Sunday, March 22, 2015

Neo Megilp

Green Sweater
14 x 11
Cowl Neck Sweater
12 x 10
In my continuing quest for just the right mark, I've been experimenting with Gamblin's Neo Megilp. It's their lead-free imitation of Maroger medium: a soft gel used by many painters, notably one of my all-time favourites: Fairfield Porter.

I used the gel in these two small paintings done last week during a half-day model painting session in my studio.  NM has an interesting character under the brush: it both slows my mark and makes it more robust and fluid.  There's a subtle sticking quality despite its description as a "silky" gel, and that makes each mark more deliberate.  It's similar, in that respect, to using a 50/50 mix of stand oil and OMS, but the colour is prettier with NM.  The increased sense of fluidity comes, I think, from the fact that I instinctively load my brush with more paint and medium in order to overcome the stickiness. (That heavier pigment load accounts for the colour's beauty, I think.) The result is an effect that is both my style and not, in my eyes.

NM doesn't allow for the same chunky impasto that straight paint or a 50/50 medium does.  It melts the mark slightly, softening it but still allowing bristle lines to retain their shape.  There are some bizarre fluid dynamics at work here.

The nice thing was that it let me get substantial paint on the linen in a hurry.  I could skip the long stretch of building enough paint to get to the fun edges and jump right in.  The same thing happens with mediums like Res N Gel, but I find they go too far, too fast.  With them, I can't achieve any of the medium consistency paint at all, and am working entirely in impasto from the start; something I find monotonous.

These two small paintings came from just 3 hours of model time.  They have a "finished" feeling because of the edge treatment and lack of scratchy underpainting.  Working small also helped me to accomplish so much.

Next up is a 30 x 30 of a still life that I've got set up in the studio.  I'll give the NM a go and see how it performs at that scale.  It may be too tiring to have my natural speed slowed down with every stroke, and I may find the edges too soft.  Or it may be that mythical creature: the perfect medium.  I have to try!

Happy painting!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tuesday afternoon class at Calgary School of Art

14 x 11
I'll be starting the spring session of my regular Tuesday classes at the Calgary School of Art on March 31.  There are a few openings in the class this time and I hope you'll join me.  

The course is 12 weeks long and covers a lot of ground.  We start with still life, move on to independent subject choices and individual instruction, and finish with plein air.  The last day of class will be June 16.  

For more specific information about the course, please visit the workshop page on my website:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The tiling technique

The Dance
14 x 11
The Russian Impressionists were my biggest influence when I was teaching myself to paint.  When a friend showed me Mary Balcomb's book, Sergei Bongart, I felt like I'd found my people.  Here was a man who painted with vigour and joy.  He loved colour and he dashed it on with big, overt brushtrokes.  I could see his hand in each rugged painting.

I've never lost the admiration for obvious brushwork and colour and it's been my goal ever since. The method of applying individual marks in this manner is called tiling.  Walter Sickert, a great British painter and teacher, compared it to a deck of cards placed sparingly on a coloured table top.  Each card was a separated touch of colour.  On top of those first cards, he would place more cards, bridging gaps in the first lay out, but never completely obscuring the table top.  He recommended marks varying in size from postage stamp to pea.  With enough loose, open layers, he could build rich surfaces and lively images.

The key to tiling is to put a mark down and leave it.  There is no blending or slurring of marks; each one is left as an individual.  The mark won't fit into the painting at first, but, with another mark placed as a bridge between it and its neighbour, it will usually settle in.  Sometimes the settling in takes many marks, and that results in an active, complex surface that's full of surprises for the viewer.  It takes patience, faith, and lots of paint, but it's worth it when it works.

"The Dance" is a recent work that shows a lot of tiling.  If you're in Qualicum Beach getting some sun and sea, I hope you'll stop in to Oceanside Gallery and check it out.

Happy painting!