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The Evolution of a Painting

Occupied Space, 50x30 inches, Oil on Canvas, $2500Occupied Space

This week’s blog will be short and about 1 painting. I’m saying that because I have no idea if anyone is reading this post and if you are a response would be appreciated.

This is a painting I started over 3 months ago. To let my work dry and because of the number of paintings going on at one time, I hang them on the wall. This one was at the end of my bed so it was the first and last thing I saw each day for some time. The more I looked at it the more I felt like it was dull along with several others with similar geometric shapes. I was also making advances in modeling the figures, learning how to soften the colors. This was by trail and error and looking at how other painters worked. I learn a lot just from looking.

I took the painting off the wall but had no idea where it was going or what would happen. I knew 2 things: I could mess up a painting I was not happy with or I could learn something new. (For every painting I keep at least 2 end up in the trash – not good odds.) At this point I was working on 5 paintings so I could do small parts and let the paint dry and not rush the drying time.

First of all, I wanted to create the illusion of space. Hence the dark area with the red line on the right. This was several layers of color with a stiff brush. I like the effect so I did the same technique on the other side using lighter colors. This took about a week of layering colors.

There also needed to be something behind her to give more depth. But in the end I’m not sure if it comes across as a window or a picture behind her. Either way it added to the ambiguity of the painting and brought about more questions as to what the painting is about. The ice berg part took about 10 glazes of paint. (A glaze is a thin layer of transparent paint.)

I still wasn’t there yet. The left side had taken on the look of a possible hall way or room. One night after working and I was turning lights off a shadow fell on the left side. It was a happy accident and I just painted in the shadow that was there in real life.

I also wanted her body movement to be more…it had to give the impression of meaning something. Plus I wanted more color in the skin tones and softer modeling. That ended up being about 5 layers of paint.

There could have been anything in or above her hand. There is a world of things it could be. If it was an object, then to me it was too obvious a conclusion. In the end it was a whiff of smoke or a cloud or dust that gave the shadow more of a mystery.

The end result to me is a load of questions for the viewer to sort out and that is why I paint. It allows me to engage those who want to think about what they are looking at. I never really know what the paintings are about but I enjoy creating mysteries even I can’t solve.

Why I became an artist

 

As far as I know I’m the only painter in our family history. I truly think I got here through my handicap as a dyslexic. Growing up in the 50’s in Texas and not being able to read meant I was soon labeled one of the dumb kids. By the 6th grade I was reading on a 2nd grade level and by grade 12th on a 6th grade. I spent my childhood looking a pictures. I remember spending hours just looking at pictures in magazines and from the photo I would extract my own story. As much as I dislike television now (I threw mine away about 3 years ago) it did give me some understanding of the world.

At an early age I began to draw and paint with the encouragement of my mother. By high school I was painting but had no idea or dream of being a painter.  The turning point was I went to a small college and instantly flunked out. Going home in the 60’s out of college meant Vietnam or work as a laborer.

I had taken one art class in college and the painting instructor said I had some talent and there was a new art school I should apply to. At home and faced with the bleak future that Monday I mailed my portfolio. On Friday I got a telegram saying if I could be there the following Monday morning to start class I would have a full scholarship for 4 years. I went. Suddenly I was around the largest group of odd balls and the weirdos I’d ever met. I was home.

The dean of the school had 5 daughters and 3 of them were dyslexic. He sat me down and for the first time in my life explained to me why reading was such a chore. Today I spend hours reading with a dictionary by my side. I’ve managed to educate myself in a number of different fields of study. Reading isn’t any easier but when I’m learning something new it’s well worth the effort.

Being a painter is the one thing in life that has been my driving force and sense of identity. I’ve painted for the love of it. It seems strange but in the past 4 years I’ve learned more about painting than in all my years. I’ve managed to develop a style that’s kept me engaged and excited about painting. Now all I need to do is find a gallery to show my work.

A New Painting

I thought I would try to give you an idea of the process that goes into a new painting:

Well…

This is my first blog and I plan to post new blogs every 2 weeks by Friday afternoon; so my next blog will be posted on March 4. I’ve been a painter for almost 50 years and in that time I’ve absorbed a great deal of information that I have no intention of keeping to myself. So if you have questions please ask.

I live and breathe painting and at times my breath may smell of turpentine with a hint of linseed oil. A few years ago I moved to a town of 900 where no one knew me and I could paint undisturbed until I ran out of ideas. The ideas keep coming and I keep painting. You can look at my portfolio and see I’m always moving forward.

Now even though I am a painter, I plan to include in this blog other things that make me an artist and a human being. With that in mind I’ve never been a big success or gathered much attention, which is just the way it is.  So, be that as it may, let me tell you about a very brief dream I had a few days ago that left me with a feeling of great comfort. My mom passed away when I was in my 20s and she crosses my thoughts from time to time. In the dream, she was younger and more angelic than I remember her and she placed her hand on my check and said, “everything is going to be fine”.  Our dreams are our own and a dream like this, for me, is a once in a lifetime experience.  As a reader you can take from it whatever your mind can fathom and I welcome your thoughts.

Next time I will go on about something else – maybe about my 2 pet ladybugs I’m keeping for the winter, or what I’m painting, or what book I’m reading, or new music, or how being silent and sitting still has bent the time that wraps around my mind. I’ll do my best to keep it interesting.