Monday, November 19, 2007

blue skies

It's been a week of meeting ferocious deadlines and my keyboard has had more of me than my brush, until yesterday.

I started a big painting of the sky quilted with the clouds at dawn. I did a careful gridded drawing because it's fiendishly complex, then put together three variations on blue and painted the negative space - the sky- leaving the white canvas beneath the cloud shapes. Used big brushes and at the end of the day my arm ached. It was great. I got lost more times than I can say. Finally worked out I could use a wipe board marker on the acetate grid over the reference to isolate the area I was working on. Got the major shapes roughed in except for the bottom six inches which I'll have to improvise due to the sketchy nature of the photo reference.

I have that soaring feeling that comes at the beginning of a project when it's all possibility and no limitations.

Monday, November 12, 2007

painter interruptus

Settled in to work on the fish, spent a hour mixing colors - the hue of the scales required more willingness to look than to think. My mind would say 'green' but the truth was closer to ultramarine and orange with a dot of veridian. I'd worked on the top fins and the golden side scales and the wonderfully odd pale blue that mottles the head, and was adding the verdigris that delineates the edges of the side scales when I had to put down the brush and go to the keyboard to meet a deadline.
One of the unexpected things raising three children has taught me is that I can be interrupted. I will return to my work and it will appear to be seamless, whether it's in words or oil paint. And sometimes the unwanted break results in a better perspective on what the work needs.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Learn as I go

I might as well confess now. I had every intention of working on the fish, but I went back to the Virgin to adjust one contour - and ended up reworking the candles, adding the flames, re balancing her face and roughing in the purse, so here's what I learned. Post what I've done at the end of the say, not what I think I'll do at the beginning. Lesson learned. So I won't speculate on what exactly I'll be doing tomorrow. I'll update rather than predict.

I will add that I paint on several different canvases - I usually have three or more in progress, at different points in development. Partly because oil takes it's gracious time to dry. Also I like to change focus after an intense period of work. It's like stretching or yoga - it keeps me limber. So presently I have Table 1280, Atlanta of the Table for One series, a large-ish (30x40") vertical of clouds at dawn, the small 8x8" fish and the Virgin. And three easels.
Good times.

A painter's Sunday

It's a glorious day here. Autumn is in session and I am going to work on a small painting of a doorknocker from Venice. It's part of a series I can't keep away from. I took dozens of photos of Venetian doors once I noticed every one was different. There are themes that repeat - variations on the lion of St Mark, Othello, and fish. Each one is different - they didn't run to the hardware store, they visited the local metal smith and placed their order. These small sculptures embody the spirit of the place, so this series is Genus Loci.
The image above one already completed. When the one I'm painting today is further along, I'll post it here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Swan House Gallery show - "Little Things Mean A Lot"

These small works were painted for the Swan House Gallery show. My secretary drawers yielded objects that resonate with meaning for me: the gold pen given me at the outset of my writing career, one of my sketchbooks, a lucky coin, and the pocket watch that belonged to my grandfather. I chose a single heirloom tomato and a bone-handled knife for the pleasure I take in red and sharp edges. I wrote haiku titles to scratch that writer itch.
For the 6x6" o/c the title is:

Time is not money.
If your day is spent drawing
it turns to pure gold.

Here's the 5x7" o/c title:

Heirloom tomatoes
Red and swollen on the vine.
The taste of summer.

The Virgin

This virgin is from a photograph I took of a painted wooden statue in a niche across from the Brancacci chapel in the Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. I love it because she is wearing a crown and holding a purse - no halo, no baby. The crown is metal and obviously an add-on, the purse is even odder - made of cloth and ribbons.

I started thinking back on Madonna portraits - the goldfinch, the rose, the holy spirit in the form of a white dove. What would be really interesting instead of the purse would be a dimly visible white bird in a cage. In Renaissance paintings she is always bowing before the angel and the dove. What if she caught the bird instead? Or used a caged bird, like a magician's trick, to awe the crowd?

I finally figured out how to mix a particularly intense sleeve shadow, did a world of scumbling (what did I do for fun before I discovered scumbling?) and it all sharpened and deepened.
I'm going to try a sketch of the cage, keep it all very shadowy & see if it will work. It might not. And I'm going to let the current layer paint dry for at least a week before I do anything to the canvas, so I can lift it off with turp if I have to.

First impression

I'm transitioning from a long writing career to one as a painter, and I’ve been working on a series of still lifes as a way to explore the idea of work that’s both image and narrative. Each canvas is an intentional chapter in a visual autobiography. The surface layer that demonstrates my concern with matters of color and composition is also intended to raise questions about the reliability of mimesis and perception. But the thing is, I love to paint.