For the last couple of days I’ve spent the afternoons working on the vegetation around the figure of the Star, building up patches of Raw Umber, then using a rag to dash stripes into it, lifting away the paint to reveal the Iron Oxide below it. It’s a great way to create a grassy look, and for the stems of the lavender. I created deeper shadows all around the figure so she stands out more from her surroundings, and added a glaze of Raw Umber below her skirt so that the legs became more three dimensional, deepening shadows around the feet and knees, then working with Ceramic White to lighten some areas of the skin that needed a little emphasis. The vase has benefitted from a glaze of Orange Iron Oxide, transforming it’s finish completely.

I used a Grey Green mixed with a little Raw Umber and white to add some colour to the stems, then mixed a little Carbazole Violet for the deeper shades of the spikes. It’s a perilous business painting with this lovely colour, because it stains everything it touches, which can be a problem, particularly when working near whites or flesh tones; a pigment that stains can cause some nasty surprises.

In contrast to the problems of Violet one of the great joys of painting in oils is that it’s usually so easy to wipe from a previously painted but now thoroughly dry layer. I’m waiting for the Star to dry thoroughly so I can take advantage of this, because I want to paint a thin arc of water pouring gracefully from the lip of the vase into the water below. It’s going to be a lot easier to get it right if I am able to edit the arc with a rag, with no damage to the dry layers of paint beneath it.

While I’m waiting for the Star to dry I’ve started on this new piece, a head study of Joe as a green man. Green men are enigmatic figures found carved on church roof bosses all over England with foliage emerging from their mouths and surrounding their faces; perhaps they’re symbols of Spring-time fertility; perhaps they’re inspired by folk memories of the little people. I’ll paint the leaves once I have the face roughed in.


About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
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