May 2006 Archives

Centerfold, May 2006, Part 2


A painter I correspond with, Ron Zito, wrote to me to tell me the last entry I wrote on this painting was like "paintus interruptus." "To be continued. Will the beautiful Teri Peterson emerge unscathed (and unclothed) from the canvas?" Sorry that she's not out yet. We've got a few more layers to go before we can see her.

[Centerfold, in progress] Today I decide to work on the debris and the dirt around the centerfold. I try to work back to front. I start with Gamblin Portland Grey Light. The Portland Greys are perfectly neutral; I want something warmer, so I add in Burnt Umber and Galkyd SD until I get a color almost exactly like chocolate ice cream. Speaking of chocolate ice cream, the very best I've ever had is Turkey Hill Philadelphia Style Chocolate ice cream. The list of the best things in life now stands thusly:

  • Oral sex
  • A good, ripe avocado
  • Turkey Hill Philadelphia Style Chocolate ice cream

Once I've got the color I want, I grab one of my Ugly Brushes. I've been painting seriously for a little over twenty years and I'm not sure that I've ever thrown a brush away. I've been partial for the past few years to Robert Simmons brushes, mainly because they're cheap and hold together despite the abuse I put my brushes through. But I have all kinds, from Winsor & Newton watercolor brushes to really crappy Chinese ink brushes. My main problem is I commit what Tom Robbins calls the cardinal sin of painters: I don't clean my brushes. Any brushes which cannot be cleaned go into my pile of Ugly Brushes. Recently I tried to salvage a bunch of Ugly Brushes using Lestoil; a good soak in Lestoil did remove the old paint but turned the hairs brittle and black and totally destroyed whatever spring was left. Now those are Ugly Brushes!

[Centerfold, in progress] [Centerfold, in progress] Using an Ugly Brush I scumble in some chocolate paint over the Van Dyke Brown of the dirt underpainting. I'm trying to be random but it turns out being random is really hard for me. I do some blending here and there so it all doesn't look so brushlike and I try to leave some untouched Van Dyke where shadows would fall from the leaves and sticks.

[Centerfold, in progress] [Centerfold, in progress] Next I add more Portland Grey Light into the mixture to make a slightly warm, ashy grey. If you ever really look at old leaves and sticks and dirt, it's all pretty much the same dull grey color, unless it's wet. I get near that grey and paint in some small sticks, leaf bits, and general crud all around. I also paint in the two rocks on the right with a very thin layer of the same grey.

[Centerfold, in progress] When that's done I do something I don't usually do: While the paint is wet, I go back in with a brush handle and scrape some lines into the bits to give them some texture.

Enough for now.

Centerfold, May 2006


I've been accused of illustration. I don't always take that as an insult although it's usually intended as such. At the very least, though, I am an illustrator who illustrates what's in his head. Most of my paintings begin as an idea, a vision, something I see which I want others to see as well. Many of my paintings could be photographs, with some staging and maybe a little Photoshoppery; but I can't communicate through photos. Painting is how I communicate best, so that's what I do.

This painting is definitely an illustration of what's in my head. I can interpret it, if you want, but ultimately the image didn't spring from a concept which can be stated in words. It's a wordless meditation.

The painting began as an image, but the physical painting begins, of course, with canvas preparation. To start I order birch plywood from the local lumber mill -- not Home Depot! -- and have them cut a full 4x8 sheet down to size for me. I've used both 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch plywood for this, but every canvas I've made on 1/2-inch warped pretty quickly making me very unhappy, so I recommend using the thicker plywood, even though it's heavier and more expensive. This is left over from another project, though, so it's 1/2-inch birch plywood.

Over that I glue linen canvas. I love linen. I love linen canvas and I love linen clothes. I used to have these great linen shirts but I can't find them any more; I guess linen is out of style now. Linen is the best. I think I'm even going to start eating linen -- flax oil, anyway -- because I hear it's good for you and I LOVE LINEN. I cut the canvas down to size leaving maybe a foot or so extra all around the plywood.

Robert Gamblin recommends using a PVA adhesive to glue the canvas to the plywood. Oddly, Gamblin doesn't make PVA glue; it makes PVA size, which is nowhere near sticky enough to glue the canvas down. So I buy my neutral pH PVA adhesive from Lineco. I spread that out all over the plywood with my hands (wearing latex gloves so I don't get sticky) then slap the canvas down over it, folding the corners back and trying to get them as flat as possible. I cover the back of the board with glue, too, not just to glue the excess canvas on the back, but also in the hopes that evenly wetting the plywood will help prevent warping. So far it appears to help a bit.

The glue dries in a couple of days. Once it does it's time to lay down some Gamblin PVA size. I spray it on the canvas using a bottle with a hole in the cap and scrub it in using a plastic bristle brush, like you might use to clean your bathroom. The size dries in a couple of days, after which I sand it lightly.

Next up is the Gamblin Oil Painting Ground. I've tried a few different ways to get this down. It's extremely thick and viscous and resists, well, pretty much anything you want to do to it. I tried spreading it with a tile knife, but that left uneven lines from the edges of the knife. I tried putting it down with a big heavy brush but the ground just sort of laughed at it. This time I tried rolling it on with a foam roller, which seemed to work well. Each coat of ground needs to dry for a few days; I put down two coats, and leave the final coat to dry for a few weeks.

[Playboy, July 1980] Meanwhile I start on references for my image. For this I need an older Playboy centerfold. Lucky for me I inherited a collection of Playboys from 1974 through 1988 or so -- halcyon years for that fine magazine, after becoming respectable but before augmentation took over. I rummage through the set until I find one I think will work, from July 1980. In 1980 I was nine years old and Teri Peterson was about 20.

[Teri Peterson, July 1980] [Teri Peterson Photoshop] [Teri Peterson in Photoshop] I carefully bend the staples to remove the centerfold. Then I scan the centerfold into Adobe Photoshop in six pieces. As I work, I wonder what Teri is up to these days. She's listed in the IMDb as having had one bit part in a movie back in 1984. The Playboy site lists her incorrectly as Miss August of 1980. I take the the six pieces and put them together, back and front, to make a smaller version of the centerfold. I print this out on my inkjet printer, both sides, and cut it out to give me a little copy of the centerfold.

[Teri Peterson's centerfold, distressed] Then I distress the centerfold copy, crumpling it, folding it, squashing it under a marble rolling pin, and so forth. I'm 35 now, so Teri would be 46. Does she have kids? Where does she live? Does she still get together with other Playmates at reunions?

[Centerfold, in progress] Finally, it's time for the image to meet the canvas. I project the distressed centerfold copy on to the canvas using my Artograph. I carefully trace the centerfold in pencil. The next day I take some vine charcoal -- I haven't used vine charcoal in 20 years, and I'm surprised at how well it works -- and sketch in the autumn leaves and sticks and stones scattered around the centerfold.

[Centerfold, in progress] The following day I start painting. I begin with Gamblin Van Dyke Brown thinned with Galkyd SD. I lay down a thin layer as underpainting for the dirt all around the centerfold. I love Van Dyke Brown because it's almost black, but it's more interesting.

[Centerfold, in progress] The brown sits overnight. Then I mix up some Burnt Umber and Galkyd SD to make a very thin wash only slightly thicker than watercolor. I go in to the outlines and put in some detail. In spots which are going to be darker, I blend the Burnt Umber into shading.

This layer is currently drying. In a couple of days I'll probably start putting in some semi-transparent layers of color on the leaves and debris. I'll keep you posted.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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