Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Egg #8- Scenic Vermont inspired painted goose egg from "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" series

     Well, I can't imagine having a grouping of meaningful eggs within the larger collection without paying homage to the state that I was born and raised in. I am from a small Vermont town and raised to live through the four changing seasons (although if you are a true Vermonter, you know that there is a fifth season that is rarely mentioned- mud season) and I swear that I have Maple syrup running through my veins. I have to say that my favorite season is Fall. When I think of Fall, I think of cold, brisk air, warm sweaters, apples and cinnamon, pumpkins, and the crunch of colorful leaves under my feet. Naturally, I felt that I would represent this season on a painted goose egg.
     I am a studio painter, and have painted on all types of surfaces with a plethora of mediums. I chose acrylics as my medium of choice for the fact that it requires only soap and water clean-up and that it dries relatively quickly.  I don't have to wait days to go on to the next section. I am able to handle it within 15 minutes or so (after all, I've given myself a week for each of the 50 eggs that I will be creating, and I am on a tight timeline). Acrylics have come a long way since I started with them as a teenager. The mediums they have added make it much easier to blend, and slow the drying time, and I will be incorporating one of those mediums in this experiment. So without further adieu, here we go.
     I sanded the egg with a medium grit sandpaper, wiped it down with paper towel, and put my first coat of Gesso (an acrylic primer) on and let it dry. I changed to a fine grit sandpaper and sanded again, wiping the dust down again. I do this two more times until the egg is nice and smooth and free of dust.
     Here is my very rough pencil sketch of the front medallion of the egg. You can see that I've laid out the egg to be horizontal. It will have a dividing middle band that separates the two halves. I have drawn out a typical Vermont farmhouse with an attached barn. There is fall foliage in the background under a blue sky with clouds. The foreground will be an overturned field with corn stalk stubble, and in front of that, a patch of pumpkins. There is a little road flanked by white picket fences that beckon you in and welcome you.
     I then mix a light blue color for the middle band that separates the two medallions. I plan on adding wispy white clouds and leaves falling through the air.
     I then add a yellow base coat for what will be gold rimmed borders that help define the middle band and frame the two scenes front and back.
     I divide the medallion in half for sky and foreground and paint in. At this point, this is what is considered the beginning of the "rough in". Things will look a little clumsy for a bit, until I get to tighten up and add detail, so bear with me.
     Because I will be painting a lot of Maple leaves, and want to have them the same size and somewhat uniform, I devise a little stencil to help myself speed up the process. I use a craft punch that is just the right scale, and take an ordinary piece of thin copy paper and punch the design a couple time into a manageable size to bend around the curve of the egg. 
     As you can see, I have added some wispy white clouds in the middle border band with some Golden Titanium white and Golden satin glazing medium. This helps thin the paint, make it more transparent, and gives it a slick brush out quality that is easy to blend. It will also extend the drying time a little as well. I wait until the egg is able to be handled, and start using my little home made leaf stencil, and daub in yellow in a meandering design, leaving plenty of open space for other leaf colors.
     Here is the end of roughing in one of the scenes on the egg. This is my least favorite part of the painting process. Everything looks like a hot mess. It will get better, you think, hopefully. So at the beginning of this process, I can tell you that I am struggling with this medium on this surface. I have made it easier by gessoing and sanding, giving me a smoother surface to paint on, added a blending additive to create more slickness and extend the drying time, and I am using an arsenal of eeny, teeny, tiny brushes, i.e. 20/0. I am still finding that even with all of this, I feel the paint and brush are dragging on the surface, and I am having a difficult time with the smoothness of the paint. It is one of the frustrating parts of this particular project.
     As you can see, I am tightening up the overall painting, and adding detail, and it is starting to resemble a idyllic Vermont landscape. That would be the other personal struggle I am having. I am by and large, a studio painter who paints still lifes and portraits. I don't normally paint landscapes unless there is a figure or an architectural interest attached to them. So, I would have to say that this egg is an artistic stretch for me. Landscapes just happen to not be my cup of tea- and sometimes best left to those plein air professionals! But this series of eggs was also a creative journey and all about putting myself outside my comfort zone. I surely felt this way as I tackled this project.
     I am finishing up the rolling green lawn, the road to the house, the overturned fields with cornstalk stubble and a patch of pumpkins in the foreground.
     Adding some more color in the colorful leaves in the background, and a white picket fence.
     Adding some highlights and pumpkin stems and a nice transparent orange glaze to "pop" the pumpkins out of the foreground.
     Back to the middle border. I've added two more colors of Maple leaves to the meandering design, with red and orange leaves in between the yellow ones I had painted earlier,
     I used a brown Micron pigma pen that is fade proof and waterproof for the veins in the leaves. I felt like I just didn't have a brush small enough to do this with, and the point size on the pen was .005. I let it dry before painting over it with transparent colored glazes to seal it in. By the way, the smallest brush I was using was a 20/0.
     You can see that once the transparent glazes were brushed over the initial painting and inking in of the leaves deepens the colors and adds depth. The leaves seem to be falling/floating in the air against the blue and cloudy sky. I like this part of the egg very much. You can see that I have been adding some golden ochre, transparent burnt umber, transparent yellow oxide and a little Naples yellow to the banding that separates the two scenic halves. I wanted it to look like a gold rim, almost like a frame. I will come back and add some white highlights to complete the look later.
     That was a lot of work so far for just the front of the egg and the middle band. We still have one more side to go. Above is the quick sketch for the other scene, a white church with a steeple, more turned fields and a pumpkin patch in the foreground, fall foliage, and in the background, a mountain range (suspiciously looking like Camel's Hump Mountain).
     Hmmm...you say. I don't remember seeing graphite pencil lines in the drawing out of the scene. You would be correct. I rough in the scene with a light gray watercolor pencil for the buildings, and use a medium green for the foliage and foreground, and a purple for the mountain range. The reason I use these instead of graphite is that they are water soluble, and when I paint over them, they will dissolve and become integrated into the paint without smearing, smudging or leaving a visible mark through the paint itself.
     I have started to once again block in solid colors to form the base for my glazing and details.
     Working on blocking in the foreground with more fields and pumpkin patches and rolling green hills.
     Slow going, I know. I certainly could have popped off at least four batik style eggs to the one painted egg that I am working on. Patience is surely a virtue. I should get some, some time...
I continue to tighten up the painting, adding little details here and there, correct and straighten the architecture, and work on the background foliage. And finally, it is finished!
     Here is the front side of the Vermont Scenic egg with the farmhouse, barn, fields, pumpkins and fall foliage. I can almost smell the pumpkin and spice now!

     Here is the middle band, flanked by two golden bands like the rimming of a teacup. I am very happy with the middle.

     And lastly, when you boil it all down, you can see that the back side of the egg depicts an idyllic Vermont white clapboard church with steeple, set against a majestic mountain backdrop, dappled with the colors of fall foliage, with a rich and lush foreground of those rolling Vermont hills. I hope you have enjoyed this process with me. It might be a while before I "paint" another egg so I'm glad that you came along!

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