Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist


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Luscious Lead White

Though now mostly unavailable within the EU, Lead or Cremnitz White has been used by painters for centuries. It killed Caravaggio and was a crucual ingredient in Lucien Freud's impasto and flesh tones. Beloved by many painters for its thick consistency and buttery feel as you stroke it onto canvas, Lead or Flake White (lead with zinc) has been an important part of a classic palette.

Due to health concerns and an indifference to the subtleties of white hues, I'd never used it. But for this project it was important that every ingredient have meaning.  Lead brings to mind bullets, poisoned water in Michigan and Hong Kong housing projects, the sweet taste of house paint hazardous to children, still endemic in America's cities.

 
 
 

 

 

Passenger on the way to Twin Peaks, one of San Francisco's steepest bus routes. Dramatic hills make architectural geometry into extreme angles

After two weeks of experimention with paint-making and exploring the eccentricities of Shotwell's Combat Paper, I primed the paper with handmade lapis lazuli acrylic then began painting with Flake White. Its lead is mixed with zinc to cool the hue, more compatible with blue tones.

On a light surface you establish the darks: On a midtone I establish the lightest areas, feeling out variant shades of white while glazing it over the lapis blue shades of Ultramarine Ash and Payne's Grey. These photos show just the first layer, mapping out space and contrast. Afterwards small areas of bone black and pure Fra Angelico lapis will be added.

 

 

Gate to a bookstore that managed to survive by moving away from the neighborhood it helped gentrify

 

 

 

 

Turning artwork upside down to look for irregularities. Painting of interior of The Homestead, a structure that survived the 1906 fire

 

 

 

 

First stage of painting the interlocking shapes between Muni wires at Castro & Market

 

As the works multiply I am drawn increasingly to abstraction, to looking at the sky and water and searching for patterns in this city you see nowhere else in the world. These works are soft and still unformed and will remain so until I step back and finish them in Hong Kong later this year. 

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