Feeling Like a Mad Scientist in the Painting Studio

New Still-Life Set Up

New Still-Life Set Up

Wet and Soupy Watercolor in its Initial Stages

Wet and Soupy Watercolor in its Initial Stages

The picture was no longer supposed to be Beautiful, but True–an accurate representation or equivalence of the artist’s interior sensation and experience. If this meant that a painting had to look vulgar, battered, and clumsy–so much the better.

Tom Hess,  ArtNews

Two weeks ago, when I purchased my antique screen door, I immediately knew that I wanted to try painting the screen with an object visible in the gloom behind it.  Then I took my temperature, fearing I was crazy.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Yesterday I posted my first experiment in masquing the screen-wire pattern on a small portion of my screen door to see if I could capture a screen door appearance on my watercolor.  I was satisfied enough with the effect to take this next step–painting a Kimbell’s Coffee can behind the screen.

It took awhile for me to adjust the doors and lighting to get the gloom I was seeking in the composition.  Then I had to draft the screen door frame and draw the Kimbell’s can with all the lettering in place as best as I could. Then came the tedious task of taking the Masquepen Supernib, placing a ruler on a couple of  books, one-half inch above the surface, and zipping the pen along, squirting out the fluid in parallel ruled lines all the way across the composition.  After letting it have plenty of time to set up and dry, I then had to repeat the process with the series of 90-degree cross lines.  This took a considerable amount of time out of my afternoon.  Once all of it was dry, I then began to flood the entire screen area with washes of Winsor Violet, Transparent Yellow, Cadmium Red and Phthalo Turquoise.  Now the painting is very wet and soupy, and since it is on a block, there is no place for the water to go, so the lake is going to have to sit quite awhile before it is dry enough for me to proceed.

Feeling the role of the mad scientist, I have to acknowledge that this experiment might fail.  I have a notion of what I’m going to do, and think my strategy is sound.  But I’ve never tried it before.  So it’s going to be exciting watching in the days ahead to see if this is going to work.  If not, then it will be back to the drawing board.  Because I have decided that I do indeed wish to develop a technique of watercoloring dim, dark interiors with dramatic lighting the way Andrew Wyeth did.  And the screen door is such a profound part of my childhood memories that I really want to work it into some future paintings.  We’ll see how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Wider Look at the Reconfigured Workspace

A Wider Look at the Reconfigured Workspace



12 Responses to “Feeling Like a Mad Scientist in the Painting Studio”

  1. Sara Says:

    The screen door effect looks really interesting and unusal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone try to do something like that. I like the words at the end of the post too. Nice. 🙂


  2. Xraypics Says:

    A fascinating exercise, I’m looking forward to the outcome. Will you add colour to the mesh after removing the masking fluid? It seems to me that the sequence of colour and masking is going to be crucial. Tony


    • davidtripp Says:

      Hi Tony. Thanks for your comment. My plan is to drag a wet brush over the masqued areas once I peel the stuff off. I won’t like the stark white finish, and a damp brush should turn the white areas neutral. I’ll have to be careful on the coffee can, because the reds do bleed, and I need to make sure I don’t bleed the can into the white label. I’m not sure how to transition back and forth between light screen on dark background and vice versa. I will probably use a sharp pencil to redraw the screen over the white label of the coffee can and the white letters down below. I’ll also probably make some decisions about where to make the screen disappear, instead of having a perfect mesh visible throughout. After all this planning, I do hope it turns out! I would like also to try and rust out the screen in places. We’ll see.


  3. redharparts Says:

    I will follow your experiment with interest! I, too, wondered about color to the mesh, as Xraypics asked. Also, in the lower photo, what are all those jars with red lids that seem to have holes in them? 🙂


    • davidtripp Says:

      Hi! Thanks for posting your comments and for expressing interest in this risky venture! I’m curious myself to see if it’s going to work. As I posted above, I plan to rake a wet brush over the masqued areas after I’ve removed the protection. The background neutrals should bleed O.K. over the stark white areas. The jars are olive jars. I get tired of running to the kitchen to change water all the time (I’m fussy about clean water and brushes for color mixing). So I start every new project with about six jars of clean water. Of course, once they are all dirtied, it’s quite a chore to carry all of them for replacement!


  4. ~Felicia~ Says:

    Love your post. Stay mad David…. it is the only way to create and recreate the corners of our minds…


  5. Reid Rogers Says:

    I was thinking about alternative approaches to executing the screen. Zoomed in and believe you nailed it. I especially enjoy seeing that the strands on the screen itself are not uniform, like a real screen over time. A “silkscreen” approach would have been too perfect.

    I am not clear on why the coffee can is so close to the door. On a shelf; someone carrying? Going to paint the long spring that slammed screen-doors shut? Those typically have stretched out spots in their length. Deterioration connotes age, thought about a small tear in the screen?

    This reminds me of my grandparents back porch screen door. I got yelled at more than once for letting it slam. We enjoyed a wide variety of insects on there at night; big critters like Luna moths, rhinoceros beetles, Praying Mantises.

    Great work David! Thanks for sharing.


    • davidtripp Says:

      I enjoyed reading every bit of this, thank you. I used a straight-edge to keep the wires running in the right direction, knowing I wouldn’t be able to keep the lines uniformly straight anyway! I have the can resting on a crate turned on its edge. I’m not trying to recreate an actual door for entry. I have the spring drawn, and yes, there are rusty imprints in the wood where the spring has snapped into the wood over the years. I’m definitely going to try to get those in. And the hook has also cut out an arc with its swinging over the years. I want to put a tear in the screen, but will think long and hard about it, not wanting it to appear cartoonish. In one of my other posts, I talked of how annoyed my dad was every time I Iet a screen door slap shut noisily. I liked the sound then, and miss it still. I’m not a carpenter, but I’m seriously considering building a door frame and installing the door so I can have that noisy dynamic in my Man Cave whenever I want it. 🙂 Thanks so much for responding.


  6. djdfr Says:

    Ah, the screen door…… don’t let the screen door slam, close the screen door, there’s a hole in the screen door, make sure you lock the screen door…..


  7. davidtripp Says:

    I’m thrilled that you have all those memories as well. We never could understand why our elders were so angered by our letting that door slam shut, could we? 🙂


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