Side project – paint a Rothko

Again this is prompted by the Coursera course on abstract art. I baulked at Pollock and de Kooning, both of them a little too unconstrained for my circumstances, but thought this would be a doddle. It wasn’t and I had a day of muddy failures on an 8″ x 10″ canvas board. In addition to lack of actual skill, the key issues seemed likely to be the medium and the support – his oils (with linseed and turpentine) on canvas, mine acrylics on a small canvas board with pva glue and some medium that slows drying. So after a day of wiping sticky muck off the board and trying to encourage some transparency in my washes, I spotted an alternative – a narrow strip of duck cotton left over from a random cut for a larger piece.

I pinned it to a similarly narrow piece of foam board and primed it with white gesso. Then I un-primed it because the first wash livened it up and make an opaque pink. I put the lot under the tap until it ran clear then dabbed away excess water and attacked it with a hair dryer.

Once ready to receive paint, I washed it with alizarin crimson, then phthalo blue, and a dot of burnt sienna. After letting it settle a little, I added a wash of sap green, then some patches of phthalo blue mixed with buff (unbleached) titanium white.

After several sweeps with these colours, plus some mixing with Payne’s grey, I pulled excess moisture out through the edges with a piece of towel roll, removed some of the pins and used a finger to blend the less well-covered circles underneath (and also to round out some corners), applied a piece of dry towel with a finger to make spaces between some of the bands of colour, then went over it with the hair dryer again.

Voila – less Rothko than Crick, Watson, and Franklin but I think showing its 21st century credentials as the world tries to figure out what makes COVID-19 tick. Unfortunately, it reminds me now of a startled caterpillar and I can’t un-see that. What, you too?

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