Thirty in Thirty, 2014: Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect, 2014, copyright Michaela Harlow - michaelaharlow.comRipple Effect, 2014 – Michaela Harlow – 16″ x 32″, oil on panel

Do you know how, when you open a bottle of champagne —or in my case proscecco— you have to either finish it right away, or develop some method to keep it from going flat? There’s a clock ticking on that bottle and you know that you have to drink it, or you’re going to have to throw it away (or if you are clever, repurpose it as an ingredient in a culinary masterpiece, such as risotto). Yes I know they have those air-stopper things, but do they really work? I always use a recycled rubber cork (from my favorite table red, Hey Mambo), and aim to finish the bottle in a couple of days. Well, the same is true for alla prima oil painting. No dilly-dallying allowed. You have got to finish the work right away. And of course, the larger you go, the more physically demanding the task.

Oil paint takes a long time to dry —months as opposed to days— but the consistency and character of the paint changes quickly. Some color mixes form a film at the surface, and others develop drag. Most of the time you have 24 hours, but the thinner the layer and the dryer the conditions, the faster the paint will set. There are a few tricks you can employ to buy yourself a little more time —and you can carefully follow rules about paint “thickness”, aka oiliness— but from the moment you begin, the race is really on. I started this piece —along with ‘Stirred’, posted on 1/5— yesterday morning and I didn’t have time to finish. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

Today proved to be another challenging day. This time, the distraction was New England weather; rain on top of snow with a fast-following freeze. I had chores to tend to —hand-sanding the entire, 1,650′ driveway— in order to keep my studio access open. I made it. But the natural light was already lost by the time I took this photo. So, this afternoon, I had to deal with the challenge of tungsten lights. I prefer to document my work with natural, indirect illumination, but as the Stones say, “. . .you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need”.

And now for that left-over prosecco.

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  1. Jen January 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    The ripple effect after being stirred? I know these two pieces aren’t similar sizes, but I’d love to see them side by side. Or maybe on opposite walls would be better. It’s amazing to me how you see things and represent them like you do. Thanks for sharing.

    Also – I thought the only way to guarantee that the bubbly doesn’t go flat was to just drink the whole damn bottle! 😉

  2. Michaela January 6, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    Exactly, Jen. That’s why you need someone with whom to share the bottle!

    Stirred and Ripple Effect have a mind of their own, and seem to think they are a series. They may be right. You’ll be pleased to know that they are currently hanging side by side.

    Thank you for the great comments. It will be fun to have you meet them in person.

  3. Jen January 6, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    You’ll have to watch me like a hawk when I meet them in person. I might try to taste and touch! 😉 Just last month I was setting off alarms and being asked to, “please step back from the painting, ma’am” at the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo! One of the things I hate most about museums is being told to back away. What a terrible thing to tell someone who’s inspired enough to get closer. I realize it’s for the art’s protection and longevity. But still, if I were the artist I’d be thrilled to know that some hick from Vermont set off alarms to get closer to my work.