Follow me as I paint the sea: an explanation of the medium I use.

The painting as of August, 7, 2020.

At first glance, my paintings appear to be oil on canvas or similar. It is upon closer inspection that viewers observe the textured surface of the work. In fact, the most common comment I receive is “I love the texture of your work-it is so engaging. It’s like I’m actually there. Just what is the medium?” The medium I use is abaca, an extremely strong fiber from the inner bark of the banana tree and is used for marine cordage and sails for sailing vessels.

In the 16th century, Venetian artists-Venice at the time was a powerful seafaring nation state-began using the canvases of sailing vessels as surfaces to apply their paints. These canvases were made from durable fibers such as linen, flax and abaca.  It is for this reason that these now famous works have survived to us through the ages. 

Using these same fibers, I have embellished on this idea and created an actual painting method that is just as durable and permanent, and pigmented with light-fast colors to match the rich hues of nature.

My process provides a textured, almost three-dimensional quality to the painting’s surface, thus mimicking nature in all its splendor . . . from its rocky crevices along the ocean shoreline, subtle shadows in a garden path, the fullness and detail of a treed landscape, and the smooth surface of a still lake.  

Natural fibers, beaten into thick coats of pigmented pulp, provides the perfect media with which to create these modern interpretations of representational art.  

painting detail showing texture.

If you can’t make it to the sea this summer, follow me as I paint it.

The Cape Ann Seacoast, the inspiration for the painting.

Like many of us, I am drawn to the primodial pull of the sea. For me, it is not just any seashore, but the north Atlantic, with its harsh terrain, ice cold water, and thunderous crashing waves. Here, rocks are thrown to the shore by an unrelenting tide.  The rocks are stronger than the water, but the water can be fiercer and can move the rocks at will. This is for me the metaphor for our own lives: we long for smoothness of the water, but we are shaped by the steeliness of the rocks.  
Using an array of textures and colors to illustrate this metaphor, I will depict in my painting this emotional pull of the sea and tell my story much like a poet would use words. 
As you move with me through this creative process, feel free to chime in and ask questions. I have been sharing my process on Instagram live. For updates on live sessions, follow me at https://www.instagram.com/megblackstudios/
And as always, thank you for your support.
Meg


The Genesis of the painting: preparing the background drawing.

The yet to be titled painting at the end of the first week of work.
A black and white print of the image is laid out on the surface of the poured sheet. A sheet of carbon paper is sandwiched underneath. I use a bone folder to trace the image onto the poured sheet as a guide.
The painting in its early stages of completion.

Next week, the painting will be adhered to the frame. The final size will be 40 x 40 x 4 inches.

Paper making at home with children.

This video shows simple steps to make paper at home with children. Paper making is the perfect creative activity for home schooling or during the pandemic quarantine.

Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People influences Rocks and Water Composition.

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, is a giant painting in which the allegory of Liberty charges toward the viewer ahead of an angry crowd who tramples over freshly dead bodies as they make their way through the streets of Paris. We, the viewer, are clearly in her way, and given the gun tooting youth on her right-holding a canvas bag that had until moments before this action was captured, belonged to a then living soldier, had better move out of her path quickly. The composition used by Delacroix captured in his most famous painting is a simple triangle, a classic compositional technqieu used for centuries before him to highlight action and drama-perfectly incorporated here at the height of the Romantic art movement and its underlying philosophy of the sublime.

I chose this same triangular composition for my seascape painting, the working title of which is Resilience. By anchoring the rocks on the bottom of the painting’s composition, and capturing the image just as the rock in the distance is showing its jagged surface, I sought to create the idea of an anchor, rising movement, the coming of drama, and the idea of the sublime-one can smell the salt air, bust stand in this spot long enough and the waves will charge right at you, knocking you over, tripping you over the hard rock and uneven sandy surface.

It is this idea of the triangular composition, used so often in art history, that informed this painting. Like Delacroix, I seek to include the viewer in the composition from the angle of which they would be standing, the make sure they feel the tension and energy of the action, and to stand their ground or move out of the way. Either way, Liberty will trample over you, as will these crashing waves.

Applying over-beaten abaca to the surface of the painting.

In this short video, I demonstrate how I apply abaca, that has been beaten for 20+ hours, to the surface of the rock and water painting, to give the illusion of pebbled rocks.

How to make handmade paper paintings-applying abaca

Overbeaten abaca refers to a fiber harvested from the inner bark of the banana tree, that has been beaten for approximately 20 hours.  Abaca is a gorgeous fiber, ivory in color, that will not disintegrate when wet, which is why abaca is used to make tea bags.  I strain some of the water from the abaca (the abaca is beaten in a hollander beater, which uses approximately 20 gallons of water per beating), and mix it with pure pigment, which will not fade.  I apply the abaca to the surface of the painting, shown in the pevious blog, with spoons and an old turkey baster.  
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Latest Creations from my studio



My latest work is a wall relief based on the symmetry of Ancient Greek art. The Ancient Greeks created intriguing compositions by balancing and counterbalancing shapes, colors and figures throughout their pottery. These designs told a story, and the viewer was welcome to “read” it according to their ability to interpret Greek mythology. This four panel work balancing color and shape on either end with the middle panels both playing off the end panels and acting as a resting area for the eye. In this way, the concept of Ancient Greek art is being imitated, even though the subject is considered “abstract” or “color field.”

Other News

I am excited to attend my upcoming gallery opening at Cove Gallery (ww.covegallery.com).  The opening is Saturday, August 15 from 6:00-8:00 pm.  I will be showing new works including seascapes and floral paintings such as the Hydrangeas painting shown above.  Hope to see new and returning clients at the opening!  Meg

Handmade Paper Paintings: Process and Applications. The finished painting.

After the painting is completely dry, it can be tacked to a wall for closer viewing and inspection.  The painting can be worked on even in this stage.  I mark the areas with a colored grease pencil in which I want to make changes and then replace the painting back onto the flat work surface seen in previous blogs.  I add additional PVC glue to the pulp that I will now apply in order for it to adhere to the already dried pulp.

Handmade Paper Paintings: Process and Applications. A work in progress.

Let’s pause and view the in-progress painting for a moment.  The purple toned background is created largely with over-beaten abaca and treated with a mixture of water and paper sizing to prevent the surface from absorbing stained water that might leak from the addition of any new colored pulp that is applied.  In the case of this painting, that would refer to the green toned pulps in the foreground, which are a combination of cotton and abaca, beaten for 20 to 30 minutes in a hollander beater.  The sky area is created with the same cotton/abaca mix, and pigmented in blue tones.  At this stage, the painting will be allowed to dry under weights for several days, at which point another review of its completeness will be determined.