Tad Spurgeon oil paintings
Numenist, anachronist, maroon.


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A weekly look at process and work in progress.

november 22

      Not really cold yet, but getting there slowly. Waxing moon, a lot of new stuff happened. Gave a workshop at Golden in New Berlin at the request of their very knowledgeable technical director, Sarah Sands, who has had a copy of Living Craft now for several years. This invitation was a great compliment, and turned out to be very fun, details below. Did get some work done, feeling my way into some new things, and then went to New York yesterday on various errands but also saw a Morandi show. So, much more than usual in the way of activity and juggling, have a feeling somehow that 2016 will bring more of this. Don't feel confused about the work, just in transition somewhere I like better but was never able to access before. In too much of a hurry? It has been difficult to slow down in a culture that has become dedicated to inducing panic at every possible level. Yet, the sun keeps rising and shining. Will keep doing my best, but may not be able to get too much done again this week due to Thanksgiving: a holiday I like, but the beginning of the most challenging period of the year for the work. Just have to be patient until Jan 2, 2016.


      The area outside Oneonta is small farms on rolling hills. The Golden factory is up on a hill outside New Berlin. This is a photo of the artist residency barn they made next door, this is a lovely area! The Golden story started when Sam Golden retired upstate from making paint in NYC, he had made Bellini, then the Magna colours. But retirement didn't apparently work too well for Sam, and he ended up making a water soluble acrylic paint in his barn. Thus, bit by bit, the company began. Now the factory is pretty large, with over two hundred employees, and pretty spotless, they do a great deal of quality control and testing, it was a really impressive tour. One thing that was clear from the visit is that they are always interested in improving their products. You can read more about Williamsburg specifically here. They also put out a really well-done technical bulletin of their own called Just Paint. There is an unusual level of acumen and honesty in some of these articles from technical director Sarah Sands, take a look at "Beauty and the Best."


      I gave a talk to the technical staff on Monday and Tuesday mornings, a mix of the folks that work directly with the formulation of the paints and those who answer technical questions from customers. We made some SRO linseed oil, everybody had their own jar, this was really fun for me to share, mostly I talk about this with people online. I explained what I'd found out about processing the oil by hand, and making paint with it. This can get sort of geeky, but that's what they're about too, so we had fun with the material. Here's a sample of their Pompeii Red made with a pre-polymerized oil mix. They were very interested in the elastic rheology of this paint, and the depth of saturation. They were also interested in various ways they might be able to process their own cold-pressed oil. I became a little discouraged about talking about the materials to students when I was teaching, it was often more than they could handle, or were even interested in. But this was a group that was more in tune with the material, could see how it might be applied to product development in the years to come. So, hopefully a fruitful visit for all concerned


      After hearing and seeing that the stabilizer in Williamsburg is beeswax, wanted to try it out as an alternative to Blockx. The system of modern paint additives is very sophisticated, but may well introduce long term issues to the paint film. Beeswax, on the other hand, is a great paint film material in small amounts. I had worked with the Williamsburg paint years ago, and became very involved with their Italian earth colours, eventually buying those as pigment as well. The paint is significantly more evolved now. Still on the dense side, and nothing added but a little beeswax, but more consistent, and more elegant to work with. I know the Blockx paint pretty well at this point in terms of its strengths and weaknesses, so this was venturing into something pretty new. But after a little confusion at first, I got used to working with the Williamsburg paint. The most noticeable difference was the higher level of pigmentation. Even with the earth colours this was apparent, but the behavior of something like Quinacradone Red was really different. This is a decided positive for me, because I like to be able to add a medium in a specific amount -- a quarter to a third of the paint volume -- to adjust the behavior of the paint. Lots of subtle differences in the colours themselves, even within the relatively small parameters of known colours this added up to a sense of something new happening on the palette, which is always fun, basically what I'm interested in from the process. So, a lot to like so far, will be looking further into how this paint operates in the weeks to come.


      One thing they are very big on at Golden is documenting materials. And I totally agree! All the white paint samples in the upper left of this photo will not be quite so white in a year. All the medium samples that look so pale will have darkened somewhat. Which blue and green will remain the brightest? The information from tests provides solid information over time, allows the pattern of the way the materials age to be studied more closely.


      Visited the Morandi show at David Zwirner in New York yesterday, took the train and walked down the Highline on a sunny morning. Not a huge show, but a good variety, Morandi was a huge influence for me in the 80s, but I was living in Vermont and never thought I'd get to see any of them in person. These were mostly from the 50s, one series of four of the same set of objects in various configurations, a few that were less successful in terms of the paint itself, it was interesting to me that the one I liked least was on a commercial canvas, the paint had no life. Lots of strong compositions and subtle technical variations, it seems like he kept it simple but tried lots of variations in terms of the linen and the consistency of the paint. Looking at these, painted simply and carefully, but never varnished, it was clear that saturated paint worked out better over time than unsaturated paint in terms of maintaining the original relatively close shifts in value and temperature. One of my favorite ones here, a meaningful lullaby, elegant sense of colour and space in the original, asymmetrical but not consciously daring, the peek at the famous blue and white striped vase on the right is really nice. A relatively large one, maybe 15x17 inches or so.


      Second layer on the shell from last week, mostly worked on the accuracy of the shell itself, the sense of volume in the space and the object. A little further along. This may take several more passes, but that's okay, I don't want to copy it as much as become it, this seems to happen when it wants to. About 9.5x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A second thin layer on the cup from last week, still sort of inchoate but want to try building into edges more, rather than defining them and fighting those definitions.


      Another development layer on the recent peony start, made a series of corrections that helped, added some more actual colour. Maybe too much, will think about how to soften this a little more for the next layer. Have realized that it works better to do what is natural in a layer, rather than making that extra effort to get beyond what I know. This keeps the paint thinner, allows things to be adjusted more easily. At some point this will get thicker paint, but not yet. 11x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A rose from earlier in the year that had stalled after several layers of adjustments. It seemed too fragmented so I pulled it together with a more juicy layer. Not done, but better than it was, on its way somewhere more interesting. About 9.25x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Another one that had stalled, not quite done again, but revived, headed somewhere. Used a medium this week made up of commercial materials, a mix of damar, beeswax and stand oil, melted together then turned into a putty with thinner oil, chalk and fumed silica. Will probably try another version of this next week, leaving the stand oil out and using some polymerized SRO linseed oil instead. This will hold more, and dry faster. There are certain materials it is difficult to make peace with: stand oil and titanium white are still hard for me. Same size, about 9.25x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

november 14

      Another shorter week, more seasonal and overcast. While out and about, had a few of those really strong memory moments of being here as a child. Spent a lot of time this week getting ready for an upcoming two day materials workshop. I've wanted to do this for some time, sort of a live version of the book, so have been getting some presentation thoughts organized, and packing what feels like the whole studio. One thing I've noticed about the craft, and about which correspondents often comment, is that the materials get pretty personal. I taught for ages, so explaining things isn't the issue, it's the very personal nature of what I have to explain, the fact that the materials, and the system they make, has been handmade, and necessarily to my specifications. So, to me, this assortment of jars, bottles, and tubes matters. And this is of course its strength as an approach, the work is personalized from the ground up. But this is not exactly part of the contemporary frame of reference about painting. So I'm very aware of the need to establish a functional interface with the group. Not lecture, not even instruct, but explain. New moon last Wednesday, some very new energy arrived, but just had a chance to start two little ones.


      Something simple that I knew would be challenging, but couldn't resist. Decided to just do the first layer in earth colours, try to get the essence of it, rather than getting fussy about details, those can come later in richer, more elastic paint. It's about what I wanted at this point, the shapes, colours, and feeling in the ballpark, but nothing too adamant. About 9.5x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Another simple one that's been asking to be made. Late light, a slightly brighter palette using blue, got a little confused by how to handle the cup but rectified everything. Decided to let the cup be more loose at this stage, I often try this but this time it worked better. Just looking for the essence again, this is not that hard, actually, but involves resisting the siren song of the detail. This is on an oil ground with sand and starch in it, interesting fine stucco texture but not that easy to cover. About 9.5x 12 inches, oil on panel.

november 8

      Another unseasonably mild week, a few disorienting days, lost the famous sun for a few days, but back to bright and moderately cool now. Last week of the moon, new moon in a few days, didn't have the most oomph, a function of this time of year to some extent as well, between Thanksgiving and New Years is historically not the most fruitful time for the work, can feel it beginning already. A time of year not to struggle relentlessly, but to pick one's battles carefully. Some good things happened, mostly layers in still life work but also another layer on last week's landscape start.


      A project I return to now and then is making a medium with readily available commercial ingredients that could be used in a classroom as part of a solvent-free approach. Tried another version of this idea here, a loose version of an outdoor painting of Button Bay on Lake Champlain done a while back. It's always a mixture of fun and frenzy trying something new for the first time, by the time I actually understand what the medium is about, it's often too late for that particular layer. So, sort of dorky, neither fish nor fowl, probably not worth another layer anytime soon but an interesting vacation. What happened with this one has suggested a refinement of the formula, the most important part. About 9.25x12 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      A recent start, this has gone around in some pretty tight circles, a little warmer this time, got the flower itself to another level. More to go, and not sure what, but in a fun place to work on further. About 11x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Something older that found new life this week, this type of resurrection is rare, always one of my favorite things. Many small things contributed to this going awry, finally saw it and was able to fix most of them. A little on the soft side now with the colour, but have learned to let this go temporarily in favor of a greater sense of cohesion or unity. About 14x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Third layer on this apple, getting a better sense for how much can and can't happen each time with these, the important thing seems to move it forward without letting a given conception or set of perceptions overreach itself. This is a pretty tricky place. I met a really good painter a few years ago on a trip to the Gardener, we were talking about the Mancini there, and, after saying it just didn't make that much sense to her, she hastily added that she knew it was really well painted, and that she had a tendency to get above herself. Well, I could see what she meant about the Mancini, a pastoral portrait that manages to be pretty disturbing, and said that maybe what bothered her was that the technique had gotten above itself. We are always attracted to certainty, but what if the certainty is not really being applied in the service of anything larger? It might as well be a Brillo box, which, at this point, it often is. Anyway, it seems important in developing these to make sure that each stage contains the possibility that its impetus may need to be recalculated, making the decisions, but allowing that they will need to be refined. This is paradoxical, and hopelessly inefficient, but that makes me feel it's probably a good approach. About 10x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Layer seven on this one, it's developing a nice sense of space and volume through the interaction of the colours in the layers. There's a version of this that capitalizes on its humor and graphic strength, but it seemed more interesting to go further. More to go but this is becoming fun to puzzle out further. About 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Layer two on the beginning from last week, the ground was slightly absorbent so I used the exact same medium in the paint, this was straightforward although it was a little surprising that it didn't dry up more. Easy to fix now that I know it, drying down in layers seems almost impossible to truly eliminate without egg yolk, but to me this look is not ideal in other ways. One of my favorite locations, also one that has proven pretty complex to figure out. There have been several versions of this image, but this one seems like it will work out. Am excited to finally have a deeper understanding of how to transform the concept into a painting, in spite of having painted outside for a long time this process contained levels of complexity that were surprising. Will keep going with this, try to remember to add sparkle, but not to overreach, in the next layer. About 11.25x15.25 inches, oil on gessoed panel.

november 1

      Mild week, fall moving on but still some great colour in places, especially at the arboretum. More of that moody indigo feeling to the twilight, beginning to feel more like winter might actually arrive at some point. Third week of the moon, had to take a rest for a few days. Got going a little fast last week, although November tends to be this way compared to other months, a time to pause more in general. It's always interesting when the work says it's time to stop. There's a little guilt. Years ago this even used to make me sort of panicked, a kind of cosmic judgement, no more art for you! But have learned it's always in the best interests of the process itself. There's something awry, something that needs to be examined more closely. You would think at this point that I'd be confident that I "see it all," but the reverse is true, in fact the cornerstone of the process. There's always more to see, always more to find, and, because life is so detailed, this can get relatively fussy, a Princess and the Pea situation where what's wrong is small but will drive me crazy until I fix it. But sometimes the process asks for a look at the bigger picture, and there's more of a pause. The expert sees more, but perhaps only of what he wants to see. The beginner sees more in terms of the original possibilities. So, let's back out and begin again. What this process always helps me realize, (of course until I forget it again), is that it's easy to get going too quickly, and miss things that are important. These things are occurring at a different speed, therefore a different wavelength. So, if I'm going too fast, they're effectively not there. In his journal Delacroix gets pretty exercised in several places about things going too fast: he is talking about trains, and clipper ships. It's easy to think this is quaint, that we are so much more technologically aware, battle-hardened, but what if this is simply our the intellectual hubris of a bunch of over-caffeinated white men? What if the reality of more speed is that it makes it really simple to miss the larger point? Of a day, a week, a month, a life? What if what we say we want -- peace, justice, prosperity -- is simply not on the wavelength we've established as a culture? How could that possibly be explained when outrunning uncomfortable explanations is a basic societal intent? The general mayhem was easier to resist when I lived in Vermont, there was more tacit cultural support, but this seems more necessary here. I guess this is the old tension between doing and being, that both are needed for balance. Doing is exciting, but last week I got a little too excited by a nice development, wanted to make fifty more of them right away. But that trick never works, the process retreats, and I ended up sort of confused by the end of the week. So, had to back out and come in again, more gently or organically, and this in fact worked out pretty well. Have been doing some odds and ends of reading: someone wrote that Albers disagreed with the use of colour in older painting, but this isn't really what he said. Still, its odd that this book is used to teach painters, who are always dealing with paint, the material that Albers (part III) makes clear is too complex for the study of colour. There's something about this approach that bothers me, controlling colour in order to understand it better, like "controlling" the frog in order to dissect it. But, control is what the mind likes. Also ran into a copy of On Not Being Able to Paint, by Marion Milner, a book I'd always wanted to look at. This was also somewhat odd, an example of something I experienced often as a teacher: someone with a large verbal brain who is both intrigued by, and resistant to, the fact that painting could care less. She wanders around a lot being hypercritical of everything she does in what seems like a typically English way, but begins to get out of the woods eventually, deciding in fact that it should not be art for art's sake, but art for life's sake, which of course I can agree with. It's also nice to know that people are more accustomed now to the old-fashioned idea, so totally marginalized for most of the 20th century, that painting might need to be studied before it becomes a reliable avenue for creative expression.


      The medium has been going through some interesting changes, in general it's all working out in terms of making work that is, and remains, brighter without recourse to titanium white, but this makes me want to have some kind of record to see what in fact works out best over time. So have been doing another panel of medium variations. In six months to a year this will be much more interesting.


      Like many painters interested in the materials, I spent some time exploring a gel made with fumed silica and oil, a version of this made with safflower oil was marketed by Utrecht in the 80s, there are several variations available commercially now. Fumed silica itself is most readily available from a boat supply place, it's used to thicken epoxy. It's something to work with wearing a mask, it looks like fake snow, and flies around very easily. Fumed silica tends to make things slide, better maybe for a larger scale or more rococo approach. In general I found that it worked best in conjunction with chalk, this reins it in somewhat and eliminates any tendency to yellow. But recently it occurred to me that I'd never made a version of it using the slightly thicker auto-oxidized hand-refined linseed oil. So, as is the recent case with making paint, this oil makes a surprisingly dense but mobile product. Decided to tube this gel at this tighter consistency, it can easily be mixed in small amounts with other mediums, or relaxed with a little additional oil.


      Jar in which I let some hand-refined linseed oil thicken. This oil had been in the light for four years, there's a little colour to the dried film but not much.


      Have been liking the way the medium has been developing, but it occurred to me that the alternative, especially historically, was a system that incorporated egg yolk on panel. So, made an egg yolk-thicker oil emulsion with a little bit of larch balsam in it. This actually has a pretty reasonable shelf-life in a tube, even more if refrigerated or maybe with a little spike added, but decided to see if I could cook the yolk slightly in the manner of a creme anglaise or avgolemono for more longevity. Put the emulsion in a ban marie, but the amount of steam generated was too much, ended up curdling it slightly, first photo. Except, the thermometer didn't read that high, and when I mashed the emulsion with a knife, there was nothing too separate or granular. So, added a little chalk and fresh starch gel to it, this brought it back together, second photo. Not ideal, too many variables, an example of how I'd like to explore the materials more but am running out of mortal coil. Will complete the one study with it just to see what happens.


      Used the egg medium for this image, it behaved pretty normally although the medium test is drying with a little fracture. Somewhat too much glide for me, added some chalk in the process to tighten it. A great deal of latitude, a great many chances, egg yolk always makes the paint more discrete, very small shifts hold without drying down. Still, pretty gunky and unresolved, might have been better to have removed paint in the interests of yet another iteration, but, as is often the case, I became more interested in exploring the additive behavior of the paint than in completing it. More interested in mood than detail, can see a few different things to try next, will keep going with the same medium and see what happens. Sometimes it's important to learn what not to do first. About 8.75x12.25 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      First image after taking a rest, did close to the same thing as the Cape May study from last week except put it on a panel that had a slightly absorbent ground. So, the paint stuck more, making it a little lumpier, but in a way this is better for the beginning. The palette has some elements of older painting, some of Impressionism, and a modern red, as always the goal seems to be in several different frames of reference at once. A place in Vermont I was really interested in, an image I've done several versions of, nothing has been more challenging than the "happy" landscape. As is often the case, the newest one solves something about the older ones. Will keep going with this, but like where it is for layer one. About 11.25x15.25 inches, oil on gessoed panel.


      An older image, the first version of this had become hopeless, under these circumstances there is a strange sense of relief in beginning again. I often used to try to muscle through these, but after a while always ended up wanting more from the flower itself, like my version was simply not in the same league as the original. Which of course makes sense, but for me "copying it" is not the answer either. Decided to go slowly, use thin paint in layers for as long as it took to get the feeling right. Earth colours and a little nickel titanium, will probably keep going with this palette as long as possible. A nice break from work that is more do or die, although of course that decision will come at some point with this one as well. I'm bugged by the amount of texture in this set of panels, this is a function of the linen itself being more unevenly woven. Will go back to something smoother, but hopefully with a little more character as well. 11x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

october 25

      Fall finally happening here, some really lovely colour out there, on the quieter side in some ways, but lots of subtlety. There are some big old Japanese cherry trees around here, their leaves become an amazing array of softer yellows, oranges, and reds on the pavement, the endless creative profligacy of nature. Second week of the moon, a lot of energy for the work, this can be a double-edged sword, or produce an overly sanguine attitude, not always possible to complete things with oomph alone as you'll see. Took a trip to Cape May last weekend, the original seashore resort in New Jersey, that was fun, had never been there, lots of older buildings, a little snooty about itself but then so was Vermont, nothing like a beach town once everyone's gone. Then heard Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya last night, he's 81 at this point, what an amazing pianist, composer and arranger, an accessible but deep and mystical musical vision. In theory this is jazz but have never heard anything quite like it in terms of fusion of idioms, many chord progressions that sounded like hymns as well. Interesting to think about getting older in these terms, this was someone I really admired. Back at the ranch, the work was a little disorganized this week, juggled some very different things with mixed results, learned something good but have not figured out yet how to integrate it.


      The ancient Greek four colour palette, the tetrachromatikon of black, white, yellow, and red, really intrigues me, both functionally and as a metaphor. There are two positive colours, yellow and red, and two negative colours, white and black. There are two light colours, white and yellow, and two dark colours, red and black. Working with this type of palette tends to develop more accurate mixing by temperature, because there's no choice. These colours line up with the Greek four element theory, then make their way into the four humours of medieval medicine, again based on Greek ideas. Burton goes into the four humours in The Anatomy of Melancholy, although he of course focuses on melancholy itself, causes and cures. Ran into this image from the 50s this week, the cross of matter in the circle of spirit, the astronomical symbol for the earth derived from early astrology. The phlegmatic humour is illustrated as green but it's white in older examples. The interesting thing about , Similar to the Five Element theory of Chinese medicine, the humours all have positive and negative attributes. The example is interesting because it's not really balanced, sanguine is far more positive as an attribute than melancholy. But, perhaps with the exception of Donald Trump, we all have experience with the results of over-confidence. In Plato, Socrates states that the unexamined life is not worth living: this type of reflection is necessarily a function of the phlegmatic or melancholy humours. The larger idea is for the humours to exist in balance, yet that balance is always personally defined, and necessarily dynamic in time. This of course is exactly how colour works in realism, its elements need to be balanced to create a believable illusion, but the balance is always personal. A Chardin is not a Caravaggio is not a Canaletto, but all convince on their own terms.


      The beach has a lot of different faces, these photos were taken on a walk from downtown Cape May to the park on the point. This is a very interesting area with a bird sanctuary and some Nature Conservancy trails in addition to the park itself. Just another amazingly beautiful day on an amazingly beautiful planet.


      Couldn't resist making a study from one of the beach images, this took most of a day but I ended up liking it. There's always more to see with something like this, I'd tweak a few things, but one of the things I've noticed about Monet in particular is that sometimes he lets something stand, even though more might happen. There were a few poplars like this at the show this summer, and they were really interesting to me. This has a nice flickering quality in life, the paint was just right for the subject, asking for more from this would put it through quite a loop. So I'm just going to move on, maybe do a larger version of this at some point after getting to know it better. About 10x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper. Tried to do a second beach study the next day, but it didn't work out, was in too much of a hurry to get it finished. But this approach feels like something to pursue.


      An image I'd always liked that had become a little dark and contrasty. This is not the easiest thing to fix but I thought I'd learn more by doing it than avoiding it. So, something lost but something greater gained, when the initial conception loses its appeal there seems little choice but to develop it. About 13.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Then decided to do some things that were less do or die and put layers on some recent still life work. This watermelon had a really nice quality in the second layer, this is layers five, getting back to that place but with more depth. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A similar layer on the jellyroll, layer four, making small adjustments each time, building the overall sense of the colour bit by bit. It gets hard to see what's really going on with these after a while, thought I had fixed the table line but it's still out of wack.


      Wanted to see if I could use the approach of the beach study on a still life, picked an image from the peony series above, thought this might help resolve the one in progress. Got going too fast on this one again, pushed and pulled it around a great deal looking for resolution. Decent sense of the light, but otherwise unresolved. The paint was rich, interesting behavior but not really layerable: which is always helpful for something like this to work in one sitting. This type of paint would work nicely, though, over a lean and accurate underpainting. Perhaps the colour was too literal, the object to too big in the frame. A lot of painters have developed functional conventions for making flowers more essential, but I always get fascinated by their swirling organic architecture, probably best to accept that at this point! Like the image, and learned level one about it, but it's probably not worth continuing on this version. Let it rest, then start over at a larger scale on panel, a little more carefully, at some point. About 10.5x13 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

      So, a little more chaotic than I'd like this week, but some interesting new information to balance and integrate into the process.

october 16

      An early update, am going away for the weekend, a long overdue few days at the beach. The Jersey shore often gets put a specific cultural pigeonhole, but there's a lot of variety there on several levels. It won't be warm, but it will be empty, and it will still be the beach. Cooler here at last, a great relief after four months of rotisserie, lots of interesting colour happening in the neighborhood gardens. Week of the new moon, this is sometimes a little chaotic but not that bad this time, had lots of energy but decided to mostly concentrate on work in progress, make that new. This is mostly a matter of fine tuning the medium now, have something I like the look of, but it's on the thin or literal side, am working on making it a little denser for certain images. Did get one new start in, like this but am not sure what's next for it I guess that's why they call it process! It was fun to know the answer in fourth grade but now it's more interesting to be puzzled, at the edge of knowledge. My favorite thing is to wake up in the middle of the night and think, "Oh. Duh!" I'd like to get more efficient at completing work again, but not if it means making the same painting for the next two decades. I know this is often called style, or even great success, but it makes me pretty nervous. How did painting become a high-end commodity, when it is capable of so much more in terms of cultural vivification? There are some relevant thoughts about the vital role of real art in the maintenance of real culture in an unusually precient book called The Principles of Art by R.G. Collingwood.


      Third layer on this singular heirloom apple, a Sweet William. Trying to keep the detail subordinated to the sense of the painting as a whole. I like the way simple things highlight every aspect of themselves, but this doesn't seem to make them easy. On its way, I keep thinking about Moroni's painting, The Tailor in relation to this. Will need a few more layers to get the balance of positive and negative colour right. About 10x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      The surface of this was too active, had to grind it back a little, this always reveals some of the white of the ground as small dots. Put a relatively opaque layer on this to conceal these, don't love the colour right now but that's what the next layer is for. The linen itself has a lot of irregular texture within it that becomes accentuated on the panel. I'd like to use linen with a little tooth on this, rather than portrait linen. But each time I think I've solved the surface issue, something else comes up. Not a huge deal, but something I'd like to really solve. About 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      The second layer on this was kind of a disaster, tried to accomplish too much and ended up with a paint that was too goopy. Let it dry, ground it back, then put layer three on it, here. Still a little bit literal, but pretty far along for me at this stage. 12.5x20 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Something older, an image from Schoodic Point in Maine, wild blueberries and granite, felt like I'd walked into a Sierra Club calendar. Closer. About 10.5x22 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      An image that has been close to done for a while, these are always the most fun to work on. Closer, like the flowers, but what's around them still needs a little help. About 9x11 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Yesterday. Wanted to start a floral with a slightly different feeling. A little more space, a little different approach to the colour. Have been starting these in thin paint, but used a lot of calcite and some really old lead white in this for something denser. Still incorporating grays in the opening, but a little less this time. Closer than usual at this stage, but did spend most of the day on it. Could not solve the table line, it seems somehow at odds with the rest of the image. At one point I worked with a more additive system on an absorbent ground, these were not that consistent but the best of them were done in a day. Have more understanding now, might return to that system at least somewhat, see how much can happen in layer one. At the same time, this is all relative to the intent. This image seems psychologically, if not literally, finished. We'll see if that ends up being a plus. About 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

october 11

      Last week of the moon, sort of a tougher one in terms of feeling positive. If you've been here more than a few days, you know what this is about. There are signs, needing more caffeine to function is the most telling, and of course never works. One of the things I read in some channeled book long ago was that the soul chooses to examine its lessons for a given life in what may strike those of us living them as unreasonable detail. We live out a given situation from an unusual number of angles, in an incredible number of iterations or permutations. It feels like we're a broken record, but the soul wants to feel like it has the whole picture. So, it was unsurprising that this week again required a great deal of patience. But Fall is finally underway here, cooler in the morning and evening. Got out to the arboretum yesterday for a long walk, used to think of this as canned nature but it's a obviously a pretty beloved spot, at this point I'll take what I can get in terms of escape from the intense human clatter of the city. There's some giant spreading Asian maple tree there, massive root system, elegant spreading canopy, that really seems like a wise old being, someone you'd love to talk to. There's a small pond that is a little wilder, saw a doe there, they have such an innate nobility as a species, also much larger than the deer in Vermont. Wanted to start new work this week, odd, not the easiest time for this, and ran into diminishing returns with the energy involved, but the work came out decently. New moon tomorrow, something definitely wants to happen, can feel it already, maybe all the guns in America will turn into butterflies.


      A white paint experiment, making lead white this summer was fascinating but I realized it wasn't going to be practical in the long run for a number of reasons. There's no ideal white, lead is the best if it's stack process, but it's also toxic. Zinc has a lovely optical quality as well, but gets brittle, is a bad idea on canvas, might be possible on panels. Titanium is very strong, very white, easily creates an opaque, pastel look that I cannot abide. A lot of people are looking for a new white pigment, there are several candidates, I wish I could get some zirconium carbonate, this is the one I'm most interested in because both lead carbonate and calcium carbonate behave so well in oil. Anyway, went back to the idea of cutting titanium white with chalk this week, used some thicker oil in the mix and this helped produce a more elastic paint, which I liked. Still, this is awfully white for me.


      Technical art history often finds "heat-bodied" oil in older paintings, they found this in every sample of several Titian paintings recently. Made some oil in the last few weeks for 2 hours at 200C, higher than usual for me, avoided the dreaded cooked oil look but did not love the feeling of this but it does make drawing with the paint really straightforward. Decided to mix it one to one with an auto-oxidized oil, thickened just in the air, and make paint with this. So, slightly thickened oil, half of which is thermally polymerized, half of which is auto-oxidized. Made a few tests of paint with this, orange ochre here. The oil and piugment mix appeared very dense, then fell apart when mulled. I then added more pigment and went through the process again. This this two times, felt that more might make paint that was not that mobile. So, much more wetting ability with a thicker oil, much more pigment in the paint by volume of oil. This may help explain some thin highlights in lead white that have remained opaque for centuries. The mediums I'm using now contain small "aqueous additions," so they made this paint turn into fudge at first. Easy to fix, but I think the best way to work with this paint would be to make all the colours for the painting this way, and then just use them straight. Paint made this way is quite dense but also mobile, makes sculptural impasto naturally. The idea for this came from seeing Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer at the Met last Spring. Which does not mean this has anything to do with the technique of that painting.


      Two thin layers on a buttercup squash, more to go, wanted to start more gray so it can become warmer overall. Always enjoyed the personality of these, we live on such a lovingly detailed planet. About 10.5x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A favorite older image that kicked around for years, an heirloom apple called Sweet William I found once but never again, could never complete it, didn't know enough about colour, the medium, or the complexity of simplicity. Finally just started a new one, kind of a cross between a relief and trying to get another shot at that porcupine. Two layers on this, beginning with chromatic grays, proceeding slowly into brighter colour and more detail. 10x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Got one layer on a new version of the Mugello therapy image, used all paint I had made for this, which was fun. The newer paint made with thicker oil is very different, want to get more of it made so I can make an image completely with it. Anyway, there are now many of these Mugello paintings, used elements of several of them for this. Am happy with this for a beginning layer, but drifted away from the gray model above, it wanted to be happier, probably because I wasn't. This is in one of those odd places where it is close to done psychologically but doesn't have enough paint on it for me. So may do a rococo second layer on it in a looser medium, see what happens. This one is 12.5x20 inches on gessoed linen over panel, a nice size for me, not little, but still intimate.


      Last small foray of the week. Single colour study of olive trees at midday, did some studies like this a while back and wanted to revisit them as a way of getting at more of the essence of a landscape. Used a recent medium with wax in it for this, and some recent burnt ochre paint made with prepolymerized oil and therefore a lot of pigment. This combination was not ideal compared to what I had come up with before for these, something a little more primitive looking. It's often the case that "improvements" only make me realize that the last idea was better than I thought. More literal than I wanted, anchored it at the left edge but not sure it wouldn't be better without those trees, floating on all sides. But it has something different than the older ones too, more of these may happen soon. 8x13 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

october 4

      Waning moon, cooler but solid overcast and rain all week. Did decently with work in progress, a group of stronger images I sold and want to revisit, but then got derailed by current events. I try to stay positive, no matter what, this seems the most logical course, but sometimes can't bear it all anyway. Will regroup and return next week.


      Recent set of medium tests on a tile, about two weeks old. The goal is to develop a system that simply doesn't yellow at all. No colour is promising at this stage, but not by any means conclusive, it will take a few more months to see what begins to develop here.


      Worked on the watermelon again, looking for a little more in terms of the tension between warm and cool, volume and space. This is fun, but also a matter of shifting each layer in relatively small increments of colour. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Another layer on the jellyroll, there's something nice but elusive in the original that I'd like to get at, I like the tension between the relatively classical space and the object itself, but don't want this to become unkind. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Copy of an older painting from life that always intrigued me, this has been close for a while, still seems close but not quite done.


      A third version that began recently, layer three on this one. This addresses some things that occurred to me about the first two, I get intrigued by the way small elements add up to major psychological differences in the image. 12x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Don't know, layer six or seven on this recent peony. This one has featured some pretty close change in colour all along, but this week the medium was a little denser because it has gotten colder, and that proved really interesting. I've worked with paint that could be placed or blended before, but not quite at this degree of fineness. Not done, and taking an odd photo because of the interaction of the layers, but this was an interesting step forward for the system. 11x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Recent, second version of this image, it was on gessoed paper but I decided to put it on a panel. This is a little tricky, it worked out except for a little extra white space on the edges. But, interestingly, the image looked different without its frame of white gessoed paper, so it got a thin layer of paint overall as well. Close to what I want, but I'll do it again. About 13.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper over canvas on panel.


      Third layer above on this version of my favorite therapy image of a farm in the Mugello. This was originally conceived of as an alla prima image, below, and I really liked the way it worked out, holding very close translucent value and temperature changes. But, the system shifted over time enough that, after three years, the painting no longer had the element that I had originally liked. So, this type of thing, the slow but relentless loss of subtlety over time, has led to another version of the system. It's a question of the ingredients used to keep translucent paint stable, certain of these, and certain combinations of these, are more reliable than others. This is of course not an issue unless the system wants to capitalize on translucency. I think that's part of why the original systems that used translucent paint were so technically rigorous, there is not a lot of wiggle room in this approach. But, anyway, I miss the original and will work with aspects of it as a reference coming forward with this one. About 8x13 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.


      Slightly larger version of a local landscape that worked out, urban image of one of those curious small deserted areas. When I was very young, this was a small used car lot, but has been abandoned ever since. Started this on pure gray, it's proving hard to warm up, but this provides an interesting tension between positive and negative colour. Possibly one more layer. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.

september 27

      Week of the Pope in town, week of the full moon, full moon later on today, hope the world doesn't end this time either. Intense week, a lot happened on a lot of fronts, still got a decent amount done. Not quite sure why, but it feels like the majority of the hard part is over for this project. This might simply be a matter of deciding that it has been hard enough, long enough, not sure. There have certainly been a number of approaches that have worked out, but none of them have felt conclusive. Not sure why I feel so much better about what happened this week, it probably doesn't look that different here. I think it's that the system has reached another level of maturity, but that, instead of being about what can happen next with the materials, this level is about using the materials information to finish paintings. This seems to be simple: I just finally really like the look of the paint itself. Not too modern, not to OM, not too matte, not too shiny, not too thin, not too goopy, etc. An inscrutable balance on a number of axes, which of course I like. It's still a pretty open-ended system, but it's not exploring so much as focusing. I realized that I can't be thinking about anything, including the paint itself, in order to let through what wants to come through. It has to be physical, extra-conscious. I would have agreed to that before, but didn't realize the extent to which working with alterations in the paint was distracting. At the same time, the look that has begun to seem like a reasonable destination only began recently. Anyway, for whatever reason, it feels like there's been a shift in emphasis, that I'm not pushing anymore, but being pulled.


      The medium went through an interesting metamorphosis this week. I've been working with a putty based on chalk and hand-refined linseed oil, and cycling various other ingredients in and out in small amounts. This week I ended up adding fumed silica to the putty again, this creates transparent density but the paint also moves more than when the same density is made with chalk. This increased movement is a little tricky, since I tend to like things to be more additive, but at the right proportion of chalk and silica and the right overall density there's both layering and movement. This is not new, but the iteration of it is a little more evolved now. In general, this type of paint allows more spontaneity, the approach can be adjusted to be more or less painterly as needed. I don't see fumed silica as a panacea, on its own it's a little slick, but it works well in tandem with the greater strength and stability of chalk. I'm also sticking with a little beeswax, this is helpful for keeping layers from drying down and isn't really noticeable in small amounts.


      I knew I had to give up on the lo-tech system of a piece of plywood on a keyboard stand, but really didn't want to make a worktable. But, there was really no option, unless I got a cheap woodworking bench and put a plywood top on it. That may still happen at some point. Anyway, made a work table this week! Just 2x4s and plywood, simple and sturdy, but very helpful in general and especially for making panels. For a while I've been putting canvas on the top of these first as a kind of couch, but between the two fabric textures the surface of the linen has a tendency to dimple in spite of lots of burnishing. Not a huge problem since the work tends to get lots of paint, but not ideal either. So I went back to paper over the plywood, Rives BFK, this burnished out very nicely. Also, there's the magic new Surebonder stapler, great design that's easy on the wrist.


      Had not the best day last Sunday, it felt like this. I'm pretty positive as a rule, so this type of thing is always unexpected, no rhyme or reason to it, just have to hold on and try to transform it. I've always liked these wabi-sabi sort of still life paintings, though, although they were not exactly a hit in Vermont. Not quite done, I'll mount it on a panel before continuing. 9x11.25 inches, oil on gessoed linen over canvas.


      Third layer on the watermelon. This is sort of the flagship now of the new approach. When Nick Lowe was producing records they called him The Basher, because he would tell bands to bash it out now, tart it up later. I'm thinking of this approach in a similar way, bash something out in each layer, but don't get too finicky, ever. Had some fun with this playing with the weight and dimensionality of the object in space, kept the background a little warm for the next layer. One more? Maybe two. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      A second layer on this study from a study begun last week, like where this went but there's more to go. About 10.25x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed linen over canvas.


      An image from Vermont of a place I worked for many years, some lovely evenings in this location. Still in the thin paint stage, this seems to be inevitable until I can see clearly how to complete it with denser paint. I used to rush these and get into trouble, but maybe it's time to start rushing them again. About 8x16 inches, oil on gessoed paper over canvas.


      Started this peony based on an older alla prima image, two thin layers of straight paint. May just keep going this way, this has a quality that is working so far. 12x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Mounted this image on paper onto a panel, this is a little tricky but I'm beginning to understand it better. Something older I had always wanted to complete, but there's no reference anymore so I'm on my own. The paint was a little slick, but this had become sort of confused with adjustments to the edges, added chalk and kept going. Surface is a little more consolidated or flat than I want it, but that's okay for now. About 13x21 inches, oil on gessoed paper over canvas on panel.


      Yesterday afternoon, still wet so a lot of glare, remade this image with the most recent paint but made it less slick. This was really nice to work with, conformed to my consciousness, lots of changes, pushing and pulling, warmer and cooler, lighter and darker, the ideal situation. Not done, but on its way somewhere I like in terms of the balance of colour and atmosphere, observation and paint.

september 20

      Another warm week, fall is starting very slowly here. Experienced a lot of examples of cultural fusion this week, Korean barbeque tacos, a band playing original klezmer Parisian gypsy jazz. It feels like things are fusing along in the work, too, but that the process can only go so fast. I get a little bugged by this, but then remember the many years in Vermont when I was painting for food, rent, dear life, and think, Okay, we don't want to go back there either. The sense that the process improves regularly but without any interest in resolution became a little focal yesterday. Had an interesting dream about this last night. In this dream, I was trying to get a train ticket from a large machine. In Vermont, of course, there was no such thing, and a feature of my new life has been minor kerfluffles with this type of technology: parking kiosks, or the Manhattan subway machinery. And, true to life, in the dream I didn't know how to work the machine, and made all kinds of errors inserting the money, pushing the wrong button, etc. People behind me in line were getting impatient. Well, maybe I felt they were getting impatient. Anyway, eventually I figured it out, more by accident than anything else, and got the ticket. I see the ticket as the next step in terms of fruition for the work, which I have worked on now since asking for more in 2001. Although it could also have to do with the work emerging more once again; the two are related, and I certainly don't know how to work the art world machine. This is a case of being careful what you wish for, since I wanted more of a relationship with the paint itself and certainly got it. There's a great George Washington Carver quote, "If you love something enough, it will tell you all its secrets." Maybe not all, but some, enough to suggest there might always be more. Anyway, it feels like the message of this is that there's a process that has to complete itself in it's own way to be real, true, authentic, whatever word it is that defines actual art as opposed to imitation art. This provides the most functional commentary. If I were just able to breeze through and hop on the train, I wouldn't have the same level of appreciation for the trip or the destination. I often get the feeling I've done all this before, that it has to be done a certain way now for specific reasons. I can guess at the what and why of this, but it really doesn't matter that much. The point is more that there's only a certain way.

      First week of the moon, a relatively hard one to figure out, for the first few days it wanted something I didn't understand. Got more into the feeling of it later in the week, had a few days of good developments in terms of using somewhat more dense paint. I got very involved with dense paint years ago, but found the topography of the impasto was curtailing development as often as not. Recently got involved with some paint whose character I liked, but it was too thin. So am now readjusting things again, it's interesting to realize how far the conception of the paint has come since 2007, when I first started using hand-refined cold-pressed linseed oil and chalk. This is something I am often asked questions about, given the advice in the 20th century textbooks it is difficult for people to believe that paint can be as stable as it can be using this system. I try not to be sort of evangelical about this, everybody loves their own system the best, and either someone's had it enough to start making their own oil or they haven't. It was the last thing I wanted to do, believe me, it was much more fun to figure out amber vanish. But hand-refined oil proved to have more to offer than I could ever have guessed from the behavior of modern oil.


      Made a lot of thicker oil this summer in the studio. This oil is auto-oxidized, and pre-polymerized to some extent. But not as much as a thermally polymerized oil, one thickened in the presence of lots of heat. Thermally polymerized oils have more film strength and more resistance to humidity and oxidation. In older painting, they may have also contributed to being able to draw in the paint, and to paint that was saturated with oil that was relatively thin. But I'm not the hugest fan of the thermally polymerized oils, a little is okay, but in larger amounts they tend to make the paint too literal for me. Anyway, here's some linseed oil I refined in 2011, put it in a pie plate and let it go a little too long without stirring it so it skinned over. I poured most of it out, but there's always a little more so I got some of that this morning, pretty thick now as you can see from the way it sits up on the knife. The folded over area of oil to the right is about 3/8 of an inch thick, so there is some colour to this, but for all practical purposes, it disappears in the pigment. Poppy oil might be less coloured at this thickness, I'm not sure walnut oil would. But with this linseed oil you get the drying speed, and the film strength.


      Put another layer on this one of a clearing rain shower in Vermont, am having issues with getting the right combination of unity and movement in the sky but this type of sky is always that way, the land has been moving forward. This was on a pure gray underpainting, not sure that was the best idea but it will stop influencing things eventually. It's a little frustrating to go slowly with this, but probably wise until it lets me know more about where it wants to go. About 14.5x26 inches, oil on linen.


      Put a relatively dense layer on the black and white beginning for this from last week, think it could use more paint but then I pretty much always do. Might try a larger version with a different composition, we'll see. Around 6.5x10 inches, oil on gessoed linen.


      One of the first local landscapes here was of a small empty lot near where I grew up, I used to see this spot all the time as a kid, it was a small used car place for a while, but has been empty now for decades. The area around it is pretty prosperous, but this spot is on a corner, in one of those transition zones between neighborhoods that can become no man's lands. This is a bigger version of that image, started it in black and white, then got one layer of colour on top of that. More to go, when the time is right it's always interesting to revisit something that worked out, there's always more to discover about the components that went into it. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Another older image I'd always wanted to go back to, the reference was the first painting itself. Started this one with a little colour in the grays, that seemed to help, then held onto the grays a little bit n the second layer. Don't want much for from this, hopefully one more layer with some saturation to the paint. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      I worked outside in Vermont for about a decade all in all, most of the better work is gone, but there are a few that were close, that have elements I'd like to return to. Started this based on one of those, got reasonably far for one layer and the number of changes involved. There's more detail in the foreground in the original, I think this is the largest issue, it needs more sense of what's really going on there. A little more challenging to do this with a landscape than a still life, but it was also from a painting that hadn't really worked out to begin with. About 10.25x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed linen over canvas. This was something I made at one point, a fabric sandwich, had some fine Belgian linen from a fabric store, made a sandwich of this with rabbit skin glue so the linen could be used unmounted.


      This one has developed steadily, but in increments that were pretty small. Saw a few things that could be changed, and put somewhat brighter colour on it this time. At first this looked a little Disney-ish, but then it dried about where I wanted it. There are lots of things about the art of landscape that I took for granted because they were easy to look at. More to go still, but closer. About 12.5x20.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.

september 13

      Last week of the moon, new moon this morning, feel almost physically itchy right now. Something new is happening! But what?!? It may be a few days before I know. Cooler this morning, looks like the end of the greater heat, got a lot of work done, feel like things continue to open up into territory I haven't understood. But have to admit there were some less than equanimous moments, this is somehow easier in a hot city of six million people than a rural state with 500,000. Culmination yesterday afternoon when the fire alarm here went off. Insane massive frantic sound out of nowhere. Turned out it was for no reason but it took a while to figure that out, then to figure out how to shut it off. So, started thinking about the various other alarms that are going off. I hope that, as a species, we finally figure out that there's no combination of violence, prevarication, and social injustice that is going to work, we must be near the end of all the possible permutations at this point. It's strange to feel that we are so near to two types of turning point, I wonder if both of them will simply happen at once.


      There's an old arboretum near here, more there than meets the eye. A little brutal on a summer afternoon, last weekend it was full of brides on golf carts too, I love stuff like this, but couldn't bear to take photos of them, Robert Frank would have. This time it was easier to see all that colour on an overcast day. Much older Philadelphia here, sort of under the surface, an interesting tension there between old and newer horticulture, what a garden is about, what the land is about. Lots of amazing plant varieties, a nice wilder water meadow area, similar to the area near the lake in Vermont, the riot of fall wildflower blooms and colour beginning. Some adventurous plantings now in the formal gardens, fun to see more than endless tea roses. Although there was a dark red rose with an amazingly deep and multi-dimensional fragrance, lyrical base but with clove, nutmeg, and somehow the thorns as well.


      The famous spike lavender, a more elegant, less penetrating smell in this context.


      I can't remember the name of this apple but they have a dense floral aroma, almost a reek, and as soon as I came near them I was at the big farmstand near my grandparent's house in Berks County, circa 1965. This has happened before here, memories brought back by the smell of boxwoods, or the smell of baking leaves in the fall, but this smell triggered a very specific place and time.


      I did some experimenting with thermally polymerized oils in the last few weeks. It was something I sort of bypassed, and a correspondent wondered why, since "heat-bodied oils" are often found in older painting. I can see their usefulness: they work thinly for their viscosity, dry hard, and are more resistant to oxygen over time, you can draw with the brush more easily. But have to admit that, on their own, they're not my favorite. They're too literal or limpid for my sense of the paint, I think would also be more at home larger scale. However, they're very nice when mixed with an auto-oxidized oil. This week tried out a mixture of 1 part BPO#7, 3 parts SRO linseed that had been heated to 200C for 2 hours, and 8 parts SRO linseed that had been thickened in a half full bottle for a few hot months, pretty thick, not terminal. This was very nice as a couch, rubbed on quite thinly, the mix of thick and thin thermally polymerized oils slides, but the density of the auto-oxidized oil helps them to stay put more.


      Got two more layers on the watermelon, very thin couch of the mixed oil on the last one. A strong composition, started to get a little more into the colour to balance this out, when things are too simple I get itchy, need to dial in something more. More to go but am happy with where this is at this point. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      This peony keeps getting closer, an image where I've learned a lot about the colours within the colours, I like the background sense of brighter chroma. One more layer? 11x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.


      Layer six on this relatively graphic cornfield, it's bugging me but will just keep going, adding chroma and warmer colours, adjusting the sky pattern, making the whole thing a little more abstract. The slightly larger scale of the images below on coarse linen is easier to resolve. About 12x21 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Got three thin layers of paint on the larger start on linen from last week, Farr Cross, late afternoon in May. A lot to balance! Not bad for this stage, nice cloud pattern in the sky but it's interfering at this point with the overall sense of unity. Similarly, need to break up the strong lines in the land more. It's always a fine line between happy and saccharine in something like this, lyrical colour needs an added element of rigour. About 14.5x25.5 inches, oil on linen.


      One of the most interesting types of weather in Vermont was clearing after a rain. Usually with these shaft of light type images there's too much drama or contrast, but I liked the way there was more light overall in this, and was intrigued by the strange glow of the foreground meadow in shadow. Two thin layers of straight paint, need to recompose and unify the sky, a lot of pieces but they don't go together yet. But otherwise not bad for this stage. There's a point at which to solve something by simplifying it with a lot of paint, but not quite yet with this one. About 14.5x26 inches, oil on linen.


      Apple I've been working on for smooth surface ideas, I'd put a really thin layer of thermally polymerized walnut oil on this as a test, this dried but with a kind of rubberiness that I associate with walnut oil. Ground this back with fine sandpaper before putting the mixed oil couch on it, this was pretty tight or adhesive over the dried walnut oil, worked for this image but was deceptive in terms of using the couch for other things: the walnut oil beneath was in fact adding adhesion or grip but I didn't realize it. A lot of minutiae, but something to consider: when you read that a painting is made with "just oil," there may be more to that oil than meets the eye. About 8.5x11.5 inches, oil on Arches Huile.


      Small study of one of my favorite places in Vermont, late September, used this to test the couch idea again, in this case the paint was too mobile for the scale, but that's okay, it needed to be altered anyway, became a little better. This is something that seems to happen near the end of the moon, asking procedural questions, fiddling with older stuff. About 7.5x10.25 inches, oil on gessoed paper.


      Image from Lucca I worked with years ago, had always wanted to revisit it. Beginning with black and white is interesting, I used to avoid it because it looks ugly to me, but in a way that's its great asset. I'm fascinated by the tension between literal and psychological reality, wanted to get the sense of this without too much fussiness or detail. Will formulate something goopy and adhesive for the next layer in colour. Around 6.5x10 inches, oil on gessoed linen.

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