Tag Archives: Thirty-in-Thirty 2014

Thirty in Thirty, 2014: Rose Ice

Rose Ice, 2014 - copyright Michaela Harlow - michaelaharlow.comRose Ice, 2014 – Michaela Harlow – 32″ x 16″, oil on panel

Ma vie en rose? So cold today, even the early morning sunlight reflected icy pink. Every wet surface has frozen solid now; polished like glass by wild winter wind.

This piece recalls last year’s ‘Winter Nude’ group. I’d intended to continue the series in oil, but ran out of time. Today I was pulled back by a polar vortex. Sometimes, I suppose, Mother Nature must be cruel to be kind. It is indeed harsh outside —with a biting windchill, well below zero— but for the brave-hearted and tightly-bundled, the reward of cold weather wandering is spectacularly beautiful.

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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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Thirty in Thirty, 2014: Freezing Fog

Freezing Fog - Copyright 2014 - Michaela Harlow - michaelaharlow.com Freezing Fog, 2014 – Michaela Harlow – 24″ x 24″, oil on panel

This year’s thirty-in-thirty studio challenge has begun with an alla prima oil painting. The challenge is thirty straight days of studio work, with accompanying online journal posts. Usually, I begin January’s thirty-in-thirty with a pastel painting or drawing, but this year, I felt like leaping straight into the oils.

If you are unfamiliar with the alla prima method (Italian for ‘at first attempt’), it is simply a direct form of painting where the work is created in one session; layer upon layer of wet paint. I start early in the day with an oil bar sketch, and then build layers of oil paint on top of this drawing, throughout the day. Colors are kept ‘clean’ by using many brushes and wiping them between brushstrokes.

January 2014 - Work in Progress - Michaela Harlow (preliminary sketch for Freezing Fog, completed early this morning)

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