Vials Series: The Black Crow December 07, 2016 10:43

My next work in the series is "The Black Crow" (sometimes also called the Black Toad) which is based partly on the alchemical idea of the first stage in alchemy, which involves, yes, rotting or putrefaction. The Black Crow means the decaying of all the gunk that is part of the Prima Materia ("A formless primeval substance regarded as the original material of the universe"). What's left is purified. I wanted to combine that idea with some of the images from vanitas paintings (yep, still on the vanitas thing--that's what the image is in the corner of this paragraph): an hourglass, most importantly, although I am thinking about including a tipped-over glass and skull and perhaps a pipe in the foreground around the hourglass. I'm not so sure about that. But I know the hourglass will be there, along with a black butterfly and a piece of lead, the quintessential Saturn metal. Saturn rules this stage of alchemy.

Saturn is dry and cold, like the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, which I thought would make a great background for the hourglass and crow. So I started that landscape on canvas. Then painted over and started it again. Then decided to put the Milky Way in the sky instead of just blueness. Didn't like it, painted over it, and painted the Milky Way again in another way. Painted over that and found it had too much texture to paint over so I had to trash that canvas, something which I almost never do. I always reuse a canvas, but I pretty much never paint with texture. Thing is all the dots of the stars stuck out like warts. So I stuffed it in some cardboard and put it in the dumpster. <cringe>

I started again on a wood panel, but after just putting the ground on, I didn't like the feel of it and put it aside. Felt like I was really spinning my wheels. 

I dug around in what I have on hand and found a pre-gessoed Ampersand panel I got a long time ago. I forgot how slippery they are! I don't like how bouncy canvas is, but I like how the paint glides over a well-gessoed canvas. 
 
The Black Crow work in progress, sketch inAt any rate, I started over yet again on the panel. Then again. That time was the winner. And why? Because I went for some colors I really like to use together, pink and light blue. I just love the sort of shimmer they give. This is a strong pink from anthraquinone red and zinc, and the blue is anthraquinone blue and zinc. Then together I made a violet. This is not the best photo, since I took it at night, but it gives an idea. I have been having good luck with doing drawings on my paintings using Faber-Castel pastel pencils. These erase great with a wet paper towel and don't make dents in the paint. I painted the crow last night but still have more work to do on it.

Speaking of canvas, I've been thinking of switching to panels instead because of gessoing. I usually add about 6 layers of gesso to the pre-primed premier canvases I get from Blick to make them as smooth as I like, but I hate doing it. I make a big mess and I never get the gesso layer perfectly right. I often don't have a gessoed canvas ready to go when I am ready to paint. So I am going to try something else. It's much easier to gesso a wood panel, so I'll try that, and I also would like to try some pre-gessoed linen canvases that Jerry's has. I've heard that linen is stiffer than canvas, and this brand is supposed to be pretty smooth. It would be great to not have to gesso things ever again. Because we hates gessoses.