Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blue Moon Heron--The Process

This painting is based on an idea and sketch I started in Carla O'Conner's workshop in April. I wanted to try a method of painting with gouache over a prepared surface of dried gesso (a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalkgypsumpigment) on paper. This is how Carla works and she shared her process in the workshop I attended. She puts on a metallic gold gesso, which I didn't want to use, so I tinted my white gesso with some acrylic paint to come up with a beige gesso. I painted my Arches 140 lb. hot press paper way back in April or May and it sat in a drawer until sometime in the summer.

Putting gouache (an opaque watercolor paint) on a semi-slick surface is a new process for me, so my first attempt went right to the sink and was washed off. But that really emphasized the part of this technique that attracts Carla; it is so easy to take off paint and make adjustments.

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As I became more comfortable with the gouache, I continued my application of paint. Part of the trick is using very little water with the paint, as it just sits on top of the surface which has no tooth (the surface feel of paper). The gouache  must dry before it adheres to the paper. Another thing I had to get used to is the way the paint settles on the surface, creating some interesting, but odd to me, textures.

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Some time in early August, I had covered my surface with paint, but as I stepped back, I recognized a lot of problems with the painting without the time to resolve them.The glaring problems I saw at this point was that in spite of my years of painting and learning basic design rules, I had broken up the lower left into 3 sections of the same size. Definitely an artistic no-no. The arching shape to the right of the blue wing was a distraction--too bright, too much of a shape leading out of the painting. I also did not like the color difference from above the heron's legs to below the legs. That didn't make sense. Finally I saw that the lower left orange was overly dominant--it needed to be changed. But the poor heron would wait another month before he got any "fixes."

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As you can see, I really worked over the the bottom portion with color and shapes. I added interest with calligraphy using both paint and watercolor pencils and crayons. I added some other softening of edges and subtle color changes with pastels. At this point I realized that working over this surface is pretty much endless. The first applications of paint two months ago could still be removed or easily adjusted. I felt this piece was mostly done, but then in the night, a title came to me . . .

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"Blue Moon Heron" had to have a blue moon. Yesterday I went out and worked on the lesser orb to change the color from black to blue. I also was able to lift off some of the paint along the upper horizontal band to apply a brighter red to repeat the brightness of the lower reds.

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Blue Moon Heron, 14" x 21"


Ruth Armitage said...

Great to see your process & I love your title! Do you think you will do another painting on the gesso? I think the gold gesso has a little bit more tooth than regular gesso....

Margaret Godfrey said...

I do think I will try this again. It was frustrating to begin with, but I learned to appreciate the ability to remove and adjust paint over the months I worked on it. I have two gold pieces in a drawer, just waiting.

Anonymous said...

HOLY MACKEREL!!! I love this painting. All while I was scrolling down from the beginning painting to the middle ones I am thinkng ...she needs some dark line type work in the area with the orange and blue shapes below the heron. Man, you nailed it!

Way to go! Are you a member of the experimental painters national group? I just heard about this group from Liz Walker. She got a lead on it from Airi Foote.

Linda N

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the process. And I love the painting. Jenie