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Thursday, April 28, 2011

South Africa: Fresh Eyes

I stayed up painting until 11:30 last night. Her arm, like everything else, took twice as long as I had imagined and I still wasn't happy with it. So, the one good thing about staying up late to paint is that I can get up early in the morning to continue painting and it feels like I only took a short break. My paint still feels fresh on the canvas, nothing has gotten sticky or dried out and I can continue where I left off - painting wet into wet. The one advantage to this break is that I had fresh eyes; I could see things this morning that I could not see last night. And now I am moving on to her red shawl. I can hardly wait!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

South Africa: The Hat

After publishing my first post I received several comments from those who said, "Sign it. It's finished." I took it as a nice compliment given the fact that my approach to this painting is to paint it as efficiently as possible. By this I mean to paint each stroke deliberately and with the purpose of completing the painting with as few strokes as possible. Paint to finish.( My method, for years, was to block in a painting with thin layers of paint laid down in the general area of where I wanted it to go and then go back in with a second, third and sometimes fourth layer to finally arrive at a point where I felt it was completed.) And here I must quote the great master painter Richard Schmid who writes in his book, Alla Prima
 "When is a painting finished? That is indeed the question! Some paintings are finished after only a few brushstrokes, others seem to take forever.The strength and clarity of the picture you envision at the start will tell you when you are done. You are finished when you have said what you wish to say, when nothing added can make it better."
 And because I started with a specific vision in mind of what I want to say with this painting, I cannot sign it yet. So, I paint on.

 My goal on Saturday was the hat. "This hat will surely take only a couple of hours," I told myself. It was such a magnificent hat in so many ways...the unusual shape, the bold, black color and all of the incredibly detailed beading. I wanted to tell the story of this hat. In retrospect, I must have been afraid because I kept putting off the steps I had to take to get it done (like walking down the stairs to my basement studio and picking up a paintbrush). Finally, when I could think of nothing else, I decided to lure myself downstairs by putting in a movie to watch and mostly listen to while I painted. This "trick" has worked on me before. A good movie is always so tempting. I thought an "Easter-ish" movie would be appropriate and so I chose "Chocolat".  True, it is not on the same level as "The Ten Commandments" or "The Passion of the Christ" but the story line involves the Lenten season, chocolate and the arrival of Easter morning at the end. Perfect.
Five hours and one more movie later, I have this to share.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Inspired by South Africa

I was told, more than once, that I would come back from my trip to S. Africa inspired with new ideas, new motivations to create, and that it would be life changing. Turns out, everyone that told me this was right. But what I did not anticipate was the unexpected beauty in the most unpredictable places. The contrast was incredible! Since I cannot ignore what has happened to the inside of me it is going to have to come out in several different ways and the first will be this painting. I am certain that it will be the first in a series from my trip and I am excited to share it with you - in stages.
As we neared the end of our stay, we were privileged to be invited to a private birthday party. The guests of honor, twins, were treated with the fanfare of an American wedding reception. The white tent, white covered chairs, the music, the dinner, the large pink and white birthday cakes - one for each, all made quite an impression. I was not expecting this.
After we enjoyed the honor of having dinner in the tent, guests waited for the arrival of the birthday girls. It was so hot and I began to feel physically drained. So, instead of standing, I decided to retreat to our van with a few others in our group. The van door was open and as we visited, a car pulled up and I immediately thought of a line from the movie Tombstone, when a beautiful woman stepped down from her stagecoach and  Doc Holiday (played by Val Kilmer) notices her beauty and says, "Well, an enchanted moment". Only in this case, it was several beautiful women. I immediately took advantage of the camera I held in my hands and started photographing this enchanted moment. Most of the time they had their backs to me as they prepared themselves to make an entrance at the party. But in this moment I captured the reference photo for this.
As the painting progresses I will update you.