A year ago today, I went to a neighborhood art store and bought three tubes of oil paint on a whim, and started making oil paintings for the first time in my life. I wrote about that at the time here, about starting from scratch and about some of my thoughts and feelings about oil painting as then a still mostly abstract idea.
I spent the last couple days, in particular too many hours yesterday, working on a new painting, Five Concentric Wireframe Cubes. I also took a lot of pictures along the way, as I drafted out guidelines on a three foot by two foot canvas and then systematically mixed and laid colors into that drawing.
I’m pleased with the result, and also pretty sore from all the careful freehand edge-making at various 60 degree increments on a large canvas. Working larger like this introduces new challenges compared to the many square-foot paintings I’ve done in the last couple months. New complications, but also exciting possibilities.
One implication of a larger canvas is that the machine-cut stencil process that fits smaller paintings (e.g. Continuity) really well is more difficult to use well. I have done a couple of larger stencil-driven pieces so far this year — Sierpinski Carpet, Concentric Squares which required four coordinated stencil plates; Conservation of Area which required six — and they came out well, but it was a great deal of extra work to involve the notionally time-saving stencil element. I’m still working out the balance, there.
But difficulty of coordinating multiple stencil plates aside, FCWC isn’t a great fit for that anyway: the painting is made up of a lot of fields of directly adjacent color, so there’s no negative space gaps for stencil material to define.
It’s also a (relatively) simple design; compared to the two pieces linked above, it has no thin, closely-packed lines, but rather fewer, larger areas made out of (to think of it one way) one or more contiguous unit-inch equilateral triangles. And so drafting it out with rule and pencil was as good a solution as any.
So, this isn’t the painting I thought I was making when I decided to make it.
At conception, Six Menger Sponges In Transit was going to be a sort of sequel to another oil painting I’d done months earlier, Green Twins. That earlier work was the result of some experimentation with paint diluting mediums, particularly Neo Megilp which I took an early liking to because of the way it makes oil paint more transparent and slick without making it runny. (I should write a bit more about that some time.)
With Green Twins I ended up producing an ethereal, weightless feeling and a hint of some mechanical texture to the twin cube objects. (Technically it’s a cube and a first degree Menger sponge; technically technically a cube is a zeroeth-degree Menger sponge.) The thinned paint laid out in multiple layers, with textured foreground over wispy background, really works for me. It has a science fiction feel to it, like something very old but manufactured with unfamiliar tools.
I didn’t know what I was aiming for when I made it, but I liked what came out.
And so months later I decided to revisit it. In doing so I made the questionable move of changing all the details while expecting the output to feel the same. It didn’t work.
I’ve spent the last week working on Four Buildings, a series of large (for me, at least) oil paintings of buildings at different times of day. You can see them arranged above, and below at large scale individually.
(You can also see them, and a lot of other work I’ve produced this year, on my new, still-under-development art showcase site, art.joshmillard.com. As I continue to focus on making (and n.b. selling) paintings as a big part of where my creative energy is going, I plan to keep building that site out.)
I’m happy with these new paintings both as a set of work on their own and for how they’ve grown out of a lot of painting work I’ve been doing the last three months, and thinking about writing some of that up has made me realize that I’ve been doing a lot painting lately and very little writing about painting. I’d like to get back to blogging about this stuff more consistently; we’ll see, but for now here’s some thoughts on these.
A little bit about Four Buildings as a set. The four paintings are: