Of Paintings, Permanence and Picnics

paper sketch



Here are two twenty-year-old sketches for paintings, done in ink on paper. The originals measured about seven feet by four, each, though I’ve cropped the images because of the torn bits and the logs I put down to keep them flat for photographing. If you saw the entire original photos you’d also see the feet of the ladder I climbed in order to get the proper angle and distance.

Did I make a final work from this sketch? From the second one, yes and no. I painted a seven by four on gessoed panel, cradled with pine. What colors? You know how it is when you peel a brown onion and shades from mahogany through amber to translucent cream emerge? Those were the colors I chose, with a late sky shading from rose to lavender. Biggest problem was where to put it. When my new gallery saw the work they wanted it, but I had just noted a warp beginning from some flaw in the panel. Tried to correct that warp but it kept growing.

In the meantime a gentleman saw and wanted to buy. I explained that the structural problem wasn’t repairable, given that it was in the wood itself. He still wanted it, and I confess the cash would have been most welcome, but I had to deny him. After all, a properly made oil painting should be good for two thousand years, (maybe more.)

In the end I lent the painting to a friend who had a large wall. My decision not to sell has proved correct for the warp has only grown more acute over time.

These days with the large paintings, I prepare the ground differently, stretching canvas over a good quality doorskin mounted and well-cradled before I surface the canvas. I’ve never again had a problem. However, as you see, there’s a lot more to painting professionally than grabbing paints and entering blissful transcendence.  Mind your engineering principles, heed the chemistry, check the integrity of what you do so that you can indeed stand behind your own work. There are many ways to go wrong – I recall my painting techniques professor telling us about a painter who wanted a buttery glossy handling for his paints and mixed them with mayonnaise. Better on bread than canvas. I don’t know if he ended up spreading a toxic picnic for the ants, but permanent, no. Meltdown in less than five years.

Unfortunately I don’t have a digital depiction of that flawed work, but here is another in similar hues so that you can imagine!

golden hills

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