Sometimes a Great Notion: Day 21, Nov. 21, 2009

This was a hard-working day at the Studio. I didn’t mean it to be — I just kept seeing¬† More To Be Done.

I worked the center panels, particularly the central one, very hard today, using Liquin as if it were water. I also got to use my spatula-like tool, of which I’m very fond, and which makes specific kinds of marks on canvas. It doesn’t work on masonite board at all.

The “spatula” (actually I found it with clay shaping tools) is on the left and the goo is what my palette looked like. There’s a palette knife in there, also, which came in handy.

I worked with those tools and then put them aside and started what I can only describe as a kind of drip process: load the brush with lots of Liquin medium and some indefinite paint and lay a line down the canvas:

I didn’t get photos of the really good gooey places, but this is an example. After I laid down a bunch of medium and paint, I went back over the lines with a big brush, dispersing the materials. This method actually worked better than just brushing the paint on the canvas.

This is after the goo has been distributed. I had both violet and paynes gray on my brushes, so they came out varying themselves nicely.

The Great Notion occurred about 3:30. I had been at it since 9 and was more than a little tired. So I thought I’d clean up and wait for Jer at 4. I was standing at the door of the barn and I saw one set of mountains more clearly than I had ever seen them before. The sun was just right for the shadows to pull out the forms individually. They were beautiful. I admired them for minute, took out my camera and bemoaned its inability to photograph what I could see so clearly. I was standing there wishing there were some way I could record the mountains as they were at that moment, when it suddenly dawned on me — I had been fussing at painting them for weeks and never could see them clearly. I dashed back to the palette (a version of the one above), scrambled for color and started making marks all over the dull blue shapes that I had thought were the best I was going to get for those particular forms.

Here’s a¬† before shot, when I thought I was finished for the day (this was cropped from a much larger photograph, so it’s fuzzy. But you’ll get the idea.)

And here’s what I left the studio with this evening, having thrown paint at those forms, running from open door to the painting wall, back and forth, trying to make do with the paint on my palette so I could catch the shapes before they became mere silhouettes in front of the setting sun:

What made me laugh at myself was that moment before I thought of trying to capture the forms, when I was wishing there were some way to show what these mountains look like on November 21 at 3:37 until 3:59 PM. The moment just before the Great Notion — paint them, dummy! Duh.

Trauma du jour, averted. Day 13, Nov 13, 2009

Friday the 13th. Which I’ve always, contrariwise, maintained was a good luck day for me. And it was, as my lost Fed Ex package, for which I paid 4 times the actual cost to have two-day shipping and which I desperately needed to get on with painting, was found at the Beatty Merc, having been accepted-by-signature by friend George, who owns the place. Fed Ex called at 7:55 this morning to tell me that the package, which I had reported (in a rather heated manner) as not having been delivered in spite of their tracking record saying it had, was at the “Lost River Trading Company.” This is actually the Beatty Mercantile, but Fed Ex hasn’t updated its records, nor its delivery personel, since last February. But we knew what the LRTC really was and George was just waiting for Jer to show up for groceries to hand it to him.

I could get to work with a full bottle of Liquin:


I use Liquin instead of linseed oil because it dries faster and therefore enables the inept painter to cover up errors more quickly. I brought what I thought was an ample supply, but I didn’t really know enough about the linen and its capability for absorption to work the surface properly. So my supply was depleted, and my first Fed Ex delivery was coming from Wisconsin via China and will arrive next week. Hence the panic about the missing second-day air shipment (with extra costs for hazardous materials). I was imagining losing a full 9 days of working time, and that pushed me to a meltdown worthy of a 3 year old. Luckily Jer averted his eyes.

I also found a bit more titanium white among my supplies; for some reason I brought a lot of zinc white but neglected the titanium. Zinc is a cool white; titanium is a warmer color, and more importantly, is the most opaque of the whites. Finding a bit more was a coup. Next week, when my shipment from Dick Blick in Wisconsin via China arrives, I’ll have a new titanium white to work with.

AdvancefromSohoThe non-Soho paints also represent an advance from the Soho paints, which are big tubes full of lots of filler. As they should be, having been bought for so little money. But it’s a bit of relief to have “real” pigment with its greater oomph.

So, after retrieving the Liquin package from George, who chided me for not stopping in more often, I spent the rest of the day getting paint on the Linen panels. They now are fully covered with something.

PaintAllOverWIt’s time to begin painting. There’s a long way to go yet, but not as far as it was yesterday. I am planning on working the skies first (the mountains get worked continuously, as I paint other things) and then re-tack all the panels up about 2 feet and work the desert basin floor. I will be sure to have another adult nearby as I move the panels, because I don’t fancy falling off the ladder without someone to cart me off to the emergency room. The studio is a fine and¬† private place, but none, do there, I think, have a cell phone that works.

I am also learning about painting on these linen panels, particularly using odorless mineral spirits (the substitute for turpentine). The Gamsol mineral spirits are less toxic than Turps and a lot less smelly. They also can be used to cover an area much more evenly, and that seems a real advantage. I can add the detail and the thick paint later; now I just need paint all over the linen — it”s a bit like putting on primer on a precious wall in one’s house.¬† I’ll undoubtedly find out how I’ve gone wrong as I continue the process.

Late in the day, Richard Stephens¬† dropped by with another pentatonic flute, this one with a drone — sort of¬† like a flute bagpipe, where the undertone is a constant bass. Richard can control the amount of drone included in his melodies. I think I need one, but probably without the drone.


As I was looking at the far distance down the Amargosa desert, I saw a bit of blue glow and I swear I heard one of the flute notes that Richard played the other day. His showing up today confirms it — I need to have a pentatonic flute to keep my spirits up as the weather turns chilly.

Other than that, the sun shone, the temps dropped a bit but so long as I kept the north and east doors closed, the sun warmed the studio through the big south doors. The mountains continued their mysterious changes, and I am keeping my exercise gups up trotting back and forth from painting to door to see how this or that slope goes which direction. And where those blasted shadows are now.

Reporting, as usual, from Goldwell House, in Beatty Nevada, which is much warmer than the Barn. But much less picturesque.