This smallish painting, on the other hand, was a pleasure to paint, behaving itself admirably through all seven or eight layers. I have left quite a bit of the underpainting somewhat visible. Though I have always aspired to “pentimento,’ (because, as it turns out, I had no idea what it meant), this does not qualify. Let’s sort that out.
The term derives from the Italian for “repentance.” For a painter, that occurs when you try to obliterate some or all parts of your painting which do not please you. Then sometime in the dim future, what you thought you had covered over successfully, begins to show. If my bus buried in “It Never Rains” showed up, yes, I would repent, though not as badly as if I had gone on to turn that canvas into a portrait. Jumping spiders have headlights but people rarely do, unless they are porn stars.
So one of the many joys of glaze oil would be the subtle presence of the colour foundation and the value underpainting. This is to be celebrated rather than repented. But while I give only the occasional thought to uninvited guests, acrylic painters are more likely to have the problem because it is so easy for them to change horses mid-stream. I am green with envy to watch most of my friends whack on a coat of red into an acrylic painting; often they just start a different one, their fast-drying medium allowing them to change their minds without penalty.
Glaze oil painters, in contrast, take the slow and careful approach, comforted only by knowing we have at least five shots at getting the rendering correct. However if I persist in screwing up (allowing something fundamentally wrong to survive five layers of attention), there is precious little forgiveness from my medium. Oil painters are unlikely to live long enough to pull off the trick of simply covering the offending matter with more paint. It takes at least a year to thoroughly dry a glaze oil painting. It literally amounts to watching paint dry. And even if you wait that time, your choice of medium is limited: while you can paint oil over acrylic, going the other way is a recipe for disaster. Alas, the poor oil painter.
As Hamlet observed, “Readiness is all.” I am a mess during the multi-layer underpainting, hyper-alert about bad choices. Only if I catch a mis-step early enough (before the paint is dry), can I scrub it off and correct. So… you will see next week that the dancer’s arm in “The Turn” has been removed (not painted over) for reasons I shall explain then, and a new one constructed. Unfortunately that puts the new and better arm back at the value study stage while the rest of her body has moved on. The new arm is ghoulish blue-white, unlike the rest of her, which has already received two transparent colour glazes and is warming up. At the moment she looks as if some grave-robber has stolen her good arm only to replace it with a recently-exhumed one.
Such issues are what passes for excitement in my life. And if the looming ice storm shuts the paint group down tomorrow, I plan to start another large figurative painting. Watch for the dog.