3 sheets of prepared paper, 2 sides to each sheet – 1 bird, 4 cats and 1 rodent

“For thirty years people have been asking me how I reconcile X with Y! The truthful answer is that I don’t. Everything about me is a contradiction and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There is a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don’t reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.”    – Orson Welles (1915 – 1985)


I never liked this first set of 2 cats that I painted. I thought them too sweet. Yesterday I was talking to a friend about polarities, after that conversation I knew exactly what I wanted to do to these small compositions that I was struggling with. It’s the same cat on the front and on the back, taking up the same area on the paper. Maybe I call it Two Sides to Every Story.

As of now, this first one is my favorite. It’s organic. It came to be, out of uncertainty. The cat itself is somewhat modeled after ROA’s work. I set up the skeleton in egg tempera and the cat in graphite, underneath is casein muscle structure. The background came about while I was trying to obliterate it.

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mixed media – casein, graphite, gesso, egg tempera

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early stage, casein under-paint

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early stage, egg tempera

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egg tempera

I guess I let go of the self-imposed set up, the idea of one side in pure casein and one side in pure egg tempera wasn’t working. I got another set of designs (below) and reworked them too. The graphite took so well to the prepared paper, how could I not use it. I brought in hard and soft pencils, an eraser, sand paper, a scratching tool, and gesso. And I mixed the casein and egg yolk. The cat above and the rat below, are pure and painterly egg temperas. But their other sides – mixed-media.

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egg tempera

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mixed media – casein, egg tempera, gesso and graphite

I began all this the first week of May after Carolyn brought me a sheet of prepared paper. The first 2 images in this post are that sheet, it’s the lightest in weight and the most flexible and was the most precious. I was going to paint cats – for the fun of it. Obviously I enjoyed the surface of the paper, and all the mediums. I pulled out all my longer and softer paintbrushes. I painted.

3 sheets of prepared paper – 1 bird, 4 cats and 1 rodent later, my studio is a mess. It’s too hot to have egg yolk lying around, it smells. I’m done for now with the experimenting, drawing a day or a week, thing. Time to pause, look – and reorganize.

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6 thoughts on “3 sheets of prepared paper, 2 sides to each sheet – 1 bird, 4 cats and 1 rodent

  1. These are great! I love how many layers you created as well as the how many different materials you used.The detailed skeletal structure of the animals adds an eerie scientific element to it, but at the same time the light color palette creates an un-threatening ambiance, that almost says its ok, be curious, look at this animals insides. In a way it shows the beautiful and interesting aspects of figuring out how things work, and the study of anatomy.

  2. thanks for your comment. it’s exactly how i feel when i am doing the work.
    life is intricate and incredible.

    the materials…are fun, and light-hearted, yes. and they are also organic matter….egg and milk.

  3. That’s awesome! I have to ask though, what happens after a few months? Does organic matter like that hold up over time?

  4. Like all art materials how you work with them and apply them matters. I have been using them fairly regularly for at least 15 years.

    We do know of Casein being used as far back as Egyptian times. It was also used by the Shakers to make their furniture, it’s a binder, and an adhesive. Egg Tempera was used since the Middle Ages, before oil paints.

    We have examples still around today. It does withstand time.

  5. Pingback: no woman is an island – continues | Monica Aissa Martinez

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