November 21, 2013

A New Painting: "Angled Corner"

Angled Corner, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 x 7 1/2 in.

Working on this painting pointed out to me yet again that I have to approach my work as abstraction rather than as a representation of an actual thing. The lesson was in the background of the lime green shapes, now a dark brownish red. I painted and repainted that background four times, wiping it off after each unhappy resolution. The source image had a background of gray gravel, which I thought would not do at all, not unless I changed the main color of the piece; I did not want to do that, since I was enjoying the challenge of the sharp color. So I started with an earth red color, but its warmth did not work with the cold yellow: I wiped it off. Then I thought that a very intense cold red might work, like an Alizarin crimson, maybe without shadows, just flat; tried that, nope. Ah-hah, maybe color was the problem and it needed to be white, with shadows, to pick up the white on the bottom left. I thought that was a good solution, and looked at it for a couple of days, thinking the painting was done. But I had a niggling doubt that wouldn't go away; there was just something missing. So I took a deep breath and wiped off the paint yet again, going back to the idea of red, but this time using a mixture of Cadmium red purple and Cadmium brown for the darks; the lights also have white and a bit of cadmium vermillion and cadmium yellow. It's a rich dark that I think plays well with the bright greenish yellow; I was glad I wiped off the white.

Angled Corner detail

Light is an important subject of my paintings, most often seen as light and shadow. It's always difficult to paint a convincing shadow, one that has enough of the foundation color to read as shadow and not shape, different enough to give a sense of bright light. Shadows tend to be cool, but often have warm reflected lights within them. Getting the balance right of light within a dark of shadow usually entails many reworkings of color and value. And when it works, wow, what a thrill!


  1. Love reading about your process...makes the work a living, breathing thing.

    1. Thanks, Cecilia; I'm glad what I've written about the process is interesting to you.