Sunday, November 18, 2007

French, 18"x14", oil on board

A few terms ago when I shared my classroom with another painting instructor, I found an abandoned gessoed board in the classroom painting rack. It appeared that a student who was taking oil painting as an elective class while majoring in Illustration had attempted an illustration project on the board but didn't finish it. The board had a small, unfinished painting of a mermaid on the lower right corner, but the rest of the surface was clean. So while I was cleaning up the classroom at the end of the term, I decided to save it and use it later for a painting study or something.

I painted this head study of Steve French on that board during a class early this term while having the students finish their paintings. Time was short (about 2 hours) in between instructing the students, so I decided to take on a simple profile. I am not sure what kind of primer was used to prepare the board, but it had a very unusual surface qualityムit was extremely absorbent. From the very beginning, as I laid down the wash, it dried almost immediately. In fact, it felt much like painting in gouache. Not quite a fan of fast-drying media, I quickly realized that my usual wet-on-wet method would not work on this surface. So I tried to lay the pigments with a more direct approach and little brush manipulation. Also, I relied more on dry brush technique than "mingling in" colors to emphasize the texture and alter the colors on the surface.

As far as color scheme is concerned, I exaggerated the color, or "pushed the color" a bit. When I was a student, my painting instructor, Ted Smuskiewicz, used to tell us, "Don't be afraid to use color boldly."

Overall, I am satisfied with the result that came out of the initial challenge of painting on an unexpected surface. Actually, at the end of it, I came to like working wet-on-dry, so I decided to find the same board at the art supply stores, but to no avail. After some experimentation, I discovered that Clayboard meant for watercolor painting comes close to it, but is not quite the same. I intend to look for it more or come up with it on my own.

As for the mermaid painting, when I finished the painting initially I left it untouched. It was where Steve's deltoid is on the painting. Steve being an ex-sailor, I contemplated for a moment leaving the mermaid on his arm as a tattoo, but I decided to cover it up.

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