Category: Studies

Pickled Ginger

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"Pickled Ginger" (c)2012 Acrylic on Canvas

“Pickled Ginger” (c)2012 Acrylic on Canvas, 20″ x 24″

Although I’ve named these paintings “Faux-Rothko . . .,” these actually are not Rothko imitations. I’ve obviously used a formal resemblance, but that’s where it ends.

Mark Rothko was an abstract artist whose signature work was his body of Color Field painting from the late 40s onwards. Many of these works consist of hundreds of thin, translucent layers of pigment, brilliant color intensities and varied hues. The visual mystery in his work is amplified by his use of the “turpentine burn.” This is a technique where pigment is removed or blurred along the edge of two adjoining colors by scrubbing the canvas with a solvent-soaked rag. The resulting ambiguity of boundaries causes the fields of colors to “float.” Combine these visual undulations with the monumental size of the canvases and you can begin to understand why the art has stirred the meditative side of viewers for decades—his chapel in Texas being a most sacred example.

Considering his work, it’s not a surprise that Rothko was deeply concerned with the spiritual emptiness of man and is quoted, saying: “The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.”

He is very much the complex root system reflecting the magnificent tree you see above-ground. Rothko is a fascinating artist, and man, and I look forward to writing about him in-depth in the future.

But for now, let me restate that my images are not true Rothko imitations. There is no deep philosophy, extensive methodology or deliberate techniques behind them. They are also tiny, relative to his. Rather, think of them as “palette cleansers” that function like the Japanese palate cleanser: pickled ginger. They are merely exercises in minimalism (relative to my usual work) and restraint (see my comment on restraint here) between working on my real canvases. But I had much fun with them and plan on exploring his techniques down the road.

I did use a modified turpentine burn in “No.4” and “Light” consisting of rubbing the acrylic pigments with a sea sponge.

Also, in this online image of “Light” the contrast is so faint and the color differentiations so difficult to see that I created an enhanced version by throwing on a digital color-burn gradient to reveal their existence.

The images appear in the order I painted them.



Faux Rothko No.1

“Faux Rothko No.1” (c)2012, 11″ x 14″

Faux Rothko No.2

“Faux Rothko No.2” (c)2012, 11″ x 14″

Faux Rothko No.3

“Faux Rothko No.3” (c)2012, 11″ x 14″

Faux Rothko No.4

“Faux Rothko No.4” (c)2012, 11″ x 14″

Faux Rothko Light

“Faux Rothko Light” (c)2013, 16″ x 19 3/4″

Faux Rothko Light (Enhanced)

“Faux Rothko Light” (Enhanced) (c)2013, 16″ x 19 3/4″

Quick Study: ceci n’est pas une pomme

ce n'est pas une pomme

“ceci n’est pas une pomme” (c)2012, Acrylic on Canvas Board, 12″ x 9″

This piece was a quick-study of using negative space boldly. After completion, the title “ceci n’est pas une pomme” (this is not an apple)—an alteration of Surrealist artist René Magritte’s statement, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (‘This is not a pipe’), in his “La trahison des images” (‘The Treason of Images), 1929—seemed appropriate and a fitting tribute to Magritte and his fascination with language and perception.

“Ceci n'est pas une pipe” ('This is not a pipe'), in “La trahison des images” ('The Treason of Images), 1929, by René Magritte.

“Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (‘This is not a pipe’), in “La trahison des images” (‘The Treason of Images), 1929, by René Magritte.

From what I’ve read, Magritte was very much a philosopher-artist, and in “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” he provocatively toyed with perception and reality. In it he states that this is not a pipe—which is true, it’s an image of a pipe—and if you don’t believe it, Magritte challenges, “just try to fill it with tobacco.”

So go ahead, just try eat my apple.

If you are interested in semiotics and linguistics, you might want to check out the excerpt from “This Is Not a Pipe” (1968), by the French literary critic and philosopher Michel Foucault. But as Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson), my writer colleague on Twitter, would say: “Pack a lunch!” For Foucault discusses the painting in-depth, in terms of its apparent paradox(es). But keep in mind that his argument was published a year after Magritte’s death and is based on assumptions of “resemblance” and “similitude” that the artist may not have agreed with.

“Ceci n'est pas une pomme” (This is not an apple), 1964, by René Magritte.

“Ceci n’est pas une pomme” (This is not an apple), 1964, by René Magritte.

And now, dessert. In addition to his pipe—I mean, image of a pipe—Magritte later created at least three works in the “’Ceci n’est pas…” motif of apples. One image from 1964, found on Christie’s —which harvested no small prize of $1,136,639 US—has Lot Notes worth reading. I will leave you with an excerpt:

“Ceci n’est pas une pomme (‘This is not an apple’) unites two of René Magritte’s most famous iconographical elements, the apple and the ‘Ceci n’est pas…’ concept. The apple only really began to play a significant part in Magritte’s works in 1950, but reappeared in so many guises, on so many scales, that it has become one of his dominant trademarks. Here it is given a monumental status slightly shocking for a fruit – the canvas and the apple on it are gigantic, as are the words, written in such a controlled calligraphic manner. Magritte’s apples were often monumentalized, shown made of stone or on a disproportionate, impossible scale compared to the accompanying objects. In giving such predominance to such a simple fruit, Magritte managed to discreetly disrupt artistic tradition, for instance upsetting the entire concept of the still-life by giving predominance to the fruit, not to the artist or the tromp-l’oeil effect of the painting . . .

The ‘Ceci n’est pas…’ motif first appeared in 1929 in La trahison des images (‘The Treason of Images’), which depicts a pipe and underneath it the words ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ (‘This is not a pipe’). Its simple yet profound iconoclasm guaranteed its amazing success, and it has become the most famous of Magritte’s images . . .

The reuse of the ‘Ceci n’est pas…’ concept is part of a general movement in Magritte’s later work, when he showed renewed interest in his earlier subject matter, revisiting favorite themes and treating them with a new maturity and the benefit of hindsight. The apple replacing the pipe is thus not a continuation of an old theme, but an extensive revision.”

Bon appetite!

Quick Study: Twins

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The original painting is the second image down. It was a little dark and lifeless for my taste, so I rescued it in Photoshop with a combination of Selective Color, Curves and Black a& White. I don’t know if ethereal describes it . . .  spartan, maybe? No pun intended.

"Twins"  (c)2012 Digital photo manipulation #3

“Twins” (c)2012 Digital photo manipulation #3

Below is the original. My husband loves it; I think it’s a tad drab.

"Twins"  (c)2012 – Acrylic on Canvas Board, 12″ x 9"

“Twins” (c)2012 – Acrylic on Canvas Board, 12″ x 9″

Color manipulation pushed hard perks it up a bit.

"Twins," digital manipulation.

“Twins,” digital manipulation.

And then there’s always black and white.

"Twins," digital manipulation.

“Twins,” digital manipulation.

This image is part of my “Quick Study” challenge. Learn more here.

Mighty (Soul Incarnate)

“Mighty (Soul Incarnate)” by Terre Britton.

“Mighty (Soul Incarnate)” (c)2012 – Acrylic on Canvas Board, 14″ x 11″

A study exploring the power of a single brush stroke.

Spiral Studies

Spiral Study 1


Spiral Study 2

Spiral Study 2

Spiral Study 1

These are just studies. I’ll post more info along with the final piece.


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