After re-creating paintings on the body for nearly 16 years, Chadwick & I started running out of spaces on Chadwick’s body to paint. This led us to start casting his body using plaster. Then, we would include these plaster body parts into the body paintings, still using photography as the final way of documenting these performance-based paintings.
We became more and more interested in these cast body parts and thought it would be an interesting experiment to go back to our roots of sculpture. (Both of us met while we were studying sculpture). We had the idea to cast a body part from Chadwick and adhere it to a wooden panel and recreate a painting over the entire image, making a new form of Museum Anatomy. The trick for us at the time, was figuring out how to make a clean cast and re-learning the process of oil painting. Most oil painting instructors do not know how to paint like the Masters, many don’t even really cover the basics of underpaintings or how to neutralize colors so they don’t look so bright.
Around that time, I met Tad Spurgeon online. He has a phenomenal website with all kinds of interesting information from paints and process to making oils for mediums. Even over the Internet, his oil paintings had an illumination that was beautiful. I call it “the glow”. Every amazing Master painting has this glow. When you walk toward a painting from across a museum hallway, you can easily see the figures, foreground and background, this is because of the particular process the artist utilized. This process is a dying art. I decided to ask Tad to be my mentor and walk me through this process of painting our first trial, or maquette.
The following blog posts will include elements from our emails, thoughts on what was going on while creating this piece and photos showing the lengthy and rewarding process. Throughout the painting, I relied heavily on Tad’s hand-refined linseed oil thickened by exposure to air, which he produced over several months. (The recipe is in his book!) I also relied heavily on Tad’s insights and excellent advice. I barraged him with questions and concerns. I also read through his textbook on oil painting techniques (which he sells on his website). His book, Living Craft, contains more knowledge than any Sunday painter will ever need, but is perfect for those of us who are incredibly nerdish about knowing the in’s and out’s of as many possibilities that exist for pigments, mediums and applications. One fun fact I learned was that The Masters didn’t use chemicals in their paints (turps or Liquin).
Side Note: It’s always a bit overwhelming and intimidating to release a new work of art online, (or publicly for that matter). Not unlike most artworks, this piece represents a learning curve, trials and errors and time; a lot of time. A year of my time to be exact. I began painting the first week of January 2012, and finished this particular piece the first week of January 2013. This doesn’t include the casting process, the drawing process (which Chadwick tended to in the most detailed way), or the hours of brainstorming that is our collaboration. I learned a lot from this process, including the fact that it’s not a good idea to paint near a long-haired cat that sheds. And, definitely, do not cover a wet painting with a cloth that has cat hair or dust on it. Thank you again to Tad Spurgeon. Your generosity reminds us that there are moments in life when the universe provides for us exactly what we need.
Step One: Choosing the work of art and drawing it out on the cast, which has been attached to a wood panel base.