Re-entry!

Still Life at Mary's studio
Photo of still life set-up at Mary Robertson’s studio

It’s been one heckuva winter. Felled by first one virus and then another, I’ve been doing pretty much nothing for about two months while it snowed and froze outside. Still have the residual fatigue and cough, but last week I started painting again, thanks to my artist-friend Mary Robertson, who invited me to a still life session at her studio a few blocks away.

Cutler Maples_03
Unfinished, stage 03: Cutler Maples, 16×20 in., oils on canvas*

I’m not happy with the underpainting I did that day, but the activity has spurred me on to work more on a figural landscape I started last summer, which has been sitting on a shelf in my studio since July.

And that’s what I worked on when Mary came to my studio this week. Painting is such a solitary occupation, it’s great to occasionally have someone nearby to bounce things off of.

Study for Demeter 01
Unfinished, stage 01: Study for Light Within/Light Without: Demeter, 16×20 in., oils on canvas*

I’ve also done a couple more underpaintings for 16×20 in. oil studies for another large-ish series of 24×30 in. pieces, this time underpainting in burnt umber rather than cadmium red. I wasn’t sure at first what the unifying series theme would be, but as I worked in Photoshop composing the pieces, it came to me that all the pieces are explorations of interior figures in indoor light modified by outdoor light from windows. The figures are variously live or statuary. The series is tentatively titled Light Within/Light Without.

Rebecca_01
Unfinished, stage 01: Study for Light Within/Light Without: Rebecca, 16×20 in., oils on canvas*

But the first two underpaintings are not drying, and I’m wondering if that’s due to the citrus-based solvent I used for the first time, Turpenoid Natural. Has anyone else had this problem? I’ve learned, since buying it, that citrus-based solvents are actually more toxic than plain old unscented mineral spirits. I use solvents only on underpaintings, so toxicity’s not a major concern, but after this first experience with TurpNat I’m switching to the mineral spirits. In the meantime I’ve tried spraying the first piece — Demeter — with touch-up/damar varnish, which I’ve read somewhere will help it dry. If it works — fingers crossed — I’ll try it on Rebecca. Any advice/suggestions welcome! [UPDATE: I’ve done some online research, and sure enough artists are complaining about excessive drying times when Turpenoid Natural is used as solvent or medium in a painting. An advisory group on art media suggests using it for only brush-cleaning. And the damar varnish has just lain sticky and wet over the wet parts of the Demeter underpainting. Looks like a re-do on these two pieces.]

Have to take it slowly still, but it’s sure good to be painting again.

*”Like” my Facebook page at left, for access to the ongoing progress on these pieces — see my photo albums for each piece as it develops.

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