Sunday, 5 June 2011

Painting a Coffin

There have been a few interesting challenges in this unusual painting project. If you have missed the story on how I came to be painting a coffin go to this post.

I seem to have gotten over my initial twitchiness at having a coffin lid in my studio. I don't even think about it now.

The first challenge was the actual material. It is a slippery cardboard. I tried to draw on it with pencil but it came out very pale. I tried a drawing pen but it didn't dry. A friend of mine had gessoed his, but he warned me that it caused the lid to warp. I approached with caution.

I gessoed several coats, sanding in between. It didn't warp, which saved me from having to gesso the back as well.

The next problem was how to work on the lid. If I leave it on the table I can't draw the proportions correctly. I need to be able to work vertically to see the proportions and to be able to step back from the work.

If I put it in one of my easels there is a danger of it folding from its own weight as the bottom is so narrow.
Fortunately it turned out that I was able to hang it from my portable easel. I take it down at the end of the day and lay it flat so it won't warp.

The next challenge was the composition. Subject matter is always a challenge, and on a coffin I don't want to go too obvious. But as a friend of mine pointed out, I could not ignore the fact that it is a coffin. I have to somehow acknowledge that. I will go more into the subject matter in a later post.

The composition is a little different than the subject matter. It has to do with how you are going to place elements in your painting on the canvas. Except in this case it isn't a canvas, and the tricky part, it isn't a rectangle. It is this distinctly coffin shape and how do I place things in there to look good?

After sketching out a few possibilities in my little coffin shapes, I chose one.
Now I was ready to draw it onto the coffin lid. The gesso worked better than I imagined and I was able to draw out my design in charcoal.

At this point I am thinking of doing more of a coloured drawing rather than a full on painting. I don't like the stark white of the gesso and want it to look more like paper - maybe a slightly yellowed paper.
I am working with acrylics at this point, which are not my usual medium. This basically means I am not familiar with their capabilities or how to get the effect I want, so I made several experiments on gessoed cardboard.

I am pleased with experiment 3, but there is still a risk whether I can repeat the effect on the larger scale.


susan christensen said...

Zom, Very interesting to see your approach to meeting the challenges of this project - please keep us posted on the progress. Good job to date! -sus

Mary Helen-Art Saves Lives said...

I, too am very intrigued with this process and project ...the acrylics will dry quickly and the light gesso coats and sanding will help your images adhere to this cardboard. I will stay tuned to check your progress ...remember to celebrate the moment and your life in colors!!! Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Zom said...

Susan and Mary Helen, thanks for the encouragement.

Snowbrush said...

Nothing strange about it to me--I used to be a funeral director.