After spending some time with this new painting, which has been months, I keep putting it aside. Every time I start working on the texture of the towel where the heirloom tomato sits on, I get scared. I keep thinking of the onion painting and ask myself "how the hell did I do it?" I wish there was a straight forward answer to that, but there's not. There was no special technique I used. I just kept plowing away, piled paint on top of paint, rubbed it off, added more paint and then some more until I got it right. I thought about it for a moment and realized that I went through the exact pain when painting the first towel. I have to just keep painting until I get it right. But how can I recreate the texture of a towel without getting too cheese?
Henri Regnault, Salome, 1870, oil on canvas, 63 x 40 1/2 inches, Gift of George F Baker, 1916 (16.95), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
I needed some guidance, and went in search of inspiration to my sanctuary, the Met Museum. I was on a mission to look at a Vermeer painting, but as I searched through the galleries for useful information I ran into Henri Regnault's Salome. This was not the first time I stood in front of this painting, it is actually a very memorable one due to its lush use of golden yellow. The illusion of gold satin or some other shimmery fabric is impressive. But I was not there to look at satin effects, although it wouldn't hurt for future reference. I was there to look at rug treatments and other rough textiles. But there it was, before dismissing the painting I saw the treatment of the rug below Salome. Regnault had piled so much paint on the canvas that the mounds start taking on the feel of a shaggy rug. Looking closely I could see that he did not do it in one sitting. There were many layers of paint. This made me wonder if he had a special technique or did he work at it until he was pleased with what he saw? By the looks of the layers of paint, he worked at it until it felt like a rug.
Henri Regnault, Salome, (detail)
Vermeer, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, ca. 1662, oil on canvas, 18 x 16 inches, Marquand Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
My main reason for visiting the Met was this painting by Vermeer. It's easy to see why I needed his hep in solving my texture problem. Vermeer and other Flemish painters of his time had a great interest in Oriental rugs. The designs and color schemes offered a great way of creating amazing compositions with bold patterns and colors, and yes texture. But there is a way that Vermeer used to treat his paint when dealing with rugs and other textiles. There's always a subtle touch, a mixture of broad shapes of color and little dabs here and there. Unlike Regnault, Vermeer did not use the physicality of paint to recreate the texture of his rugs. My admiration for Vermeer's technique is the way he juxtaposed different hues here and there to create the desired texture. The surface of his canvas always remains some what flat, only with a few touches rise from the surface if at all.
Vermeer, The Art of Painting, c. 1962-68, oil on canvas, 47 1/4 x 39 3/8 inches, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Probably Vermeer's greatest masterpiece, The Art of Painting, displays all of this master's abilities. Layers of different elements come together to form this great work of art, and to the forefront of all of these elements is a richly painted hanging tapestry. It must be breath taking to stand in front of this painting and witness first hand the mastery of paint Vermeer possessed. The handling of his medium is very delicate, there is no need to pile texture paint here, all is color against color. This soft touch is what I need, but we all have to find our own means of executing our work. I will keep working on the towel, and although I've built so much paint in some areas already, I will keep Vermeer's soft touch in mind.