Three words (HrK)

‘Hall of the Raven King’ is proceeding apace. I have finished two layers of rabbitskin glue, added the muslin sheeting, and the gesso is drying.

NOTE: Forgot to mention two things about rabbitskin glue. First, do not boil the solution as it loses adhesiveness. Second, do not reheat congealed glue, as it also reduces adhesiveness.

Anyway. Gesso. The undercoat of a piece of artwork is something to consider when planning your colors. Gessos are primarily white, as white does not add anything to the colors of your paints. Even opaque paints can be affected by the undercoat.

I do not use acrylic paints very often, as I like the luminosity of watercolor and I’ve mentioned the list of reasons I like to work with tempera in another post. I find acrylics a bit rubbery and lacking a feeling of light. This may be my lack of experience with acrylics, but I usually avoid using them. In this case, however, I wanted to be able to layout color blocks of background and layer on the detailed Celtic design without having the background and foreground do any blending. Acrylic is very useful for this sort of technique, and I am using ’soft body’ acrylics by Liquitex which will suit my more watercolor style as they are far more fluid than tube acrylics.

I have an extremely detailed layout, primarily a seascape crafted of Celtic design elements. It has a very stylized and ‘old manuscript’ feel to it, especially as I used an old medieval illumination of Jerusalem to help me layout the towers and gates of the Hall.

I decided to challenge myself with a drastically limited color palette, selecting two colors to go with black and white tones. Quinacridone Violet and Permanent Green Dark are my color selections. They fall nearly opposite on the color wheel. Shadows and tones will be provided only with black and white. I am hoping, with these colors, to maintain a feeling of things being ‘bleak’ and ‘unreal’ as I work up the spirals and twisting knots.

To add to this, I have used black gesso as an undercoat, and black as a mixer on the palette. One of the first things you learn in art class is not to use black, but to develop other colors within the painting to provide shadows and darks that are not black but appear so to the eye. Here, I am using black. I want the feeling of gloom that a black mix will provide. The black gesso will affect the colors, which are not completely opaque. I’m thinking of a mix between Patrick Fitzgerald and Edward Gorey. And if you get both of those artistic references, we should talk.

As a whole, the piece should feel a bit unfinished or even shoddy. Worn. Maybe damaged. The board is not squared, and I have allowed edges of the muslin sheeting to show. I kept the gesso thin and I did not build up a smooth surface. The texture of the muslin and glue is rough under my first layers of paint. Black gesso, applied in almost a dry-brush technique, is bringing out the fabric crosshatching and wood grain near the unsanded edges and corners.

‘Bleak, unreal, damaged’ are my words for this piece.



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