Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Red & gray Ford tractor in landscape overpainting; oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

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“The errors of the great mind exceed in number those of the less vigorous one.”  — William Stanley Jevons

After a month-long hiatus from painting because of graphic design and photo restoration “day job” commitments, I have finally settled back into painting mode.

Here is the first stage of overpainting, about 22 hours or so of work so far. I jumped right into the “small brush” stuff as I wanted to get that out the way first. Although most of this stage of overpainting appears to be “red”, in fact I used my standard full palette of colors. The “mother” red was Williamsburg Fanchon (Napthol) Red. That was darkened it with Williamsburg Perylene Crimson and lightened it, depending on the light, with either Sennelier Chinese Orange, Rembrandt Cad. Yellow Medium and/or Sennelier Warm Grey. When I came back and hit the highlights the next day I used Gamblin Titanium/Zinc White and a touch of either Williamsburg Viridian or Indigo. The blacks are a mixture of Indigo and Perylene Crimson modulated and warmed as necessary with Blockx Burnt Sienna Deep. Makes a very rich deep transparent black darker than any tube black and much more interesting to look at.

Work progresses from the top down and left to right on a particular area. The overpainting is directly painted “alla prima” and I try my best not to go back and noodle over an area. I don’t at all mind the seemingly unpolished look of direct painting brushwork — it’s me at work and those are my marks. I work fast and mix and apply color from the gut, sort of an unconsciously planned orderly randomness of marks including occasional wet blending and suggestions of detail. I tend to work in 4 hour “bursts” and once I get in the zone the time goes by very fast.  Here's a detail of my brushwork.

My working method is to mix up a dark thin half-paste of a particular dark value with some medium (Old Master’s Maroger Flemish Medium) and apply it over a section. Although it’s dark I can still see through to my underpainting which is basically a monotone value map. All of my value mixtures are mapped to the underpainting. So then, the darks of the underpainting get darker and, obviously, so does everything else. But that’s OK, because then I come right back over it with paint and no medium. I lay in the mid- and quarter-tones with opaque color where appropriate to establish the light and form. Thus, the shadows, remain thin and translucent and look very natural. There is also a very nice dynamic of thick/thin and transparent/opaque for visual interest.

When done I let everything set-up overnight — on panels the paint stays wet-to-tacky overnight. This is perfect for accepting highlights so I add those right away without any medium using Gamblin Titanium/Zinc White and a speck of either Williamsburg Viridian or Indigo. I can also darken down an area with a darker value mixture a bit of medium as necessary, but I try and keep that to a minimum. Some of the midtone local color was hit with straight out-of-the-tube Fanchon Red.

For these painting sessions I listened to a variety of music including Procol Harum’s “Home” and “Broken Barricades” (both Mobile Fidelity Master Recordings), Talking Heads “More Songs About Buildings And Food”, and The Stooges self-titled first (and best) album, produced by John Cale in 1969. Love that tune “No Fun.”

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