March 26, 2010

A Miniature: Green Dots

Green Dots, tempera on vellum, 3 1/4 x 4 inch, image size, on a 5 x 7 inch panel

Now that I've finished Green Dots, my first painting made on vellum stretched over plywood, I can report that the stretching, which I wrote about in this post, was a great success. The vellum remained taut while I worked on it, with no wrinkling or movement at all. The image, of a line of raised green disks bordered by horizontal and vertical blacks, is floating on a ground of ivory-colored parchment. I painted a transparent narrow border of red with a thin glaze of gold, which creates an illusion of solid form raised above the ground.

I wanted to talk a bit about deciding on a composition to move forward with; as I've mentioned before, I have gone through my file photos looking for interesting images. In this case, I had three variations that included the row of "dots". The first photo (I would have made the greens parallel to the edges) had just the green with black tubes to the left.

The second photo had some red under the green, making a green red black image.

The third photo had an additional line of black with the tilted bolts in a jaunty chorus line at the top. I decided to go with this composition because I liked the framing of black around two sides of the green, also the way the geometric edges of bolts played with the tubular hoses; it was also more simple than adding a third color. You'll notice that I chose to paint the green a warmer color than the very blue-green of the photo.

Working with a new medium brings big questions of technique and presentation. A great problem has been solved by stretching the vellum. Below, you see a photo of the panel Green Dots in front of one of the 6 x 6 inch panels of Yellow Whorls; the image is surrounded by the blank warm vellum. What I've been wondering is how the painting would look if it went to the edge of the panel, as with my paintings on gessoed panels, so I've stretched a little panel which will be the exact size of the image and another which will have a 1 1/2 inch border around the image. When these paintings are complete, I'll have a better idea of which approach will work best.


  1. the size issue is intriguing in that we've all seen small that looks big, and big that looks small. somehow size is not in dimensions at all!

  2. That goes to the difference between size and scale, rappel. It seems to me that when the internal scale is large––big, simple forms––the work looks large in reproduction, even if it's a small size. I'm working on a little, 2 3/4 x 4 inch, painting which I'm sure will look large when I post it because its shapes are large in relation to its boundaries. All of which goes to show how important it is to sometimes see artworks "in the flesh".

  3. Your use of vellum intrigues me. I immediately thought of medieval manuscripts, and sure enough you call Green Dots a miniature. The colors are very intense: did you use multiple brushes, or very fine ones for the outlines? These non-organic objects look like enameled jewels.

  4. Indeed, Linda, I was inspired to paint miniatures on vellum by seeing an exhibit at the Morgan Library of The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, which I wrote a post about in February. I used my usual synthetic bristle brushes, but smaller sizes: numbers 2, 4 and 6 The medium for these small works, glaire, is made from the white of the egg instead of the yolk as for the panel paintings; itseems to yield more intense color.

  5. So glad I saw (and felt) that lovely little square of vellum, and see how you graced it.