October 22, 2011

A New Painting: "White Triangle"

White Triangle, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 5/8 x 8 inches.

This is a very simple image, which nonetheless required a lot of decisions along the way, beginning with how large to make the painting. At first I had the horizontal dimension at 7 1/2 inches, but thought a slightly larger size would work better; it's surprising how a small change – in this case only 1/2 inch – can make a big difference in the scale of pictured objects. The second big decision was how much texture to include in the painting: in my reference photo the upper part of the blue was a rust red color, variegated reds with some blue mixed in, which was also the case with the blue vertical bar. There was also a good deal of texture in the white; it was torn and uneven.

I kept some variation in color and value, but it's pretty subtle compared to the original; I chose to have a strong blue/white image. To achieve an opaque white I had to paint many layers of color, using a large round brush and freely mixing slight hue and value shifts on the surface. My aim is to have a lively surface enhance the minimal composition, to give a sense of weight and presence to the forms, with the two bolts holding it all down.

This photo, shot with the light at an angle, shows the uneven surface of the parchment. Because my calfskin painting surface came from a living being it sometimes is not completely smooth. I bought one skin that had a "natural" finish and more obvious veining than other skins I've used. So I am using it in paintings where the surface irregularities will add to the painting and not be a distraction; I think that this surface works for this painting, and its silken feel is very luscious to work on.


  1. It does look real. I feel like I could reach out and lift that flap. Excellent.

  2. and i love the way this relates to the pink icon at the top of your page. the blues are wonderfully dense and the composition a fine example of simplexity.

  3. These new paintings are really beautiful!

  4. this is as if one could reach out and touch it...very beautiful...i am off to read your pdf on tempera...

    interestingly i was yesterday on a site by jeff bryant(i think) about encaustic called egg-oil-wax or some variation that had many ways of mixing these ingredients to create interesting variations ... fascinating stuff if i can find the chemical and not die from using it. :)

  5. thank you, everyone, so much.
    Linda, there is something called an egg-oil emulsion, but I didn't know about also adding wax. Sounds like it could be interesting.

  6. Very interesting to me the way the planes move back and forth. Strong, nice piece that I bet holds up over time.