Wednesday, June 23, 2010

surface quality

about 7x13 pastel and watercolor on marble dust
Surface quality....... hmmmmmm. It matters, no matter what your choice medium. I guess that is why I am back to loving the marble dust boards I make. You can embed the color deep inside the ground, then the top level of texture  can dance with color that is totally separate, exciting in a new way.  It creates a tension- essential for a successful painting. You can also sand down areas to make a smooth, glassy area. (and not wait for it to dry!) Then as if that wasn't enough fun, you can also make marks like calligraphy on top!
Below is an oil that I am working on in the studio. The goal is the same, but this time the surface is a glassy smooth Art Board, onto which I am building surface.
6x6 oil on board, still unfinished
Here is another quote this time from the  Belgian master, Alfred Stevens,
"A picture in order to be truly great must excel from two different points of view. When seen from a distance it must be handsome in color, fine in composition and true to the scene depicted; and when examined at close range the pigment must reveal jewel-like surface which is described by the word "quality."
With part of this I agree and another part I disagree. For me surface quality does not mean enamel like beauty, although that can be splendid. Instead I think it is a mix between the bravado strokes of Sargent or Turner and the glassy, licked clean, jewels of Ingres or Whistler's saucy nocturnes. Show process, but be discriminating. Balance.
What do you think and why?

Oh, if you haven't checked out my online sale click here.


Nika said...

I love the denseness of color that your marble dust boards allow, after seeing it in person I can say it's much more exciting then the oil.
Am I right in assuming Alfred Stevens was writing about the "jewel-like surface" a hundred or more years ago or so? Aesthetics of a "quality" painting were much different in old European art and I can see where he's coming from. It's just a matter of what's accepted as beautiful, however that norm does evolve with time and more experimentation on part of the artists. A good surface is the one that allows your treatment/idea to come to fruition, a one that is interesting to look at and that is an integral part of the painting.

loriann said...

Hi Nika, welcome back from your travels!
You are right about Alfred Stevens...he is back from a time where jewel and slick were the accepted and radicals like Monet and Turner's surfaces were controversial. I like your way of putting it,"A good surface is one that allows your treatment/idea to come to fruition, a one that is interesting to look at and that is an integral part of the painting.
Jewel surfaces like the ones of Sadie Valeri are rich and exciting..then again so are Richard Schmid and David Laffel's rich brush track filled surfaces. Then there is always Tryon's bumpy, corrugated cardboard like beauties. So much beauty in the world!!!!!

Nika said...

Exactly, it doesn't have to be one fixed idea of a perfect surface. A surface is just a reflection of what's underneath, in both literal and metaphorical sense.
Speaking of surfaces, I stopped by Dakota while in Seattle and tried a new Pastelmat. That's a curious one.

SamArtDog said...

I guess I like the marble dust better. Better integration. The second one, in spite of so much color, is all surface. It's not fair to comment on something unfinished, though.

I've been using Pastelmat which seems to do color brilliantly but seems to swallow neutrals. Or maybe that's me and not the surface.

loriann said...

Hi Nika, as for pastelmat, I tried it, but it holds the pastel tooooo much for me. Hard to move it once its on the surface.

Hi Sam,
I like the pastel best right now too..but wait till you see the oil finished I think it will be a keeper.
You are right about pastel mat, the surface has suction. It accepts watercolor wonderfully though...I am not sure that's its goal. Not for me..good thing the price is hefty and it eats pastels.

Lisa McShane said...

I spend a LOT of time thinking about and focused on surface quality before I start painting (oils). I'm down to loving 2 surfaces: linen, which I stretch, oil prime and polish myself, or a thirsty alkyd primed linen panel (359 from Windriverarts). On both the slight texture of the linen is important to me and adds to the end result.

On yours, the surface on your pastel jumps right out as completely lovely and interesting.

loriann said...

I agree with you Lisa. Surface is important- the one we choose to paint and the one we make as we paint. One influences the other.
For oil, I prefer a hard surface. It can take the workout i give it. Building and sanding, alternating smooth and textured, it compliments the marble dust. I love hearing and reading about others' choices.

RRoseman said...

The marble dust surface (I mix it up with gesso and water and apply with roller or brush to masonite-is that your method?) forces me to paint differently-i cannot dwell on details which is one of my frustrating tendencies . i too love the way I can put colors deep into the groove and then use my soft pastels on top to dance-I have never tried sanding it in areas-something to think about....I think this surface is more interesting both from a distance and up close-everyone is always surprised when they look close and see the almost pointalistic quality of the painting .I have 2 boards ready to go as I speak!

loriann said...

Hi Rose, My method varies. Often I mix up gesso and marble dust and I put it on with a foam brush or an old house paint brush (when I want real texture.) Sometimes I use Golden pumice mix and add a little marble dust and water. Once and a while I use Lascaux pastel primer. I love my sander, it reside in my card so it will always be with me on site. You are right.. the details are impossible...a very good thing.
Enjoy your new boards.

Sara Mathewson said...

I've never used marble dust, only pumice that i bought from Dakota. I add it to golden fine pumice gel and I add a lot because I like a lot of texture. But i have also used colorfix clear primer and liquitex clear gesso that has a nice tooth to it though it is a fine tooth.

Where do you get the marble dust? Are there different sizes of the particles like with pumice?

I like the pastel very much. the oil is also beautiful-love the colors and can't wait to see the finished painting. I love the texture you are making with the oil paint.

I don't paint in oils, only pastels and water colors.

As for pastelmat the pastel does really stick to it and it holds a surprising amount of pastel layers.
I really like it but it is a different surface.


loriann said...

Hi Sara, I think marble dust is a little smoother. You can buy it from Dick Blick and Utrecht, to name two places. Please tell me more about the advantages of Pastelmat. I couldn't get by its grabby feel...but then again I like to remain open in thought.
Watercolors and pastels are two wonderful mediums, no need to do anything else. Where may i see your work?

Donna T said...

I love the effects you get wtih your marble dust boards, Loriann. You don't fight the surface but make it work for you. Like Sara (hi Sara!)I have only ever used pumice. Today I experimented with pushing pastel into Rives BFK with a Viva paper towel and then spritzing it with alcohol to make an underpainting. Rives has a nice surface quality - it's just not as toothy as a sanded surface which will hopefully force me to say what I need to say in fewer layers.

loriann said...

Hi Donna, Sometimes the viva paper towel soaks up alot of pastel, laving less on the BFK. Try pushing it in with your finger (gloved or ungloved), a packing peanut or some black pipe insulation. You can also spray with fixative to hold it still. I often use some Diane Townsend terrages when using BFK- the terrages also make more surface if I have lost it. BFK has a nice feel to it, doesn't it. Soft, never hurts your hands.
Say more with less. You can try a timer too. What ever doesn't go down in an hour, won't. Spend more time looking before, study and decide what you want to say before even touching a pastel, then set the timer. One hour, bingo. You will be surprised. Let me know.

Caroline said...

You mention marble dust and gesso mixed together could you oil paint on top of that? an artist gave a suggestion of using marble dust to create texture in my oil paintings. I think both your paintings are beautiful in their own way. Looking forward to seeing the finished stage of the oil painting Loriann.

Casey Klahn said...

You couldn't have picked a better pastel to exhibit surface. This one really shows it, and at every level. Bril!

I think if technique and mastery show, it is a fabulous thing to look at the surface (of whatever character). Another thing - the converse - is that a poorly caked up or dulled surface is a ghastly thing. Good to compare the two and you know why surface matters.

loriann said...

Hi Caroline!!
Yes, yes, you can paint oil on marble dust/gesso. I often do it on bigger pieces, but so far I have always used some pastel on top. I don't see why you can't use it without pastel. Try it and let me know.

Hi Casey!!
First, thank you!!!! I agree with you about caked, dull pastel surface...when nearing that point it is time to get out the hose or a little OMS to wash out the offending substance...or of course sometimes just chuck it.
Surface is something I am thinking about a lot Early this morning I did a painting on twinrocker watercolor hot press paper just to consider surface without anything underneath. I had to use lots of fixative in order to layer though.

Sara Mathewson said...


I don't have my work up on my site yet. I have been sick and unable to take the photos of it. I would have to say they are all learning experiences at this point. i hope to get my site back up with new paintings and will let you know when. I am trying to get used to being "single" after an 8 year relationship. He was also my computer guy and I am not computer savvy. We still talk and he will still do my website and blog but I need the camera and he has it. I will get it soon and will also be moving again soon. I think after i settle in again I will be able to get all of this done. too many moves in too short of a time while being sick through it all has been a struggle. It has been hard to even paint with all of this. sigh.
Guess you got more than you planned on that question! LOL!

But, I do so admire your work and hope to someday be able to produce work as beautiful!


loriann said...

Oh Sara, I am so sorry to hear about your situation. I hope you are in recovery. Life has its ups and downs, they are part of it...I guess you are on a down, going up. Take care of yourself.
And for being single...enjoy it. I spent many many years single before getting married. Both ways have their strengths and weaknesses. The key is to relish where you are.
I hope your road to recovery is short and that a camera is on the way.
Thanks for all your encouragement for me. Let me know when your site is up!
warmly, Loriann