April 19, 2010

Two Miniatures

Rounds, egg tempera on calfskin vellum (parchment) stretched on panel, 3 x 4 inch image on a 6 x 7 inch panel.

Rust Disk, egg tempera on calfskin vellum (parchment) stretched on panel, 4 x 2 3/4 inch

I am showing two recently completed works together because one of them, Rust Disk, is painted to the edge of its small panel, while Rounds is surrounded by unpainted parchment like my previous works. I actually finished Rust Disk a few weeks ago, before I worked on Five Circles, but waited to show it because I wanted to compare these two approaches, which you can see more clearly in the photograph below. It's an almost unfair comparison because of the differing internal scale of the two paintings: Rust Disk has larger forms and is a more simple composition so inherently will have more drama.

I've shown Rust Disk and Green Dots (framed like Rounds) to several people and we all seem to agree that painting to the edge gives a stronger, more modern look. I don't know if you, my readers, will concur with this opinion, but I think that's the direction I will take. Another point: although the painting is very small, Rust Disk doesn't have the soul of a miniature painting; the form is simple and large in scale in relation to the size of the work; in this way it is closer to my larger panel paintings. So I think I will no longer call these works miniatures.

Another thing I now realize is that I love love love working on vellum; it's a wonderfully sensuous surface and the color that I can achieve on it, using glaire (beaten egg white) as a medium is more saturated and intense than using egg yolk on gesso.

I'm not sure if you can tell from the photograph above, but the works, stretched on 1/2 inch birch plywood, are standing out from the wall slightly. One thing I like about the gessoed panels is that they have a weighty presence, being over an inch thick. A problem to be solved with this new work is how to hang it so it doesn't look too slight. The solution is gluing a piece of 1/4 inch thick 2 1/4 inch wide, lattice to the back of the panel which makes it 'float'. I bought an electric drill and a 1/2 inch drill bit to make a hole for hanging from a small nail. So now my technical problems are solved; artistic challenges always remain.


  1. I love the Rounds especially.
    With its soft outline and wide border of vellum it is a like a book page. It has quite a presence.

  2. to me these are both beautiful paintings and I'm glad to see them together, talking to each other. I don't think it's necessarily true that the larger forms convey more drama. rounds has the intimacy of a familiar still life, which is very appealing. rust has the temperament of a puzzle - also appealing.

  3. So much happening in your world Altoon. Lovely things. I seem to have lost more than a week and have come back to find delicious recipes, more delightful miniatures - the rug I did so love last week. So striking.

    I will be back when not rushing.
    Do excuse me!

  4. It's so great to get feedback from you all; it helps to ground me and get opinions other than my own to consider. For instance, I'd been tending to think Rounds not as interesting a picture, but now I definitely reconsider; I will include more works of varying scales in future.

  5. I'm very taken with "Rounds". It's both classical and modern, light, airy, structural, tough, and sweet.

  6. I love them both, but Rust Discs takes my imagination beyond the edges ...

  7. A great pair of paintings Altoon. I love working in egg tempera on vellum too. How interesting to hear that the colors come out more brilliant with glaire! It tempts me to try it at some point.

  8. I love the thought of your paintings being on vellum. Sounds so old fashioned. My first thought when seeing "Rust Disk" was that it looked like a button and tab on a tailored coat. Which reminds me of how close clothing construction is to other modes of construction, in this case, cast metal pieces made into a piece of machinery. Hmmmm.....

  9. Julia, vellum is certainly old fashioned, used before paper. I love working with an ancient medium like egg tempera and painting modern images with it. And I love your clothing/machinery comparison; it makes so much sense: fastening is fastening.