opaque passages


This Monday each time I looked up from my painting to check on the Muse Group students, they were working intently and without pause on their paintings. No one had questions. There seemed to be a host of silent advisors in the room (the ones we call Muses) directing the activity. In the lesson we were using opaque passages to sculpt and design shapes on transparent under paintings. Rivers of inks and fluid acrylics were flowing onto the pages. Next day I rescued the paper towels from the trash and made a corsage.


I would like to wear this or make it wall sized. Spray it with shellac to preserve it. Make tiny ones to put on pins or hair clips. Design sheets and mugs and T-shirts. And I will probably do none of these, but go back to my delectable acrylic paints for more stunning combinations, which seem endless!

We’ve been enjoying the poetry of John O’Donahue to inspire our own understanding of Beauty. If you want to partake of his insights you might enjoy his interview on the podcast On Being.

This week we contemplated color. In his book Beauty: The Invisible Embrace O’Donahue wrote “Color is always reaching toward us. The eye is the secret destination of color. A color is never alone for each color arises through the interplay of other colors. Color is always a dance with invisible partners.”

The interplay of complementary colors is just such a dance. Once you know that its the red that makes a green landscape vibrate with green-ness you are gaining access to the secret kingdom of color.


(class demo using semi-opaque green passages glazed over a red background)

Some Beauty is sharp and cutting, pricking into areas long hidden, letting the air out of bubbles, lurking and then jabbing and hiding again behind blooms and pretty smiles, this floral guise designed to lure and then strike at that which needs cutting down.

Its all in the plan, this poke that teaches even as it hurts, then swabs the wound with its beguiling beauty.


Toned underpainting


acrylic and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

The hand that holds the rose opens.

Can you smell that scent which captures the heart?

It often happens in my classes where free expression and an abundance of enthusiasm mixes with paint and inks applied in robust fashion – it all blends on the paper to make a single value “soup”.  For that reason it’s so important to know how to used opaque passages as well as transparent glazes to finish a piece.

This piece was the demo for a lesson I created to give us tools to combine beautiful neutrals with high chroma pigments.  Start with one primary color painted all over and let dry.  Here it’s red, obviously.  Then mix the complement with that color to get a lovely neutral.  Here it is blue-green.  Paint on a shape with the dark neutral, and before it is dry, spray with alcohol to get texture which reveals the under-color.

Mix the neutral with gesso for a lighter shape and paint that over.  Scrape out shapes while it is wet.  Paint a dark transparent glaze (lower left) to see how the under-color glows through.  I borrowed the lovely toned photograph of a rose from my husband for collage and subject matter.

The Monday Muse students did some fabulous pieces in the lesson, all very different and original.  At some point I will have the time to do a student slide show to share!

If you want to jump in and try a class, I have a space in the next Saturday workshop, March 7!  And I’m signing people up now for the next session of monthly Saturday workshops.  For more information visit my website.