Tad Spurgeon oil paintings
An ongoing Thermopolye of the heart and mind.


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A Sunday look at process and work in progress.

june 26

      Uniformly hot and sunny week. Waning moon, mostly did layers on older work, progress but nothing earth shaking there yet. Started one new painting with a new medium, this was fun. The biggest news is that we got a recommendation on a local outdoor pool and decided to join. The pool is part of this spacious older development squirreled away next to one of the giant old estates that were on the outskirts of the city a century ago. So, it's not that fancy, and, sort of accidentally, has a very nice retro feeling, surrounded by trees. This whole area was carved out of a forest and the forest has not given up. So if you just leave things alone for a few decades, it all grows back. Anyway, we had a nice vacation evening there on Wednesday. Went swimming, then got Indian take-out and took this to a local park where people with dogs can let them run. This park has some pretty big old trees, it looks a little like a Constable in the evenings, especially when there's a Great Dane, they browse like deer. It turned out there was having an outdoor concert that night, so the park was unusually full of people. The concert was not that great, someone recycling a lot of older chord structures verbatim into "his" songs. But we were at the other end of the park and watched endless children and dogs frolicking on the lawn as the sun went down. It just went on and on. There was one group of small children running around in an amorphous formation like a flock of birds with a very small but enthusiastic puppy. They would stop now and then to let the puppy rest, kneeling and clustering around it, arcadian puppy love, very nice to witness.


      For a while I've been working with versions of a medium designed to keep the paint bright in layers, this uses thicker oil such as sun oil or stand oil to saturate the paint, some damar and beeswax are melted into the oil to aid the layers to dry "up." These mediums have worked out well but I've also wanted to explore using other resins in place of damar, which doesn't add a lot of character in this situation. The two resins I'm most interested in are Manila copal and sandarac. These could be used in oil, but that's a route I explored about a decade ago, so I want to learn more about using them in solvent, both sandarac and Manila copal dissolve in oil of rosemary, eucalyptus, or spike lavender. Have done some work this year using Manila copal in solvent: small amounts of this produce a thixotropic seizing in even stand oil. So, decided to use sandarac in solvent for this, to learn more about what it does. Turns out it also produces a seizing effect, but more moderately. These varnishes are very concentrated to minimize the amount of solvent in the studio, so quite small amounts are used in the medium, about three percent in this one. But that was enough to generate something pretty different because the sandarac in solvent is tightening quickly, whereas the fused damar stays open a long time. The better known material this resembles most is genuine silver fir, olio d'Abezzo, which is very pale and dries in a few hours, although this isn't available at this point outside Italy to my knowledge. Sandarac in oil is very old, found on a Carlo Crivelli, this is in NGTB 23. Sandarac in solvent hasn't been found in early painting to my knowledge, but this is simplicity itself if you have the resin and spike. The first round of readings I did in the technical bulletins made it clear that there was a pretty sophisticated materials awareness in Europe at an early date, but this picture was expanded considerably by the Archetype book, Trade in Artist's Materials, which has some really fascinating research in it.


      First layer on a peony using the new medium, blocking it in, holding everything within the envelope at this point. I liked how it worked but there's always a learning curve with something different.


      After the third layer. This altered very cleanly throughout the process of changing the colour, but the paint turned out to be a little tight working, which was a surprise since the amount of resin is so small. But, of course, that's the point, being an arresting agent, a little concentrated resin controls a lot of oil. So, this feels a little formal now. I'll probably try to give the next layer more swoosh by adding a little more thicker oil to the medium before mixing it with the paint. About 12x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

june 19

      Waxing moon, full moon tomorrow, solstice. Lots of heat this week, not that much humidity, some nice breezes, the best of summer. Lots of energy, but maybe not of the highest quality for the work. Have noticed this before during extended warmer periods. Did a lot of work in the first half of this week, then had to pause due to the usual intervention of myriad other things. But somehow had the feeling this was good. The last day I worked was only on older small things, a sure sign that I've lost the scent. Anyway, looked the week's work over this morning and it all felt a little off, sort of adrift. It's always interesting to look at something and realize it's different than I first thought, points out the relativity of perception itself. A tired person sees things differently. Everything improved, but maybe only superficially, which is not okay. I could ignore the polls, rattle the saber, say what the faithful want to hear, but at some point the truth, as difficult as it might be, seems to catch up with everyone. So, lots of ideas floating around, but they don't really mean anything right now, like seeds without soil. Time for a rest.

june 12

      Waxing moon, some truly lovely sunny and cool days this week leading back into heat now. Mostly worked on one painting, this sometimes happens and is fun up to a certain point. Then things usually need to pause, get examined more closely. There's a great letter by Chardin replying to some Count who was trying to bustle him, saying the painting can't be rushed, that it will be done when it's done. It's incredibly polite on the surface, but there's quite a steeliness in it too. I got to visit the Vanna Venturi house a few years ago, this was quite amazing on the inside, an interior whose proportions are a nurturing work of art. Anyway, the owner was very nice and showed us a book about the house, in which the architect said how great it was to be able to work on a project for five years. Culturally, we have gotten really involved in fast knowledge, it makes us think we are so smart. But it is also a way to attempt to escape the way we feel, making it addictive. If someone is going fast enough, they can get pretty upset if you make any effort to slow them down, because they can sense what's waiting for them, an awful lot of discomfort. So, we continue to go as fast as possible, in an effort to escape the quality of time we have created.


      My friend Roland sent me an email about the little known second book by Maroger, published after his death, which, amazing researcher that he is, he found in a local flea market! Anyway, this contains some interesting information which Roland synopsized for me, part of which is a sort of deathbed confession about his various historical and technical errors. More importantly, there is also a discussion of what can go wrong, which begins with the need for a cold-pressed, water washed linseed oil, goes on to the use of too much mastic, too much black oil, issues of proportion with the medium. If you've read about this, you know that there's no historical justification for the mastic gel in De Mayerne, this was something Maroger lied about. The mastic gel comes to painting via Venice, mastic coming from Greece, Bombelli was one of the first painters to use it. A lot of mayhem occurred in English 19th century painting because of the mastic gel, these recipes are documented in depth in Carly's The Artist's Assistant. At the same time, some people have used this medium without issue, the premiere painter from a technical point of view being Wilkie. Having looked at Wilkie's Highland Family (on panel) recently at the Met, it does seem to be made with mastic. The key is low, and he de-emphasizes yellow totally, perhaps to offset any that may occur later. But the painting has not yellowed, the darks have not gone down in value. This could be because little medium was used, because the paint was made with pre-polymerized oil, because the varnish was kept from light and air that would oxidize the solvent, or because there is also wax in the medium. A lot of variables, most of which don't come into consideration when someone buys a tube of "Maroger Medium." Anyway, Roland makes the point that Maroger continued to try to figure things out all his life. One of the things I would like to explain for Maroger, who is out there somewhere, is that, if you do begin with a cold-pressed oil, and wash it, then let it thicken a great deal, you have a material that, when thinned with solvent, behaves very much like a soft resin varnish. We are used to the relatively lugubrious behavior of stand oil, but the oil pictured below is very different.


      Beach scene from last summer in New Jersey, literally the beach where I spent time as a kid. Unusual hazy evening light, lots of relatively bright recession that had been a little confusing. Saw how to take this further, as usual a matter of less physical detail and more chromatic or psychological detail. Conceptually it feels solved but could still use more paint, more of the same approach. About 11.25x20.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper, the great da Vinci by Twinrocker. Time to mount this on a panel before the next layer.


      Another one of Kathy's grandmother's peonies from my last weeks in Vermont. Put four thin layers on this peony this week. This is on a panel with some sand in the gesso, not the easiest surface, the first three layers were about covering that, the fourth one was smoother, but maybe a little too smooth. Yes, it's always something. Did a lot of work on the petals, this remains interesting to figure out. Not sure how I feel about this, it's pretty clean or accurate for this stage but I see that as the beginning, not the end. Not bad for a week old but in need of more soul. Wanted to try brighter colour, but even without blue maybe it's too much. On the other hand, one thing I've noticed is that change happens, doesn't need to be pursued, so maybe the best thing to do is not think about it, just work on it again. Long ago I read an article by a woman in some art magazine rare, so I remember it about her encounter with the late Chardin still life with the little onion and the pottery coffee pot, one of the more humble paintings ever made. She says that she just burst into tears when she saw it, it was uncontrollable, she didn't understand it, it just happened. So, in working on these, I often find myself wondering, "Would she cry?" About 14x16 inches, oil on gessoed panel.

june 5

      Another pretty hot week, end of the moon, new moon yesterday at 11 pm here, sometimes there's something specific, this one felt hopeful, always nice. The last week of the moon is often iffier in the work, sometimes nothing wants to happen, but it's summer, and I got a reasonable amount done this time. A few moments of feeling ungrounded in the heat, sort of cut adrift, and one genuinely crabby afternoon, somehow hard to turn the AC on this early but not really possible otherwise to work in the afternoon. It's at the point where I don't want to be angry or sad about the usual things in the news, but it still happens. It's not that I don't want to care, but about realizing that everyone has to make their own decisions, learn what they came here to learn, even if it involves a mindset about life that seems insane to me. Things like peace, equality, and justice can't be taught, they have to be sought, which makes this more of a spiritual than political process. There's only one flawed species on this planet, and I wonder about the larger purpose behind this: it seems so dangerous to put this amazing world in such uncertain hands. Maybe the cosmic gamble is what makes it interesting. Will they grow up, or blow up? So, continuing to apply the concept of accepting where I am, and who everybody else is, a little more challenging now since this was exactly the weather -- the relentless physical fact -- that had me wishing for years growing up to be someplace else. But something about staying in the present with the work seems to allow different things to happen, like the present has more dimensions within it, options available, than even the best laid plans. I would always have said this, but seem to be experiencing it more, it's not an idea so much as an attitude. This translates into putting more paint on, more often: more risk, more development, because more options present themselves. We tend to think of colour as a three dimensional field, but only three colours define three axes, and the integration of negative colour -- black, white, gray -- creates the possibility of three distinct spheres: positive, negative, and neutral. A really good example of this type of colour is the oddly compelling Joan of Arc by Bastien-Lepage at the Met. Learning how to use this type of colour personally has taken a while, but it's interesting to watch the images move into territory that wasn't so much charted as felt; a sense now that this is beginning to gather momentum.


      The seventh edition of Living Craft is here and now being shipped. What's new besides another complete rewrite from beginning to end? As usual, more than I bargained for! You can look at a PDF of the table of contents and formula index here, and text selections here.


      Years ago I started keeping paint from the palette as an informal record, this is the most recent accretion featuring the mediums containing small amounts of fused damar and wax. This stack had begun to lean a little, but then began to bend outright this week in the heat. It will be interesting to see if this is elastic enough to keep hanging on.


      This year I went back to a medium using a little damar and beeswax melted into thicker oil as a way to keep work in layers bright. There are now seven different versions of this, later this week I tried mixing my favorite, number 4, with the first one, which had a nice look but moved too much for me. At first, in the warmer studio, I thought this still moved too much, but managed to pull it together more or less, see last image of this post below. I mixed them at one to one, maybe two parts of #4 and one part of #1 would be better for the summer. I used to think about finding a medium that was optimal, or "perfect," but each day is different, and the process is always accruing more information about what it wants. So, it's more of a continuum, a journey that becomes its own destination.


      Haven't worked on this dune in twilight in a while, it got better due to all the work with snow a few weeks ago but this midrange neutral stuff was more difficult to fathom. This is the type of image that makes me want a better camera, simply not possible to get a reasonable image of it without a great deal of tweaking. But I'm learning more about Ctrl L. About 11x20 inches, oil on gessoed paper, the really nice DaVinci sheets from Twinrocker.


      An image from Farr Cross in Vermont. I remember thinking the last time I worked on this that it was really on it's way, but it didn't seem so when I put it back on the easel. An improvement, but still more to go. About 13x21 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Another favorite Vermont spot, one of the last times I visited when I was moving. Some complexity to resolve via simplicity still, but the best it has been. About 9x15.5 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      An image I did alla prima years ago and foolishly sold. Have been trying to recreate it ever since, so there are several of these, I simply work on the least evolved one next. Put a thin couch on it of thick oil, I though it was SRO linseed but it turned out to be walnut oil, which behaved more liked stand oil, not as resinous or snappy. So, I was fighting that melting quality but maybe a little of that is okay. Not quite done but much further along than it was. About 10x11 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Before I left Vermont I took a lot of photos of my friend Kathy's grandmother's peonies. These were in my almost empty old house, in some interesting light situations. There are about five or six of them in progress now, working in layers to make them look effortless. I had done a quick one of this image before which had some good qualities and decided, instead of launching something more studied, to do another quick one, see if I could develop the alla prima approach a little more. For me, not using solvent or an absorbent ground at this point, this means looking for new ways to balance the movement and the density or grab of the paint. So I mixed two of the damar, wax, and thick oil mediums together, one balanced toward mobility, the other balanced towards density. This worked out pretty well for the first try, was able to adjust this a great deal without it getting muddy. There are ways I'd like more, but it's probably best to let this go, try another one alla prima at some point, maybe on a panel this time. This medium might also be good for later layers of indirect work, semi-additive, with a nice balance of discretion and fusion. About 11.25 x13.5 inches, oil on Arches Huile.

may 29

      Waning moon, a hot and sunny week. When this weather arrives, I always kind of brace for it, as a kid here the humidity used to drive me crazy. But somehow it's not as bad as it used to be, one of many things experience has shown it's better to accept that actively struggle against. I used to think of acceptance as giving in, but now it seems more like the path to consistent quality time. Am working to implement this in the work as well. For a long time I felt behind somehow, I think because I could see so much more than I could actualize. This is changing, and as that sense of urgency recedes I'm realizing how little it actually helped the process. If I'm in the future, with the better work, I'm not in the present, the only place the work can get better. But this involves a kind of spaciousness that is hard to achieve if you're in a hurry. So it's odd, even though in literal terms I'm running out of time, it feels like the time I experience is expanding. There's something really interesting about the way the process modifies consciousness, but it can only do this at its own pace. Things are always happening, but it's been easy to miss them, and their message, if I'm in a hurry.


      In the 80s and 90s I worked with a damar, stand oil, and beeswax medium, but later moved away from it because of the solvent in the damar. Recently I came back to it in a different way, with the damar heated into the oil, had done this early on but didn't understand what it had to offer at that point. Started this approach around the beginning of the year, have made seven versions of this medium now, also one that substituted larch balsam for the damar. The larch approach is on hold for now, interesting but on the sticky side, and the brushes definitely need to be cleaned in solvent. So, it's helpful to write things down, not only the formula but the paintings that use it, and to go back over recent changes, sometimes an approach drifts off track for one reason or another, and it's easiest to fix by going backwards, not forwards. The same territory at a different time in the process is effectively an entirely different place.


      Over time, one of these mediums turned out to work better than the others, the one I called DWS #4. I'd been using the very nice Kremer stand oil in these mediums but the interesting thing I discovered recently about DWS #4, because the formula was written down, is that it was made with thicker hand-refined linseed oil only. Well, actually, I'm not sure that matters that much, because there were several changes in #4. So I want to explore this formula again with stand oil, not everybody wants to refine their own oil. One part of this gets mixed into two parts of the paint.


      A test panel is always a good idea. Here's the series of these mediums over the last few months. DWS #4 is in the red box, thick on top, thin below. You can see that the light yellow of the medium is fugitive, leaving as the oil polymerizes. Test is from 2-15 of this year, not conclusive yet, it will be interesting to see what it looks like in another year. Although both wax and emulsifed wax are ancient in the fine arts, it doesn't look like beeswax was used in older oil paintings at this point. We know it was used by Reynolds in his later experiments, and highly recommended by him to students. Similarly, I'm not the biggest fan of the George Stubbs type style, but the work is in great shape and it's often made with a little resin and wax (NGTB 9). My feeling at this point is that even a little bit of wax changes how the paint film ages in several positive ways. But, we'll see, pet theories need to be tested hardest of all.


      An image of a favorite place outside of where I used to live in Middlebury. I've done a few versions of this day, this is as far as it's gotten so far, just at the point where the paint is beginning to take over from the depiction. More to go, but getting into the more fun portion of the process. About 12x15 inches, oil on gessoed panel.


      Same spot, later in the summer, quieter feeling, again working to balance the paint, local colour, and atmosphere. I always knew it had to be about value on the one hand, red-yellow-blue on the other, but colours of course change according to their context, and the layers introduce their own dimension. It's possible to go halfway to the wall indefinitely with colour, but at a certain point the paint itself takes over and declares the image done. About 10x17 inches, oil on gessoed panel.


      In my last house there was a room with windows on three sides, it had some interesting light. Slightly goofy image of a peony I always liked, one more layer, might be done. About 9x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      An image whose colour had been a great puzzle. Ground it firmly down and started over, not done but solved what had always bothered me, the colour existing more brightly, but still in a tangible box of space. About 10x11 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      There are several of these, the best one is actually the biggest. This one is the middle size, wanted to visit it before working on the larger one again. Further into colour, but with more atmosphere. This had become a little serious, put a bright, affirmative layer on it, some marigold deep yellows and oranges, at a certain point it works best to just change it, a lot. Not done and really hard to get a decent image of, but on its way somewhere new. About 13.5x15 inches, oil over gessoed linen on panel.


      Reversing direction, an older image with lower chroma that emphasizes atmosphere more. Not done, but pretty close. About 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A long time ago I fell in love with the 19th century oil study. I did them outside in Vermont for a little over a decade, it was a lot of fun. There are several books out about these now, started by Galassi's book on Corot, and the Gere Collection. This small study is from an olive grove outside Volterra, earth colours with cobalt and a little viridian, working to harmonize the stronger graphic quality with the atmosphere. There have been several of these, but I think this one might get finished. 8x13.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper, time to put this one on a panel.

may 22

      Generally cooler and overcast this week, with a few really nice sunny days sprinkled in, full moon last night, the cat ran around like crazy off and on for hours. Mostly concentrated on the one image, worked on several versions, this is helping me to learn more about taking a given small set of colours further. Then started to apply that snow awareness to some other subjects, mixed results so far but I see the next step as less focus, more atmosphere, resulting in more mystery. I guess I always would have said that, but now I can see how to do it in the established context. It's easy for me to get hypnotized by what's there, but the most important thing to put in is what's not there, that is, the feeling that motivated the whole enterprise to begin with. But of course it's a fine line between simplification that works and simplification that doesn't. As with so many things, the process can be powerful without being meaningful.


      Made a larger panel, quarter inch plywood cradled with three quarter inch on the back, was able to get three thin layers on it. Had no idea what was going on, but that is of course more interesting, just on the cusp now of shifting from depiction towards art, diversity towards unity. Big enough to have to step away from, the part below the horizon is easier at this scale, the part above the horizon is harder. Will let this be incremental as long as it takes to get it feeling more organic, have learned a lot from the smaller version below. This is 37.5x24 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      I've been working on this smaller one as well, three layers now. This has more of the quality I'm looking for, a more evolved balance between detail and atmosphere than I've been able to get before. About 21 inches across, oil on gessoed linen, will mount this on a panel soon, then give it a rest before working on it again. This will help discover the difference between what really needs to happen and the usual perseverating.


      There are several of these in various states, this layer improved it but didn't complete it. Sometimes images get stuck between a more colourful and less colourful version, this can take a while to resolve. Someone who used more colour in a way that fascinates me is Walter Vaes, the still life work is just amazing to me. This was also done with a somewhat softer, therefore more potentially literal version of the medium, so the more I worked on it, the tighter it got. It's often necessary to establish what doesn't work, yet again. Still, it may be better to use something denser and more painterly for the next layer. I've gotten a few emails recently saying I'm too hard on these. So, to clarify, I don't see this as bad, just not finished yet. Finished is strange: not so much a formula as a feeling. About 12x13 inches, oil on gessoed panel.


      A recent start that began in a more condensed, less literal way, so, compared to the one above, this is approaching finished from the other direction. These tend to be easier without blue unless the blue is really dominant. About 12x18 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

may 15

      Waxing moon this week, but once again lots of rain and little sun. And once again not lot got done in the work due to a concatenation of circumstances worthy of Wodehouse himself. This is getting a little old, avoided sackcloth and ashes but have to admit to a few Job-like moments this week. But when it gets really relentless, it gets kind of comical too. Nothing to do but regroup, repair the jangled ganglia, and be alert for silver linings. Even gold linings.


      Worked on this small study again, like it overall, I guess it's the balance between what is known and what is felt, what is certain and what is tentative, the realism becoming essential or symbolic. Could perseverate further with it of course, there's almost always something, but decided it's time to make some of these a little bigger again. This change has been coming over the horizon for a while, so, started a panel for a larger version of this yesterday, it felt good. It's about three feet across, will put linen on it today, gesso it tomorrow. I'm comfortable with, that is, have finished, work at this scale, but it always seemed I could learn more faster from a smaller scale. It was hard even to explain to myself what this was, but I think now it has had to do with the balance between the detail and the atmosphere, between diversity and unity. I guess what I realized was that this too has to be personal, that is, authentic, and that, past a certain point, I didn't really want to lead with technique in an academic way. Anyway, just saw how this might look bigger, having the image present itself in a new way is typically a good sign to follow. About 9.25x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.

may 8

      Another week of solid overcast and intermittent rain, last week of the moon, we saw doctors twice this week about the spirally fractured metatarsal, are getting more information together about this slowly but surely. These enforced vacations from the work are always hard at first, hard to just let go and accept that it can't happen for now. But I always end up getting in touch with a place that sort of gets submerged by the work, the focus on getting "more" of some kind to occur. I don't really love this, would much rather keep working, surrounded by the fog of war. But of course that's the point, to create more balance between doing and being whether I like it or not. There's always a day during one of these times when I begin to see what's there in the work, rather than what's not. Which points out how hard it is to know what's really there, what is seen or not is all a function of the frame of reference. And the more we look, the more we are apt to see. Which can make it complicated: what we thought was true turns out to be only partially true, there's more, something we overlooked. This process seems to go on and on, whether we're looking at particles or universes.


      All I got done this week, a small medium study yesterday, the day after the new moon. Made a version of the medium I've been working with using larch balsam instead of damar. The damar is just melted into the oil, so the larch introduces a couple different things. This was pretty fun for the first try with something new, could be layered, blended, or erased. I'm not sure how much I love this switch, but the damar medium is on #7 and this is just #1 with the larch. At the same time, I really like what damar #7 does, so this may be a little arbitrary, just realized it was an approach I hadn't tried. Again, the ongoing question of what this is about, learning more or finishing work with what I know. The image itself is too literal, a little bleak, needs some of that Impressionist happy snow stuff, the tree mass is a little heavy, top and side edges could be expanded, etc. All things that tend to happen with a new image anyway, finding the art. Shows how much I'd come to know the image below, same road in Vermont, in fact from the same day. About 8x12.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

may 1

      Cold and rainy week, waning moon. After a temporary sense of resolution, the broken metatarsal situation continues. We've seen three MDs now who all have different opinions. A few decades I would have reveled in, railed at, the obvious incompetence of technical medicine that this illustrated, but now it just seems like some trained and sincere people trying to do their best under conditions that are less than ideal, i.e. they're so busy they just don't have enough time to really go into it. Although it appears the compression boot enabled more pressure than was helpful, back to no weight on the broken foot. Did various layers on work in progress, mounted some work on paper that's close to done, made one new start that was equivocal, worked mostly from knowledge, not feeling, not the best but all that was available. Too much going on, too much to balance, ended up with a nascent back issue yesterday but decided to give up the work for now and, along with the usual neglected stretches, was able to resolve it. Can't afford this with meals to be made, medical appointments to be kept, will probably reduce emphasis on the work for the week to come as well. Last week of the moon, typically not the best time for the work anyway. Not ideal but life is often not ideal, although it does seem that we are well past the level of functional stress, moving into dysfunction, the place where force spontaneously becomes the midwife, and I often wonder what purpose this serves. Still, as an individual, it is easier to accept a given fate rather than resist it. The key is to accept with gratitude, which is less easy, but clearly the point.

april 24

      Sunny week, some overcast with humidity later that has now cleared out, lots of blooming in the neighborhood, I love the big old azaleas in simple deep colours, sidewalks covered with cherry blossom petals, a lovely time here. The big news locally is that my significant other does not have to have an operation on her fifth metatarsal, whew. We ended up needing to go to a different doctor, a fracture specialist this time, he was pretty Zen and far less alarmist; took the cast off, put her in a foam boot. So, the first diagnosis was reversed, yet another example of very different versions of reality operating side by side at this point. It was also interesting to see how the process shaped itself based on who took her insurance, who could see her, etc.

       Week of the full moon, some nice things happened in the work although there wasn't a great deal of time for it: the full moon finds a way. Concentrated on one image, put these up along with the history of the image over the years.


      When I made the emulsified beeswax with potassium hydroxide soap it really intrigued me, an ancient material, used both in wall murals and the famous impastoed late mummy portraits. But I needed to do lots of tests first to see if it would yellow in conjunction with oil. Wax emulsified with ammonium carbonate does yellow, but was emulsified with soap doesn't as long as the soap is pure and isn't a linseed oil soap. In oil, this material is not like regular wax, less slide, more stickiness. Did a test this week of the damar beeswax stand oil medium with some of the emulsified beeswax added. Probably too much, the medium was like old rubber cement, but it actually still moved pretty well, dried with a gloss. We'll see, determining proportions is what tests are for. Wax of any kind of course is not established as a material in older painting, but comes on in the 18th century, recommended by Reynolds and used by the equestrian painter George Stubbs, whose work is in very good condition. Wax then becomes the stabilizer of 19th century paint, and is now morphing into a different type of medium, the cold wax approach to oil painting, as well as oil-less encaustic painting itself. Then there's the Cuni wax paint, a complex mixture that includes both oil and acrylic, and other wax-based temperas such as the Ceracolors by Natural Pigments. So, many options now for working with wax. The nicest thing about wax in oil in small amounts is that it helps the paint to dry brightly and remain bright in layers.

the history of an image

      Found an old photo of the first version of an image of Farr Cross Road in Vermont I've worked with now since 2000, when this was painted. The quality of this is sort of embarrassing, but it also illustrates the progress of the last fifteen years. About 20x24 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Second version of this image, started a decade or so ago. Still not quite done, a little inchoate at this point, the well known death of a thousand layers phase, but has been close several times, has a good structure. About 10x20 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Third version of this image, began it in 2008 or 2009 I think, larger, but also not quite done. Worked on this one this week after doing the images below. About 16x32 inches, oil on gessoed canvas over panel.


      Fourth version of this image, a few years old, smaller again, also not done, but with some interesting shifts. About 8x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Did this version this week using the medium with emulsified beeswax. Two layers, was a little discouraged after the first one, the usual issue of the difference in the medium distracting from the development of the image. But the second layer clarified it, there's something about this that I like. Not done but some better developments, more balanced tension between the space and what's in it. About 9.5x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper over canvas.


      So, went back to the longer composition and started this one on some linen I gessoed recently. Not done, the land sits better in the version above, but pretty far along for one layer for me. An unusual amount of concentration on one image this week, but it wanted to happen and was interesting on several levels. Simple palette for all of these this week: black, white, yellow ochre, trans Mars yellow, mix of Pyrol crimson and quinacradone rose, and cobalt blue. A simpler palette helps the colour to go deeper. A simpler life helps consciousness to go deeper. I still forget this, in some ways it was easier in Vermont, a quieter and simpler place by far, but it wasn't possible to appreciate it for that very reason. So, compared to the original image, this is more evolved technically, let's hope so! But it is also not so much a document as a search for a state of being. This process isn't about Vermont specifically, but about learning more about how consciousness interacts with individuality. About 11.25x20.5 inches, oil on gessoed linen.

april 17

      Yikes, what a week. Just into the second week of the moon, brisk and sunny week, some truly halcyon days that reminded me of the old summer in Vermont, warm in the day with a breeze, then cool at night. Anyway, was sick for all of it with a cold that came on last Sunday, and just won't go away. The cat watched over me a lot, propped up on my feet, this was pretty nice. Her markings have this great irregularity, the stripes waver, sometimes turn into lenticular spots. Similarly, there are places where the pattern features orange, not black-brown. The cold was sort of sneaky-virulent, or maybe I was over-confident about minimizing it and let it return. Once it was underway the best thing turned out to be strong fresh ginger tea with licorice root, this can actually taste good if it isn't too ginger-hot or licorice-sweet: a matter of proportion, as always. Then, a few days into the week, my significant other had a mishap and did something to her foot which, after some confusion and a visit to a local hospital that has come a long way since I was a kid, turned out to be a spiral fracture of the fifth metatarsal. This is now in a cast, needs surgery soon to heal correctly, and is supposed to entail a recovery period of a few months. We're working on a plan for just how to work with this this is interesting on several levels, a matter of proportion, as always but, between one thing and another, it may take a while to get back to painting again. I find it all fascinating, a branch of natural philosophy as Constable wrote in one of his letters, but have had to put it down before and know the signs. Life takes on a pattern, and the pattern begins to seem that seems immutable until it changes. The former frame of reference, conventions, protocols, are suddenly gone. Whether we mourn, rejoice, or anywhere in between, the only thing to do is work with the new situation and establish a new pattern. And then that pattern remains stable until it expires. As a way of working with or comprehending change, I've always been fond of the I Ching. As with any ancient cultural icon, there are lots of different ways to approach this, but I like the way the I Ching is based on the interaction of opposites, their interdependence, and the way that, in spite of what's going on, it's still up to us. Growing up in America, I was of course exposed to a lot of knee-jerk action-worship, the unexamined life as state religion, but this was balanced by going to a Friends school, where the ethic of a given action in relation to the whole of the community was always emphasized. The I Ching establishes a lot of elegant gray areas not now, possibly later; maybe now, not later as well as often counseling the memorable "action brings regret." At the same time, it has always been the uniquely human privilege to be profane in an otherwise sacred context. The context is in no hurry, it just waits.


      On Monday I could do some work and fiddled around first with this one, made it a little longer and altered the treeline. Still not close to done but it's better, am intrigued at highlighting the aspects of this that are important and letting go of the extraneous detail. At the same time, looking at this, I know it was made by someone who needs a rest. About 9x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper on canvas.


      Something that had stalled after a few layers because I just could not see what to do next. Finally found the missing colour that gave the key to the next step, this was the pinkish gray that often gives the atmosphere more density but is of course hard to see when it is everywhere. But life is about all the colours, and their interactions. Well: might be, can be. Not done but what happened gave it the type of presence I'd been looking for. This is sort of finishing from the inside out, which seems to work better for me. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      This had become on the cool side in the last layer, so warmed it up a little too much, with the idea of coming back with more cool on top. These layers don't take that long, have to do with keeping the colour alive as it develops. Still more crude than I'd like in a way that has been solved in the painting above, but at the point where it is beginning to be fun, each layer now will make it more interesting. This might be helped by a fine sanding: a little oil on it, then 400 or 600 grit, wipe really well and clean with a little solvent. This regularizes the topography a little and opens up the surface, but is a lot simpler on panels. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

april 10

      Colder week featuring a few inches of Kurosawa snow yesterday. Week of the new moon, the usual somewhat chaotic first day followed by more understanding incrementally of the latest delivery. Some good things happened in terms of the paint, this led an alla prima excursion and developments both good and equivocal in terms of the work itself. With another hundred years I might figure it all out, am still hoping to simplify the process as a result. But, a lot like walking my grandfather's dog as a kid, it's going where it wants to go, I just have to hold on. Sometimes this is easier than others. Having been taught by Quakers as a kid, I would sometimes like to explain, in great detail, why, yet again, none of this is going to ever work. But it also seems best to stay with the basic responsibility for my own happiness, let everyone else explore things their own way. Was sent a link to the world of classical music played on period instruments this week, this version of Beethoven Symphony no.6 was a favorite. The woodwinds and brass are especially different, a lot like older colours: not as bright, or as loud, as the modern versions, but with more character. I don't worship the culture of the past, it seems we all have to figure out how to be here now effectively. But there's a way in which the past offers a tremendous resource simply by being so different.


      Every four years we elect a new wizard. Perhaps the most expensive and inefficient process in the universe, with endless hoopla and wagging of the dog. And every four years I get a little exercised about this process too. Then I remember that it wasn't the wizard who got Dorothy home.


      New test panel, have been working with developing a medium based on commercial ingredients: the Kremer stand oil, damar, and wax. This has gone through several variations at this point, I'm working on making it looser while still being layerable and holding edges. It's interesting to chart the development of a process this way as well as on paper.


      Something I've been working on for a while that's almost done, it's getting that period instrument feeling. When things get to this point of being in the right emotional or psychological key it's a lot more fun to work on them. About 8x10 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Something that started out with a lot of paint, before I learned that oomph first isn't necessarily such a good idea. At last sighting I liked the general feeling but not the texture, sometimes evidence of process is interesting, sometimes it's intrusive. Decided to brighten up the colour scheme with slightly looser paint, this worked pretty well, was able to put a lot on. Still more to go with this one, but establishing the more paint approach again at another level was good. About 9.25x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      I'm not a die-hard fan of work in layers, did a lot of work outside in Vermont, also a lot of alla prima florals. This approach is more hit or miss for me, but has a quality I like when they work. So, decided to try the looser approach with an alla prima landscape. This type of image the long view, sun with lots of atmospheric recession has always been attractive, but an issue to execute, the first version of this went through a great deal to no avail. But, very occasionally one gets thrown a bone in terms of seeing the next step, it was just really clear what to do here. Made the paint even looser, but it worked for this approach. About 8.25x13.25 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Adjusted the paint to be more mobile but also hold, then tried another alla prima landscape. This one didn't work out as well in spite of having paint that was really cooperating. So, this part was a plus, the medium moved forward. But, as is so often the case for me with alla prima, the coach became a pumpkin again before my eyes. I think the issue was the usual one of not paying enough attention to the rhythm of the larger compositional chunks in the beginning: the detail became overwhelming quickly. So, did a lot of rescuing, and while the paint made this interesting the image also became a little caricatured. Still, there's something there, and it's often simple to develop this type of thing further if I let it rest a while. Will keep going with the alla prima approach, exploring this paradoxical loose but additive paint. But will try, once again, to honor its most basic principle and make sure the feeling works as an abstract set of shapes first. About 8.75x14.25 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

april 3

      Waning moon, a sunny, cold and blustery week that then featured one very warm day and quite a thunderstorm last night around midnight. Between one thing and another, was not able to get that much done this week, but didn't have that much to offer either. Made a small shift in the medium that I liked, the same stuff now works a few different ways with some small changes, this is fun. I used to try to solve things by understanding them, which I guess was basically a mental procedure, philosophical detective work. This had its moments but was also a defense mechanism, a way of trying to keep life at a distance. Given how crazy life has always seemed, well, human life anyway, this doesn't seem unreasonable. Except that it just didn't really work that well for living, it was too simple, too much was excluded. Now it seems that life is about an experience that is more total, that the emotional and physical axes are just as important as the mental, that it all has to be linked together: surprising similar, in fact, to the way red, yellow and blue operate in a painting. If asked, I always would have said oh yes of course, it's all equal, but growing up with essentially mental parents, who approved utterly of the mental approach, had a pretty skewed frame of reference. By being three dimensional, the combined approach is more spacious, contains more options, and therefore makes it easier to live naturally, that is, by emotional intuition. But it's also harder to talk about, since its process contains, but is not dominated by, the mental. I've encountered this a lot in painting over the years, not knowing why something has to happen until after the fact, so it's getting easier to just go with where it wants to take me. Experiencing it, without having to try to understand it first, which has turned out to be impossible anyway.


      I was always interested in the goofiness of cheese, its inherent comedy. This type of image has had a tendency to get a little edgy, a little detailed, which seems to preclude it developing in larger ways. so, am making an effort here to keep the specific detail somewhat vague, while enhancing the chromatic detail as much as possible. This seems to work better so far. About 11x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      The paint I'm working with now is really sequestering, that is, it dries up, covers what's beneath it. This is a little different for me but I'm getting used to it. Cleaned up several older landscapes this week, this one came out best, the entrance to a large pasture outside of Middlebury in Vermont. About 9.5x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A more recent start from Vermont, I always loved this particular view on Farr Cross, really belies the actually small scale of the area, but it hasn't been the easiest to work with. About layer four on this one, added a little more methyl cellulose paste to the medium for this, which made it more gluey, giving low overall impasto. Focused on more unity, less diversity, maximizing the feeling of the evening. More to go, but this went somewhere better. About 20x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      There are about six of these small paintings of this group of roses now in various states. Simplicity is fascinating, it has to contain complexity as well to be successful, but complexity refined. This one has taken a few layers so far, will probably take a few more to get the light the way I want it. About 8.5x11 inches, oil on gessoed linen.


      Some people have asked about Lily. She's good.

march 27

      Strange week of the full moon, started with snow that was visible in the streetlights, but melted before it hit the ground. About to be lovely all over here, the flowering goes on and on in April. Historically, I haven't done that well with disasters, mass shootings, terrorist attacks, etc., but this time it seemed clear that I just had to honor life, since the goal was to make me sad or fearful. I don't understand the appeal of guns or violence, like the disingenuous rhetoric of Donald Trump, this makes me ashamed. So, worked quite a lot, it felt a little manic around the full moon, that sometimes happens in the Spring anyway. Made an adjustment to the medium that created some surprising changes, see below. Otherwise, began to see that, if we define finished as a balance between unity and diversity, I had been stressing diversity too much, and need to move back towards unity. (More on unity and diversity below as well.) Another way of saying this is that I got confused by the difference between growing, and "getting better." This is sort of a fine line, like the difference between discernment and judgement. The personal search is one thing, and probably inevitable for most people, but the idea that it might have a goal besides learning is another. But of course we live in a world where the sacred and the profane are inextricably mixed, so it's really easy to get confused. I've wanted to give the process as much room as possible, but even so, often end up coercing it through sheer impatience. But it has demonstrated over and over that it grows, but only at a certain rate: that the growth is most reliable if it is organic, not forced. So, mundanely, everything this week got better, but nothing this week became finished, because the definition once again evolved, laughed, then scampered over the horizon.


      Have been working with a medium of thick oil, some that I've refined, some of the great Kremer stand oil, with a little damar and beeswax melted into it. Then it gets a little methyl cellulose mashed into it. This started out as an experiment about how to use commercial materials without solvent, but has kind of morphed into a world of its own as these things all too often do. This week added a drop of manila copal dissolved in spike lavender. This material creates a rejection gel with oil, instant seizure, it even makes stand oil stand up, which geeky confessions is always fun to witness. So I was hoping for a little more elasticity and density without getting into too much resin or solvent. I tried two drops, but one drop pictured here is enough. This material was surprising. I thought it would be more for broken surface work in small pieces, but it did a variety of styles, from loose to tight, from goopy to relatively fine.


      Years ago I made amber varnish, a hairy process but a fascinating material, eventually made it the colour of burnt sienna, not burnt umber. But after working with it for a while I ended up feeling it's potential to darken was too great. Have one remaining painting on panel made with amber and egg yolk, the egg yolk seems to have kept the value scale higher, but of course interferes with deeper saturation as well. There are also amber spirit varnishes, not that strong but possibly less yellowing, it dissolves to an extent in ethanol, this process takes a while and is in De Mayerne. Recently my friend Wim in Belgium reported that his friend Johan the Lutemaker was dissolving amber successfully in spike lavender. My friend Roland the Chemist in Belgium said, well, this is only going to be about 20% dissolution at most, but he tried it, and the results seemed interesting to me, a thin but thixotropic varnish is produced in a few weeks. So, it took me a while to get good spike lavender, I decided this might be important, and had to wait for some from Kremer. This stuff is pretty amazing, smells just like the plant, not like a vicious medication. Of course, it's still a toxic solvent, but the quality was encouraging. So, I took some of my old ground up flint amber, tried to get the finest stuff, put it in a half ounce bottle, about one fourth full, then filled it with spike with an eye dropper, then added a few pebbles to keep it from massing. The amber swelled to twice it's size overnight, and is acting more like a lava lamp than granules. This is much faster than a version of the process I tried earlier, with oil of rosemary. It will take at least a few weeks to see any real change, in theory it dissolves completely over several months. Although this happens with Manila copal, it would go against everything scientific that has ever been written about amber. Of course, as Roland pointed out, no one may have actually let it sit long enough. So, not necessary, but interesting, and perhaps part of the complex but intriguing amber story. Functionally, it may have the same effect as the Manila copal, causing heat-polymerized oil to seize.


      The Golden Ratio is expressed algebraically as (1+√5) and there's tons of interesting information on the way this is used throughout nature on the internet. But let's look at the way the ratio itself is generated. A circle is drawn from the midpoint of one line of a square. The square is then extended to incorporate part of the circle's radius. So, conceptually, the rectangle is created by integrating the opposites of the square and the circle. The square is stable, but also static, a rational, material if not quite profane symbol. The circle is mobile, about wholeness, the bigger picture, and irrational by virtue of containing pi. We can draw a finite circle, but mathematically, the figure refines itself without end. So, an interesting background aspect of the Golden Ratio as the foundation of many types of organic form and growth is the way it allows unity to manifest as diversity with integral harmony. Each chamber in the nautilus is larger, but based on the same proportions as the one that preceded it. So, by integrating geometric opposites, the ratio itself is a paradox: an infinite constant. From which, of course, we are all free to draw our own conclusions.


      Started a set of larger florals in Vermont just before coming back to Mt. Airy. The idea was to make work that had a more contemporary feeling in at least some ways. Visited three of them this week. This one was first, I thought the green of the earlier background would show up when the changes dried, but it didn't. So, not the best colours yet, and my camera cannot deal with that type of red, but it was fun to return to this scale. About 22x24 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      Second larger floral, had to adjust the left-hand peony, and it still needs a reasonable amount but was otherwise happy with the way the colour and space began to interact in this. About 22x24 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      Third larger floral, first one in the series, liked how the colour developed in this one as well, a little more lyrical without becoming brassy. All of these need more development, but a fun excursion. About 22x24 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      Recent start with more space around the object, third layer on this one. The goal is to keep the paint open as long as possible, to find finished without things becoming to tight.


      Something I started with a great deal of paint that has ended up with a sort of distracting impasto pattern. I put a saturating layer of oil on it as a prelude to grinding it back slightly, but may use it as a model for a larger one instead. It's gnarly, too big in the frame for me at this point, but I like the overall feeling and sense of colour. 9x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Something more recent that had paused because I didn't feel I could do what needed to be done next. It's sometimes hard to wait in these cases, but this was pretty straightforward to move forward with the most recent paint. 9x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      This one has been through some interesting changes: too much detail, too little, now at a balance that feels interesting. 9x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A small cheese that became a test bed for a lot of different approaches to this finer kind of style. It has become too warm, this layer brightened it and made it more cool. Still some issues, especially with the larger cheese on the right, but it has an overall feeling at this point that I like. 9x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Worked on this one two days in a row, the second day is always good for fine tuning things if the paint is open enough to allow it. Always liked this image, but it suffered from a beginning that fudged a few things, and it turned out I needed a bright warm yellow: not much, but some. Still a little more to go in some places, but like the overall feeling now as well: in some ways an "old" painting, in some ways a "new" one. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

march 20

      Sort of Spring here, some cherries and magnolia trees in bloom, but colder now, with a final snowstorm coming here or close today and tomorrow. Waxing moon, usually a good time for the work, focused on smaller landscapes, was able to move most of them forward. This often involved getting in, doing what I know or feel certain about, then getting out, rather than hanging on trying to finish it: the "trying" part tends to make stuff go sideways or backwards. Over time, the process keeps accruing more information about the relationship between colour, form, and atmosphere. Like red, yellow, and blue -- and so many other things in life and painting -- this is a triad, and three axes always establish a sphere in which to operate. This sphere, of course, is rolling through time, another axis, so the development of this process is pretty fascinating to follow. Years ago I thought I had to "do" things, but it turns out that making what wants to happen is enough, the changes are built into the process. One thing that's interesting about the Golden Section, and the other numbers of organic growth, is that they all contain an "irrational" element: that is, a number that isn't finite. This means that they are constantly refining themselves, and are, in essence, a paradox: a way of making a constant that is in fact alive. The creative process operates in a similar way: once activated, it just keeps going. So, while the work improves at a faster rate now than, say, five years ago, I remain unsure about what finished means, because this too has evolved. For a while I found this frustrating, but am no longer sure that this is a bug. In larger terms, it may well be a feature, because it prioritizes the creative life of the process. I mention this because modern life comes with a lot of distractions. As Burton wrote in The Anatomy of Melancholy, I hear new news every day, and probably a lot more than he did. But if this news is not generated by the creative process, what kind of life can it have? It attempts to be important, presents itself as "real," but blink and it has changed, or is gone. Where is the actual news? Within the sphere we generate through the creative process. This is ours for the taking, in the present moment, every day.


      After working with the most recent medium system for a few months, even bragging about this, decided to try something a little different. Am exploring some mediums made with commercial materials for the book, and wanted to get more depth and saturation from commercial paint. So, took the idea of the putty medium with a little damar and beeswax in it, dropped the stone dusts out, and used Kremer stand oil as the vehicle. This seemed like it might be a little leveling, a little vanilla, so added a little bit of methyl cellulose gel as well, the oil-water interaction made it more elastic. This stuff gets mixed into the paint before beginning, about one part medium to three parts paint. I liked this as an all-commercial approach, but have already made another version that balances the stand oil with some auto-oxidized hand-refined linseed oil, this is less leveling. More to learn about this approach, may increase the density with chalk a little for smaller, more detailed work but this medium increased the chroma and overall depth: what it was supposed to do.


      Started here with the newer medium, image of the Lemon Faire in Vermont, a spot next to a semi-defunct dairy farm I was fascinated by when I lived in Middlebury. This has been close for a while, recently decided to add some clouds from another location, later in the afternoon, sometimes an empty sky is just too empty. The chroma came up significantly in this layer as expected, although it's more attenuated than it is in this smaller JPEG: not brighter or duller, just more. I liked the way the medium performed but it was more prehensile than I thought it would be, without actually layering. Might try adding a little bone ash to release it a bit. I guess a little BPO might work too, but this is harder to control, I'll try the bone ash first. About 11x14.5 inches, oil on Arches Huile over panel.


      Another version of the same place, earlier in the summer, not as finished, a crunchier beginning, really liked working on this but it dried sort of oddly compared to the one above, this seems to happen up to a certain point with these. The gessoed panel is the most difficult surface for me, but I like the way they look in the end. About 11.5x15.5 inches, oil on gessoed panel.


      Farr Cross in Vermont, evening in May, lots of intense greens at this time of year. Not that many layers, just beginning to get the right feeling. About 9x14.5 inches, oil on Arches Huile on panel.


      Small study of the same spot, a little more advanced, working on the balance of light and air, the last layer was a little dim, this one is a little vivid. There's a larger one of these, the smaller ones always help with the progress of the larger ones. About 8x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Small Italy study from my Gere Collection, the middle distance still needs work but the best this one has been. 9.5x13.5 inches, oil on Arches Huile over canvas. About time to put this on a panel.


      The last few summers I was in Vermont featured some really humid skies, have a small one of these that worked, this is one of several other variations. Had been nibbling at it, this is sort of a breakout layer, changed the sky a lot, in fact a little too broken up now. This type of layer seldom finishes the image but does get it going in a better direction. About 10x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Something very old that surfaced in the most recent studio excavation, it was never finished, had gotten dinged a bit, decided to clean it up. This will take a few more layers, but is fun to revisit. 11x22 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Began the week with one of the larger starts, on the most recent batch of linen. Was happy with the overall feeling of this, especially in the sky. I'm fascinated by the small painting -- the only person in the Western hemisphere? -- but a week is enough, in spite of everything I've tried with the paint, they're still a little finicky for me. Will go back to this scale and this image in the week to come. Aboiut 13x21 inches, oil on gessoed linen.

march 13

      New moon last Tuesday, a relatively gentle one in terms of demands, but with lots of energy. Had a good week doing layers with the most recent putty, it's interesting to use the same system again for weeks instead of days, I don't see this one needing to change much at this point but of course you never know. Some warmer days, Spring is getting ready here, a few earlier trees in bloom. Easy to work, lots of things that are getting closer to done, but also easy to overdo it a little bit. Started work on something Saturday morning and resurrected an older landscape start. But could feel I was pushing it and took the rest of the day off.


      For a while I've been resurrecting older work with the newer medium approach, basically a damar and beeswax putty. This is somewhat complex in terms of the time involved, since they've resisted completion for a reason, but I also find hanging on, again and again if necessary, to be interesting. Also, when I read that there were over fifty sittings recorded for the model of Manet's Le Bon Bock, it vindicated the bulldog approach somewhat. Recently this has been more fun because the changes tend to stay changed now, not dry down. But after grinding this peony down I kind of lost heart. On the one hand, it had been close several times, has pretty nice colour going, easy to see what to do. On the other, I'm just not as interested in the object pushing at the edges anymore. So, instead of doing it over, decided to start a new one and see what would happen.


      Two thin layers on the new one here. Much more to go but I like the overall feeling of this one better, mostly because the stage itself now has identity and dimension, giving the viewer more space. But it also gave me some ideas for changing the first one again. I like this type of thing, the process accruing more information about how to move forward. Both are 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Another new beginning this week with two layers on it. Reversal of the peony in terms of using brighter colours, a tighter approach, and more paint. An image I've always been fascinated by, not bad so far but getting the air is critical and this typically takes time. Am learning that, in terms of landscaping these, it's better to leave stuff out and put it back in later if it's called for. Wondered if this might become too predictable on linen, did it on gessoed Arches 300 lb watercolour paper instead, this stuff is like boilerplate, might work for this scale mounted on panel. Farr Cross, about 10x20.5 inches.


      Worked on the watermelon again after a rest, with simpler images this is often the only way for me not to get hypnotized by what has gone before, and see what might happen next. Same medium in the paint, just used with a little more oil. I wanted this to be painted in a way that would transcend it's pop obviousness. Getting closer, the stage where it becomes really fun to do more to them. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      I always liked inverting the sumptuous floral, then realized it might be possible to be sumptuous in a more moderate way. Version four of this one I think, this one has been close for a while, have learned a tremendous amount from working on this particular image. Pretty close, I think more might be possible without too much issue, would like it to be a little more finished in certain areas that are still a bit fudged. Maybe this doesn't matter, it'll tell me if it does or not next time. The part I'm really looking forward to is starting a somewhat larger version based on what I've learned here. About 11.5x12 inches, oil on gessoed panel.


      Last image of the week, one of the last starts from when I lived in Vermont. It had some ranging layers on it, but was a little subfusc, decided to go for more in the way of colour and light and see where it would land. I was a little tired, could feel a few times that I was doing the right thing but it wasn't quite registering. So, this will take a few more layers still but it was nice to see how much I've learned in the last few years about developing the structure of something like this. The happy ones have always been the hardest to figure out, a lot of competition to unify. A little too happy now, a little too modern, but that's easy to fix. Farr Cross, early corn in June, about 11x20.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.

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