Translucent Oil ~ Influences of Watercolor

Translucent Oil

I remember Rodger Bechtold talking about the influence of his early watercolors on his oils. I’d never thought about painting translucently in any medium. Rodger said he liked the resonance of a particular Ultramarine sky in one of his paintings. I liked it too.

Rodger’s gallery talk at Glave Kocen Gallery in Richmond this spring opened my mind.  I have followed his work for many years. Rodger’s paintings have always felt to me like I was seeing myself in the mirror. The opportunity to hear him speak, a magnet to my heart.

Not caught in the details, Bechtold’s paintings speak with clear earthy simplicity. Something I’ve always tasted before I pick up the paint brush.

translucent oil
Sambuca, oil, 11 x 14

Watercolors I began in France two years ago opened a doorway. Light, white paper, white space between colors. Why not white gessoed textured panel peeking through translucent oil paint?

This painting answered my query. Visiting the monastery in Sambuca, I came home with an inspiration to paint the scroll detail, back lit with warm light ~ contrasted by cool light from the open doorway.

Using Venetian Red (which I had just reintroduced into my palette), Ultramarine Blue and Indian Yellow, I limited my palette to just three colors. Cool light from the doorway punctuated by Jim’ figure sitting in darkness of the pew.

I thinned the Venetian Red, a very opaque pigment, with a lot of medium. Without white paint, which would turn the pigment pink, it stayed earthy. It caught in the ridges of heavy-body white gesso I had used to prep the panel, leaving wonderful light and dark patterns in the paint.

Like watercolor, I made it a point to get in and get out without working it to death. A few willow charcoal details, throwbacks to my pastel calligraphy, my connection with earth pigments.

The pediment on the chapel, by the way, read MDII, 1502.

Color Field Watercolor Paintings

The dream about color field paintings, abstract shapes juxtaposed, shifted my gears. For the last three weeks, images of colorful linens strung from balconies and apartment windows captured my imagination. The dream gave me permission to play with them.

color field
Homage to the Sun, watercolor, 8.25 x 11.8″, Handmade Garza Watercolor Paper

Playing with this one granted my wish to play more. Adding the two flower pots to the railing at first felt like a violation. Freed from my landscape palette, I granted freedom to my notion of wrong-doing. I rather think the flower pots make the painting sing!

Heart of Tuscany

Settling into a slower lifestyle here, I find myself fermenting images the way they do grapes. Rather than rushing around like a banshee with a plein air paint brush, I am letting images distill in my memory.

Some sink to the bottom, others float. Of the floaters, when I begin to taste one by memory, it’s time to paint. I napped for three days waiting. This is one that floated.

Heart of Tuscany
Val d’Orcia, oil, 11 x 14

Val d’Orcia is know as the heart of Tuscany. Sprawling expansive hills spread out as far as one can see, serpentine threads of cypress . A dream woke me to the realization that my painting is centered on color, abstract shapes juxtaposed.

This image’s abstract geometric structure seemed the perfect  opportunity to divorce myself from the responsibility of rendering a realistic landscape. Engaged in an invigorating game, color play like a game of checkers. If the sky is lavender the field is yellow, its compliment.

Within that, brilliant translucent yellow counters warm pinks. Lime green glows in the shadows against the same translucent warm yellow.  The game continues.

Warm purples counter warm yellow lights between the line of trees. Depth and playful light go hand in hand. Deep cool green shadows counter-balance tall cypress. Stop before freshness disappears.

I rather like that I think I see a human form in the landscape. Arms outstretched, legs and feet standing ~ or lying out in the landscape. That would be me.