November 15, 2010

A New Painting: "Orange Figures"

Orange Figures, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 1/2 x 8 inches.

This is one of my stranger works, isn't it? I see the two orange forms as characters on a stage, nodding, conversing, perhaps swaying back and forth, looking quite comic. Then there's the little face of the bolt down below. The blue sky might be too realistic a backdrop, but considering how odd the orange forms are, it might just make the image more surreal.

I'm showing a detail, which might give you a sense of the surface of the painting, especially if you click to enlarge. Using these colors, I had a clear example of the variation in opacity of different pigments. Cobalt and cerulean blues are fairly transparent, so it's difficult to paint a very even tone with them. I had to paint many layers in order to get the blue smooth yet lively, while painting the green area was a snap: the pigment is more opaque.

I had expected to finish this painting on Friday, but had an absolutely horrible painting day, one of those when I think I've forgotten how to do it. For some reason, from time to time dust will get embedded in the paint, to such an extent that the paint lifts when I try to clean it off. You can see below what this looks like. So, I tried to clean and repair, over and over again, but couldn't get rid of the problem. After a few hours of wrestling with it, at the end of the afternoon I took a damp paper towel and wiped off the top part of the painting, sky and orange forms. What a relief! When I went back to the painting on Saturday, I worked more slowly and deliberately, completing the painting yesterday, with little dust in sight.


  1. it was well worth the trouble - a surprisingly surreal / witty yet minimal painting. I read that little bolt as a mediator, a fulcrum, a conscience, a voice of sanity...

  2. Nice and lightly reading is a bit different and I find the symbolism perhaps a bit sexual. There is that strong light source casting the bolt's sharp shadow.
    Reminds me a bit of early Roger Brown.

  3. thank you, rappel and Julie, for your interesting reading of this painting; it really enriches my work to have this input. I love the Roger Brown reference.
    I guess that sexuality does creep in here; after all, those turgid phallic forms...