Elizabeth Anfield: Azeotropism
I have always been fascinated by the fluidity of oil painting and the fact that oil paints can be built up in layers to create more complicated hues and dimension.  When we paint skin tones we know that we must build up layers of colors because skin itself is a multilayered organ and yet we are able to see through it.  I have tried to create this same type of layering in my paintings.  

Each of my paintings begins with a charcoal drawing which is then painted with three colors dissolved in turpentine.  Each color is used to distinguish distance in the drawing, similar to the way the old Masters often first painted their drawings with shades of gray to understand the light before moving on to colors.  

Following this example, this first layer is allowed to dry completely.  Then the layering of paints dissolved in linseed oil begins.  Turpentine is pulled through these oil layers allowing the paints to retract and create their own patterns on the canvas.  After these layers have been allowed to dry, several layers of paints and glazes mixed in the traditional way are used to reestablish the drawing which was in the first layer.  

When people look at these paintings, they usually comment that they feel they are looking through layers of paint which is precisely what they are doing.  The paints have been allowed to mingle into layers in such a way that even I cannot duplicate these paintings exactly.  

Years of experimentation have taught me what to expect when I put these layers onto the canvas.  Sometimes the pigments will come out of solution, sometimes the paints retract, revealing the layer underneath, sometimes the paints blend together, sometimes the paints create a splatter pattern on the painting and sometimes they create a wrinkled skin layer.  These are just some of the possibilities available using this new technique which I call Azeotropism.

As a colorist it is very important to understand which colors work best in the bottom layers and which colors can be used in the top layers.  I have found that colors mixed with white give a very interesting milky quality if they are applied in the oil layers only.  Blacks and dark blue pigments can be dropped out of solution by dissolving them in turpentine and spraying them into the semi-wet oil layer, thus giving the painting an overall dark speckled appearance.  

The darker paintings represent the beginnings of Azeotropism, and it has taken me several years to figure out how to brighten up the technique into the landscapes and still lives we see today.