Friday, December 10, 2010

Surface Pressures

In the past, I've resisted letting anyone see my works-in-progress. I've never welcomed studio visitors and I seldom allow photography of unfinished paintings. Since my bankruptcy, when scores of my working drawings and reference photographs had to be surrendered to an auction house for sale, under the direction of a State-appointed trustee, I've taken to destroying sketches and failed drafts of every work I complete.
However, age and an increasing confidence in my skills has made me less uptight about protecting the opacity of my studio.
I spent yesterday morning mixing various skin tones for two of my larger-than-life-sized Big Pin-Ups. I dabbed samples on each canvas and let them sit for a few minutes until they darkened. After I had studied and compared the colours, first in daylight, then under warm tungsten lamps, the assistant wiped them off with turps. The process was repeated a few times until I got the colour just right.
I also adjusted the background colours. Each is built up with three to five layers of enamel. Usually, each coat is the same colour and the colour is refined from one coat to the next. Some colours need base coats – for example, I'll often lay down grey before a coat of orange – to make the final coat more lustrous. The base coats are invisible, unless the surface of the painting is scratched.
My favorite – a hot, creamy pink I refer to as 'Dooney pink' – is the one color that can never be used as a base coat. It bleeds so persistently through several layers of colour, even black, that its manufacturer discontinued it ten years ago. I bought the last 50 litres from the factory; now I'm down to the last four.
Painting has been hard graft this week. Monsoonal rains, which flooded nearby rural areas, have imposed a humidity so warm and heavy, it coats every surface of the studio with clammy moisture. Paint dries slowly, so slowly I've had to wait up to sixty hours between coats. My assistant has had several restless nights, waking at odd hours to adjust the temperature and air-flow through the studio and to check paint was hardening without smears or cracks.
The humidity also curls and flutes the expensive cold-pressed paper I use for my acrylic studies. A low-adhesive tape that secures the paper when I paint became too sticky. It lifted the coarse surface of a couple of sheets and tore another when it was removed. I've decided to stop until the weather improves.
It hasn't, yet.


Anonymous said...

nice to see

Karen Martin Sampson said...

Thank you for the little peek at how you work. The process is as of much interest to me as the final product. I don't envy all that humid weather - glad I live in Canada on the west coast - we have very rainy winters but the humidity is not pervasive.
Wishing you a great new year, Hazel. It has been wonderful to read about you and your progress. Glad you are doing so well now!