Thursday, November 12, 2015

Lustrous Lines Exhibition

I am honored to be included in the group exhibition, Lustrous Lines: Contemporary Metalpoint Drawing. Curated by Jeannine Cook and Jeffrey Lewis.

Nov 21, 2015 - Jan 3, 2016
Humboldt Arts Council in the Morris Graves Museum of Art, 
Eureka, California

Images in the invitation: top, Dennis Angel, Claire's Paper Airplane, middle, Lori Field, Unicorn, bottom, Susan Schwab, Toccata #9.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Watercolor on Vellum

©2015, Karen Ackoff.
Lately, I've been painting with watercolor on calfskin vellum.

Calfskin vellum goes through a complex preparation, and even then requires some work before a piece can be started. Before I begin, I rub the surface with a fine pumice powder to remove oils, so that watercolor will adhere. Because I work on paintings over long periods of time, oil seems to rise to the surface and repels the watercolor. I found that erasing the area with a white plastic eraser just before I paint removes surface oils and the watercolor then adheres beautifully.

In medieval manuscripts, paintings were made using opaque paint, similar to what we know as gouache. For examples of medieval miniature painting, check out work by the Limbourg Brothers. I was fortunate to see some of their work on exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum in 2010. 

Working with watercolor, rather than an opaque paint such as gouache, lets the color and translucency of the vellum influence the painting. Because vellum presents what is basically a fatty surface, wet washes of color cannot be applied - the result would be blotchy and would likely cause the vellum to buckle. To avoid this, I apply dilute color using small strokes in the manner of hatching. I build up color by adding more layers. The result yields vibrant colors with subtle shading. 

Below is a detail of a piece in progress. The design is based on a medieval allegory, The Siege of the Castle of Love. It is slow going, but well worth the effort.

Dilute watercolor is applied using the technique of hatching. Color is built
up by layering, taking care to let the surface dry thoroughly to prevent
the vellum from buckling. Work in progress. ©2015, Karen Ackoff.