Noh - SOLD

I borrowed this Venetian porcelain doll head from my art teacher. It made me think of Japanese mask theater. It took a while to come with a composition that made the idea clear. Finally, a little pink wild rose from a bush up my street did it. I am not much for painting flowers, but it was perfect.

I had a lot of trouble painting this still life. For the sake of experiment I did the underpainting in Prussian Blue. The thought of Michelangelo’s blue/green underpainting was on my mind. A mistake. Prussian Blue is such a cold tone. It took me the better of two weeks to warm this up. But oil is so forgiving. It let me warm up the parts I wanted warm and keep the vase cool and crisp. Then I struggled with the flower. As I said – flowers are not my thing, I didn’t even have pigments suitable for flowers. Trying to mix cool and hot pink based on Alizarin Crimson was a loosing battle. I had to go and buy quinacridone magenta, and then borrow a smidgen of quinacridone violet, and that did it. And what in world possessed me to choose the vase that has 9 ellipses? I must be a glutton for punishment. I tweaked and corrected the darned ellipses until the thought of switching to abstract painting style settled prominently in my head.

The moment when I finally painted my initials was a real victory.

6″ x 6″ (15 x 15 cm) oil on gessobord panel.


  1. Balaji August 21, 2011

    I think the painting is wonderful and worth all the punishment you withstood.

  2. lesliepaints August 24, 2011

    You have me smiling with your comment about the abstract approach. I have been trying some abstract with the rice paper collage and watercolor and spending more time and work on them. I love this painting. The coolness of that vase really accentuates the feeling I get from the stark mask. Think of the different feel of this painting if the flowers were wilting. Totally awesome composition and subject.

    • Alex Zonis August 27, 2011

      Abstract painting is not really in the cards for me, Leslie! 😀 I cannot bring my brain to produce abstract images, and admire you for being able to do that. I too thought of a different feeling a wilted flower would give, and waited a couple of days to see what my flower would look like when it turned its head down. But it didn’t wilt in a way that inspired me, so I went on painting a fresh one. Glad that you like the image.

  3. asmalltowndad August 25, 2011

    Wow, what a talent! You amazed me every time I visit, love the mask facing up instead of positioning it to face forward. It gives it a little mystery or drama to this still life. Someone is going t be lucky to own this (wish it was me).

    • Alex Zonis August 27, 2011

      Ryan, you are too kind! I too immediately saw how unusual the upside-down head looks, and never even tried it the right side up in the composition. The painting is still available… I’m just saying… 😉
      I am probably going to show it in my local gallery in September.

  4. Carol King August 28, 2011

    Uh oh, it’s official. I’ve lost it. I SWEAR I commented on this blog when you first posted it. When I first saw your Noh painting, I thought I was in a classical art gallery at the Metropolitan Museum.

    The composition is quite interesting, as Ryan noted, with the mask facing upwards. I adore the finish on the vase, mask and table. You’ve taken oil and made it your own.

    • Alex Zonis August 29, 2011

      It is hard to consistently follow up on all blogging updates and still say something that is personal and makes sense. When I post something new and there isn’t a note from you in a couple of days I begin to worry if everything is OK. You’ve been that consistent for really a long time. This week however you have all excuses one can possibly want – an earthquake, a hurricane, a flood, not quite locusts yet, but if you throw in “the dog ate my homework” no-one will doubt it :)!

      I am glad you liked the painting, Carol. Be safe!

      • Carol King September 4, 2011

        Hi Alex, thanks, we survived all the natural disasters this week with only some minor basement flooding and a little roof damage. Not bad compared to folks in NJ, LI and update NY, CT, and Vermont!

  5. […] painting was in the works seemingly forever. I painted Noh back in 2011, I think. Ever since then I’ve been looking for doll heads to paint more of […]

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