that appears to be sucking the metal band toward it, causing the 'head' to suddenly turn around and say "stop that!" nice little action there even if you don't read it like that.
    and I like the contextual shot at the end!

  5. I'm still giggling at your reading of the image, rappel; I love it.

  6. Yes. the lovely velvety finish even shows up in your photos. Beautiful miniature and the shot at the end --like you say,"an amusing illusion ensues"--a very nice ending. Such a delight to read your posts, Altoon. I don't see the snake, but I'm glad one has been seen and brought giggles.