I am challenging myself to create group portraits. It is a continuation of expressing the notion that that those who are prisoners, whether criminals or victims are connected to us and we to them. I did some drawings of groups when I was exploring images of my father as a child during World War II. These drawings led me back to the whole painting surface, as I am using negative and positive space to bring the picture into harmony. This was influenced by a talk I gave at the George School, when I spoke of how I was breaking the rule I learned in school of covering the whole canvas with paint. I rejected this in my series of fighters; now I am returning to it. My reading of the finely researched and brilliantly written David Park: a painter’s life by Nancy Boas also contributed to my thoughts about this painting. Park is my role model because of his ability to convey the universality of people. He did it with amazing technique, energy and integrity.
At least I have this to show for my week-long bout with illness. Perhaps my desire to move as quickly as I could, but being unable to move at more than a glacial pace, is the reason for this painting’s somewhat frenzied paint application. Or it could just be my usual need to plow forward, tearing myself away from my limiting idea of what a painting must be. One thing I am happy about is that I allowed the paint to create the painting: thoughtful of course, but with healthy doses of spontaneity and serendipity. A very effective prescription.
Her previous girlfriend called her ‘La Reina’, the Queen. I call her ‘Little’. Somewhere between these two poles I am seeking a true(ish) version of Maryanne. This is Maryanne after a few painting sessions. She finally agreed to be painted because, she said, “I won’t take it personally, since you make everyone look …. ” Hmmm. I wonder what she meant.
Today I am remembering the joy of discovery that accompanied life drawing which I did almost every day for years when I was in my teens and twenties. The feeling I am describing often happened when I found the plane that emerged from the lighting being just so. The plane affirmed what I had learned in anatomy class or from my studies of plaster casts, old master drawings and marble sculptures. I am discovering this feeling anew while painting from a beautiful drawing by Pontormo.
When I was looking for the next images that will occupy my attention I knew that I wanted to get back to the body. I thought of my friend who told me that my paintings of bodies captured the pain that lives within the body.
I have written before about the books my father brought home from Europe and one in particular was a book of Michelangelo drawings that I would copy. When I was at the NY Academy, I fell in love with Pontormo. I thought about what is beautiful to me, what could take up all of my attention, and I thought of these drawings. I have a copy of the Hacker Art Books revised edition of of Cox-Rearick’s 2 volume The Drawings of Pontormo. But of course the quality of the images do not compare to the digital ones I found on the Getty Open Content site. I printed the Reclining Youth and have been studying it and painting from it. I hope this will take me further into other drawings by Pontormo as well as drawings I have done in the past.
I am seeking a transformation with these paintings from drawings: by taking something I love and all of the feelings that are attendant with that love I hope to create something intense and profound. At first I was thinking of the Buddhist concept of emptiness and trying to achieve this through the contrary process of addition. The result: to achieve a sort of disappearance or separation from time and place. But that is perhaps too much of a task. I will be satisfied with achieving a definition of alchemy: an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting.
The image below was begun only recently. Much more to discover.