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A Sunday look at process and work in progress.




november 19
      

      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.



      

      Well, here's what wanted to happen Sunday afternoon. Have been wondering about a paint based on emulsified beeswax for some time, the medium of the Coptic Fayum portraits, this stuff is dense and gluey, very interesting to work with. So, this is new all right. Well, new and old at once, even better.



november 12
      

      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.



november 5
      

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.


october 29
      

      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.





october 22
      

      Week of the new moon, an incredibly beautiful week of sunny days and cool nights. Lily started scratching, uh-oh, and after a few days in denial I started looking for the flea comb, which I had put someplace special and of course couldn't find. But heard several gruesome flea stories from people so finally found it and started working on her. At first I couldn't find anything except some eggs, but then I started combing deeper and they began to emerge. The first one was kind of a shock, there is was, wriggling between the tines, and they're not that easy to kill. Have to admit I had no compunction about it, at least there's one type of blood-sucking pest I can do something about. I just got a few at a time, searching where she was scratching, it took a few days, but we got pretty good at it in the end, she liked being combed and finally let me do her throat, this was where the last one was. I vacuumed everything and did lots of laundry, so far, so good. I was a little late off the mark, but it was nice to be able to do something for her. As far as the work, the new moon was in contrast to the calm weather, very quickly establishing that nothing I did was new enough. It was kind of a roller coaster all week, being patient with not knowing on the one hand, asking the next set of questions on the other. It's been a while since one of these evolve or die moons happened, but when things want to change at that visceral level...



      

      ...there really isn't much choice but to let them. But as always I wasn't quite sure how, so I tried a few different things. There are always plenty of things to try! What came out of a reasonable amount of confusion is that the paint wants to be both natural, spontaneous, and a little bit finer working. Some of the things I tried this week worked out better than others. In the end, used a different type of putty, dense but also limpid, below, to make a final study yesterday, and this seems to be the beginning of the next step.



      

      



      

      Put this one on a panel, 3/8ths Baltic birch, this stuff is really nice. Got one more layer on it, like the sense of the mist lying on the ground, am bugged by the transition from light to sky and want to clean that up, but otherwise not quite sure how to resolve it. Am sort of determined for this not to become an Impressionist painting. It may be a matter of continuing down the same path, but with a somewhat smaller brush, more chromatic detail in the shadows of the foreground. Have only used relatively large ones so far to try to keep it more open. About 10x17 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      

Something new. Small beach on panel, alla prima combined medium and ground test that was sort of a disaster. I should know better at this point than to try to test two things at once! Not terrible, but excruciating to work on because the ground was relatively textured and the paint relatively tight. A story I really want to figure out how to tell, hope the next layer will begin to redeem this. 8x15.5 inches, oil on gessoed canvas over panel.

      

      Layer three on this one, Farr Cross in late June, one of those mornings. Closer, the blue is looking pretty good in life, more to go with some of the foreground. It's hard to know when to stop the incremental development and let more paint happen. The incremental development is soothing but after a certain point it doesn't really accomplish anything. Probably time to mount this one on a panel and do a layer with more paint. About 9x17 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Layer three on this one, would like to get the atmosphere first, then put in the many people and details of beach paraphernalia. Still on paper, time to mount this on a panel. About 9.75x18.25 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Started this yesterday with a putty using a reasonable amount of the triple boiled oil, it was designed to be both discrete in terms of holding the brushstroke, and more mobile. As always, overdid the change, the TBO is so strong a small amount of it would have been plenty, but this was interesting to work on, and might be very nice at a larger scale. Or with finer brushes: see what you get into with these changes? All kinds of questions. Decided to emphasize neutral colour more to start, and this helped. More colour next, and lots of smaller details to be added, people, beach umbrellas, etc., the single large canopy looks odd but there's more small airborne stuff to add. A lot of head scratching this week, but it feels like this begins to solve the puzzle of what new wants to be about this month. Yikes. About 8.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



october 15
      

      Sometimes when I look back on last week's news it seems like it happened a year ago. Ah yes, one of those weeks! Warm rain from Nate early, boy, I would not last long in the tropics. Then a pretty overcast week, some cooler mornings but incipient heat and humidity later in the day, not bad but yikes it's the middle of October. Waning moon, not usually the best time for the work and it wasn't. Knew what to do, but wasn't interested in what I knew. Just let it go, saw that other things wanted to happen. It's logical that peace begins at home, and that the first step to peace is to stop struggling. I've realized before that I'd much rather pretend to be interested in peace and keep on struggling, ride that endlessly thrilling roller coaster of hope and despair where change is guaranteed to never happen. But every now and then there's a small shift, just a clear sense of how the futility of the struggle. Less might well be more in terms of the overall quality of life. This process is sort of like the nested wooden dolls, one inside the other, except that what's next inside is bigger not smaller. The search for inner space is more intense, in Philadelphia than in Vermont, but, having grown up here, it's all pretty familiar, down to the sidewalks busted up by the sycamore trees, so progress seems to mean more as a result. It's not easy to look at the opportunity to learn that's right here, right now, I'm too busy avoiding it like the plague. In terms of the infinite detail of the universe, both physically and metaphysically, it's sort of mind-boggling that even relatively small events contain opportunities. The cat is really good at this, she's always setting up situations for me that act like unexpected mirrors. At first I thought, "Can you be this smart?" but now it seems like she's just doing her job. Anyway, I guess this is a response to the ongoing lunacy in America right now, which I'm trying to ignore without a whole lot of success. This has been an odd moon, it wanted an unexpected shift, I didn't really get it until this week. So, a couple new projects began this week, both of which are going to be fun, but they are too new to get into just yet. Not painting, but very related to painting; unexpected, but logical from a larger perspective. The paperback version of Living Craft is doing well so far, but I haven't been able to put it on Amazon yet, some kind of glitch, I'm in an endless loop of not being able to get a new account due to having had an old seller's account there, the usual technological comedy of errors. I've told them about it, twice, so hopefully that will be resolved soon.



      

      Close-up of one of the local hydrangeas, it hasn't been particularly cool yet but a lot of interesting colours are tucked away in various corners of the neighborhood.



      

      Got two thin layers on this image from Farr Cross in Vermont, something I'd always wanted to try. Lovely cool and foggy morning in June, really luminous moment when the sun has just burned its way through the mist. Worked quickly for an overall feeling both times, then stopped. Like the overall direction so far but would like a little more mystery. This tends to come last, anyway, the step beyond rendition. Can see a certain path forward for this pretty clearly, but would like to avoid that if possible. It may not be, maybe I see it because it's supposed to happen, duh. About 10x17 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



october 8
      

      Week of the full moon, often a good week for the work but this one was sort of complicated, something new definitely wants to happen, but it's at sixes and sevens so far. The heat returned, one more time! It was like early September here all week, dark and humid today as the influence of hurricane Nate begins here. The front porch needed to be fixed and a lot of banging happened beneath where I work for a few days, but mostly I think everything that's going on in the world made it too hard to concentrate. I've been making an extra effort to feel everything is fine this year, but this may not be the right approach either, it's sort of exhausting in its own right. It's best to know when this is happening, trying to muscle through a sense of emotional emptiness or malaise seems to often lead to accidents or illness. So, didn't work much later in the week, had some quiet time, cleaned up, appreciated how far things have come, read a great old-fashioned kid's book called Jenny and the Cat Club, a collection of stories by Esther Averill that were originally published individually. She has a disarming naive style, very Strunk and White, almost a code. At first I didn't think much of it but it began to work better as I got into it. Like all early kid's books, these stories all have a discreet moral or ethical foundation. Remember when that meant something in America?



      

      But one overtly positive thing did happen. At long last, the paperback version of the book arrived yesterday. After all kinds of unforeseen things went wrong with this project this year, it has finally moved forward. What a relief. It was such a simple concept: the text is mature, ready for a wider audience, make a paperback. But I guess if I hadn't had to go through eight different proofs to get this edition, it wouldn't mean as much.



      

      Second layer on this one of carnations, rubbed a very dense silica gel couch on it and cleaned it up, got some more convincing colours and architecture in the flowers, but, as is usually the case with layer two, things got a little formal, a little pasty in places, and the coveted oomph factor plummeted. There are definitely things about this that are better, but the next layer will be about reversing those trends again. The couch can be a double-edged sword, but there's always something to learn. This one didn't really move enough for the style, but there are other things in progress it would work well for. 9x15 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.



      

      A somewhat earlier version of the beach idea from this year, put another layer on it that helped, layer four I think. But without a juicier medium this approach can go halfway to the wall indefinitely, so something designed to be final will have to happen soon. Also want to look at the image itself again more carefully for a different composition, there's a ton of people, beach chairs, umbrellas, etc. in this encampment, at this scale it is quite simplified. I love the beach umbrellas, it goes back to being four on this same stretch of beach. About 8.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.



      

      The same image as the chunky beach of 9-24, set this up more carefully, moved some folks around, two layers so far. Some rippling, a little hard to see what's going on on the paper without it being mounted, smaller image below gives a better idea of the composition, sort of Luminist, that 1x2 horizontal, with some added elements from France. Far from done, may need even more adjustment to the beach people, but I'm getting better at this. Part of me says more umbrellas, more umbrellas, but that's not necessarily the answer either. But I'm pretty interested in this one, a couple different things beginning to coalesce. About 9.25x18.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.







october 1
      

      Second week of the moon, full moon on the fifth. The heat really broke this week, sunny and brisk days with cooler nights. The work moved around but was able to get a reasonable amount done. Plugged away at Bergson's Creative Evolution (1905), the language is sort of austere, and it probably doesn't help that the translation tried to keep it that way, but every now and then there's a sentence or two that really shine. The most important point so far is that, since the universe is a living system, we need to adapt our conception, or interpretation, of it so that it is also alive. He acknowledges that there are disciplines such as science or mathematics where specific rules seem to work, but notes that the version of time in these disciplines is "abstract," rather than "real." A pretty gentile distinction. So, he foresaw the limitations of Newtonian style empiricism from a cosmic perspective, the limitations that would drive 20th century developments in physics especially. But he's not really interested in arguing, more at getting to the bottom of how we can learn to examine our experience more truthfully, therefore more reliably. Because I spent a long time as the prisoner of the over-confident empiricism of the various 20th century painting manuals in English -- well, maybe not Doerner, this book has a soul -- it's pretty soothing to have this perspective refuted so succinctly: in spite of the many ways science itself has moved on, goose-stepping empiricism is certainly still with us as a culture. A decent week in the work, nothing too exciting, but accepted what wanted to happen and began to consolidate what started last week, felt my way to the next level. Am getting more comfortable letting go of striving, the willfulness that can take over too readily, it literally seems to strangle the most functional energy available to the process. After Harvey and Irma, I was sort of having disaster sticker shock with Puerto Rico, but gave to Unidoes Por Puerto Rico after Trump accused Carmen Yulín Cruz of "poor leadership," and this felt better. Week after week, I keep wondering if we have reached the darkest hour yet in this bizarre presidency, and the answer is always, "No, not yet." Still, it's interesting that, in issues that have become officially public, the negative force Trump exerts is always met with a stronger positive force, and perhaps this is the larger point: once the extent of the poison becomes known, it can then be treated more effectively.



      

      Made another batch of the basic fused damar and beeswax medium I've been using for the past few years this week. Doubled the amount, altered a few proportions slightly, but otherwise left it the same. It did turn out a little looser but, without weighing everything, there are going to be small inconsistencies, and it's getting colder anyway. For a long time I worked towards the idea of a single solution in terms of the medium, but for a while now it has seemed that the solution is always going to want to evolve, and that that is more interesting anyway. The medium is always about balancing the stickiness or grab of the paint with it's motion or glide, this is coupled with the medium's set over time, which determines how much it can be layered, and how cleanly, in a given sitting. The fused damar and beeswax is the sticky part, the slide can be provided by oil alone, or by a silica gel.



      

      Started here this week, an early image from my time in Ferrisburg in Vermont, early morning in midsummer, have done several versions of it over the years but always wanted more. Tried this one with the swing for the fences, full steam ahead approach to the paint from the zinnias of last week. Didn't run into any large issues, but, as ever, the colours in this were tricky for me. So, less successful than the zinnias, and it makes sense that a landscape would need a little bit different approach than a still life. I was sort of crabby about this one at first but it has grown on me. I'm not a believer in alla prima as a religion, the theoretical justification of any system on pseudo-ethical grounds makes me very nervous, but when the system is designed to complete the image, there are going to be some that end up in a sort of limbo, is it complete or not? About 9.75x16.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Then decided to set up a few images in a way that worked up to the swing for the fences layer. Second layer on this beach from Stone Harbor in New Jersey, a lot of people, a lot of recession, I like the balance so far but it feels like one more defining layer might be wise before adding a lot of paint. About 9x18.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Just one layer on this one so far, another older image I'd done several versions of that came close, but were ultimately without closure. On the blocky side so far, this one will benefit from the internal texture being more animated, see image below. Farr Cross, June, about 9.25x17 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Shifted to some older still life work, wanted to work with a modified version of the ewax medium from last week that made the beach painting. This one had become sort of subfusc, as images in progress for a long time often do, and I wanted to see if the specificity of the ewax paint would give it more life and more internal sparkle. Was sort of excited by the combination of mobility and painterly detail in this paint, made a lot of changes, including moving the can to the right. The can and the tableline are a little funky right now, but I like what the paint did in general: a surface that could be very finely animated with chromatic and impasto detail. This is pretty much what I thought would happen, always fun and never a sure thing. With less ewax, it didn't hold the value structure as much as the first version, dried down a little bit, but also has more saturation and worked more finely. So, not quite done, but the best this one has been, and a step forward in terms of what the medium can do. About 10.75x11.75 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.



      

      Then went to a more recent, brighter colour situation, a group of pink ranunculus, had fun with this but am also running into an issue with the density of the paint and the scale, and ways in which the original conception-execution was overconfident. Getting closer, will keep working on it, but have learned enough about the image to start a somewhat larger one, and have that panel set up, about 18 inches across. The larger scale makes an exponential difference with these. The shapes and colours of these pink ranunculus, especially the darker ones, are trickier to puzzle out than zinnias, it's always interesting to run into new areas of personal colour-blindness. About 9x12 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.



september 24
      

       First week of the moon, uniformly sunny, warm, and on the humid side, though it looks like there are only a few more of these days to go here. Had kind of an intense week with the work, most positive week in a while, got kind of excited about it and did a little too much, but that's okay, still tend to think it's about effort when it has repeatedly proven to be about exploring the next step. Need to back off now and give it a rest, let the well fill up again, but a relief to see some progress in this most crazy of years.



      

      There are two ways that beeswax can be saponified or emulsified for painting, one way uses hartshorn or ammonium carbonate, the other uses liquid soap, soap made from potassium rather than sodium hydroxide. The hartshorn method seems to come from an old manuscript from the Mt. Athos monastery in Greece, the liquid soap method is associated with various non-fresco wall techniques such as the Pompeii murals, and also with the Fayum period mummy portraits on wood, notable for their Van Gogh-like impasto. The first paint I ever made from scratch long ago was an ammonium carbonate-methyl cellulose tempera, I really liked working with it. A few years ago I made the other type of emulsified wax, and this was also fascinating, much more elastic in the paint. I've done several tests since then, and this material seems to be on the non-yellowing side in conjunction with oil: the tests have yellowed less than the fused damar and beeswax tests, which don't yellow much. I think it's safe to say that, in the context I've been working in, a little ewax is fine as an addition. So, this week I decided to try a test painting with a lot of ewax in both the medium, and the paint. The medium had an unusual combination of density and elasticity, and I wanted to see how that would translate into the work, and how that work would dry and age. As is often the case with something really new, it was both really interesting and inconclusive. Or could that be conclusive in its own way, just still in process?



      

      First new one this week, done on the last day of the old moon. This was unusual timing, but it wanted to happen. Working on this was sort of calm, almost peaceful, odd for this year, there often seems to be this "quick before he pushes the big red button" background energy. But it felt like there was no hurry, or nothing to prove, the image seemed impossibly complex in terms of both colour and form, but interesting to explore, I'd just see how far I could get it. I also wasn't sure about the composition, everything seemed to be floating, I liked that but it was something I'd never done before. So, all in all, this meant it had a slow beginning, I mapped all the zinnias out first in pretty blunt paint to get an overall sense of their pattern and movement. It took all day, and only really came together in the last hour, balancing the colour and the sense of personality in each flower with the atmosphere. I was pretty tired at the end but it was also fun to watch the issues I'd had in the beginning get slowly, incrementally, resolved. About 10.5x15.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Waited a day, then tried a second study with the same technique, only improved a little bit. Well, or so I thought. As is often the case with these improvements, it didn't quite work out as planned: had hoped to create a little less movement, but ended up creating more, silica gel can be funny that way. So, did the best I could with this one in the one day time frame, but the first one seems more resolved, sort of on a higher plane. Don't feel that critical of this one, the ranunculus are more tricky as a shape, pink is trickier as a colour, but it's important to be sort of dispassionate about what has worked out and what hasn't in order to move the process forward. About 10x16.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Then tried this small study of the beach using the dense and elastic ewax medium above. This paint was fun to work with and did some things quite well, reminded me of some of the more energetic outdoor work from Vermont, sort of long ago at this point. But, the kinetic quality of the marks aside, things don't feel that resolved. That's okay for something like this, first test with something really new, "new" wanting to occur on several levels at once. Maybe the composition needs to be adjusted, some things edited out or moved around, maybe it needs to be more or less representational, or maybe some combination of all three that will make sense after I've looked at it for a while. About 8x14 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

       Tried to return to the original approach of the zinnias yesterday-- I did write it down! -- to see what would happen with a somewhat smaller one. But again, there were a few small changes that ended up influencing the situation: I made the white differently, forgot about that, and the painting happened over less time on a smaller surface. Again, the goal was to make the paint a little tighter or more specific, but I ended up dealing with something that moved a great deal, and wasn't as additive as the zinnias, meaning some adjustments had to be made by removal. So, in a way I'd like this to be more in control, but the energy seems to be headed in the right direction. Still, I think a little larger is better for this approach, this felt like there wasn't enough room. But that could well be me feeling like there isn't enough room in another sense. Not for the first time, something goes right, then it becomes a scramble to try to figure out what really happened. The zinnias happened patiently, almost spaciously, it was sort of a surprise: like making anything that late in the moon was just a freebie. Then, as often happens with the new moon, something new started to happen, couldn't be stopped. This meant more energy and sense of attack, but not, at this point, more resolution. So, things coalesce into a kind of formal peak or still point, then the pattern falls apart in order to move on. Sort of a paradox, but this seems to be how the process works. I guess product could be defined without process, but to me this would be like defining compass without moral, that is, sort of asking for trouble. Anyway, a lot has happened since the eclipse, excited to see what wants to happen next in the week to come. About 8x13 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



september 17
      

      Tail end of the moon, new moon on Wednesday, as usual it will be none too soon. Not as much heat, but back to the humidity this week, sort of like waiting for a thunderstorm that never occurs. A little oppressive but not totalitarian, there was only one week like that this summer, in July. Potentially a lovely time of year here, looks like one more humid week to go. As always the cumulative effects of stress are hard to gauge until something stops giving and snaps. Had a flare up of uveitis this week, almost exactly a year since the larger incident. Knew not to try to tough it out this time, and spent most of the week experimenting with various natural anti-inflammatories, all of which helped it calm down but none of which knocked it out completely. The most interesting addition this time was grapefruit seed extract, I always forget about this but it is very good at a lot of different things. Part of me would love to figure out exactly why this happens, but I've always been subject to various types of stress-related inflammation so the empirical solution may be so mobile as to be effectively moot. Between elected disasters and natural disasters, both of which seem to be still ramping up, it's not that simple right now to feel like all is right with the world, and the background noise of this may have finally caught up with me. It does seem we've proven that oppression never works, whether it's a people or a planet, but there seem to be people who still need to find this out the hard way. I mentioned to God at one point this week how boring all this was, the same thing over and over and over, all I got was the distant thunder thing. Personally, this comes down to more patience, meaning, as usual, less caffeine, more meditation. Finally gave up on alternative and went to some of the official medication last night, a steroid eye-drop that was sitting in the refrigerator, and felt a kind of internal tension depart instantly. I'd gotten so used to it I didn't even notice it. But it seemed like my body knew this would work. So, another interesting episode in learning to distinguish what is helpful in theory, and what is helpful in practice. Speaking of which, every now and then I've run into various quotes by Henri Bergson that have been both pithy and profound, and came across another one this week: "The more we study the nature of time, the more we shall comprehend that duration means invention, the creation of forms, the continual elaboration of the absolutely new." Well, I'm not sure about "absolutely," since there always seems to be some kind of fertilization from the past, even if it's indirect: flat space was "new" to European fine art, but not to Japanese prints, African art, Persian miniatures, etc. But I ordered copy of the book, Creative Evolution, first published in 1907, the year Matisse painted the portrait of his wife called Green Stripe, a decade before The Armory Show. He seems to argue for the primacy of the organism, rather than the inevitability of the mechanism: the continuity of one's own thought structure, so thoroughly attenuated in the course of human events, is that much more comforting when in evidence. Oh, and I forgot: went to the ever-stressed-out Subaru dealership to get my defective airbag replaced, those poor folks in their cruel blue polo shirts, and Lily threw up one evening throughout our older next-door neighbor's house. Went over to help clean it up, the interesting part was her total embarrassment about the incident, I've never seen her slink away like that before, try to make herself invisible, she needed a lot of encouragement, which is rare. So, a lot went on in various ways. A decent week in the work all things considered, a few inklings of what might begin to happen next in terms of both the style and the materials.



      

      Made a denser silica gel this week using the fused damar and beeswax approach, this is too dense but the first one is too floppy, so between them they work to modify the original fused damar and beeswax medium, which is way too dense. Doesn't all this make sense? At a certain point, I'll have to make a new basic medium, and will factor all of this into that formula.



      

      I liked the experiment two weeks ago of adding a starch-oil emulsion ground to some of the more striated glue gesso on linen panels, this didn't used to happen, think it has to do with the linen now being made with coarser fibers in one direction. Made the formula a little more carefully this time, you ca nsee the three teaspoons of starch about to go into a mix of some of the more iffy lead whites that have accumulated, plus some titanium white, and calcite. This stuff is very bouncy, not not that elastic, as you can see below, slides on nicely with a large spatula, dries matte with a fine texture.





      

      Alla prima study from the therapy farmhouses in the Mugello series, this was kind of a surprise. Not quite done, don't want it quite this bright or blunt, but there's something a little new to work with here in terms of the weave of flat shapes and space. This also might make a nice bigger one in a somewhat different style. Will mount it on a panel before going further. About 10.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Another image from the Mugello, I really liked these funky older farmhouses, centuries of wear and repair, wanted to see how far I could get starting from scratch with the current system modified with a little of the thicker silica gel. The paint could be blended or layered, always a nice place, so I got pretty far, a few dorky places, though I like the feeling of the major building's shadow. But, so far, this is basically a medium test, not a painting. Not quite sure how to get this to rise above rendition or the Ye Olden Mill motif that crept in but that's what layer two is about. When I really don't like something layer two tends to be a little more desperate, which is good. About 10x16 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Somewhat larger version of the carnations, worked on this twice this week. A nice size for the subject, larger than life but not giant, easy to get around in with the paint. After the first time it had lots of oomph, but things had gone a little too far astray with the composition. The second pass cleaned it up nicely, but, as is often the case, at the cost of much of the oomph or espieglerie. Still, something interesting is going on here, tension on several different levels. I often find Bonnard lurking in the woodpile these days, don't quite know how to factor that in without getting into conscious fragmentation, maybe lurking is enough for now. In the next layer, want to go back to more paint, more of a broken surface, more tension between older and newer in the colour. Sort of an inversion of a blueless 19th century colour scheme, this is often seen darker, but not brighter. I'd like more space on the left but there isn't any, maybe that would make it feel too balanced anyway. These somewhat larger ones on paper are a little floppy until they get put on a panel, I've mentioned this before, that will be next here. Also, it might be time to do another large run of gessoed linen on a hollow core door, good project for the last few days of the moon. About 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



september 10
      

      Week of the full moon, did have one day that felt sort of full, otherwise a week of ups and downs, hanging on. The weather was similar, cooler in general, always nice, some halcyon sunny days but also some dark, cold rain. All things considered, can't complain at all about the weather here. Have felt a lot of anxiety about Irma, which may well do damage on an unprecedented scale, but it's one of several intense things going on outside the work right now that I can't do much about. There have been some good changes in the process as it's gotten cooler again, picking up the impetus it had before the real heat set in this summer. And this week, with the full moon, the process started moving pretty fast, so fast I kind of needed to pause and let it arrive somewhere rather than try to keep up with it. Sort of odd, feels like it's going somewhere without me, but maybe it's just what has to happen now, there's so much distraction at this point I'm looking for balance however I can come up with it. Got a proof back from the new bindery, this was pretty positive given the amount of new involved, details below.



      

      One thing that's really interesting to me is Lily's other life when she's outside. As soon as I let her out, it begins, she's different, on, a heightened awareness of everything out there, it's even part of the way she walks. But with people she can be very social, coming out onto the sidewalk when she sees, or maybe feels is more accurate, someone she likes. I had the window open while working this week and overheard a girl talking to her down below on the sidewalk, her friend came up and said, "Who are you talking to?" and she said, "There's this really nice striped cat here." So, it's fun to think of her working the neighborhood with her own form of magic.



      

      Got a proof of the book from the new bindery this week, it printed without issues. They sent the cover separately, this needs some colour adjustment but that's not a big deal. Photo of the new proof, sitting on top of the pile of the other proofs produced this year. 2017, the year that proved you can never know what might go wrong until it does. But, I learned a lot, can't become resourceful without adversity, it's a much better book now, and what's this compared to fifty inches of rain and a crocodile in the basement? Anyway, fingers crossed, hope to have new paperbacks finally in early October.



      

      Continued this week with the fused damar and beeswax medium with added silica gel, looking for the best balance of grab and glide as always, not quite sure of the right proportions yet but am writing everything down. Am doing more tests with the Triple Boiled Oil, some interesting things are happening, will report more on that soon.



      

      This is from a few weeks ago, finally got a good photo of it. For me it's been necessary to learn about these without having too much of a formula, to wait until something clicks, so they've often gone back and forth between too bright, not bright enough, etc. But it always comes back to a quality of feeling coming out that shows where to go. So, this one is getting closer. About 9.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper on panel.



      

      First one this week, first one using a mix of the fused damar and beeswax medium with more fumed silica gel for an increase in movement. This worked for an image like this that is more flat or graphic, colour and value have gone down very little, something I look at carefully in week one. I tried mixing ultramarine with cobalt blue in this one, ended up with something on the cool side for this image but it's an interesting daylight blue combination. Fun to do something alla prima like this again, it's been a while, will return to this approach when the process wants to but this one is done. About 10x12.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



      

      Returned to this carnation image, did one on paper a few months ago that turned out well. First one is below, about 8x13 inches, this one is a little bigger, 9x15 inches, and on panel instead of paper. The first one featured a final try at using gum arabic in an emulsion, I had hoped that the fused damar and beeswax medium would keep it from drying down, which it always has in the past in spite of having great character. And it did mostly, but not completely. So, it doesn't have quite as much sparkle now, nothing anyone is going to know but me, but technically, sparkle is something seems important to be able to maintain. And I'm afraid gum arabic has officially moved off my list of things to keep working on, sigh, I really loved the look of this paint. With the recent one, got pretty far along for one layer, made an effort to complete it but sometimes this results in things fizzling out energetically in spite of going further technically. So, this went through a few days where I really wanted to fix it a lot, but had the sense to leave it alone. Now at least I understand it better, am not reacting to the sense of having been defeated, the dog needing to find the porcupine again and get revenge. It's not done, but, linen on panel, slightly larger than life, is somehow a step forward. I like the way the gum arabic approach to the medium encouraged looser handling, and a more airy finish, this is very solid, will look for more pizazz, oomph and espieglerie. in the next layer.





      

      Something older that was an early milestone in the effort to make landscapes that balanced the various elements of 19th and 20th century work I like. Saw how to improve it and began. A little raw looking now, but on its way somewhere new. About 9x11.5 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.



      

      Another reclamation project, on the border between salvageable and enough already start over but thought I'd try it. With these beach situations, it's always a matter of balancing the vast expanse with the relevant details. Early evening, quiet refulgence and haze, several layers trying to get at this had minimized the detail too much. So I decided the thing to do was just put as much in as I could possibly stand, even down to the little sandpipers on the wet sand. It's been a while now since I've used a sable brush, to say nothing of a small sable brush, but this was the right tool for this. Too much detail, but that was the idea, and again, a little raw overall, but on its way somewhere new. About 9.5x15.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



september 3
      

      Well, made it to the first of September once again, it always seems iffy in August but that's sixty-two times in a row so far. Second week of the moon, overall on the cool side here, a great relief, lots more energy. But also lots more anxiety, natural disasters are so basic, in the emotional marrow, always make it hard to concentrate even if they're far away. But it seems like there's also a lot of positive stuff coming out of Harvey, and that seems to be a consistent feature of this year as well. Still, if we nobly rise to the occasion only to do the same dumb stuff all over again, that doesn't work either We're unlikely to come up with a genuine solution as long as our frame of reference defines the earth as a thing, not a being, and I'm not going to hold my breath on that one. Still, if it's about how we respond as a species to the idea of being not just rugged individuals, but connected in a larger way, then larger problems are the only way to test this capacity. Why look, here comes Hurricane Irma!

      After six years, I decided to give up on the old bindery. To have a perfect proof, then have the whole edition misprint after removing a single extra blank page, argues a very small window of functionality at this point between my PDF and their software. And, given the fact that this is not a technical area that they have ever been prepared to discuss, that's just that. So, set things up this week with a new bindery that is geared to individuals like me, and has a much more developed system. And, will hopefully have a proof from this new system in the week to come. I don't see how anything can go wrong, but, given that it's still 2017, maybe it's safest to say that only something unforeseen can go wrong.



      

      When I got involved with washing linseed oil a decade ago I really liked what happened when it auto-oxidized. It became not just thicker, but had an adhesive pull, sort of the opposite of a pre-polymerized commercial oil like stand oil. But, I also noticed that, the thicker the auto-oxidized oils became, the more they could darken over time. This meant using less, which was often fine, or putting the oil through a preheating process, either before thickening it, or afterwards. Another factor that seems to influence long-term darkening is the age of the oil. Here's a jar that stored some reasonably auto-oxidized linseed oil: about half as thick as stand oil, processed six years ago, about as dark as the film from the thicker Kremer stand oil. So, not bad. Of course, whether darkening is an issue in the paint film depends on the pigments used, the colour scheme, etcetera. But, if you're interested in working with the properties of linseed oil, aging it in the light is going to help it.



      

      The fused damar and beeswax medium I've been using is on the tight side, I've been loosening it various ways, but the one that has worked best is with a little silica gel. This approach keeps the general density but adds movement. A while back I got some of the thinner Kremer stand oil. It seemed like a natural for a silica gel, and it was, but it took about two parts fumed silica to one part oil to get something reasonably firm. So, in the week to come, I'll try adding a small amount of this to the basic fused-damar and beeswax medium before mixing it into the paint. The fumed silica gel is easy, but needs to be used in moderation compared to, say, a putty made with calcium carbonate. Also, it needs to be handled carefully when it's dry, it's like fine fake snow and can really get all over. I make it wearing a mask, and clean up well afterwards for any stray silica.



      

      I'd wanted to try an emulation of the triple boiled procedure to see what might happen, and it was cool enough this week to introduce the extra heat. Heated the oil first for two hours to 200C, then, the next day, heated it for four hours to 150 C. This was still pretty thin, with no increase in adhesiveness, so it seemed that there wasn't too much point in going for a third round of heat. A little bit of added colour from the heat, but the heat also assures a relatively non-yellowing linseed oil if the oil hasn't been aged. In theory four hours at 150C is enough, but at this point I'd start with half an hour at 200, then drop it to 150 for the rest of the time. This, of course, is dangerous, not advised without lab equipment, note heavy walled flask and ring stand to stabilize it.



      

      One of my favorite paintings of the last few years was done on a panel using a lead white-titanium oil ground with calcite and starch. The calcite made it more lean and gave it a fine tooth, and the starch introduced its unique smush effect, along with a subtle granularity and lots of textural potential. I've had some issues with linen on panel having irregular threads that remain proud in spite of the glue gesso, the way I work now it requires a lot of paint to get a surface that doesn't have some of this corduroy texture. So I tried this on a few of those, put it on with a large triangular knife, and liked the look.



      

      Second layer on a start from last week, keeping it bright and on the loose side. Tiny village in the hilly and relatively empty area above Lucca called the Garfagnana. About 10.5x15.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.



      

      Another layer on this recent start, I want to keep going with this one until it's resolved, it's mostly a question of how to complete the sky so that it's more in relation to the land, I'm hoping adding a little silica gel will help. I keep softening the blue of the sky, but the camera keeps brightening it again. About 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.



      

      Another one I've been working on about once a week, made the colour a little softer this time, am again feeling like a little silica gel will help by giving the surface more overall motion. About 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.



      

      This one is a little softer overall, therefore a little trickier, this type of colour can easily become drab, or subfusc. So, another increment. The third version of this image, something about the timelessness and stillness of this one has made it really important. Not done but through to a new place for me, the best this image has been so far. Also about 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.



      

      Small older study from the Mugello region to the north and east of Florence, a composition I always liked. I found that, while a medium of just chalk and oil worked fine for lower chroma still life, some of these brighter colour landscapes done that way dried down over time. So, a layer designed to brighten it up with the current medium, designed to dry more up. I loosened the medium but it became a little melting in some places as a result, this is what the silica gel is designed to fix, not bad but I'll put one more layer on this at some point. About 9x13 inches, oil on paper (Arches Huile) over panel.



august 27
      

      Week of the new moon, lower humidity, slightly cooler, especially at night, far more energy and focus all of a sudden. Had a decent sense of progress into July, it's nice to have it begin to return again as the heat slowly begins to wind down. The various things I've been drawn to in art history are coalescing in a new way, I don't really trust trying to think this into place, it needs to just happen in its own way. Which makes it always kind of a surprise. I find this great fun, but it's also easy to get addicted to progress based on process, and always hard to wait for the next step in day after day of sweltering heat. But, given that the wings are wax, it's best to be grateful to be airborne at all, not to try to fly too high. Just a little more August to go, so I'm cautiously optimistic, but it's not over yet. Tried a different way of processing the images today, and they're on the bright side.



      

      Have been going around in relatively small circles with the density and viscosity of the medium. I've wanted it relatively tight because the work is small, and there is no tack supplied by solvent evaporating from it. But, it's a fine line, and loosened it up slightly this week, just a little more mobility, which worked out well. Decided to get a smaller set of measures, these have cute names but are an eighth, a sixteenth, and a thirty-second of a teaspoon. I had an eighth of a teaspoon before but was estimating half of it regularly, this was still not small enough. Adjusting the medium with these smaller measures instead of guessing will make it easier to replicate at a larger scale when I next make a new batch of it.



      

      Began this one this week, got three layers on it. There's a slightly smaller one on panel that has disappeared, put it somewhere special and now can't find it, and a larger one on linen that is probably best left behind, so it's an image I've worked with. The approach to colour seems to be in transition from brighter to softer again, this got into a kind of zugszwang situation and looked kind of odd until layer three. Quieter is harder than more dynamic, but seems to balance it as well. More to go, possibly a lot more, but no major issues. About 10.5x18.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.



      

      Start from about two months ago, first landscape with the approach of a watercolour underpainting, cleaned it up a little this week, layer four or five, looking for closure. More things I'd like to do in the painterly paint department but this one seems headed for home. About 8.5x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.



      

      There are several versions of this one now, decided to move this one away from a general pattern and make it a little more like my memory of the day. It's always fun to revisit a favorite time and place this way. More to go, and a little bright here compared to life, but I broke the mold and it came forward. About 11.5x21 inches, oil on gessoed linen over panel.



      

      Same place, same trees, different season, about a decade later. A way to go still, in transition from colour that got too bright to colour that feels more natural. About 8.25x14.5 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.



      

      Started another new one yesterday, also an image that has some forebears, a tiny village in the Garfagnana region above Lucca. This one got interrupted and I liked the look of it when I came back, the feeling of the first stage of the oil paint going over the watercolour. Ah, process! Did get the layer completed later in the day, but it was too wet this morning to photograph accurately. About 10.5x15 inches, oil on gessoed paper.



august 20
      

      Pretty warm and sticky week, some serious thunderstorms, nicer this morning but it's not going to last: all kind of blurring together at this point. Waning moon, new moon and eclipse on Monday, certainly a few things I'd like to see eclipsed, looking forward to that feeling of renewal that comes one way or another with the new moon. Between the old moon and the heat, very little happened in the work this week, I'm trying to be careful about overworking and creating inflammation, I got uveitis last year around this time and it wasn't fun. So, the usual battle between doing and being, trying to stay cool, relax in a culture going through a lot of not undeserved craziness, a reluctant summer vacation.



      

      The books arrived, they looked lovely on the outside but are unreadable on the inside. An open invitation to serious inflammation. It's an error that has to do with the default style, so it begins on page one and runs through the whole text. A hundred and twenty of them. We had a proof that was perfect except for a single extra blank page, I corrected that, thought another proof wasn't needed, now this. I sent one to the bindery, I'm not sure what's going to happen here, I decided to give them one more try but I think perhaps their software system is too sophisticated for mine, that is, it's designed for quite fancy modern books full of formatting and always looking for things that aren't there in this text except as minute inconsistencies leftover from the editing process. The sense of having been flayed alive didn't last quite as long this time, but I'm increasingly convinced that I succumbed to homicidal rage in a former lifetime, and opted to both experience this again, and learn to transform it, in this one. I decided the best thing to do was to not concentrate on the difficulty but on the solution: accentuate the positive. But of course wasn't sure what this meant. Interestingly, I got an email the next morning from a small publisher who is interested in the book. Just a feeler, he wanted to know more about it. We exchanged some emails, and he told me an awful lot of technical stuff about PDF production for printing that has somehow always been highly classified information before. This created a sense of hope on a couple different fronts. He also commented that, while the PDF is theoretically a what-you-see-is-what-you-get format, this is not always true in practice. Beginning with my parents and teachers at an early age, I began to notice that those in authority tend to deny the validity of one's experience when it is inconvenient for them, and this has certainly been the bindery's approach. So, yet another printing disaster, we'll see what the bindery wants to do, my contact will be aghast and apologetic, but it is her job to keep me in the loop, the actual issue is what happens next. Moving on to another bindery is attractive, especially when you have the name of a quality new place to go that only deals with individuals, rather than treating them like second class citizens, but this edition is also just one invisible error away from completion. In larger terms, by being willing to let the personal angle go, the sense of having been willfully insulted, shamed, or damaged, it's already leading somewhere new, which I think is what I was supposed to get from it. This has led to an interesting question from long ago and far away. In the end, did God apologize to Job for what he put him through at the request of the Devil? Somehow I think not. But Job learned a lot: is this the first recorded instance of no good deed going unpunished? We even have theodicy: the study of why a good God lets bad things happen. Excuses excuses! I'm always surprised that that story was not cut, or demoted to the Apocrypha, the matter-of-fact God-Devil dialogue is pretty subversive, assumes the battle of dark and light of Zoroastrianism, but with the awkward twist of the Devil successfully tempting God. But maybe, like the Portrait of Innocent X, it was just too truthful.



      

      Got a third layer on last week's landscape of the Lemon Fair in Vermont. This was a decided happy place for me, but has not been the easiest location to work with. Have been working with a pretty dense paint recently, opened it up a little bit for this layer and learned a lot. Every medium has a different zone of functional viscosity, with this one it's pretty small, things get quite tight, or quite loose, in a hurry. Always good to have notes. Better in person, I was able to adjust the colour in the photo to be more accurate but this compromised the overall sense of unity. More to go, but in a decent place for this early stage. About 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper over panel.



august 13
      

      Waning moon, coming up on the third quarter. Less warm week that ended with some humidity that has now cleared out, lovely morning today. Last year a great many things went awry in August, my primary goal for the month has now become to hunker down and remain in one piece until the beginning of September. Do you remember that stretch of Bloom County where Opus gets involved in astrology and ends up hiding under the bed? Sort of along those lines. So far, so good, but it's only really over when August is. A lower energy phase of the moon in a lower energy time of year, so not that much occurred in the work. But what happened was a step forward, for which I felt grateful. I've slowly realized that the process is always working subconsciously, something is always happening, even if it isn't manifesting, so I don't get as bent out of shape about lack of progress due to the heat as I used to. The balance between doing and being has always been elusive for me in general, and especially in the summer, but I had a few glimmers this week, backing off and going more slowly. Had a very nice visit yesterday from a painter and teacher I've written with for a while now, we discussed some interesting ideas he has about using some of the book's concepts in the classroom, possibly linking up with the chemistry department to refine the oil. The new paperback edition of Living Craft arrives at the end of the week.



      

      This one began when I was reviewing some older studies that seemed like candidates for a next layer. There was one in particular that I'd always liked as an image, an early version of the view on the Lemon Fair often seen here. But, looking at it, it seemed it had been clearly eclipsed in several ways by more recent work. So, in spite of the time spent on it, it seemed like the effort to resurrect it was clearly better spent on a new beginning. So I decided to let it go, and have a sense that this is going to be happening more and more with these older ones. Then went back to the time period in question and looked at the images of that week and found this one as an alternative. Started it in watercolour, I like this because it is quite specific on the glue gesso but utterly unforgiving, without resorting to many layers using a sponge I don't think I'd ever get anything that looked too good. But, it's all there, and in a palette I like. This did require making a lot of the colours myself, but it's pretty easy with watercolour, especially if total transparency is not required. So, then came the slight innovation, which was to start the first layer also as an underpainting, that is, not go for too much, just block things in, adding a little thin oil to get the paint to move more. Then, after this had dried a few days, I put on the usual first layer in denser paint. Kept the palette a little more limited, no modern yellows, more of the two triad approach than the three triad approach, this sort of takes it back in time a little, the timelessness of this view was always something I liked about it, not even a telephone pole to leave out. Really bright morning for taking photos, a little better in life than here. So, though it remains doubtful that I'll ever get one of these in a day, the process is slowly becoming more efficient as it develops. This is on Somerset, I've used both Tiepolo and Rives BFK in the past with success, and may go back to them; Somerset is a little wavey and wobbly at this scale before it's mounted. Will get this on a panel today and keep going with it in the week to come. One more layer? Well, it would have to be a really good one, not that likely right now. Regardless, a better decision than continuing with the first version. About 10x18 inches, oil on gessoed paper.








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