Ebony – A Journey

Begun 01/03/2022 – Finished 09/05/2022

It all started with another large canvas, and a penchant for peachy pinks – which is not particularly normal for me.

The whole goal was to use these stencils, which I’d snagged off Amazon for a bunch of nothing just to see where they could take me.  I had some choices to make at this point as my underpaint was still wet … I decided to roll with it and snatched up some Prussian blue and Viridian green.  Holding the stencil in place with one hand I applied the paint with the other and just made my way across the canvas.

This is exactly what I was hoping for!  I knew that the paint being wet when I applied would allow for some variation and also that the placement of the stencil itself (11.8 in square) would provide a second pattern .. the juxtaposition of the regularity of the main pattern, the grid from the stencil placement and the uneven application due to a wet underpainting gave me just the right kind of tension.  DELIGHTFUL!!!

And while it was delightful it was also WAAAY too “Easter Sunrise” for me, so I let it all dry and stared at it for a few months until I got up the gumption to come back in with more green and some raw umber, just to knock the warmth down.

The application is intentionally mottled, letting that pink pop through was part of the goal too, I wanted to create yet more texture via color, some illusion that the darker colors were a bit of a barrier to the light peeping from the back.  Now, this did reduce the ability to see the larger grid created by stencil placement but I was willing to let that go on this one.  The information was filed away for future reference as I simply cannot believe this will be the last painting I will approach with those stencils.

Then the shading began!  Each and every little shape shaded on the same top left corner with a combo of Prussian Blue and Raw Umber.

I knew this was going to take many days to work through so I mixed up enough paint to do the whole thing at once and then wrapped my container in saran wrap and stored in the freezer when I wasn’t working.  Before each session I would set it out for about 10 mins to let it warm up just a bit.  The paint doesn’t freeze due to the oil content but the cold does prevent smooth spreading, so if you try this let it come to room temperature before sticking a brush in.


And here’s where it stands right now.  It’s visually DELIGHTFUL and truly I have spent many hours staring at it in this finished state.  Am I done?  Maybe?  I mean, this is the thing with an abstract piece like this.  There’s no figure to finalize, no benchmark by which to measure completion.  And boy if that ain’t a kind of Universal truth about existence, I don’t know what is.

For now, I live with it and look at it and wonder what might come next.  They really are a bit like teenagers, these paintings.

UPDATE: 08/23/2022

OMG what have I done!

I was flipping through some old drawings and ran across this one.

And boy I like her. And this painting was on my easel and then I did this!

Lordy this feels like a gauntlet has been thrown down. I cannot fuck this one up!

Covering the background with another layer is tricky as the red I’d like to use is primarily transparent – so I mixed up some crimson and titanium white (which is notoriously good for coverage) and just got started. Raw umber to shade a little bit but most of the shading and texture and even color work will come after this base layer is dry.

Oh y’all – it’s scary to gamble like this but also – this is where the magic happens, when we’re brave and slightly reckless.

UPDATE 08/27/2022

Okay …. This is doing exactly what I pictured! Lots of shading left to do to get her to pop off the canvas the way I want but I can see how to do it now. I love it when a risk pays off. BOOM.

UPDATE 09/05/2022

And here we are! Shading on the body was done primarily with phthalo blue and raw umber (on the suit) and burnt umber (on the skin). That umber change is subtle but effective to keep the skin warm and well separated from the suit. I sometimes think I could do more to make the horns pop but I am enjoying their softness, which allows the eyes to move, easily, to the detail at the back of the neck. That, in turn, draws the eyes to the booty. And eyes that have a clear path are happy eyes.

Lordy I’ve learned a ton – the lesson I’m focusing on today is that my gut knows what’s up. Adding a figure to such an intense background felt like a big risk and that mofo just paid off! She will cure for a few months and then there will be varnishing and then she will meet the world for real and true as she searches for her forever home.

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