Here at the studio, I am working on a second tessera canvas. This one … pictured above … is still a work in progress, but is nearing completion.
The work is composed primarily of tessera from one painting that was chopped into pieces and reconfigured into an entirely new image, but it is nevertheless a reflection of the original work. Tessera from other paintings have been added, and like bits of memories that we call on to help us when telling a story, the new bits add depth and interest to the original. So too do the traumas, and joys and grief and love that we experience add color and texture to our memories.
While working on this piece, it was struck by how this image is like my interior vision of myself. I always seem to be stitching together a new version of myself to present to the outside world. Whatever it is I piece together might look solid and cohesive, but is in fact cobbled together with bits and pieces that have washed up on the shore of my life. I would suppose that most people find this to be true. But then again, maybe not. Maybe it is just that I have the time to mull over all this existential dreck while cutting up old canvases.
Summer appears to be over … at least here in New England. Most of my summer was spent visiting with friends, taking day trips, swimming, working on my book project, exercising and eating well.
However, I also spent a good deal of August reorganizing my studio storage space in order to accommodate new works as they come off the easel. It was either that or I was going to have to live in the back of my car. When my show of new works came back at the end of July I had nowhere to store it! So in one memorable afternoon and evening I destroyed 20 or so old canvases that were no longer worth the space they took up. I tossed the old broken stretchers, and in general had a grand ole time.
While making the decision as to which pieces were worth keeping, I also came across several paintings that I felt needed to be developed further. So now my studio is filled with a mix of old and new canvases, as well as the rest of the dreck that lives here on a semi permanent basis … the tape and gloves and papers and sketches, and all the rags and wipes and q-tips that come in handy while painting.
The first one of these earlier canvases to be readdressed is one of my favorites. It was in the show that Ashby and I had this June and July. WATER STRIDERS is quite a large work (48×36) and commanded a lot of attention. However, while it was hanging in the strong light of the gallery this summer, I realized that the upper part of the painting had not been finished with the same nuanced color development that was present in the lower part. So I have reworked the upper part. The result is that the top and bottom are more unified in their technique. At the same time I added a warmer tone to the upper part so that the entire painting has a better balance.Now the cool water reflects the warmer tones of the night sky, and balances the fish and their shadowy underwater world.
The only change to the bottom part of the piece is that I added my signature. It was a bit of an OOPS moment when I found that it was never signed. So altogether a successful rework of a fine piece.
So this is the new form of the old planet series that I started last fall. Since then I have started a second series of fish and their world as our own.
The two motifs, planets and fish, come together in this piece and begs the question … What if space in our world is really no different than that of outer space? In this circumstance, which world is being invaded by whom?
Both fish and planets share a sense of weightlessness that gives them a graceful, and rather surreal quality that is intrinsic to their nature. In our dreams we share that same weightless sense of freedom. But it brings with it some of our other, less reassuring, unease.
In this case the feeling is energizing. not frightening, but there is a sense that that could change at any moment.
CELESTIAL POOL #2 – OIL – 40 X 30 – $1,800
There is a part of me that is always aware that something could be lurking beyond our view. Space after all is constantly in motion. What if that motion is about the movement of space toward a big old hoedown of sorts? Or maybe a late night get together after work at the local pub? What if space is really a big ole biker bar? I mean they do sort of look like billiard balls, right?
What if space is a huge billiard hall filled with felt covered tables and biker gods that play for high stakes?
Would you really like to hear what they are talking about? And, what would happen if your old TV antenna were to become the cell tower for conversations with the celestial Minnesota Fats & Co?
Or maybe you realize that the Moon is really just a huge plasma screen that is showing feature films after you are asleep.
I guess it is reassuring that there is always an escape hatch … you know, the black hole.
CELESTIAL POOL #3 – OIL – 30X40 – SOLD
SEASIDE RENEWAL – OIL/PALETTE KNIFE – 30X40 – $1800
The latest of my architectural pieces this is really fun, and has an insane depth of texture. It feels like you could peek around any corner and see the water. And, are those people on the roof looking at the view???
Seriously, the texture of buildings that have been baking in the sun and surviving the winds and rains of harsh New England winters have a unique depth of character all their own. I am fascinated by those houses and storefronts that seem to hunker down for the bad weather, looking grim and grey, and then reemerge when the sun comes out, looking festive and full of life. Nowhere else is there the same feeling that the buildings carry on a life of their own once the tourists leave.
CIVIC HISTORY OIL 36 X 48 $2,000.00
The latest of my large oils, this image went through several stages to achieve the balance that makes it so satisfying to live with.
The images below are a sort of visual journey of the evolution of this painting.
In this one the loose drawing of buildings and roads and images of living in the space have been blocked in. I used an assortment of colors to go back in and over draw areas that I felt needed to be enlarged or reduced.
Next came the blocking of colors and over painting with thin washes of color to bring some balance. During this phase there were a lot of small changes and lines were again redrawn. But the image was becoming unbalanced, and loosing some of its initial draw.
This is close to the final image, but is still rather flat and uninteresting. The background needed to be addressed. But the foreground works well, and the smaller houses all feel cohesive.
Finally it begins to hang together. Now it is a question of bringing the right foreground into sync with the rest.
LET THEM EAT CAKE
OIL ON GOLD LEAF
6 X 6
Marie would have been so happy to be given a bed of gold leaf. In this image, she looks as in-charge as ever. Her don’t-mess-with-me aura comes through and yet she is a fascinating now as ever.
This small piece is painted on gold leaf and heavily distressed, but the cut away of the pigment reveals the gold leaf and gives it a nice energetic feel. The size means that the strong coloration does not overwhelm and is kept in balance with the gold.
Don’t forget to click on the image to get a more detailed view of Marie A. in all her glory.
MR MONOPOLY RETIRES
OIL ON GOLD LEAF
8 X 6
This is an older piece that hangs in my studio and is still a favorite. Mr Monopoly and his monocle continue to amuse me because he is painted on gold leaf, and looks relaxed and unconcerned that the market is acting up!
Painting on gold leaf is a very different experience from painting on a gessoed surface. The slick quality of the leaf creates a surface that gives the paint more chance to move around, and act in unexpected ways.
This particular image is on a canvas board that has been gold leafed. The surface has more of a bite than other leaf surfaces that I have used. It is easier to control the pigments as they are laid down, but the shine of the gold that comes through is more subdued. I did a couple of pieces on this kind of surface, but find that I prefer the smoother surface of a gessoed board with the gold leaf as a base. That type of ultra-smooth surface is the same surface that I used to create a series that examined trees and their landscapes.
Mr Monopoly has that self satisfied look that comes with the robber baron attitude. It is rather nice that he has been reduced in size and made to look ordinary even though he is made of gold. Don’t forget to click on the image for a closer look at himself.
TUSCAN QUILT III
OIL 24 X 30
TUSCAN QUILT II
OIL 24 X 30
Continuing the theme on the quilted landscape of Tuscany, this pair of landscapes invoke the sense of lightness and joi de vive that characterize the sense that one takes away from one’s time in Tuscany. The others that were part of this series have gone to private collections.
The use of vibrant colors is somewhat contrary to the more faded coloration of the landscape. However the horizon line fading into the foreground and having no real stopping point as it recedes is very true to the atmospheric quality of the views that characterize the area. The fact that all the different textures and colors meld together, and yet remain distinct, is so much a part of what one sees.
Though these were painted as a pair so that they could be hung together, they are available individually. Don’t forget to click on the image to see them in greater detail.
THE LATER YEARS OF ITALIAN PUTTI III
OIL 24 X 18
This image is the third of my Italian Putti that asks the question, “Where do all those cute cherubs go once they grow up?” A lot of them learn to play instruments as they cavort up in the ether, but they couldn’t all be rock stars in later life. This guy apparently pursued a musical career.
Once again the piece is heavily textured and uses the palette knife to create rough and smooth surfaces that lead to a sense of ambiguity. He has an etherial quality, but at the same time is current and of the real world. He is solid and transparent at the same time.
The work is also developed on a diagonal grid, much like the earlier pieces of the same title, but this guy has an entirely different color scheme. He is also done on a gessoed board which changes the nature of the finished piece. Without the springiness of a canvas surface, the palette knife becomes more aggressive when used this way.
The piece is available through Xanadu Gallery’s Studio Artist web site. Don’t forget to click on the image for an enlarged view.