June 12, 2013

A New Painting: "Untitled (Crimson/Light Green)"

Untitled (Crimson, Light Green), egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 9 x 8 in.

I believe that I'm beginning to understand what I want to do with the series of "cloth" paintings I've been working on. For one, I think that I might begin to call them my "organic" paintings, and the machine based images "geometric" paintings; it keeps the categorization more in the realm of the abstract. What I've realized is that I want to keep the images simple. At first I added other elements to the organic forms––a sphere, a rectangular solid, a cylinder––but now want just the folds. Before doing the study for this painting, I had tried using three colors, with two of them having folds. I thought it would be terrific, but instead it nearly drove me to give up the entire project. So I calmed down and did more studies, this time with just two colors, one background and one folded color. The image is close to this painting, and similar in its simple elements to this painting

Untitled (Crimson, Light Green) detail

Painting the curving forms is very engaging, getting a sense of the tactile is extremely satisfying, as my brush creates the illusion of fullness and of light playing over the turning surfaces. Not long ago I wrote a blog post on cloth in Medieval painting and sculpture, which you can read here. Cloth can be expressive, and as it's associated with the body, can have emotional resonance. 

This new painting is somewhat larger at 9 x 8 inches than my other works. I've been slowly making this body of paintings on parchment a bit larger; when I started they were around 4 to 6 inches, and now they are closer to 6 by 8. An inch at this small size makes a big difference. So here's a photo of recent work on a wall in the studio. I love the fun of the organic paintings alongside the illusionistic textile (which has outsized visual power alongside the paintings); they are all flat, but all are asking to be seen as three dimensional.


  1. Very exciting shape, shadow and depth to this one!

  2. You are absolutely amazing and masterful, and these are thrillingly beautiful!

  3. Altoon, p.s., just wanted to add that I really like seeing "Untitled (Crimson/Light Green)" next to the textile with it's cast shadow on the white wall. They feel like companion pieces to me, (in spite of the variable sizes).

  4. I like this piece, especially how you have anchored the form in space. What interests me the most are Your comments abou categorizing you paintings. ...the fact that you do that. Tell us more. Do you do that to order for yourself or does that have to do with the art world?

  5. Thanks so much for the kind comments Ravenna, Tamar, Mona, Nancy, and Julie.
    As for the categorization, I do it for myself. These still life paintings using cloth are so very different for me from the machine imagery I've been working with for many years, so it feels natural to define them just as I have named my other aspects of art production.