I have a simple still life that I set up for my student a week ago thursday and decided it would be a good exercise for me to paint it too. I fussed with the arrangement and lighting for quite some time, gessoed over an old painting that I never liked and the next day I put a red wash over the whole thing. I often like
a bright red underneath my work as it acts as an interesting brightening agent for colours painted over it. I decided to draw the shapes in Cerulean Blue since the blue lines against the bright red sometimes show through in places adding extra interest to the total composition. This has worked well for me in the past. I have a new colour I haven't used yet, Napthol Scarlet by Gamblin that I have been wanting to try so I decided to use it as the underpainting. BIG MISTAKE. It does not want to dry! Painting anything over it, even though it feels dry to the touch, causes a blurry, muddy result. It stains my fingers and brushes and rags and just seems to be the red that won't die! It has now been days! I had no intention of doing anything beyond a direct, quick study here as a way to restart my stalled painting motor but I can't do anything with this until it dries. It won't wipe off completely either. It just sits there in all its bright scarlet glory. I know, I know, I could get out another canvas and start again but I can be stubborn and I don't want to do that...I want to paint on THIS canvas. And I have to get this done by next thursday as the model is coming to pose in the box for me and this set up is draped off the top of that box and onto a table right in front of it. It has to be moved when Michael gets here.
Maybe it is something to do with this canvas. It is 12"x16" and I have had it for about 12 years. I painted a very bad plein air work on it when I was still at the Alton Mill in Ontario which I didn't bother to finish...I could see a disaster happening so I walked away and stored the canvas out of sight. Not wanting to invest too much in this "study" I am going to do I thought the canvas would be the perfect choice to gesso over and work on. Maybe it's a bad luck canvas. I am not normally superstitious but have you ever noticed that there do seem to be such things as "lucky" items and "unlucky" items in the world? Just labeling it in my mind as a sort of throw-away piece of canvas has possibly reflected in my brain and caused a lack of serious thought I normally give to more "important" pieces that I tackle. I did not test the Napthol Scarlet to see how it would act and presumed to use an untried method. At least this is not the disaster that Leonardo once had when in a moment of unconsidered competitiveness with Michelangelo he painted a hurried fresco in a method he didn't normally use and tried to dry it with bonfires built in the room - everything melted off the wall.
Now I have a good excuse to get back to my pile of books in the house. I'm half way through the last book in the The Baroque Cycle trilogy, (each book is over 1000 pages - yummy!) The whole time I'm curled up with my books, though, there is a nagging little gremlin in the back of my mind reminding me of my laziness. It's enough to make me almost believe I must have been Lutheran in a former life.