I decided to exclude the chains. It is enough to depict two people bound together struggling to be free. Or is only one aching to be free? Difficult to tell from this image. So often people have their epiphanies after they destroy others. And the destruction may not be literal or obvious. It is enough to wear away at someone’s confidence or their self-worth. Often, one’s self-actualization is an excuse to think of oneself above others. I still like the abstract background these figures inhabit. I am reminded of the work of David Park. It has always been a goal of mine to depict figures in a landscape but to have the elements appear to be organically formed, that is, to grow from each other. Complicated, and difficult to achieve.
Every time you wear sandals instead of shoes you make yourself vulnerable; you do so if you go barefoot. Why do our bodies make us open to judgement, or worse, attack? Why do we allow ourselves to live inside skins that can be ridiculed, pummeled or desecrated? And after we have been humiliated why do we say “once more, please?” Good questions for which I don’t have the answers. Rather, I choose not to answer. This particular illustrated body is in danger because something has weakened him. His feet being exposed seems to be the least of his problems.
When I first learned about Caravaggio, one of my professors talked about why the artist painted a figure’s dirty feet. These dirty feet showed that the painter used every-day people to represent Jesus’s disciples. The gutter was brought into a work of art. Low meets High. The art of Caravaggio is for the masses and about the masses. Those feet demonstrated that Caravaggio came from a world that was decided on the streets. This is very different than the figures seen in Rubens: those lush, bathed and neatly quaffed figures more at home in the Courts of Kings and Queens.
This is where I am with the most recent painting. Perhaps I have overworked these feet already, and I am feeling a bit insecure about that.
No, no, no, do not paint small areas separately, almost completing them, or actually completing them, without first laying in larger areas of light and dark, or color. I was taught since I began courses in painting, that every portion of your painting surface should be colored. Never leave the bright white of canvas because color is relative; a color is seen differently depending on what color it is next to. So, I have departed from that rule here, and I did so with Portrait of Cat and other paintings as well. Why? Perhaps it is too much confidence, or arrogance. I have been painting for 40 years. I have grown to expect certain eventualities. I believe I can figure out what colors will do as I progress through a painting. All will come to fruition in the end because I have put in a great deal of time and effort learning and relearning as I have made my art over the decades. And it is gratifying to kiss some rules goodbye.
My work on this new painting made me want to look through a book on Pontormo by Salvatore S. Nigro to examine figure compositions. I was struck by the conveyance of silence found throughout the works. The silence is in the formal compositions of the paintings themselves and in the time and attention it requires to examine them. In The Visitations we see the saints communicating through glances. Even in a painting that would logically contain noise conveyed through screams we see dignity in silence. In Eleven Thousand Martyrs only three figures have opened mouths and their heads and bodies are shown with care and delicacy; they symbolize suffering nobly endured. No screams these, only loud sighs emanate from their lips. The viewer sees these images of pain and we are forced to contemplate them in silence, as befits their locations in churches, monasteries and hospitals. No unnecessary or necessary sounds, only the subjects’ and the viewers’ thoughts ricocheting back and forth, one to another. I hope to achieve something of this, one of the many beautiful aspects of Pontormo’s works, in my new painting, which is coming along (detail below) With this terribly warm and humid weather, I will have to reserve my painting times to early mornings and evenings, so I have enough ventilation in my studio.
These are two studies for a new painting I will be working on. I have been thinking about trust and those who help us due to how often we must have faith in others to get the help we need in this challenging world. While I was waiting for Maryanne’s shoulder surgery to be over, I was able to complete the second compositional study. Both drawings will be useful in the next phase of this work, when I make more detailed charcoal drawings on canvas before painting. As of now, there will be five bluebirds in this one, and of course my puggle Sammie will be in the background. I met a fellow artist in the hospital’s OR waiting area, who also struggles to make time to create, as life often throws curveballs.
with how this is coming along, I have treated myself to a library visit, homemade cornbread and a Mexican dinner. Going forward, the figures’ shadows will tie it all together in a subtle way. Very pleased with myself today.
I am happy with the beautiful face of this figure. It has the perfect ratio of warm to cool: thoughts of Velazquez. The middle figure brings the painting together. The pose, the values and the colors all harmonize with the overall composition. I envision the figure on the right with Rubensian flesh tones. The tones will contrast nicely with the other two figures’ flesh colors. Additionally, I am healing well from Takotsubo. It usually takes a month and I am near that mark. And, my Mets won a game yesterday. Good work all around.
I have been working on this figure from the Three Graces painting. The next time I work on it, I will soften the edges. The skin tone is warm to cool throughout, with the goal of having neither the warmth nor the cold be too prominent.
Working on the landscape elements of this painting has been a way to escape my current health issues. I know from experience that once a health issue crops up, it is easy to get caught up in negative thinking and lose my equanimity. So, I am going to make a concerted effort this time to not start thinking the worst. So far, I have come across a bad doctor, an equally bad cardiac unit of a local hospital, and some truly kind and caring medical professionals. I have to have faith that I will come across more of the latter and not the former as this journey continues. Maybe the Three Graces can help guide me.
in charcoal on canvas. The beginnings of two paintings, with many corrections already, and many more to come.