My Blog About Art

Vials Series: Moon Vessel Finished December 06, 2016 18:46

Moon Vessel work in progress 112316I got the base painting of the crab done. I used titanium plus a bit of green I mixed to start the underpainting of the body (and didn't go further on, because it was not the right color for that). The crab is not symmetrical, which I know is going to drive me nuts, but then, real crabs are not symmetrical either. I am forcing myself to stop being so OCD about symmetry in things I paint. It's just another way of letting perfection turn into an obstacle instead of being a tool. 



Moon Vessel surreal landscape by Harold Roth acrylic on canvasI finished the crab part of Moon Vessel but ended up with the crab being too dark and had to do it over. It was worth the extra work, though, because the crab shows up much better from a distance now. I still have lots of work to do when it comes to keeping contrast in mind while painting. I need to get in the habit of looking at them from a bit away on a regular basis. That's a good technique for checking contrast and whatnot. 

I like the vibe of this painting as somewhat like a tarot card. I'm really glad that I started this series. It is much more to my taste than anything else I've done recently. It gets my imagination going and I feel like I am producing much more interesting images. I get to use my landscape skills, but honestly, it's nice too to be reminded that I can draw. I don't have to trace anything or use a grid or a projector or anything like that. I can just look at my reference photos and draw the image in pastel pencil with whatever modifications I want, thank the godz. I am totally grateful for this gift, because it saves me buckets of time and allows me to be freer in my image choice. 

It also makes me remember a youtube video I saw of a German hyperrealist painting a very large (over 5 ft) portrait of his son from photos about the size of a sheet of letterhead. I thought, how could he do this? He didn't draw it on the canvas first, just started painting and kept looking at the photos and then back to the canvas. And he wound up with this really fresh and good hyperreal painting. I wondered if he in-between takes maybe used a grid or a projector, but now I know that he did not. He was just really darn good at rendering. I've seen hyperrealists who trace or copy from a photo in little pieces in a way that just makes me feel awful to look at, but clearly there are others who use reference photos like this guy. I hope someday I can have such rendering and painting skills at my fingertips. Practice practice practice! 

I've got the original and larger prints available on this site and smaller prints on Etsy. I've been trying to post work-in-progress images on Pinterest, but it is just such a wiggy, buggy, and as far as I'm concerned, just plain creepy system that tonight I gave up. So from now on, I will post work in progress on my Facebook art page and here in my blog. 


Vials: Moon Vessel November 20, 2016 19:35

I'm starting another series I'm calling Vials. I want to continue to make use of my interest in painting landscapes, only as background. But I'm going to venture into using a lot more symbolism from the occult and from alchemy. I haven't done much with symbols since I left off doing abstracts based on the Golden Dawn color scales. But the symbols of alchemy and magic were the main things that drew me to those paths in the first place, and I want to make them a major part of my art, incorporating them with my interest in natural forms. 

background of Moon VesselI started with Moon, one of my favorite things to paint. I got the background pretty much just as I wanted--a fairly calm sea at night (because Water is a Moon Element). This landscape doesn't have enough interest, to my mind, to stand on its own, but its ace when I use it as a background for other things, I think. I've been realizing this more and more--my interest in landscape is not powerful enough to stand on its own. But as backgrounds for other things, they work well.

You can see the lines I drew to divide the painting. I've been using Faber Castell pastel pencils for drawing on my paintings, because they wipe off easily with a damp paper towel. I divided the painting into thirds because I wanted to feature three objects in it: a crab (which is a classic Moon critter, see the tarot trump of the Moon), a bottle with the moon inside it, and a luna moth.

I wasn't sure I could depict the bottle well enough, even though I had decided beforehand that I want all the paintings in this series to include a bottle of some kind (thus "Vials," even though a lot of them won't be actual vials). But I decided that I had examined enough Dutch still lifes to understand how to paint a bottle and that I should just jump in and try it. So that's what I did.

Moon Vessel work in progress 112016I found a number of reference images of antique bottles online but finally settled on an imaginary bottle because none of them were exactly the right shape. So once I got the moon painted, which was simple enough--a circle drawn around a hot plate and painted in with a number of layers of titanium--I drew the bottle and then painted it. I was surprised that it came out fine. Highlights are a combination of zinc and then titanium over that.

Next up was the luna moth, which was actually much easier than I thought, although I want to mess around a bit more with making the body look furry. I did find that, as I suspected, I could not mix a good pale green for it using the yellows in my palette--yellow ochre or azo yellow. So I used a new color I bought to use for sunlight, titanate yellow, with just a titch of anthraquinone blue and some titanium. Bingo!  I got this far over the weekend and hope to do the crab in the next couple of days. A chose the blue crab as my model crab.


Whistler and Lautrec April 08, 2016 20:40

The Falling Rocket by James MacNeil WhistlerI'm just about finished with the biography of James McNeill Whistler by Anderson and Koval. Although I love his Nocturnes, as he called them, and I think Falling Rocket is a truly great painting (that's it on the left), he was an unpleasant person. Still, I often laughed with identification when I read descriptions of his ferocious doubts and misgivings about his own work. He'd work on a painting for hours and be all happy about it for 15 minutes, "It's GREAT!", bragging all over about it, and then an hour later he'd go and scrape it off the canvas, terrified that someone would see it and think what a crap artist he was. The authors' style is very engaging, so if you have any interest in Whistler, I recommend it. His painting technique is not much touched upon, but there is a lot about the world he moved in and the changes happening in painting at the time, especially the cracking of the tyranny of academic Realist painting

Because I'm almost done, I had to get the next book ready. This is about Lautrec, who has been a favorite artist of mine since I was a child: "Toulouse-Lautrec and the Fin-de-Siecle" by David Sweetman.

Meanwhile, I've been working on a cloud painting that has just been giving me the business since I started it. Half of it is just fine and went on without a hitch, but the other half holy carp. I have messed with it and messed with it, and it has improved. I have learned a ton about painting clouds and just paint/glazes from doing it. I hope I will finish it this weekend and that after all the time I have put into it, I can put it up. Maybe not on my art site to sell, but at least here. It was meant to be a study, although a large one. I wouldn't mind taking some of the elements and redoing them. I based it on a photo I took of a storm cloud out east of Seneca Lake last year. 

I've decided to spend the next year working more on technique, because I feel I need to do a lot of work on that. I did get distracted from doing water studies to doing cloud studies (water suspended in air). I've done 3-4 prior to the one I'm working on now, but I was so displeased with them that I just trashed them. Unlike Whistler, this was not some hysterical self-consciousness on my part but just a decision not to keep works that are junk. Sometimes a person can try too hard. 


Water March 06, 2016 18:35


Morning Star by Harold RothI finished a painting I've been working on for a week, Morning Star, but I was not pleased with the way it turned out for a number of reasons. One of them was the water. It just isn't right, and I have messed with it too long, I think. I ended up putting a bunch of glaze over it, and that helped, but I just had to stop.

I did feel a lack of confidence about tackling the water in that painting. I clenched, afraid to wreck the work I'd done so far. And I'd had a couple of close calls on other parts of the painting (which I still see, even though I remedied them more or less). So I decided to do a couple of small water paintings this weekend.


study of water by Harold A. RothIn the first one, I tried to use some techniques I've seen illustrated, but they did not work for me. Only when I gave up on trying to impose them on the painting and let myself paint more like myself did it improve. Even then, it was just okay. I'd already spent too long trying to force it to be something I could not do. 

study of water by Harold RothThe next one I decided to just let the image arise, which is what I often do with an abstract. I thought I might be overthinking the water thing. I am all for studying and for learning technique, but sometimes the brain just gets in the way. That's part of the clenching issue too. But I think this one came out better. I pretty much ALWAYS do better when I let the image arise.

To remember what I'd done, I came up with a set of steps. I have to make sure to start with a fairly dark layer or two. I have a tendency to paint too thinly, so this means several coats. Just before each layer gets tacky, sweep through it with the flat brush used on edge to make streaks. Do another layer the same way. Then begin picking out shapes in the paint with another color. Here I used quin red + zinc + glazing fluid + Aeroflash colorless. I went over that several times. I stopped to re-emphasize the dark color (ultramarine blue) twice. Then I did further highlights with a pale yellow made from imidazolone yellow + zinc + a bit of titanium + glazing fluid + Aeroflash colorless. I gradually moved from a size 6 to a 0 Escoda synthetic flats for the highlights. 

I wish I had done this with the Morning Star painting. Maybe I will indeed go over the water section of that again and see if I can make it better by following these steps. I'm going to have to wait a few days, because I can't look at it objectively right now. I do know I have to get over clenching. That's a hard one. But I don't think there's been a time when clenching ever didn't make a painting worse. So I have to quit doing it.