Week of the new moon, still a lot of overcast, some nutty weather shifts, from the low sixties to wet snow yesterday. Did some work, that was new at this point. Kept it simple, didn't try anything too challenging, things came out well in general though some of them had too much glare to post. It's always interesting to look at things and see them more clearly, or at another level, hard to describe but somehow that was part of this week. Worked on Roland's emulsion system for refining the oil, this was really interesting but this approach is really new and I still have more questions than answers. Applied this emulsion refining approach to the ingredients I know better, salt and silica, and this worked out well, which was fun after a week of not quite knowing what was happening. But all of this is still in progress, will only really know more after working with these oils. One thing I do know so far is that one of those little immersion blenders is really good at mixing things up quite finely. In larger terms I'm still experiencing unexpected jagged edges, these are not that big but sort of exaggerated: it feels like anything jagged internally is attracting an external mirror really fast these days. There are some things I've been really comfortable judging in this lifetime that I'm realizing need to be smoothed out. Like, for example that lying, cheating, stealing, being greedy or irresponsible, are undeniably bad things. I can feel now that the judgement involved is a kind of glue that binds me to exactly what, and who, I have the issue with. So, the sense of righteous irritation grows and grows, begging to be resolved. It seems clear now that the answer is to just keep it personal, say that those types of behavior are not for me. This makes sense if we have unity manifesting as diversity: everyone is equal, but also individualized, and responsible in larger terms for their choices. And, major bonus, it feels a lot more round or spacious. I was able to see this a decade ago, now and then, even practice it on a good day, but now it feels like it's more of a polite, practical process, like, before making dinner, do the dishes. It never seemed like that big a sink, so where did all those dishes come from?
Continued with the emulsion refining experiments based on Roland's test using liquid soap and distilled water. The first one had two percent soap in it, and this is probably too much, although it looks good now after several rinses. The next two had one percent and half a percent, respectively, in the third one I added some fine cristobalite, this actually seems to have done something good, but it wasn't apparent at first. These first three have all been rinsed to some extent. In the fourth one, I switched to the Dr. Bronner's soap based on hemp oil, used the same amount as number three, but the soap itself is more liquid than the linseed oil soap I made, meaning less actual soap in the mix. Number four shows what happens after you add salt after four days of emulsion: the emulsion breaks cleanly. But, once you start washing it, there's still lots of mucilage to remove. The mucilage does fall out slowly from the oil, I think maybe I've been in too much of a hurry to wash it and get it done, this could be done with the other refining methods.
Two more tests! In number five, went back to the linseed oil soap, but reduced the amount further. This emulsion begins to break up more overnight. But, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. This one will get re-emulsified and have salt added on Tuesday. Then, number six, I made the emulsion without soap, just used maximum salt, the fine 8 micron cristobalite, and a very small amount of bone ash in distilled water. This emulsion needed to be re-made often throughout the day, and overnight it broke completely: the silica attracts the mucilage electrically, both fall out of the oil into the salt water. About one third loss in terms of the amount of oil, I'll try rinsing this now with distilled water and see what happens, may try another version of this in the week to come with more bone ash and cristobalite. Lots of parameters to consider in developing these things, it can go on and on. I'd love to get the soap emulsion approach to rinse more cleanly, but it may be a matter of waiting for everything settle out of the oil into the water. Also, I haven't been rinsing it with distilled water, this might be a factor. But, in theory this oil is going to dry exceptionally quickly due to the amount of oxygen it has absorbed from the water, this is what happened with Roland's original experiment.
Another layer on this peony, the previous layer had been a little goopy, so I'd ground that back slightly. It seems like something simple has to have a kind of hidden complexity, otherwise it becomes "too simple." It's interesting to learn more about this in terms of mixing colour, this is getting closer to what I'd like to see. A lot depends on what it looks like about a week or two after it has dried, things tend to settle in a little more. About 12x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen on panel.
Pretty early version of the Mugello farm image, this one came forward significantly, that's always fun in terms of feeling like I've learned something. Not done, a few glitchy places still to address, but I like the overall feeling.
Going into the last quarter of the moon, colder this week, mostly overcast. Still stopped in the work, it's frustrating but, after several weeks I'm getting used to it. I love to do the work, especially when so much feels false, it's helpful to work towards something that feels true. But I also wonder about the quality of judgement implicit in this: if something is better, something else must have been worse. Is there a difference between discernment and judgement, or is this just semantics? Still, it's hard to see the bigger picture with your nose to the grindstone, the process has to go fallow sometimes in order to expand. I never think I've developed tunnel vision, because I've become used to that perspective, but I'm beginning to see various ways that things could expand. This isn't all that pleasant, breaking through the armor that after all was generated for a reason, but it feels necessary, as though a certain approach has come to a dead end. Usually, this dead-end feeling has to do with a style, or a medium, or a set of colours, but this dead-end is more personal. I've been fighting the good fight, at least on my own terms, but it feels like time for the fight itself to end. I was in a linear system, struggling towards a specific goal, building up strength through resistance, but also becoming somewhat muscle-bound. What seems to be replacing this is a sphere, like the colour sphere, but the three axes would be the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of experience. These tend to create reactions, to push and pull us around quite a lot. So the new goal is simply to be in the middle, which would be to experience without judgement. This is of course something I've thought and read about for a long time, but the only time I really experienced it was on top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, about twenty years ago now, some very interesting things go on at 14,000 feet. But now it seems to be sitting on the table, and it's the only thing on the table.
A few years ago my friend Roland sent me an interesting oil refining experiment he had done using a very small amount of liquid soap to create a stable emulsion for several days, then breaking this emulsion with salt to release the clean oil. This week Roland reported that this oil had thickened significantly in its jar, and sent me some photos. So this means that the theory involved, that the extended emulsion will allow the oil to interact with more water, therefore absorbing more oxygen from the water, is looking very good. Roland did it with walnut oil, so this week I began to try doing it with linseed oil. The liquid soap parameters he gave were 0.5 to 3 percent, so I tried 2 percent. This was 8 grams of homemade linseed oil soap (like Ugly Dog, etc.) to 400 grams of oil. But I think 2 percent, at least of this soap, is too much, the emulsion never even hinted at breaking in four days, and has been hard to break at all with salt and several washes of water. This is the photo on the left, you can see the pure oil on the top, but that's not very much for siting for a day, I'll syphon the water off and emulsify it again today. So, I'll get something from this jar, but the percentage of the soap was too much. Sol, for the next step, I went back to the lowest percentage of soap, 0.5, and this began to break overnight as you can see from the photo on the right: a little oil on top, a little water on the bottom. So, I'll emulsify this again today with the immersion blender, and this is looking good as a place to start. The linseed oil soap is a little esoteric, so I want to get a commercial liquid soap to try with this next. It just needs to be pure, no additives, there's a Dr. Bronner's made with hemp oil that's unscented that I used in the past to make emulsified beeswax, I'll get another bottle of that. This method may be useful to make an oil that dries quickly, (possibly really quickly, making a thicker autoxidized oil easily), because there's relatively little labor involved.
Back to colder, some sun but mostly overcast, week of the full moon, also my birthday. Had a good week overall, that personal sense of a new beginning enhanced by the work returning to an extent, this is always a relief after a period, several weeks in this case, when it's unavailable. I don't understand this cycle, the phases of the moon map it to an extent, but not fully. But it does serve to get my attention. Doing the work felt more spacious this week, I wasn't in a hurry to get somewhere, just observed what wanted to happen. So, it feels like I'm always being taught something, wherever the cycle is. It feels like that was always true, the opportunity was always there, but now I'm not so reactive, or rebellious, am paying attention more. As intense as things are now, it seems like they're only going to get more so for the foreseeable future. The writing has always been on the wall, but once again we need to prove that, a culture without a stable moral and ethical basis cannot stand. This can be challenging to one's basic sense of sanity, as when someone talks about starting a war to help win an election, but it seems like this extended positive-negative acceleration also contains a great opportunity for growth: the call to infinite falsehood has to be balanced by its opposite. I can feel a lot changing on the inside, tectonic plates in unusual motion, and it makes sense that completion for the work has to be preceded by a sense of personal completion. Interesting, at this relatively late stage in life, to still be reeling in missing pieces of myself. Then again, I was taught to be someone I wasn't as a kid, and did my best to comply.
In 2000 I spent the summer painting flowers from life, this is another version of one of my favorite peonies. Tried something with this layer that didn't quite work, a couch of thicker oil that was rubbed on very thinly, the subsequent paint was a little too goopy. But did the best I could with it, then ground it back lightly after it had been dry for a few days. So, not done, but in a pretty good place for the next layer. About 12x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen on panel.
More recent version of the same image, not as many layers or much paint, but I like the composition a little more. About 12x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen on panel.
A zinnia start from a few years ago, it had become a little strident, needed more unity, ground it back lightly and put another layer on it. Closer, more integrated, still having issues with the rightmost blossom, maybe the value structure of the background needs to come down more. About 12x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed linen on panel.
Image from the Mugello outside Florence, close-up of my therapy farm. At first I liked this, then the colour seemed too brassy, toned it down a bit in this layer, which feels better. About 11x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper.
Dunes on the point in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Did a small scale version of this a while back, decided after a few layers it was just too small. I guess what that means is that I don't want to do these with soft hair brushes, want to keep using bristle brushes and make the detail with the paint. So, this determines the appropriate scale. Started this a few weeks ago, a few thin layers, then first layer with a little more paint and definition here. Still pretty small, but these seem to depend on some pretty subtle things, it still feels best to puzzle them out without too much square footage involved. More to go, but a good feeling overall for this stage, will mount it on a panel before going further. About 9.5x15.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.
Waxing moon, back to moderate weather and lots of sun, now rainy again this morning. Kind of a nutty week, a lot of other had to happen amidst the city putting in new gas lines on our usually quiet little street. Had to visit the DMV to get a new license photo, almost got sick the next day but was able to knock it out with a tea of echinacea and goldenseal root. I usually have used the tinctures in little bottles, but always noticed that I ran out just when I really needed it, so this year got some actual herbs, these were really strong in a tea along with licorice root, elderberries, and cardamon. Was sort of weak for a few days, but no flu. I love it when I listen to these intuitions, and then they turn out to have some purpose. I also love it when natural medicine kicks butt. Got a little done in the work, but things are still more or less fallow there, my anxiety about yet another forced vacation is slowly fading as it goes on. Worked on a video for YouTube about the fused damar, beeswax, and stand oil approach to the medium, have wanted to get to this for a long time, and embedded that below. It's one of those things that's easier to do than to talk about, but I felt there needed to be some explanation of why this might be interesting, and how it works.
It's always hard to be stopped, plunked in a box, but, the longer it goes on, the more I sort of let go and let the frame of reference expand. And I guess that's the larger point. I'd like nothing better than to return to the work with renewed vigor on a daily basis, but life has always has a more complex agenda. Darn it! But it is also clear: right now, I look at the work and feel sort of overwhelmed. What I need to do in general to make things more complete is becoming more apparent, but I've always resisted formulas, one specific way. And I do love what happens when an image emerges from the crucible of a lot of layers. Still, having tried lots of different ways, it might be time to admit that there's one general approach that works better than the rest of them. I'll get the proof of the next edition of the book next week, the culmination of a project that went on much longer than I thought it would, so this is a logical time for a kind of cosmic vacation. I'm into the next lunar return, its a little more expansive but also focused on change or transformation. These charts are more about how you feel and why than actual stuff happening; the recent pause has been odd enough, or maybe insistent enough, that it's helpful to have some kind of larger guidance. It's interesting to look at the various patterns and shifts over the course of a year, a pretty graphic illustration of "this too shall pass." I'll be 63 next Tuesday, a nine year in terms of the meaning of the numbers -- we learn some things about Pythagoras in high school, but not others -- a gateway or threshold year, things in the process of fruition but maybe not fully out in the world yet. This feels about right for both the work and the book. The work needs more development, but the book may well take longer to surface.
Week of the new moon, some snow and ice for a few days, now yet another balmy period. Did everything that had to get done, but nothing happened again in the work. In theory this should change with the next lunar return cycle, which starts this coming Wednesday. It would be nice. Instead, spent almost the whole week trying to fix the PDF for the book. This was a lot like cutting through the bramble forest in Sleeping Beauty, but I stopped regularly, took a long walk every day, didn't get mad or curse the Fates, ate plenty of kale, played with the cat, and finally, on Friday, the bindery reported that it wasn't breaking up, wahoo! This issue has been hard to fathom since it has never broken up for me, that is, the font being replaced by another one now and then, it only happens on their machinery. It took a while, but I finally traced this issue to Word trying to compensate for the main font choices from years ago that were still in the deep style structure, even though they weren't in use in any current styles. Yikes. You have to go way into the bowels of the program to even find out that might be happening. But, the bindery very kindly gave me a clue from one of their tech people, they used to be above this sort of thing, so I'm wondering if I'm not the only one for whom the technology has become progressively overwhelming. But, like all things computer, it's easy to fix once you know how, and, as Calvin's Dad loved to say, it builds character. So, hopefully this is truly over and I'll have edition twelve in a few months. More could always happen with a text like thi.s but it finally feels complete in terms of not only documenting the project technically, but in larger terms, like, why did it matter, why did I care, why might someone else care. Remember those kinds of terms?
Got an order this week from Woodfinishing Enterprises, they're out in the Midwest, and have a variety of interesting products at nice prices. Pictured is the resin from the Silver Fir, Abeis Alba, which I couldn't resist even though I don't need it. But, well, you never know. The largest pine tree in Europe, this stuff is pretty logical as a candidate for the "small amount of pine resin" often found in the analyses of older paintings. This is the exudate, what the tree gives off naturally, not the balsam that gets tapped and is sometimes sold as Strasbourg Turpentine. Soft, very fragrant, pretty dirty, it's clear on the inside, oxidized on the outside, just like amber only way younger. It may be more of a violin varnish material than a painting material, the relevant questions here are probably how it affects paint handling, and how much it makes the medium darken over time. Might make a test fused damar and beeswax medium formula with a little bit of this added, see how it affects the paint film in a small study, put an unpigmented swatch on a test panel. Things that harden tend to get brittle, things that don't harden tend to make the paint film soft, beeswax is the only permanently flexible painting material. So, it's always a matter of proportion, factoring in some softness can be a good idea on stretched canvas.
This is Manila copal that's been processed somehow to make it dissolve completely in alcohol. Very small pieces, uniform light colour, but otherwise doesn't look like it's been processed too much, there's still some bark on some of the pieces. Manila copal in alcohol makes a nice alternative to shellac. Like sandarac, Manila copal also dissolves in spike lavender, oil or rosemary, or eucalyptus oil. A little of the concentrate goes a long way as a damar in solvent alternative.
Another brief round of winter this week, I always like this kind of day, although this one was really on the stormy side for a few hours. Fun old train station across the street designed by Frank Furness.
Waning moon, new moon this coming Wednesday. More wacky weather, including a sixty-degree day of pouring rain, now back to sunny and freezing. Some progress: over the last four months I've been rewriting Living Craft a final time. I printed the whole thing out and read it page by page, this was a good idea as there were some leftovers from other editions here and there, so now the whole is more streamlined. There were a reasonable number of additions, lots more tables, but the biggest change was switching to Word from Open Office. This was sort of like switching languages, and took a while to get used to. But I have to admit that Word did some things for the text that I could never figure out in Open Office. Then there was trying to figure out how to make the PDF, I won't go into this as it will only make you feel like you too are living in a hall of mirrors with a heaving floor. But the Enchiridion suggested that we puny mortals accept our fate with dignity, so I tried, and, after what seemed like weeks adrift in cyberspace, sent a new text and cover to the bindery. So, if all goes well I'll have a new edition in April, and hardbacks again in May or June. Oy.
For a while I've wanted to re-read Journey of Souls by Micheal Newton, I had found this book really helpful, but couldn't find it. Finally realized I had sent it to my brother, so opted for the second book, Destiny of Souls, instead. It's the same material, hypnotic regressions into past lives and the educational system of the afterlife, but with more of the structure that Newton discovered over thousands of these regressions. I had originally found these books helpful because they explained the purpose of life in spiritual-ethical terms, life as a multi-dimensional learning experience, but outside of a specific religious context. As a kid I had read lots of different religious texts, but the Newton books finally went behind the curtain into what actually happens. They depict human life on Earth as an unusual opportunity for a soul because it is so challenging, a lot more can go wrong here than in most other places. There are excerpts from a lot of different cases, some of which are pretty dramatic in terms of the outcome, for better or worse. But the consistent message is that there's plenty of time, nothing is ever for nought, and that, slowly or quickly, all souls progress through their often challenging physical experiences to great levels of balance, wisdom, compassion, and self-worth. One of the most interesting things that gets detailed is the way a life gets played back to the soul after the fact, showing various alternates and choices that, typically, were not seen or taken advantage of. It's typically a matter of a specific kind of patience, enduring a situation that is really scary without panicking, in order to keep seeing clearly. This is like that Zen saying that you should be able to mediate on a battlefield: although, personally, I would leave first. Anyway, getting reminded of further or more possibilities is always helpful: as in a painting, what is it that's right there, but I'm not seeing?
Okay, not the first version of the Constable Hay Wain sketch, but the one before the most recent two. I remember doing this when I was getting better after being sick, it was in Vermont so it's probably 2012 or 13, and thinking it was better than the versions that had come before, but that I just couldn't put it away because I ran out of energy.
Put another layer on it this week, brought the value scale way up. This one has a few flaws compared to the original that will be hard to adjust compared to the more recent two, so I'll probably leave it here. On the bright side, this is what the current paint does, so it will be interesting to see how much it dries into the darker version beneath over time. About 7.5x10 inches, oil on gessoed panel.
Am approaching this one a little differently, not trying to do so much in each layer, get it finished in deeper terms before I put too much detail on it. The detail seems to get in the =way of developing the colour if it comes first. Anyway, not done but I like where it's going, all there but a little more mysterious. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
First new start in a while, set up the medium to be open another day. It was a little too gloopy the first day, but now that I know it can be corrected on the second day that's not as much of an issue. Outside of Middlebury, on my way to a favorite spot on the Lemon Fair, the type of composition I used to see constantly in Vermont, but one that I've always had issues with in terms of integrating the foreground and middle distance. Not done, but pretty good for this stage, a happy occurrence in the work after a lot of pause recently. A little bigger, that helped, about 8.25x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper.
Week of the full moon, waning now. The fringe of that large storm, about four inches of windy and frigid snow, then even colder the last few days. I remember this kind of cold from Vermont, it becomes focal, makes its own rules. Lily went out a little while in the afternoon earlier in the week, but stopped when the single digits and strong wind began. She makes up for this by running around in the middle of the night, staging mock attacks on my extremities until I laugh so hard I get up and play with her. This gives her endless further comedy opportunities, revolving around how much better her night vision is than mine. I've been doing a little more work with the moon recently using lunar return charts, a chart for the time of the month where the moon is when you were born. So it gives a feel for the emotional tenor of a given month. This month, unsurprisingly, is on the quiet side, but the next few months seem to get more active. I tend to think of these as inner event charts, but will be looking to see how much they correlate with outer changes, and changes in the work as well.
It's always funny how, when you move, something you know you have, were even careful about, disappears. So it was with these pestles in 2014. The mortars appeared when I unpacked, but where the heck were the pestles? Found them this week cleaning up the walk-in closet in the studio. As questions go, a small one, but now it's got an answer, which is more than I can say for the larger ones.
My brother and nephew visited this week, which was very fun, and one of our downtown stops on a notably frigid day was Independence Hall. Growing up here, this is stuff I took for granted, it was for tourists. But it felt sort of different this time.
Got the two small Hay Wain studies mounted this week, I like them better than last week, and of course it's always better to see them flat, but there's something I'd love to get at with this painting that isn't in either one of them, so there may be yet another one, or some fiddling with these later on.
Waxing moon, cold here, a little snow yesterday, a second round of mini-winter. End of the year, still sort of becalmed, a few people wrote saying that this is an official cosmic lull before a large change in the beginning of 2018. Unfortunately, I'm old enough to have been hearing predictions about things getting dramatically more enlightened for several decades. I don't feel cynical, just that the process can only move as fast as the unconscious of humanity can agree to. And this is a pretty broad spectrum. Still, everyone seems to really be looking forward to 2018! Did do a few medium tests, example below, it feels like this year's system is now pretty complete, just needs more experience. For me the message of 2017 was to focus on what I can do, and trust that, just as my process has taken me where I need to go, there's a larger process for the country that's operating the same way. This was actually pretty hard, but it's slowly generated more of a sense of perspective. Thanks to everyone for visiting, and best wishes for a creative and unified 2018.
A long time ago, Daniel Graves shared an idea with me that I didn't quite get at first. The idea was to take an autoxidized hand-refined oil, and heat it gently. The oil foams at around 100C, and once the foaming stops, it's done. The oil inevitably gets darker from this procedure, but -- as we all know, but have difficulty believing -- unless you actually burn the oil, the wet colour is fugitive, what matters is the colour after it dries. What you get moves better, but still has a certain resilience. It doesn't level like stand oil, but doesn't have the tightness or grab of the original autoxidized oil. So, this is a photo of some thick Oilo d'Graves, made from the SRO linseed oil. After I heated it, I let it sit with cheesecloth on the top of the jar for a few months, and it's begun to get thicker, adding a little more pull again. It has a really nice balance of grab and glide now, would be ideal for a thin finishing couch on a panel, rubbed on with fingertips. If this oil were tested by the most sophisticated equipment on the planet, it would read as linseed oil, nothing more. So, this is where even technical art history can be a little misleading: if they say the medium is linseed oil, there might be a little more to it than that.
I've always had a weakness for Constables first Sketch for The Hay Wain of 1820, a tiny painting at 5x7 inches, but one that rendered a whole world, and, as the beginning of The Hay Wain itself -- a painting which was very popular with French painters when it was shown at the Salon of 1824 -- an important part of the transition of landscape in the 19th century to more frankness and fidelity to nature. All the elements of that painting are in the sketch, although it looks like he reversed the direction of the cart. I'd done a few copies of this over the years, but always felt there was more to learn from it. So, this week I worked on it again as a medium test. The first one is okay but the second one came out a little better; made the medium tighter. Not as unified as I'd like, the medium was actually too tight, would benefit from starting a little looser, a little thin oil for the first pass. But, defining these points is what this exercise is for. So, might revisit this at some point, but this is the best one so far, there are now two others to revisit first. This was done on a medium toned raw sienna ground, watercolour over glue gesso, but, so far the medium doesn't seem to be reflecting that. This is especially apparent in the sky, which looks a little flat as a result. Some other things have dried down a bit already, it will be interesting to see how much this has warmed up and come down in a month or so. Wanted to get at paint that was somewhat sculptural, detail below, about 1.5x2.25 inches. This part was fun, but worked to the point of interfering with unity as well. So, though I didn't have a clue about this particular paint at the beginning of the year, the process put it together, that's always fun too. About 7.5x10.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.
Waxing moon, mostly warm and overcast, some pouring rain yesterday on and off. Not exactly the highest energy week, but lowered expectations and plugged away. This is okay, it is what it is between Thanksgiving and New Year's, impossible to fight the combination of year end and the holidaze. Hard to let go of moving forward for now, I had gotten used to progress in larger increments this year, and hope to return to that as the energy picks up again in the new year. Boy, that sounds so good: NEW YEAR! It feels like there's going to be a lot of new available somehow. Are you weary of the way the powers that be try to define what can and cannot be real? Clamping the lid on all kinds of things that just might be really helpful to us? Hang on, I have a feeling the powers that be are going to get some big surprises in 2018. Am getting a set of inklings about what to do next in the work, a few different things to try out. The set of materials I use at this point is pretty small, so it's always interesting to realize that, once again, I've overlooked something. On the other hand, the universe is expanding so fast at this point that maybe it just wasn't there a month ago. Did some work this week with the Van Gogh letters for the book, an extraordinary document but pretty brutal, had to stop. It's pretty easy to start rooting for him, realized I was hoping it would somehow turn out differently. More incentive, somehow, to help it turn out differently now.
Second clean-up pass on this one after grinding it back, not done but in a good place for layer five. In the past I always used to believe I was improving something by making it more detailed, but this year I began to concentrate more on the feeling of the colour first, which was a helpful shift. So, I'll keep going that way, it's in the right area but doesn't feel completely resolved. About 13.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Mounted this one on a panel and put another layer on it. Closing in, it goes a little further each time, but I learned this year to be patient at this stage, let more happen without pushing it. June on Farr Cross Road outside of Vergennes, Vermont, about 9.5x17.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.
Also mounted this one on a panel, but then ground it back, I can't seem to resist putting a lot of paint on the foreground. Layer three or four, still having issues with the blue of the sky, but the overall quality is getting closer to what I've always wanted, that vaulting feeling on an early summer morning. This is a candidate for something larger, but it's proven wise to get the small one first. Higby Road in Ferrisburg, Vermont, about 10x17 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.
Last week of the moon, new moon tomorrow, as usual none too soon. More like winter here, a little more snow, some colder days, and nights consistently below freezing. Had a better week than last week, can see progress with the process, but between the end of the moon and the end of the year, just got in and got out in most cases. Am revisiting the Constable memoir by Leslie, this is mostly his letters, a lot of period colour, his endless patience with the generous but goofy Beaumont, general frustration with the English for not getting it, his excitement when the French painters love The Hay Wain when it goes to Paris, while the Parisian critics warn them that this is not Poussin. It's great to hear stories like this from his perspective. There are also some pretty nice observations, like, speaking of painters: "Every man who distinguishes himself stands on a precipice," or, speaking of success, after having lamented the fate of Wilson, "The mind loses its dignity less in adversity than in prosperity." This led me to go through The Enchiridion of Epictetus again, first century, I had forgotten that the popularity of Stoicism was in reaction to the increasing decadence of the Rome after the republic, it's very Buddhist in terms of learning to maintain an inner focus, but with a military simplicity and precision: You're in a battle, it's with yourself, it's for your freedom, no one can control you if you don't let them. Another interesting development this week, the Times posted a recent video yesterday from an air force pilot's plane camera of a very clear UFO, along with the dialogue between two pilots. If you have looked into the long but marginalized history of this, you know that the original UFO researchers were former Air Force officers, who got into it after having viewed mile after mile of the gun camera footage that was part of Project Bluebook, which started during WWII, and is full of pilots being amazed by what they're seeing. So, for the Times, ha-ha, better seventy years late than never, may they have the courage someday to tell the whole story. But at least an attempt to expand the frame of reference, while the Republicans strive to collapse it.
In the summer and fall Lily spent almost all day and part of the night outside. It finally has gotten colder so she's been going out a little while in the afternoon, but is otherwise doing a lot of sleeping. It's fun to have her around more, and good for me to see that she's slowed down, isn't fighting winter. She likes wheatgrass when the grass outside is covered with snow, this is our most meditative procedure. I make her toys out of odds and ends, there's a cork on a string with a feather in it that she likes, but what she really likes is the heavily-frayed end of the string.
Finished up the test of refining the oil with 151 proof alcohol and a blender. Rinsed it four times, let the water settle out, then heated it on very low heat with some gravel in it to help the remaining water escape gently. I'm sort of on the fence about this, I was never that much of a fan of the way the alcohol-refined oils behaved, too limpid for me, but we'll see. As a test, this is complicated by the fact that the oil itself had been aging in the light for five years, almost nothing came out of it. Filled two pint jars, had a little left over and put it in a jar lid to thicken in the open, will keep an eye on this in the next few weeks.
Something relatively old that had left the loop because I liked it, but after a year or so looked sort of lame. This is always a double-edged sword, but I've learned to be happy to see what to do next instead of disappointed that I haven't arrived yet: with luck I will never arrive. Worked on this last week but it took a horrendous photo. The shadow on the left flower is not that proud, that's my camera, am hoping to upgrade after the holidays. Anyway, some basic issues that aren't part of more recent ones, but it came forward an unusual amount, especially for this time of year. I like the deeper sense of colour balance and will keep going. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Something more recent I had always liked, more recent version of the composition featuring more space, the subject more reflective, not trying to burst out of the picture plane. Ground this one down first because of a somewhat uneven texture in the linen. The tableline is a little funny but I like the overall feeling of the colour, needs a little more chroma and value. To me, the closest one to finished this week in spite of the greater depth of the one above. Also 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Another older one, had to be ground back pretty firmly. An image I always liked, but not as far along as the ones above. I've got another one as far as the watercolour stage, see below, like that compostion better. Am tempted to add half an inch at the bottom, relatively major surgery, but with the fabric stapled to the back there's enough to do it. Also 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Relatively recent start, had put several very thin low chroma layers on this one in an effort to keep it more under control, added a little more colour and paint this time. 12x14 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Something recent that's a little larger, liked the concept of more room for informal detail in the flowers, but have not been able to figure out the colour. Got it somewhat closer, the feeling is on its way, this is usually the prerequisite for completing everything else. 14x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
A start from this year, an image I did from life a long time ago that has had some pretty large issues since. Have learned not to focus on the flower, but get the overall sense of the colour right first. With this one there's been a strong tension between enhanced or happier colour and colour that's more austere or realistic. Got the colour to come forward, the blue is pretty nice, but that was all I had. This one needs more everything, but this is the best it's been. 15x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Third week of the moon, relatively overcast week, some cold, then some snow, I always like snow. Only got a little bit done on the work, it wasn't easy in terms of the hand-brain connection, but I wanted to try. Liked what happened but both paintings took impossible pictures, not sure why. Mercury is retrograde, this tends to mean things like packages being delayed, or delivered to the wrong address, but it sometimes means going back over things in the work as well, a kind of reconsideration. It's odd, the process of getting new eyes is continuing. This is always so intriguing, but there's not a lot of oomph to do anything with it yet. Have been increasingly aware over the last few years that between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a pretty logical rest period in terms of the seasons and the holidaze, things always start again in the new year. Doing not being will always be my first joy, but this kind of enforced vacation renews things in unexpected ways, so, just have to be patient for now. There's always plenty of other stuff that needs doing, it's actually much easier if I stop prowling around the studio looking for trouble.
Second week of the moon, full moon this morning. Still on the warm side, but getting a little more like November slowly. A better week for the work, though the energy in general is lower right now, and usually stays this way through to the new year. So, I'm trying not to do anything too challenging, or heroic right now, just move things forward, get in and get out. But it seems like working with the energy of the time, instead of against it, is actually more creative. There's a sense of space to the process now, like I've stepped back, can see more. This tends to initiate more in the way of substantive change than the nose to grindstone approach, which I tend to get hypnotized by. But working harder is not necessarily working smarter. I realized a few years ago that, with this project there would be no finish line to cross, instead there would always be more to learn. That made me think I should just start enjoying the process more, instead of constantly trying to hustle it in various sneaky ways. But access to the sense of largesse seems to happen in very small increments, millimeter by millimeter, giving each aspect of growth or expansion an opportunity to be felt, or considered.
Cats are interesting about politeness, Lily will always defer to me about going through a doorway, or up the stairs, unless I tell her to go first. She doesn't really like having a camera pointed at her, I think she feels it's impolite. I often get a very blank look if I take a picture of her full on. This is frustrating because of the way her personality generally just radiates from her eyes. So, this week I tried a few photos where the camera wasn't at eye level. These are a little trickier, this is at night, the camera on the desk, I was looking at the computer, not her. Does she look like a benevolent, multi-dimensional cosmic being here, observing her ever-deluded, somewhat goofy human pupil, or is that just me?
Tried a somewhat different approach to refining linseed oil this week. This is derived from research that comes out of the University of Saskatchewan, they are isolating cyclic peptides from flax oil for medical use, and are also beginning to market the refined oil itself for painters. This refining method was in one of their research papers and involved 151 proof alcohol and a blender, 1 part alcohol to 4 parts oil, five minutes at top speed. The speed specified in the paper was 600 RPMs. I couldn't find the maximum speed of this blender online, but I think it's probably at least that, given some of the speeds I did find. Anyway, I let the alcohol separate from the oil overnight, then rinsed the oil in clean water.
Usually, with this approach, the rinse water turns dense white because of all the mucilage that the alcohol has taken out of the oil. But this oil was five years old, had sat in the light all along, and the mucilage had fallen out, was visible at the bottom of the jar. I used the top half of the jar, so there just may not be much mucilage left in this oil. This is the second rinse, it's a bit cloudy, but not much. I'll rinse it a few more times, then heat it very gently, at around 100C, to remove the remaining water. Not at all sure what this will be like, the alcohol makes the rhology more limpid, but aging gives it more body.
A lot of the Constable outdoor studies are on scraps of bookbinding board that have paper glued to them. I made some of these sandwiches a few years ago with contemporary laid paper, Ingres drawing paper. The paper needed to be sized first, then allowed to dry, or it would wrinkly badly when it was glued to the Davy board. This time I used a sheet of Umbria that was floating around, slightly heavier weight, a really nice drawing paper. This was a little easier to work with, could be put on the glue dry, then sized from the top and smoothed gently. On the right, Umbria on Davy board, on the left, the same thing coated with pink gesso for a sky study.
Started out this week with some work that I flet relatively certain about. Sometimes they have a simple progression, it's clear from layer to layer what to do. This seems to be about not getting too uppity at first, keeping everything a little broad until the sense of the atmosphere is complete. Then, at a certain point, they begin to turn a corner towards being finished. This one feels sort of that way now, the colour is close, but the details need more resolution. This is outside Middlebury in Vermont, on the way to Shoreham. 18.5x11 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.
The second version of this after I finally let the first one go, about layer four or five. Very in control, detail held back so far except in the sky, but getting to the point where it needs a little less control, and more paint. This is south of Ferrisburg in Veront, on the way to Monkton. About 10.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Another recent start, moving towards getting the strong light in the sky, the softer, reflected light and less saturated colour of September in the field. Also outside Middlebury, on the way to Shoreham, on one of those magical dirt roads that led to a place the modern world forgot. About 10x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper. Time to mount this one on a panel.
So, later in the week it seemed like a good idea to try some things that were a little more iffy. May was always a challenge in Vermont with its Oz-like greens and Easter-eggy palette. The colour in this wasn't bad but I was concerned about it getting too fussy and put a couch on it. But of course I wanted to try something new, and the consistency was not quite right, so I got more fusion or melting than I'd bargained on. Still, it felt like it moved forward. Farr Cross Road outside Vergennes, about 8.5x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.
This one has been close several times, an image from a night I painted outside, so what happened is kind of engraved in my brain. I like the way the paint held the light detail in the trees, but overal, it got a little too technicolor this time, I'm used to the paint drying down more than it does now. So I'll let it rest, then go back. With something like this, it's not so much figuring out what to do, as waiting for the impetus to work on it to build up again. Also Farr Cross Road, 8x12 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.
From earlier in the same evening, before the sun came out. This one was much quieter, and had become encrusted with lower value impasto that was too inaccurate, so I ground it back. This is easy on panels, I put a little oil on and then sand it down, then wipe it all off well, then clean it up with a little alcohol or mineral spirits. So, this is starting over in a way, not much detail yet, but it's getting that sense of the light slowly emerging through the overcast, which was always the goal. I think I may need a little cobalt green light for this, though. About 8.75x13 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.
Another image of the same spot, May this time, the same issue as the one above, ground this one back as well and started again. Same procedure, felt a little more comfortable with it, didn't try for too much detail, just brought the major shapes back into a better alignment. About 9x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.
First week of the moon, first quarter today, a sunny week, colder at night but then mild again during the day. Still in the energy trough of this time of year, not fighting it, just trying to be aware of what wants to happen. Even so, a pretty itchy week, one of those weeks where I got new eyes, could see clearly how things weren't done. But, alas! This doesn't magically make them done. It seems to be about pursuing opposite poles at once. One has to do with seeing more accurately into the structure of colour and form. The other has to do with transforming that accuracy via feeling. A lot of painters have been interested in this, of course, but everybody ends up doing it their own way. There are a lot of different versions of "being faithful to Nature," or "I'm just painting what I see," out there. You could say that this is a pretty simple equation to balance, and it might be if it were as static as it appears. But what seems to happen is that new levels of "accuracy" and "feeling" occur: the axis both spins, and rises, becoming a spiral. When this happens, what seemed "finished" a short time before suddenly seem far less so. So, similar to the way the craft operates, things go halfway to the wall for a certain amount of time, then, oops, the wall moves. On the one hand, this creates a certain amount of chaos: the old system, so lovingly assembled, is suddenly irrelevant. But on the other hand, it creates a new opportunity: to apply creative organization in a situation with a new dimension. Sometimes these new moons introduce small changes, but this last one introduced a larger one, I'm only just getting settled again.
Finally colder here at night, Lily is spending more time inside. I've noticed that she really likes to find private places in the house, we're both here but not getting on one another's nerves. So I took an old apple crate and made a bed for her in a spot she already liked. At first I put it with the open top on the side, but she ignored it. But when I put it top up, she hopped right in and disappeared. It's fun to wake up in the morning and have her head appear a little later out of the top of the box.
After dinner it's often time to play. The ferocity here seems to be a function of how much rest she's had. She'll take a dignity break, scamper away, but then come back for more. She likes this piece of string, world's longest mouse tail.
Have been wondering for a while about a paint based on emulsified beeswax, part of the the medium of both the Coptic Fayum portraits and the Pompeii murals, this stuff is dense and gluey, very interesting to work with. Almost did this with gum arabic, would have kept in a tube far longer than hide glue, the traditional other ingredient, but decided to use PVA as the other binder, this means it becomes waterproof and more permanent if it's used alone.
Medium flexibility test, the PVA is flexible but the ewax is less so. But I wanted enough ewax to have more possibility of texture. Not an issue on a panel, but this stuff would be a little iffy on stretched canvas.
How the paint looked, just mixed it by hand, plenty of body and boing, this was pretty exciting. Also, the brightness of the colours without oil is always shocking, this is ultramarine blue.
First try using this paint, heavyweight watercolour paper with a PVA gesso ground. An image from long ago that I liked, I remember trying to make a painting out of it and being absolutely confused by what it required. I was hoping for some open time and some textural possibilities, but the paint needed to be thinned somewhat to cover the texture of the ground and became very literal once it had any water in it. Did get a little texture going but the paint dried very quickly. So, not what I had in mind, but interesting to work on, and better than the first time! Probably exactly the wrong type of image for this paint, am wondering about something with a palette knife and a few strong colours next.
Detail, a little scrabbley, the paint would work finely but dried pretty much instantly.
Decided to continue it in oil, an iffy decision technically given the wax in the underpainting, not something I'll repeat, but it was matte, had plenty of texture, will end up on a panel, and there's wax in the overpainting too. This is after two further layers in oil. A little small, but interesting to develop. Am wondering about a little less colour, especially a little less yellow. This is sort of counter-intuitive since it's later in the afternoon, but this seems to often be part of finding a balance between literal realism and the larger realism of the feeling. Farr Cross, 8.75x14.5 inches.
Did a few later development layers on things in progress, this one had a good overall feeling but wanted to be a little cooler. This day had a very specific feeling, a kind of extended still point in atmosphere and light. Getting there, it's a fine line with these between using what's underneath and being held back by it. When I work on something yet another time I often think of Le Bon Bock, by Manet, a pretty spontaneous-looking portrait in the museum here, but for which the subject sat over fifty times. Also Farr Cross, about 9.25x14.25 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.
Relatively quiet week, mostly overcast, got a little bit done, and what happened was pretty good. But it's pretty much the bottom of a major cycle for me, see below, so I often felt like a bowl of overcooked fettuccine, and, as such, let the work rest. A time like this is in some ways frustrating, there's always more to do and usually I like to do it. At the same time, it's always good to get a more positive perspective, see the glass as half full. Often this week just being able to work at all seemed miraculous. New moon yesterday, kind of an itchy one, but still didn't know what to do so continued to let the well fill up. There are some ideas, and some of them may even qualify as new enough, but I'll wait for the one that gets the energy, the primal oomph. This year continues to be incredibly strange, a lot of tired old fiction trying to masquerade as the truth out there, without too much in the way of planning or finesse. At the same time, a lot of hidden things coming suddenly to light. But, honestly, not nearly fast enough for me.
Have been thinking a lot about cycles lately: growth cycles, organic cycles, creative cycles, it feels like they follow the same pattern. I talk about the moon's monthly cycle, the way the waxing and waning seems to affect the work, but there are other ones as well. I guess the one I pay the next most attention to is the solar cycle. There's one of these based on your birthday, but I've found the one based on the time I was born to be more relevant. This means the cycle starts (1) in late August, bottoms (2) in mid-November -- yesterday, in fact -- begins to blossom around the end of January (3), and peaks about the middle of May before falling apart over the summer (4) in order to start again. Some of these times are more hard, or relevant, than others, it's not like nothing positive happens in the summer, but the bottom of the cycle is definitely a time to take it easy, not try for too much. That was easy this week, the moon was conjunct the sun at the very bottom of the cycle! But there was a time when I would have fought this for more, thinking I was doing the right thing, but only making the deficit greater.
I've ended up here with the medium for the last few weeks, it's always a balancing act between grab and glide. This one can hold or blend the brushstroke, dries very brightly, and has lots of body. It's elastic, but also sort of limpid, works pretty finely if that's called for. Long ago, I used to think that this process would have a finish line. Then I thought it would just go halfway to the wall forever. Then the wall started to move.
The colour in this one had gotten a little too vivid, put a thin layer on it to drop it back slightly, very overcast day, but it was all relative to what was on it already so it came out correctly. More to go, but this is getting close to what I want. Still not the quickest process, but it used to take much longer. About 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.
Got two more layers on the medium-sized start from last week. The medium enabled a lot to happen, so this is relatively far along for the amount of time in it. Some unresolved areas still, but am looking forward to going further with this one. About 13.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Third week of the moon, very sunny, finally colder, actually really colder, a hard freeze, a little bit of a shock at first after the endless balminess, but I still sort of like the cold. A decent week for the work, didn't try for too much, just did what wanted to happen. Am getting more comfortable with the TBO based medium, when this first happened I wasn't at all sure why, it has been a while since the process wanted me to do something that badly. But I can understand the impetus better now, which is fun. It was interesting to realize, years ago now, that the process had a direction, that it knew more than I did and actually wanted to teach me. This was a great relief at the time, I was trying to be logical in terms of exploring the materials, but realizing that I was simply going to run out of mortality before coming to any real conclusion. So, the process even allowed me to try it my way. Having grown up in the 20th century frame of reference, with parents who essentially worshiped the mind, being "smart," I didn't have any idea how dumb the smart way was in the larger terms of life. But I learned to value intuition, maybe decisions made from the heart is a better way to say it, more over time. Still, the craft seemed like it called for "science." It didn't occur to me that it might also be intuition based, until it demonstrated clearly in practice that it was. Is. I still don't know quite what it's about, but it has much more to offer than I ever thought it might. Which makes sense, given that "knowing," and "thinking," have very little to do with it.
Continued to work with the highly elastic triple boiled oil medium, it's got too much grab still, but it's easy to add a little glide in the form of a silica gel.
One of the most useful things about salt-refined linseed oil is how quickly it dries. This means that it also auto-oxidizes really fast. But one of the things I noticed about oil that I'd thickened -- which became very pale in the process -- then put in a closed jar, was that it began to darken in the jar over time. I called this "oxidation frustration," because it seemed like the oil wanted to polymerize further, but couldn't because there wasn't any oxygen in the jar. So, I'm experimenting with two things now. First is keeping oil while it auto-oxidizes in a jar with a permeable lid, cheesecloth works but so do the cheap cotton tee shirt rags from the hardware store. Once it gets thick enough, it can have a little poppy oil added, this keeps it from going further and modifies the fatty acid profile to make it even less prone to yellowing. The second thing is to take some of the oil that had thickened, but darkened, and see how bad it is, and what I might be able to do about it. So I took some thicker oil I thought was suspect, and heated it gently. It foamed vigorously for quite a while, releasing the various byproducts of oxidation. When it was done, it was even darker, the red orange of the photo, but also had a much more mobile or gelatinous rheology, one that I usually associate with lead oils. So, I've done a before and after test with this oil, they both dried without darkening but it will be some time before there are real results, usually about six months. I decided to put it in a jar with a permeable lid, to see if it will lighten again bit by bit in contact with oxygen, and to give it an opportunity to oxidize-polymerize further, which might be pretty interesting.
Continued on the Mugello image from last week, did two more layers on it using a modified version of the medium above. This has a brightness I haven't experienced from an oil medium, would expect this look to have egg yolk in it. So, I like this approach so far, the ground is a little funky, too much coarse marble dust, but that's easy to fix in the next one. Otherwise can't see what to do next, maybe this one is done, or at least in limbo for now. Given how sequestering this approach is it may be a good idea to start these a little differently, will be factoring that into what happens next. About 9x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper.
First layer on another favorite image, this one has a small modello somewhere that's pretty far along. Made a panel for this with coarser linen, somewhat coarse ground but no little pointilles of marble dust, ground those back before starting. Tried the TBO medium-paint combination with a little added oil to begin with for more fusion in the background, this was very nice to work with, great tension between the tightness of the TBO and the movement of the added thinner oil. So, looking forward to more on this one in the week to come. Can't believe this process is suddenly going to become straightforward again, it's been quite a while, but maybe it is. About 13.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Week of the full moon, Friday night, warm and sunny for the most part, 70F and humid in November is a little disorienting, there are still roses blooming around here. Turning a little cooler now, much easier to focus. Another relatively strange week for the process, I worked on things in progress at first, but the process really wanted to go somewhere new, and eventually did on the day of the full moon. As always, at first I just saw the half empty part, but now I'm getting more comfortable with it as the beginning of a next step.
Enriched the egg medium with some thicker oil and a little resin and did another layer on this one. Got a few things to happen that I liked in terms of colour and value. This could go halfway to the wall until I say uncle, did some egg tempera work like that years ago, but it might be time to move away from the egg and it's tendency to be really specific. 9x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Finally got this mounted, they always take better pictures when they're flat. Third layer on the darker beach at Stone Harbor, thin and more precise paint, used a soft brush for the first time in a while to do the distant people and beach umbrellas, that was fun. Getting closer to done, will work to consolidate things more in the next layer with slightly denser and more mobile paint. About 8.75x15.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.
Well, after several weeks of testing different mediums including relatively small amounts of the triple boiled oil, it seemed time to just try it alone. So, made a small test batch, one part larch balsam, one part beeswax in a little OMS, and four parts each TBO and chalk. It seemed like the larch and TBO might be a good combination, slow and fast drying.
This was thin, felt like it would work finely, but strongly resistant and elastic. Folded it into a small piece of parchment paper, this stuff is great for keeping small amounts of a medium. Used less of it than usual, one part to three parts paint.
Decided to do something I knew pretty well, my therapy image from the Mugello. Although really, it's a fine line between therapy and obsession, I sometimes wonder if I actually lived here at one point. Did this on a different type of ground, PVA with some pretty coarse marble dust in it on Arches 300lb rough. In some ways this surface was an issue, in other ways it helped. Application was a little difficult, the medium worked very finely but was sticky, so it was hard to cover the ground. But, slowing things down can also be good. Kept the chroma low as long as possible, made all the greens with cobalt for the first pass. There were more olives in the left foreground, but I took them out, the trees on the upper right got a little funky, unresolved. This version of the composition is a little more dynamic, but also needs more adjustment. Interestingly, this was dry the next day, and dried more up than down. So, as always with something new, a puzzle to be in at first, then a puzzle to figure out what happened. It would be ideal to finish something this scale in one layer, but this is growing on me, there's a nice physical sense of the space, of being on this hillside in Italy, but I have no idea how that happened except that I used far more black in this than is readily apparent. Putting on the next layer should be more straightforward. Layer two is often equivocal, kind of toothless, but this type of beginning may beat the curse. About 9x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper.
With the coarse ground, the drawing didn't register that much, so I went to a layer of watercolour first. This is the Kremer watercolour, in pans, augmented with some colours I made, this stuff is more about pigment than translucence. The paint is absorbed instantly, so things can only get so specific within the time frame, but it definitely helps when I'm in the mood for it.
The next day I set up a different version of the medium, more wax, some quicker drying resin, some walnut oil not just TBO. Boy I thought this was really going to be great, but it was pretty much a disaster! Which I'm getting more used to, who was that jazz guy who said, if you don't make mistakes you aren't learning anything? So, a few possibilities for the next step with the medium, but I think the week to come, with the moon beginning to wane, will be less about experiments, more about development.
Sunny and still warm this week, tried a few different things, some of them worked out better than others. It is always interesting, if maybe a little chaotic at first, when the process moves on. Growth: logical, but somehow unexpected. When I made the zinnias of 9-24, I really thought I was about to make a series of paintings like that. But, the process had other ideas. I used to struggle with the process for what I thought "should" be happening, but it turned out to be futile. And, since what I know is boring compared to what I don't know, learning from the process has been lots of fun. When my activity is directed by inclination, by what wants to happen, time expands. If I do the opposite, allow my activity to be directed by any form of "should" from my mind or will, time contracts. So, if I simply ask, "What wants to happen?" and go where that leads, life happens in a way that seems natural, organic, and almost elegant sometimes. I get taught, but it is through flowing, not pushing. I still get waylaid by various things I think should be happening, but I'm learning to become aware of it before things contract too much. I used to think all my efforting and shoulding was really noble, part of proving myself against whatever nefarious force, but now it seems, well, a little bit silly, like life has much more to offer than the heroic good guys versus the sneaky bad guys scenario I grew up with. The process has offered a quality of time that exists beyond fighting, even the fighting that I do with myself. This is much more interesting, because it involves moving incrementally from the personal, which is exclusive, into the universal, which is inclusive. It seems clear that I don't have to define myself a certain way, and perhaps even fight for it, because that way is in the process of transforming itself into another way. So, as the frame of reference becomes more fluid, it's not really a definer or a container anymore, just a vehicle for growth. While there's a lot of tension around now, and I get dragged into it often enough, it seems like there's also an amazing potential for growth. I'd certainly like things to be less stressful, but that stress is generating a colossal amount of energy. It's like the positive and negative currents in electricity: they can just create shock after shock, or they can be harnessed to do amazing things.
A long time ago I did a lot of work with egg emulsion mediums. The basic formula in the modern textbooks is one part egg yolk, one part oil, and one part varnish. This works but of course can be tweaked a great deal. I was sort of obsessed with amber varnish at the time, and had made a lot of it that was fairly light, so one medium I did a lot with was an emulsion of egg yolk, chalk, and amber. These tended to be alla prima from life on a gessoed linen panel, and were sort of do or die, on the blunt side but solid in terms of drying to their colour and value structure, example below from 2005, 12x16 inches. There were other variations, I did a few with balsam instead of amber, but after a while I wanted to try things that were simpler technically. But this week, for reasons unknown, egg yolk wanted to be part of things again. There was an image I'd been wanting to do for a long time that it seemed right for, as well. So, several planets converging, and I made up an egg medium for the first time in a long time. Kept it simple, just egg yolk, chalk, and thin oil, wanted to see how it would look with minimal saturation. More to go, more to learn about this system, but it came out pretty well for a new beginning, last painting of the week, below.
Started here, boy it seems eons ago at this point, this moon continues to be a roller coaster. Second layer on a first layer that was a disaster, this one still bugs the living daylights out of me, but I'm beginning to understand why. When something has issues on several axes, it's sometimes a little hard to puzzle it out. But I think with this one the colour, the composition, and the medium are less than ideal. The trifecta! This doesn't mean I might not be able to figure it out, but, as in the story of the therapist and the light bulb, it's got to want to change. Detail below including a possible different composition. 8x15.5 inches, oil on gessoed canvas over panel.
Second layer on the more mysterious beach from last week, pretty positive for a second layer, these tend to be equivocal, adding accuracy but removing oomph. A tricky photo, had to make lots of corrections, but in life this sort of makes me ecstatic, which is pretty rare at this point! Not sure why, maybe because these beach images go back so far in my psyche, and I've been trying to find a way into them for a few years now. Anyway, very excited to go further with this. Almost got it mounted yesterday, but cut the panel later in the day and made it too small, which is typical of later in the day. About 8.75x15.75 inches, oil on gessoed paper.
Started this watermelon a while ago now, it suffered from a charismatic first layer but I wanted more from it. Put a slightly denser and more saturated layer on it this time, it's interesting to learn to wiggle around more in a relatively small colour space. Not done, but better, have an idea for the next layer, sort of do or die but that's the only way I seem to be able to finish something like this. 12x16 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.
Image I started with the egg yolk medium, sort of had to feel my way with how this works, it dried fairly slowly and got two thin layers on it. It has a nice workability, but wasn't additive, I'm more used to being able to paint bluntly at first, then refine it. This did that to an extent, but blends more than it layers. Very close value structure, detail below, I' the rose in shadow on the right is something I could not have done a few years ago, that's always fun. So, more on the jar, and the green is a little too high chroma for the rest of it, but it's okay for this stage. I'll probably add a little thicker oil and a little resin in the next layer. Fun to visit some older territory with a little more awareness. 9x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.