January 16, 2011

A New Painting: "Earth Red, Sky Blue"

Earth Red, Sky Blue, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 4 1/2 x 6 inches.

Thinking about a title for this new work, its color seemed to me to be calling for attention, so I decided on the metaphoric color description. Although not completely metaphoric, as the main color used to mix the reds is an earth color, Burnt Sienna and another earth Yellow Ocher, with some admixture of cadmium red and yellow. As with most of my paintings, the image is strongly frontal, with a shallow shelf pushing out into our space, almost as though that red circle is a nose pushed up against the window pane/picture plane.

I'm showing this detail because that small triangle of shadow gave me quite a bit of trouble. When I saw that the shadow wasn't dark enough, I glazed some ultramarine blue, mixed with a bit of burnt umber, over it. Instead of sitting back in space, the dark color popped out, and I was reminded that ultramarine blue is a very intense color; it's dark but vivid. I then mixed more color, adding a touch of white, which lowered its intensity; the lighter color over the dark, called scumbling, also cooled the color. This worked and the corner now moves back where it should be.


  1. Altoon,

    Your title conveys the playful paradox of the man-made object with naturalistic color. It makes me look and look again. I also enjoy your description of process--you have a good memory for the sequence of things. Your last sentence conveys that sense of relief that many of us experience when a painting that has been misbehaving finally falls into line.

  2. Thank you so much, Hannah. I think I have a good memory for process for a couple of reasons: the expectation that I will be writing about the work, and the fact that it is small, not terribly complex, and doesn't take a very long time to finish.