Thursday, 11 March 2010

Spring Coming In

     Last February I began the painting of nuns you see in the sidebar. I don't love talking about why I paint the things I do, but I felt I should probably not just tack it up there in small format with no explanation at all. So here is a somewhat larger version of it that you can click to make larger still. 

Spring Coming In

Still, I like to keep my motivations for things to myself.  In high school art classes I sat next to a friend who would just chat all class long and then right before any deadline would throw something together in five minutes with a purposefully pompous, mocking explanation.  While I found him hilarious and respected his wit, I think he is also my polar opposite.  If I work for months on a painting I'm almost afraid to talk about it after all that.  

   But I can tell you about last February.  It was dreary.  I was sitting at a desk all day with no break, teaching English to business people, most of whom were unhappy with their jobs, and the ones who weren't complaining about their work were in the process of being laid off.  All I did was dream of being where I wasn't -- not at work, not on the smelly and crowded suburban train, not at home in Paris.  The painting was my cure, and I'll leave it at that.  The rest is up to you, and I don't think any background I gave added anything anyway.

   As for the way it was painted.  The only way I ever learned to oil paint was in a quasi-mische technique that may have been unique to the man who taught it to me.  I only learned from him for a few months on a once a week basis, so I don't have a very formal painting education.  Looking around on the internet is the only way that I found out that there was even a proper name for this type of technique... the man who taught me only said that he was painting the way Van Eyck had done and that it was the best way.  He used to sing along to recordings of opera while we painted too.  

   The people who have written about the mische technique on the internet tend to all under-paint layers in red, yellow, and then blue before going on to the final painting.  This is supposed to create a luminous, opalescent effect.  I wasn't taught to paint with so many layers as this underneath, but I was curious to try it out.  The pictures below are random pictures taken by my husband as I worked (before I cropped it, one of them showed the painting in the foreground and me sprawled out fast asleep in the background).  The colours aren't great here, even by internet standards. 

The top left picture shows the painting with its blue layer (so there is a red layer with the same highlights painted in white egg tempera and a yellow layer with the same underneath the blue... the reds and yellows shine through, but I'm not sure if that's really visible from the photo). The next three show the development after that.  I wish I had taken photos of the yellow and red too,  but I think the blue gives a fair idea of what they were like.  I'm not sure if I would use this many layers again, though I am happy with the result.  An added bonus was that it really felt like I was painting on a magical surface when I started in on the blue. 

   So there it is.  And maybe it's an appropriate post in a way, since tomorrow we are heading up to Lille to see GIANTS!  


  1. Hi Jodi, the first time I saw your painting my eyes were drawn past the group of nuns to the "tortured" people within those buildings. I'm always intrigued by images like this and my mind goes into overdrive... wondering, wondering. Now reading about your dreary February 09, I can see how this painting came to life. Being a if only I could draw a straight line type of person ;) I can well imagine the hours you spent creating it with all those layers. Haha, your husband took a evidence in case you ever forget!

    It's a lovely mental image you paint too of the time spent with your opera singing tutor. Smiles, Annie ... Giants????

  2. wow, it's a beautiful painting! that's interesting that you feel almost superstitious about talking about your work afterwards--i feel that way before, and i feel that way about talking, but writing about it usually helps me put together things i was thinking about while i was painting in a way that makes me feel finished.
    that said, it's interesting to hear about your method. oils are like a mystical otherworld to me, and they have such a beautiful luminescence. your talent is fantastic! the colors and the way you rendered the cloth are beautiful, and the image gives much to think about...

  3. Jodi
    Your work is Very Good!
    Love Marcia