Monday, February 14, 2011

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

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“Beauty is ever present like the light of the sun — even in the most humble object, only it takes an artist’s vision to detect it, and an artist’s skill to reproduce it.”    — Soren Emil Carlsen

“Study in Red and Gray.”   After 2 months of relentless snowfall, ice and rain, and a very busy January of commercial paying graphic design and photo restoration work, I have finally managed to get in some quality painting time again. Posted here after a final 16 hours of work is the completed painting entitled “Study in Red and Gray.” Everything pretty much progressed as noted in previous postings, saving my favorite part for last — the foreground field.

As usual, I started by “oiling up” the field with my usual green, a medium-dark mixture of Williamsburg Indigo and Sennelier Chinese Orange mixed with a generous amount of jelly medium Old Master’s Maroger Flemish Medium). Some more hot coffee at the ready, a tacky surface ready to accept brushwork I create a couple of piles of green mixtures using the base green neutralized with Sennelier Warm Grey, which I add into just about every color mixture.  From there it’s just making lots of different greens and carefully matching the values in the underpainting.  I modulate the temperature of base green with Viridian, Cad. Yellow Medium and/or Raw Sienna as necessary adding brushstokes of cool and warm colors for variety paying special attention to lively shadows.  I use a couple of brushes, wiped clean with a rag as necessary and as the different colored green piles begin multiplying all over the palette surface I grab from here and there without really thinking about it.

I have mentioned before in my posts how once I get into the painting zone — always with the help of background music played very loudly — I put down marks without intellectualizing in any way what I am doing. And I do this in 3 - 4 hour bursts and then rest.  If I stop and think about what I’m doing even for a few seconds then all is lost. I put down the paint and that’s that.  I pay VERY close attention to the VALUES of my mixes. Incorrect colors are somewhat forgiving; incorrect values are not.  Correct values are of paramount importance, after design and drawing.  I would rather have something be wrong with an unconscious honesty about it then go back and fiddle and diddle it to death. It just never works for me.  The next day I will examine what I did with fresh eye and RARELY, if necessary, and with great restraint retouch a previously painted passage.  I may glaze and/or scumble this or that mainly knocking back something appearing too loud or arresting.

Up to this point all color mixtures have been grayed down with Sennelier Warm Grey (most everything in natural light is grayed down anyway).  A trick I learned from watercolor painting was that high-chroma colors sparkle like jewels in a sea of neutralized color and it only takes a few of them here and there to liven things up convincingly.  So, when all is dry I come back with the finishing touches of pure high-chroma color practically straight out of the tube, and bright white catchlights. Judicious use of these final touches is great fun, breathing life into the painting and serving to keep the eye continuously moving through the composition.

To get into painting zone for the final session I listened to a lot of Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band material, mainly the superbly crafted “Lick My Decals Off Baby,” “The Spotlight Kid” and “Clear Spot” from 70 – 72.  I am a hard-core Don Van Vliet fan and was greatly saddened by this master artist’s passing on December 17.  I was lucky enough to catch every performance of The Magic Band in the 70’s up until his last Boston performance in the early 80’s.  The sine qua non of Van Vliet’s singular genius was abundantly evident in not only in his music, but in his painting and drawing. Those performances still linger and resonate with me to this day.

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