Revisiting The Bog

Today I opened the Bog diorama, by myself! The glass is hinged at the top and by removing seven screws the glass swings out and I can prop it open on two adjustable stands far enough that I can squeeze around the sides and access the diorama. Today I brought up a portable generator and my airbrush to see if I could change the color of the sphagnum moss to make the jump from three dimensional foreground to the two dimensional background painting. The moss painted on the background is green, but with vibrant yellows and oranges. The foreground moss was collected from the Child’s bog in Northwest Connecticut in the 1950’s. It was soaked in glycerine to keep it springy over time and to avoid it crumbling as it dried. The original painting on the moss has faded over the years to a sickly green in some places and a dead-looking brown in others. I chose a high-keyed yellow paint to spray on it to see if I could get the tie-in to work better.dscn0488

I purchased a color-fast fabric paint from Jacquard. I bought it because the colors are stable and are water-based. The fabric colors become color-fast when they are ironed, but they also can come with an additive that does the same thing without heat. I bought a James Perry Wilson palatte: two yellows, two reds, two blues, yellow ochre, burnt umber, and white. I decided to use the cooler yellow straight out of the container without mixing it. I included the color-fast additive, thinned it with water, and put it into the airbrush container.

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Note the color of the foreground matching the color of the background.

I started spraying in a corner where it would be less noticeable if the paint was not right. The color went on to the sphagnum beautifully. I was worried that the glycerine treatment of the moss might make adherence a problem, but this worry was unfounded. I stepped back and it appeared that the area where I sprayed was a perfect match with the background painting. I kept airbrushing away and indeed, the straight yellow was what was needed. This was complete luck to find the right color without having to mix a lot of paint and it was also very lucky that I stumbled upon a color that combined with the existing color of the moss to generate the right color. There have been times when I had to paint the original white first before I could lay the right color over that. I went over the entire foreground spraying yellow over the green as well as the brown sphagnum moss. I used cardboard baffles to keep the paint off the background painting and off the Snowshoe Hare. I moved the snake, the green frog, and the bog vole while I painted around them.

I did notice that the only color missing was the orangish color, so I mixed an orange color, sprayed that in a few areas, and discovered that an orange color turns brown rather than orange. I wasn’t so lucky here. It may be I will try some thick oil paint laid on the moss with restraint in places to add some of the color impressionistically. I finished recoloring the moss in an hour!

Throughout the foreground are short shrubby plants called Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata). The shrubs have small oval leaves and some are painted green, but many are brown and dead-looking. The overall look of the foreground is that much of it is dead. I spent the rest of the day painting the leatherleaf leaf by leaf with green oil paint.

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It is likely that the shrubs were sprayed with latex to hold them to their stems as they dried, but if this was done, the latex has turned brittle over time and is no longer effective. White glue will be added to strengthen the connections of the leaves to their stems.

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