Saturday, June 28, 2008

Kitchen WIP

Photo has a lot of glare and in a hurry I did a not-very-good Photoshop fix. Getting beyond its dreadful middle stage. 18x24, I think, oil on linen. I'm so thankful to have the Canada balsam medium again; I can paint without such a struggle.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Canada Balsam Medium Recipe

My order from Wood Finishing Enterprises arrived today. Although the focus is, obviously, wood finishes (particularly ingredients for musical instrument varnishes, it seems), it's a terrific resource for some expensive and hard-to-find oil painting materials. They carry Canada balsam at a reasonable price, or at least a price that I can almost justify after I figure how much I use to make a medium and then how much of the medium I use in one of my normally not very big paintings: $27 for 4 oz.

Here's the medium recipe: 1 part Canada balsam, 1-4 parts stand oil, 1-4 parts oil of spike. Stir the stand oil into the balsam (warm it gently if necessary) and then add the spike. I normally make up only a couple of ounces at a time in a small jar, and use it sparingly as a couch or added by drops to the paint nuts on the palette. It has a wonderful aroma, though too much spike will give me a monster headache. This is the one to use for subtly fused edges and a bit of the "jewel-like" effect.

The Series

Part of today's effort. This is very schematic, and I sort of like that. I'm often pleased with the start of a painting, but my level of satisfaction diminishes rapidly as I get into the painting's troubled adolescence. That's why I post rough starts and more-or-less finished pieces, but not too many in-between stages. The middle doesn't seem like a progression so much as a series of mistakes and corrections--not the most efficient of processes, nor something I want to expose to much scrutiny.

I have been pondering "the series." My usual take on a series is a couple of paintings based on photos from the same session, slightly different ways of working out whatever idea I started with, as the two recent "bedroom" pieces. I have made more than one version of a painting (see Boxes I and II on my website) by changing the size and details; and some of my watermedia experiments from the winter used one photo as a jumping-off point. There are a couple of paintings that I had so much enthusiasm for, both image and idea, that I'm thinking of working them up again...because I just don't feel like I'm done with them.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Better photo?

No doubt my time would be better spent actually painting. The color is more accurate in this one, although the darks and lights are not relating quite the way they do in the real thing. Oh, well, enough.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Another version begun

Just a sketch, but I like the gesture of the figure a lot. This is 14"x16" on that same coarse linen. I expect I'll develop it further... and probably be sorry.

Woman by the bed, stage 3

I'm getting close to the finish with this one; the face needs a little work and I have to make a decision about the bedspread. It's yet another with opaque paint worked into a glaze layer, and the photographs look terrible. The darks look too dark, and splotchy. It looks a lot better IRL, trust me--the red is gorgeous. I'll try to get a better photo in daylight tomorrow morning; right now there are thunderstorms threatening.

Woman by the bed, stage 2

A progress shot of the one in "Rough" below. There was a green/gray stage that I forgot to get a photo of, before the back wall became red. I apologize for the glare.

Geoff Pitchford contacted me yesterday about featuring my work... and so I became today's artist at Here's what the site says: "’s goal is simple. We feel artists are under-valued, under-exposed, and generally under-appreciated. We want to bring attention to artists that otherwise don’t get the attention they deserve. If we can bring their art to one person that would have otherwise missed the opportunity to see it, we feel like we have made a contribution to the art community." It's a terrific goal and the featured work is generally good and interesting.

My page with, ahem, comments. I'd like to answer them all but I'm afraid I might get irritable--why do so many people see a migraine in this picture? Is it that painful?

Friday, June 13, 2008


Taking a photo of a painting in progress can be enlightening. This is a rough start with a lot of glare, but it's apparent in the photo that the bed is only big enough for a child. It wasn't so obvious while I was working on it. (Duh.) So there will be major changes tomorrow when I will also try to get some color on it. This is 15"x17" (which I call "Vermeer size"), stretched linen. The linen is very coarse, and the secondary ground was haphazardly applied (by me), as you can see in the upper right corner where the umber really soaked into the overly absorbent first coat.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Simplicity, Perfection

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” --Albert Einstein

Gleaned from Mark Bittner's NYTimes cooking blog, but so very applicable to making a good painting. And that from the erstwhile Painter of Stuff. Sometimes the only way to find out what you can and can't take out of a picture is to just go ahead and do it. Once in a while you have to put it back, but so far... not so much.

I'm back in the studio with serious intent but nothing to show yet. Stay tuned.