'Departure' Oil on Kraft Paper

‘Departure’ measures 48″ x 36″, painted in oils on Kraft paper cut from a giant roll and tacked to the wall.  Painted in 2007, it was the first of a series of seven large oils on Kraft. (Link to earlier blog entries featuring two more paintings in the series.) The palette is simple: cadmium yellow pale, cadmium red light, ivory black and a mix of permalba white with a touch of cadmium yellow pale and a touch of cadmium red light.  The only mixed color is the white, the others are used straight from the tube.

I had become frustrated with the haphazardness of my watercolor method, that of throwing paint onto the surface, layer after layer, waiting and watching for the suggestion of an image to be triggered in my mind.  This method often led to hours of patient layering only to carry the large watercolor paper down the stairs to the work sink to be washed off for a new beginning.  It was painful watching the expensive pigments running off the paper and down the drain. I needed a change.  Time to switch back to oils.

Having the cost of materials on my mind, using a large, costly canvas to sooth my frustration didn’t seem like a good idea.  I needed a break in my routine.  While painting for gallery exhibits my normal attitude of playfulness had been replaced by an attitude of overly cautious work.  The large roll of kraft paper used for dust covers on framed pieces beckoned from the corner of my studio, a perfect solution.

Another consideration as I tacked the paper on the wall, was allowing something from my own life to spill out onto the canvas.  Too many of the abstract watercolor figures were not connected with my personal history, they were simply energetic, playful abstractions in which the human figure emerged as a recognizable element.  I felt it was time to allow my own stories to surface from wherever they might be hiding.  I still wanted to work intuitively.  I did not want to begin with a preconceived idea of the story to be told.

Beginning with orbs felt like the right thing to do since orbs have always tapped into something unconscious within me. (Link to sample of orbs paintings.) I also wanted to allow figures to impose themselves if that happened at any point.  Spheres often become ovoids and can lead to figures.  That is exactly what happened during the drawing stage of  ‘Departure’.

Getting back to an analysis of the simplicity of value and color, there are only four values in the painting.  The white mixture works as the lightest value.  Cadmium yellow pale brushed thinly over the paper so that the color of the kraft paper tones it to a more neutral hue acts as the lighter mid-value.  Cadmium red light painted more opaquely acts as the darker mid-value.  Ivory black works as the darkest value. Each shape is varied and strong.  The shapes in the two lightest values (white and yellow) fit together well, creating a unified shape juxtaposed against the unified plane of the two darker valued shapes, the red and the black.

What I find most interesting about this painting is that I had no idea of the story I was telling until the painting was complete.  This rarely happens and I consider it a gift.  Had I intended to tell the story of my mother’s death bed, I would not have been able to constrain my tendency towards realism and the impact would have been compromised.  Finding that balance between realism and abstraction is always a challenge for me.

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