Friday, 24 March 2017


oil portrait of Mahatma Gandhi
Well, I bet this one surprised you. It certainly surprised me.

It started off life as a 10"x8" gessoed MDF board. I laid in a dark background of black, Paynes grey, blue and white and started to add in sheep in lambing pens etc. Unsure how it was going, I left it for a few hours, by which time the alkyd oil paint had partially tacked up. On checking it, I hated it, so wiped off as much of the paint as possible to begin again and left the board - a nasty bruised mess - to dry up in hopes of recycling it.

For some reason, I decided to have a go at doing the sheep again, but this time pretending there was sunshine in the lambing pens, and I wiped over the "bruised" surface a goodly coating of Indian Yellow, a rather transparent and rich yellow paint.

Immediately, it didn't look like the interior of a Devon lambing pen at all, but something else entirely.

I sat there, brooding on whether to toss the entire board into the bin, and reflecting on the mystery of Indian Yellow. It is a strangely beautiful colour, but very hard to work with, as it dislikes being mixed with most other colours. 

Nowadays, it is a chemically created colour. Its name is said to come from its original formulation: the urine of Indian cows fed entirely on mangoes. No idea if that is actually true.

Reflecting on this story, however, I thought of India. Meanwhile, various news outlets were reporting the phrase "an eye for an eye" in various contexts both political and religious.

Mahatma Gandhi said
         an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

and suddenly his face seemed to appear faintly in the colours on the board. So I painted him. 

The colours used, apart from Indian Yellow (and a disastrous prior attempt at sheep pens in blue and black) were: Burnt Umber (the Michael Harding one) and Lead White substitute, also by Michael Harding. This latter is a new one to me: the only downside is it takes forever to dry. Otherwise it is my new favourite tube of paint. Love it.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

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