A Piece of Me – the beginning

September 12, 2019

Self portrait in Casablanca

Self portrait in Casablanca outside of the Hasan II mosque.

Last week I finished the preparation of 64 identically sized panels (21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.) for a new project. It consists of cutting up a full length photograph (which happens to be a self-portrait, see left) into 64 identically sized pieces and then painting each piece differently, so in a different medium. Since there are not 64 different mediums, in effect, I’ve reduced my approach to five: egg tempera, encaustic, the mixed technique, oils and acrylics. Preparation-wise then, each medium receives the ground appropriate to it: egg tempera receives chalk gesso; encaustic and mixed technique, ditto; while oils receive an oil ground; and acrylics, acrylic gesso. Additionally each panel receives a pre-treatment (or not) thus: plain wood (so, no treatment); linen (glued on, using rabbit-skin glue); collage (glued on, again using rabbit-skin glue); pre-textured sculpting (I used acrylic modeling paste for the acrylic and oil panels while I experimented with pastiglia for the egg tempera, encaustic and mixed technique panels). Needless to say such an approach presents a bit of a logistical nightmare but excel spreadsheets can, indeed, work miracles.

Nils, final full-sized assembled painting. 6‘ 02” x 3‘ 6” or 188 x 107 cm

Nils, 1978, final full-sized assembled painting. 6‘ 02” x 3‘ 6” or 188 x 107 cm

Anyway, instead of this appearing to be a new direction, actually, it’s not. It’s a return to the kind of work I was doing approximately forty years ago, see “Nils” right. You can read more about that painting project here. I also did a few other smaller pieces at that time trying out that same approach and I briefly dabbled with it again (as an approach) in 2011. But after stumbling upon an appropriate photograph earlier this year, I’m drawn to return to it now with a deeper understanding of many things. So, here we go. I love how the compositions you receive with this approach are completely arbitrary and spontaneous. The challenge, as always, is to create a sensorial unity, something beautiful and interesting in its own right individually and of course, in the final assembled result.

58 Responses to “A Piece of Me – the beginning”

  1. […] on the left is the first in a long series, now officially “off the press”. The full description of the whole project is on my companion wordpress web-blog site, atelierartisanal.com. In all these panels I want to […]

  2. […] been doing underdrawings for the other panels (of this big 64 panel project that you can read about here) earlier this week, thus yesterday I was able to return to the egg tempera series. Here on the left […]

  3. […] You can read an overview about the whole project here. […]

  4. […] I completed this panel, #46, in the egg tempera series yesterday. It was an intriguing piece to paint since I was applying lightly tinted washes over an already sculpted pastiglia surface – that had also received its preparatory black and white underdrawing in india ink. So in one sense, I had my work already cut out for me. But in another sense I had colors to coordinate and to balance, as well as textures to enhance. Compositionally, the design of the piece is quite strong, an almost white, emphatic vertical thrust on the left (the leg of my linen pants) which needs to balance with a series of tinted trapezoids (floor tiles) on the right. Luckily, there was some drapery top left whose hues and values echo some of the  shapes on the right. The pastiglia quickly and easily enhanced the chiaroscuro I wanted to add to my pants leg. I’m happy: this stands alone and, I think, will integrate well in the final assemblage. You can read a description of the full project here. […]

  5. […] Here is #51, next in the egg tempera series. It’s an abstract design (of a section of a plastered wall) that, at first, had seemed deceptively easy. But, in fact, the area of gray and white depicted on the far left required integration, that is, it stood out like a sore thumb until I had supplied a light echo to it on the bottom, right. They say a missing word can cause a poem to bleed. I find the same is true of a painting – no matter what the subject matter. Alternatively – when it’s successful – a work of art is driven by its own inner unity, to which the artist must kneel. An overview of the whole project can be read here. […]

  6. […] Now the egg tempera pieces are starting to become more complex. This one still has some basic “abstract” shapes but the importance of chiaroscuro in the foreground is becoming more pronounced. This one took me more time, so also more patience while it challenged my skills. For example, achieving the dark black area on the left is already difficult in egg tempera. The medium itself is translucent, the brush strokes dry almost immediately upon contact with the gesso and thick impasto strokes are inadvisable for technical reasons, so blending just isn’t an option. Achieving a field of an extremely dark value or saturated hue then requires the build up of countless layers of light washes. It’s a very meditative technique. You have to love it. Impetuous temperaments, be forewarned: don’t even think about scaling this mountain. You can read a description of the full project here. […]

  7. […] You can read a description of the full project here. […]

  8. […] You can read a description of the full project here. […]

  9. […] a surprise and a challenge to do since it contained so many figures – and parts of figures. But because of my approach on this project I do not (for the most part) design the composition, rather, I design the approach (and even […]

  10. […] The black and white underdrawing on the right, the fully colored developed painting on the left. A full overview description of the whole project is here. […]

  11. […] is one of the more interesting spontaneous compositions of the overall project. When I first saw it, I wasn’t sure what the long haired girl was doing. Then it hit me, of […]

  12. […] But it’s also important to keep in mind that egg tempera, in contrast to the other media  of this project (that is, oil, encaustic and acrylic) requires a final coat of protective varnish. This will darken […]

  13. […] speed of image development will most likely be true for all the “abstract” panels of this project (see link for a full description). The figurative panels will, most likely, require more time, […]

  14. […] Here is the second of the mixed technique series (see the category description on the right for a full explanation of the technique). Like #47 before it, this one is another abstract design principally of the tile flooring in front of the great mosque at Casablanca. You can read about the concept behind the whole project here. […]

  15. […] mixed technique). Here, compositionally, I am still navigating within the abstract flooring pieces of the larger composition. The plan for this panel called for a collage. Thus, in the very early stages I glued a number of […]

  16. […] in the mixed technique series of the larger mixed media project. (You can read more about the mixed technique but clicking the category link on the right.) […]

  17. […] in the mixed technique series of the larger mixed media project. An abstract wall composition with a fan shaped shadow on the right side. I prepared this with […]

  18. […] I completed this mixed technique panel this morning in about an hour and one half. It forms part of the larger mixed media project described here. […]

  19. […] Just finished this one yesterday. I was trying to create enough difference between my off-white linen pants and my oatmeal colored linen jacket. As you can see in the underpainting on the right there was little differentiation between the two. An additional challenge occurred with my knuckles upper left. I had done the underpainting (again, see right) in terra verte (green) so turning that into living flesh always presents its own challenge. All in all I was very pleased with the way the panel turned out, especially with my linen jacket. Very touchy-feely. That’s the aim. Full description of the whole project here. […]

  20. […] This panel was executed over a pre-prepared lightly sculpted pastiglia. On the pastiglia level I tried to create the effect of folds of clothing: the bends of my linen jacket and the flowing shirt of the lady standing behind me to the right. Unfortunately, due to my method of creating the pastiglia, a number of pinholes appeared in the gesso of the linen jacket. The oil was able to hide some, but otherwise it’s not an ideal situation, but also like acne, you learn to live with the scars. The light jacquard pattern of the lady’s blue blouse was a nice surprise for me as I began to work on the enlarged image. Fun to render! Full description of the whole project here. […]

  21. […] One of the most interesting aspects of this particular collaged panel was my pants cuff. It projects a few millimeters from the rest of the composition (!). Really. During the oil level, I found that balancing the warm whites of my pants, socks and the plastered wall with my skin tone was all made possible by the value adjustments inherent to the composition (and the judicious use of a warm-gray pigment from the tube). BTW: I prefer my grays warm and I don’t mix them on the palette. It’s too difficult to consistently achieve an elusive neutrality (which may not exist anyway). Full description of the whole project here. […]

  22. […] The whole is already more three dimensional than its underpainting. I’ll take it.Full description of the whole project here. […]

  23. […] Full description of the whole project here. […]

  24. […] Unfortunately, I do not have photographs of earlier work up versions of this panel. I guess I was too excited to get back to work so I forgot to do that. My apologies, I’ll try to rectify that in the future. Full description of the whole project here. […]

  25. […] Full description of the whole project here. […]

  26. […] the right: A Piece of Me #37. In general, I’m  envisioning this whole series of panels (for the A Piece of Me project) to be done in a number of different techniques, some of which will be painted indirectly and some […]

  27. […] began this series of encaustic panels for the A Piece of Me project then with a purely abstract background composition. I reasoned that, for starters, this […]

  28. […] today I completed the second of the encaustic series for the A Piece of Me project. Like yesterday’s it was another fairly abstract panel but this time the composition […]

  29. […] concentrating on background abstract compositions. This one, a plastered wall in the foreground of the overall composition. It’s heavily chipped providing a nice contrast between the yellowish plaster and the gray […]

  30. […] am happy to put this one aside for awhile, wondering how well it will integrate into the larger piece? Grey balance can be notoriously difficult, but at the same time, that’s precisely where the […]

  31. […] It turned out that the treatment for this panel called for pastiglia. Ha! So I had the opportunity to sculpt this inconspicuous little guy, wondering how that 3D element would play into the final assemblage. […]

  32. […] Description of the whole project here. […]

  33. […] Description of the whole project here. […]

  34. […] Description of the whole project here. […]

  35. […] Nice. A few hours work and I’m satisfied. It will be interesting to see how it integrates into the final assemblage. […]

  36. […] Description of the overall project here. […]

  37. […] Description of the overall project here. […]

  38. […] Description of the overall project here. […]

  39. […] this panel I began moving into some of the more figurative elements of the foreground in the overall composition. The preparation called for some pre-painting sculpting, so I used acrylic modelling gel. I […]

  40. […] The muted tonalities and textures of a pattern of floor tiles. Located somewhere in the middle ground of the overall composition. […]

  41. […] because this whole project is conceived of as an experiment in substrates, the texture of the substrate also needs to be […]

  42. […] foreground, figurative composition contained within of the whole project. It happened very quickly. But that was because I had already done so much preparatory […]

  43. […] Write up of the overall project here. […]

  44. […] Overview of the entire project here. […]

  45. […] Overview of the entire project here. […]

  46. […] appropriately. For me personally, the values are still too dark but I think it will work out in the final assemblage. As an individual panel, it works just […]

  47. […] of paintings all executed in acrylic. These panels were conceived of so as to be included within a larger project. That project consists of sixty-four panels all executed in different techniques, but which, when […]

  48. […] began with this panel. It’s an open field of a plastered wall in the foreground of the overall assemblage. The original composition then is: nothing, a blank canvas. These kinds of open compositions are a […]

  49. […] Description of the overall project here. […]

  50. […] Description of the overall project here. […]

  51. […] Description of the entire project here. […]

  52. […] objectified in black and white. So from the beginning his particular panel reinforced my goal for the overall project, I want it to speak viscerally to the […]

  53. […] example my necklace. In the end it reads well and I am happy to move on the fifth and final series of this overall project: […]

  54. […] thus far has referred to my use of egg tempera as an underpainting for oils. However in my most recent multi media project I’ve created a series of images painted exclusively in egg tempera, as a stand alone painting […]

  55. […] original image which was cut up into 64 sections for rendering separately contained a horizontal background swathe consisting of groups of small tourist figures receding […]

  56. […] this panel marks the end of the line. It’s the final oil panel as well as the final panel in the whole project of sixty-four. Soon begins the work of mounting and assembling. And from there, tweaking decisions. I am […]

  57. 2dehamel3 Says:

    Wow. I am THRILLED that you are sharing your work ‘stateside’! Thank you for the wonderful tutorial of your process. Seeing Nils again brought tears to my eyes..He was a ‘housemate for over 30 years, and dearly beloved.
    Keep painting. Keep sharing. What treasures!

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