This image of the music box, Martha my Dear, shows the 6 foot by 20 inches canvas and the first step in my process of painting this canvas. Below the canvas are the two stretched 12x16inch speaker box canvases. This background image turned out to be all wrong for this project. I applied a different technique for the background. That was an awful choice.
The background colors exist to appear only when I scrap away the top layer. Any specific design of the background colors is unnecessary. When I scratch, what I want to see is a diverse mixed of colors that add interest and contrast to the top layer of paint. A third rate abstraction style is all that is required to make that happen. But I choose fancy instead of practical, and this project fell off the easel.
This did not become blatantly obvious until after the music was applied. I did not apply the top layer of titanium white heavy enough, which allowed the background and the blacks to show through. Then I made things worse when I used a darker gray color for the words. I realized I needed to lighten and reduce the contrast of the canvas. What I had left to finish was the scratching of the top layer of paint. That went as expected, and the contrast of the art was softened but fell short of expectations. I sensed failure. I was looking at a canvas that needed to look like the Beatles album cover that contained the song, Martha My Dear, disc one, side two, first song. It did not.
The Beatles’ White Album is entirely white except for their name in a light gray. That is the template I originally wanted for this canvas. Here is my seventies copy of the White Album (lighten up to better represent its original look). Sadly, as a cash poor college student, I sold my original release album once I copied it to my reel-to-reel tape recorder.
Out of desperation I repainted over the existing words with layers of titanium white. I then repainted the words using a lighter gray. That improved the look, but the original background still existed under all this paint. That meant I could not re-scratch this top layer. Instead, I gazed over the canvas with light applications of white gesso. That was the softening technique that worked. The scratching still shows, but it is now white and white now dominates this canvas. When I placed samples of my music up against the canvas, that was the moment I knew I could now move on. So it goes.
Scott Von Holzen