March 15, 2016

A New Painting: "Scoop"

Scoop, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 9 x 6 3/4 in.

Most paintings go fairly smoothly for me in their process, with the usual challenges and adjustments and reworkings; but occasionally it's as though I hit a wall, as though I don't know anything about color and light and paint. This image was one of those tough ones, on which I worked for hours, repainting sections over and over, wiping off, repainting. I simply couldn't get the color right: the yellows were dark and dead and the sense of light nonexistent; bits of dust were settling in the paint, causing it to lift off. After struggling with the painting for 2 or 3 days, I realized the only thing to do was to wipe it all off and start again. The struggle is never without value because I learn something, if only what not to do. When I started the painting again, I used more color in the shadows and made them lighter in value. Yellow is a trickster: how to make darks of such a light color? How cool or warm should shadows be? 

Scoop detail

I made the shadows cool at their edges, shifting to warm for the bounced reflected lights. I'm working on a green painting now, and I can definitely say that green is a piece of cake compared to yellow.


  1. Sharing what you learned not to do is huge, brave & helpful.
    Very interesting about how you cooled down shadow where it meets yellow.

  2. Thanks for the comments, JBS and Julie.
    Julie, I use the cool edges since cast shadows are generally cool in color (think blue shadows on snow).