March 7, 2010

A Miniature: Oblique Orange

Here is the beginning of my most recently completed miniature painting, with a thin layering of color on the surface, some of the ground still showing through the paint. The orange on the largest shape is still quite transparent, while you can see some opaque light cool color on the foreground shadow. I then painted many more layers of color, adding depth and richness.

Here is the gouache study, 26 x 12 inches, done on site, that I did during the summer of 2009 and never developed into a painting. I chose to paint a small section at the bottom of the image, with crisscrossing angles, two dark shapes, and repeating circles.

Oblique Orange, tempera on vellum, 4 x 3 inches

I love the idea of having done a painting that is essentially a single color, with its variations. There are enough changes in value and color to keep it interesting to me. Someone had asked me if the color with this technique is richer than egg tempera on panel; at the time I didn't think so, but now I do. There is something about the surface of the calfskin vellum (vellum is the word that describes calfskin parchment) that accepts the paint yet keeps it enough on the surface to allow for great depth of color.

I'm in the midst of reassessing the direction of my work, inspired by these recent small pieces. I feel thrilled and excited and off on a new adventure.

My only puzzlement with these small works is how to show them? because they wave and curl after I work on them; perhaps keeping the vellum in books kept it flat. Right now I have the paintings hanging using small binder clips, which I really like because the clips mirror the industrial subject matter. But as you can see, each piece curls in its own way, reminding me of the living animal origin of the vellum. In some ways, I don't mind this refusal to sit still and flat, but I suppose I would have to frame them under a mat. Another idea is to try stretching the vellum over a small piece of plywood; I'll report on this when I've given it a try.


  1. The richness of the colour in indeed wonderful... I am just going to check back in when youve worked that one out... My mind is full of the cross-sections of seeds and seed capsules... visiting is a most pleasant time out Altoon!

  2. I just amazed by your deft work and enjoy visiting your site all the time.


  3. I like your line up. I also like the wayward/ untame characteristics of parchment just because it's like that, just because it doesn't easily conform to our norm. it still has a mind of its own. I wonder how it would look in a box frame with a long pin in each corner of the page attaching it to the back but allowing it to float without being rigid...

  4. rappel, I thought of something like your idea, because I have a couple of tiny folk art painted oars, which are pinned to a backing with bent straight pins whose heads were cut off. And, my brother reminded me in an email this morning that the manuscript pages at the Morgan Library were held in place by two sets of thin transparent thread, horizontal and vertical. My aim, though, is to avoid altogether the expense of any kind of frame.