March 19, 2015

A New Boxed Paintings: "Blues"

Blues, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, ca. 3 1/2 x 5 in.

After my last boxed paintings, Reds, I thought I'd make another box with a color theme and chose blue. There's an interesting difference between red and blue, in that tints of blue will still be called blue, while tints of red become pink, hence no longer red. We don't have a separate color name for light blue, which makes mixing blues easier than mixing reds. I used Ultramarine blue, Cobalt blue, Phthalo blue, Manganese blue cerulean, each different in hue. I stuck with geometric shapes, as different from the more organic ones in Reds.

Blues, lid and inside of box

I had a terrible time with the painting on the lid. I had worked out a composition and had a clear idea about color and transparency for it. When it was done, I absolutely hated the painting; it didn't work at all, so I wiped it off. When I saw the softly washed remains of blue paint, I thought I'd keep that atmospheric effect and add a couple of geometric elements on top of it. The inside of the box retains its simple geometry. They may be too different from each other, but I'm sticking with the idea.

Blues, paintings side 1, each ca. 1 1/4 x 1 1/4 in. 

I tried to have a variety of hues in the small paintings, and a variety of compositions within a geometric framework. My boxes usually contain 12 paintings; this one has a baker's dozen. The extra one on the bottom is painted on goatskin parchment dyed dark blue.

Blues, paintings side 2, each ca. 1 1/4 x 1 1/4 in. 

Because the calfskin parchment is translucent, after I paint one side of the square, I hold it up to the light to paint the second side so as to have a conversation between the two sides. I've placed the paintings in the same order for both photos so you can get some sense of the relationships. Blue has a wide emotional range, from its lights to its darks: daylight to night. When I put all the paintings in the box, to my eye the somber side of the color was most in evidence.


  1. The lid's the best part!
    I'd certainly make a puzzle of this and arrange the parts in some kind of order.
    Very nice.

  2. I love these! The calfskin makes for intriguing texture and translucence.

  3. The discussion of 'blues' brings-up my search for the lines between turquoise, cyan, aqua, aquamarine...that whole family can be nebulous!

  4. Thanks for the comments, JBS and Anon. I'm glad you like the work.
    JBS, I'm about to write a blog post on William Gass's essay "On Being Blue"; it's terrific.

  5. So enjoyable and fun. Great work.