Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Finished it. This one really sunk in on me in places (the whole blue-black velvet cloth and the area under the table); I will have to wait until I can varnish it to see the full effect. I am pleased with this piece and think it came out reasonably well. It is fairly large, 30" x 36", and is a satisfying addition to the pile for my fall show - feels good to have a big one in my back pocket.

I changed the way I think about finish with this painting. Instead of thinking about finish as a separate stage I tried to incorporate the finish into the painting from the beginning; rather than ask myself the question "what more can I do?" I asked "what does it need to be finished?" Readers of this blog know that for the past two years I have struggled to finish paintings. I would launch into a painting with purpose only to wander endlessly within: I kept seeing new paths, new vistas, new ideas and felt I had to explore every one of them. The 30" x 36" still life I did for my last show took me two months to finish. With a new show coming up, I am trying to cut the Gordian knot, to move straight through a painting like an arrow launched from a bow (very Zen and the Art of Archery, not I have ever read it...) This one took about a month. Better.

7 comments:

jeff f said...

Looks real good, I love the way you did the cloth.

Are you using raw and burnt umbra's?
I find that those colors suck up so much oil.

I have been trying transparent mars brown which is close to burnt umbra but it does not sink in.

Elizabeth Torak said...

I used burnt umber in the underpainting of the dark cloth; you may be correct that that has something to do with the sinking in there. However, under the table - although it looks brown - I used cad red and both ultramarine and cobalt blue plus a touch of cad orange. Generally I find my paintings sink in when either I a)have a dry ground or b)paint thinly. The dark cloth and under the table are painted relatively thinly.

Tom uses a lot of umber in his work and his paintings hardly ever sink in, but, as noted in an earlier comment, he uses a lot of paint and a lot of medium. I hardly ever use umber and my paintings frequently sink in. In general I paint with a slightly drier brush: less paint, less medium, than Tom. When I do load the brush and go for it I rarely have the problem.

But of course whether or not a painting sinks in is not the ultimate measure of the success of a painting! The painting technique has to express what you want to say, no?

jeff f said...

Yes I agree, the end result is does the painting speak.

It sounds as if my use of medium is somewhere in between you guys.

I have this problem with sinking in with panels and real gesso.

Not so much with canvas.
Umbra by it's very nature absorbs more oil and it also dries faster.

That's an nice rich mix for the table, it looks great.

So you don't paint into a couch?

Elizabeth Torak said...

It is very hard to make panels with real gesso that do not sink in. You have to get the gesso just right and then the glue on top just right...everything affects it: temperature, humidity, the glue, the whiting...it is so frustrating, not to mention the hours of sanding. Tom and I mostly paint on canvas, linen really. Painting on real gesso panels can be wonderful - you get such a dazzle in the paint, totally unlike canvas (though canvas has its own advantages) but man they are hard to make! The best panel maker I know of is Karen's husband Jack. He is a very meticulous person.

What do you mean by 'paint into a couch'? Do you mean 'slather the panel with medium' and work into it? I do not paint that way, nothing wrong with it that I know of, it just isn't my personality. Well, actually I do sometimes paitn like that if I have a panel that is very absorbent: sometimes you can make a panel work by laying on the Maroger (or other medium) and working into it, but I am sure you know all that.

jeff f said...

Painting into a couch is as you said putting a layer of medium on the ground and working into it.

I still use Maroger, Old Masters brand it's very good.

So you paint almost with a dry brush?

I have been making canvas panels, I use this paste called Yes which is great stuff, as it archival and you can easily remove it.

How much medium does Tom use in his work? It sounds like a lot, I always thought that no more than 20% or less was sound practice.

Elizabeth Torak said...

Not a dry brush, a dryer brush than Tom's.

Tom says he uses 37.5% medium ;)

Anonymous said...

Quite honestly, none of your paintings look like you struggled. So fun to look at!