I had promised myself that I wouldn’t be seduced by green again … but sometimes one just can’t help it.
On Saturday morning I came to the realization that my green earth from Madoc—which I think is very beautiful—just wasn’t intense enough for my current work … How could I resist a rendezvous with my 404 green from Cobalt, Ontario? A quick tryst of grinding with my muller, and I had the perfect green.
This 404 green is quite extraordinary as a bright pigment. It comes from a mineral called annabergite, which is the result of weathered nickel deposits in the area. If you’d like to read more about my trip to Cobalt, you can start here.
Painting, painting, painting …
I’m actually rather pleased with how things are turning out. The green annabergite pigment I’m using has presented some challenges, but these challenges have also led to some creative solutions and new techniques which I will continue to use in my regular painting practice.
I’ve also come a little closer in understanding what creates an icon … as much as gestures and stance play a role in a painting being iconographic, I think that the eyes are probably central in such a work. For this icon, I spent almost a whole day executing the eyes. I think it was time well spent.
This week I’ve begun putting down paint for the first icon of St. Barbara for my Transart project. This icon is being created from the annabergite I collected during my trip to Cobalt, Ontario. It’s also the same pigment I used during my attempt at painting a tree from that area.
Now that I’m standing back from the work, I wonder a little whether beginning with this place and pigment was a good idea. It’s limited colour range and poisonous nature are both things that I find difficult; and there’s a personal weight associated with it after my last attempt, of course …
Tuesday I decided to postpone painting one more day and attempt to broaden the colour range of this sample through subjecting the pigment to higher temperatures than I did previously. The concern here is that at these temperatures it means the sublimation of the arsenic within the annabergite. In this case I wasn’t too concerned, as the amount was very small and I kept the kiln downwind and far away from everything, but if I ever needed to do such a thing on a larger scale I would need to set up a proper filtering system for the gases.
The results weren’t much to speak of at the initial temperatures, but my last batch (and highest temperature) produced a marked change. The annabergite earth shifted toward a brown colour; and this is a very welcome addition to my palette! You can see the results in the basecoat of the flesh …
Also, now that the first layers of paint are applied, I’m struck by how much wider even the unheated colours look on the panel (instead of on my pigment shelf in my studio). Once they’re not beside the bright ochres, vermillions, azurites of that collection there own uniqueness becomes far more apparent.
Over the weekend I plan to begin working up the face, which will be the climax of the work …
To prepare for my first attempt in painting an icon of Saint Barbara I’ve ground the different hues I’ll be using (and a couple of mixtures, too). In the end, an entire shelf has been filled.
It feels good to have this work done, but as I look at the narrow range of colours available to me from this handful of dirt from Cobalt, I’m wonderful why I chose to begin with this source … perhaps the unsatisfactory tree painting is still bothering me and I’m hoping to put it right in this icon?