Saturday, October 06, 2007

Book Notes

It has been quite some time since I posted anything. It’s time for me to get back into gear. Life has been very introspective lately. My doctors have been working on fine-tuning the balance of my medications. Where it adds in one place it sometimes detracts in another place. But I have been happy with the results. Not only is my focus better but also my attention span has slightly increased. This in combination with using the cold wax medium I discovered is helping me to make new some old things.

After years of searching and experimenting, the wax medium gives me the ability to get a similar affect in oils to what I had with pastels. I am pretty happy about this. I am able to build up separate and individual strokes in multiple layers with minimal intermixing on the surface. A lot of what is happening on the surface goes back to attitudes from when I was doing color field paintings. There is also a slight color shift. The paintings are still bright just not garishly intense. I am working slower and with more deliberation. I will write more about this later.

So what I have included here are some of the notes I have kept while reading a book on the American artist, Joseph Raffael. Reading becomes a somewhat slow process for me because I am always taking notes. I refuse to mark up a book by underlining, highlighting, or dog earring the pages. It causes too much distraction when I may go back to the book years later. It also keeps me from discovering something new in the book. Anyhow, I hope that you find the notes interesting.

The paintings included here are my experiments with the wax medium and using a technique similar to what I did with pastels. The still life of the apples measures 20” X 24” and is done on a hardwood panel using oils and cold wax medium. The pear still life measures 14” X 11” and is done on a hardwood panel. Again this was done with oils and cold wax medium with assorted elements added using oil pastel.

Reflections of Nature: Paintings by Joseph Raffael
By Donald Kuspit and Amei Wallach

He is an altogether twentieth-century incarnation of a pragmatic romanticism out of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Nature “is the organ through which the universal spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back the individual to it,” Emerson wrote. P.9

Nature in Raffael’s twentieth-century cathedral is transfused with the theories of Carl Jung; the teachings of Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff, and Tibetan Buddhism; the poetry of Rainer Maria Wilke and Wallace Stevens. P.9

“To be religious you don’t have to be part of a religion,” Raffael says. P.9

The thing about painting is that it is an activity, and it’s about life and death. P.10

Edward Hopper seems astonishingly close to Raffael in his statement of 1933, the year Raffael was born: “My aim in painting has always been the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature. If this end is unattainable, so it can be said, is perfection in any other ideal of painting or in any other of man’s activities.” P.10

…at New York’s Cooper Union School of Art in the early 1950s, Wallace Stevens, Jung, and Buddhism as taught by Daisetz T. Suzuki at Columbia University were the intellectual air that avant-garde painters breathed. “I am nature,” Jackson Pollock had declared, meaning that he was of nature, not merely an outside observer. P. 12

“My concern is with the rhythms of nature…the way the ocean moves…The ocean is what the expanse of the west was for me…I work from the inside out, like nature.” Pollock was quoted as saying. P.12

Albers himself may be most noted for his investigations into color through the painted medium of stacked minimal squares, but his teaching, honed in the gesamtkunst world of the Bauhaus, was more catholic. “We want a student who sees art as neither a beauty shop nor imitation of nature…but as a spiritual documentation of life,” he wrote. He taught that “color is the most relative medium in art,” and that under no circumstances should an artist get on an aesthetic bandwagon. P.13

Then, as now, Raffael’s paintings took nature as their form and abstraction as their means. They can be read either as whole or as fragmented into thousands of prismatic effects, which, like Thoreau, float with “the impetus derived from the earth and the system, a subjective heavily laden thought, in the midst of an unknown sea.” P15

Raffael married Lannis Wood…together they determined that what was needed for his art was to strip himself of all outward concerns with community and ambition. They moved to France, where painting became the core around which their days were constructed, even to the extent that they slept on a mattress in his studio. P18

Consider the duck (in the painting Galactic Waters III) as the eyeball in Thoreau’s notion of a lake as “earth’s eye, looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” P. 21

“The mystery,” says Raffael, “is being a human being, finding oneself in this universe, and trying to make head or tail of it.” P. 23


Blogger andrea said...

I'm beginning to think that this may be what I need:

...together they determined that what was needed for his art was to strip himself of all outward concerns with community and ambition. They moved to France, where painting became the core around which their days were constructed...

If only I had the means! That said, if I cut myself off entirely I wouldn't be able to ask you about oils and cold wax medium. I'm intrigued. Is it possible for you to write an instructional post for the neophyte? I'd love to learn how this is done. If not, maybe you can point us in the right direction to learn this technique?

11:46 AM  
Blogger Jafabrit said...

I really enjoyed your post and the quotes. The painting of the apple is really really nice, just the whole painting compositionally, colours, everything. Like andrea, would like to know more about the cold wax medium and what effect specifically you like (either in working with it or the specific effect it has viasually).

9:49 AM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Hi Andrea and Jafabrit,

There really isn’t much mystery about them. It is a paint medium that you add to your oils like you would any other medium. Different mediums do different things. Copal medium adds viscosity to the paint and allows for fine detail. When it dries it gives a gloss, enamel like finish. I used to use a home made medium that was a mixture of 1 part each stand oil, linseed oil, dammar varnish, plus 5 parts gum turpentine and added a few drops of cobalt or japan drier to each daily amount I used. This also gave a gloss finish. I have also used Liquin by Winsor Newton. It adds viscosity and speeds the drying time.

The wax medium I use is one of the oldest ones around. A company called Dorland makes it. Gamblin also makes a cold wax medium. It is waxy and more solid but you add it to the paint like any other medium. The more you add the more transparent the paint becomes. I use equal parts of paint and medium so that I get a translucent effect to the paint. When you use the wax medium there is less viscosity and the paint become stiffer. It helps to speed the drying time of oils and gives the paint a matte finish. I have also found that I can use oil pastels over it with good results. If you add more medium and less paint you get a more transparent effect similar to encaustics.

Like any other medium it thins and cleans up with turpentine or mineral spirits. If I want to get more detail I use equal parts of medium, paint, and mineral spirits. It gives more flow but still dries to a matte finish. When the painting is completely dry you can use varnish over it or give it a final coat of the wax medium and buff it to sheen. Just like waxing a car.

I like it because it helps me to achieve a similar effect to soft pastels. I have always loved Degas' pastel work. I also like to loose scetchy loog that Toulouse-Lautrec had in his paintings. I recently read that he would squeeze the paint out on paper and let it sit for a day or two to soak the oil out and get a stiffer paint.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to email me.


1:05 PM  
Blogger Jafabrit said...

I have a little jar of dorlands wax. I thought it was to wax and polish the painting when it was finished lol! I didn't know about mixing it with paint. Thanks for the little tutorial, that was interesting, gives me a much better sense of how it impacts the end result of a painting.

8:17 PM  
Blogger The Lone Beader said...

Just browsing thru. Very inspiring blog. Would ya believe I can't draw or paint worth crap?? LOL.

3:05 PM  
Blogger amber said...

Awesome post ,I can't tell you how much I get from looking at your work -- It's like taking an art lesson each time Brilliant!!

2:16 PM  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

I've missed you! And as soon as my sinus headache fades, I'll be back to actually read the post, not just look at the gorgeous pics.

5:58 PM  
Blogger The Epiphany Artist said...

Its all good baby!

2:23 PM  
Blogger Cath Sheard said...

Hey glad you are doing well Ed. Lovely to see the colours you are using; I find them really moving. And very interested in the mini lesson on wax, might have to give it a try one of these days.

4:34 AM  
Blogger HMBT said...

Love the new works...the colors are fantastic! I love the way they play and light each other...and I too am glad you are back. The mini lesson is very helpful...and like Jafa...I have this item in my studio, never used it because I didn't know how and just used it like a turtle wax for my finished paintings. Thanks for the insight!

7:15 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

I like the blue that you have used in these pictures - makes a familiar subject matter very fresh!

10:38 AM  
Blogger Lili said...

Your paintings are beautiful. I have just started using Dorland cold wax and wanted to know what to use to polish the painting when the wax has dried i.e. what kind of cloth? I did a google search and that's how I found you. Eureka!

1:06 AM  

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