Forty-Nine...

[singlepic id=185 w=320 h=460 float=left] I told you I'd do it! And, here it is. The oil version of Nirvana, my big, bright, hopeful, next-to-last painting in my group of fifty. Nirvana is all about transformation, and with this painting that seems to work for a few different reasons.

For one, I suppose it marks the near-completion of my transformation into a multiple-media painter. Maybe more importantly, it also convinced me to become a painter that takes the time to tone canvases before painting. I've done that exactly one time before this, adding a sepia wash to a canvas that I was to paint with one of my Zen Garden images. That time I applied the wash right before I wanted to start painting, then became frustrated that it took so long to dry.

This time, I toned the canvas with a grey-purple color right before leaving for the coast. Four days later when I started to paint, it was dry, and I was a very happy art chick. What a difference! Not so much in the final result, but in the speed with which I was able to get into the really interesting part of the painting. Without toning, underpainting used to take frustratingly long as I struggled to cover every millimeter of the bright-white gessoed canvas. I would find myself fighting with these white edges where areas of color met and I tried not to make mud between them. Toning completely eliminates the problem.

Also, I put off toning because I was afraid I would lose the ability to use the white background to create ultra-intense, transparent , glow-y colors. Meh. There's plenty of bright color in Nirvana. I needn't have worried.

So, wow! I get to enjoy the fruits of my "discovery" on exactly one more painting before turning around to work at the other easel. But hey. Better late than never.

Alchemy: What's in a Name

[singlepic id=169 w=320 h=460 float=left] Naming a painting can be one of the toughest parts of the entire creative process. It can also be one of the most fun. It's like a little reward, beyond the finished painting itself, for all of that hard work. I always name my paintings after they are completed. Sometimes I will start a painting with a title in mind, but I can't think of a single instance when the painting ended up with that title. I think if it did, it would be because I pretty much phoned the whole thing in. No matter how clear an idea I start out with, if I am paying attention, after a point the work will evolve on its own. And it will demand a fitting title.

Sometimes the title is obvious. It just pops into my head in final form, I write it down, done deal. But the most interesting adventures in naming often happen when only a partial title comes to mind. This oil (number 46 for anyone who's counting) is a good example. As I worked on it, the element that evolved beyond my original idea was the bronzey-gold, or the idea that the blue-green leaves were turning to bronze. It occurred to me that the blue-green bits resembled oxidized copper as well. As I finished the painting all I knew was that I wanted to incorporate the idea of bronze or gold into the title. 

I couldn't think of an interesting way to do that, so I headed to the thesaurus and dictionary to do some word association. But looking up bronze, I found nothing more than a pretty standard definition (boring) and some references to suntans (useless). With only one more place to look, it was Wikipedia to the rescue. After skimming over a very long entry, I found some history of Turkish bronzes, including the story of how an Armenian alchemist named Zildjian discovered the musical properties of bronze while attempting to turn base metals into gold. Turning base metals into gold... Alchemy! Perfect.

All poor Avedis Zildjian got out of his discovery was the largest cymbal-making company in the world. But I got a title for my painting. Ha!

Is Forty the New Thirty?

[singlepic id=128 w=460 h=230 float=] For my own sake, I hope so. But I'm afraid that may end up being the case for my oils project as well. 

Above is my fortieth painting, Ravelen. Another milestone! Ten left to reach my goal, I should be happy, right? But my forty is starting to feel like somewhat less, for  few different reasons.

First, one of my stipulations for my fifty oils is that they all be good enough to show. But one of the side effects of doing something so many times is that you get better at it. So now some of the paintings that were looking pretty good to me a few months ago are facing tougher standards. 

Combine that with some early exhibits and other juried events which tend to tie up inventory, and my body of work starts to feel a bit underweight. Not that I mind painting a few more! But I do need to get back to pastel someday. Fortunately, about the time I expect to finish the initial fifty, jury notifications should start to come in. Who knows, I may already have way more paintings than I need. There's a scary thought.