As many regular readers know I’ve been unhappy with the general state and direction of photography these days. Partly this is due to the excesses of digital post processing and partly it’s a result of my own inability to find a voice for myself which ignites interest in the current melieu. I’m drawn more to color work in these times when the digital processes allow so much freedom to experiment, but I’m also distressed by some of the outright insanties of the digital marketplace particularly in the world of glitzy software. Sometimes I just plain hate computers which still cause me endless frustration, so I’ve wanted to do color experiments in a completely analog universe, and preferably at low cost and more quickly than I can grok a long menu tree.
For a while I tinkered with acrylic paints…not without some studies that seemed satisfying…but good acrylic paints can be rather costly and many tubes in my paint box are forty five years old and deteriorated substantially. Acrylics are also something of a ball of wax to set up for a study session and clean up afterward. They dry too quickly. Oil paints are even more a ball of wax and dry way too slowly.
For a while I was following the now abandoned blog of young artist Brenna O’Toole who worked often in soft pastels and could achieve some fine luminous effects with them, but I quickly found the medium not to my taste because of its dustiness and extreme fragility. I disliked the way fixative spray seemed always to change the final appearance of the study. I tried wax crayons and didn’t like the results when trying lay down a fat layer of color.
Recently I went back to an old box of oil pastels and discovered after some experiments that they were more versatile than I’d remembered from tinkering with them years ago. They are quite inexpensive and can be laid down in open stokes on textured stock or lean areas when worked out with a finger tip or smudge stick. I soon discovered that a Q-tip moistened with gum turpentine, an aroma I fondly love from oil paint days, will allow a fat layer of oil pastels to be sensuously blended. With a stiff bristle brush and turps you can flow washes.
On impulse I added a new set of oil sticks and discovered they had quite different working properties than my old ones. They contained a higher concentration of pigments with a harder binder. This study uses both sets. The first frame was just to lay down an organic high key ground of lean areas. I digested that for a couple of days before a second session adding some darker, fatter tones attempting to add depth. Somehow this threw the composition out of balance, and after studying it for a couple more days I added another layer of dark tones.
The final layer was an addition of highlights which seemed to make the study more interesting, but I’m unable to understand the compositional purpose of the specular flecks. Maybe I’ll add more later if the right course makes itself known. This is not a serious finished piece of art…really it’s a study just like a block of wood used to test the sharpness of chisels.
Balancing the composition never completely worked in spite of looking at it for a couple of days, turning it one way or the other to get the weight of it. The advantages of oil pastel for this kind of etude are; It’s less expensive for a set of fifty color sticks than a single tube of paint. Set up and cleanup times are very short, meaning a working session can be fit into times usually wasted waiting for something else. The medium will work on many different kinds of substrates. I’ll be playing with it more in the future.
Just for fun…but enough for now… Next Post: I’m thinking about socio-political progress…what does that mean ?