"Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back
-a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country."- Anais Nin
"The Green Couch", oil on canvas, 28"x44", was painted a few years ago yet has floated back to the surface lately. Perhaps it is because I have been concentrating on landscapes and different faces while working on the Portraits Of Newfoundland exhibition and commissions. Whatever the reason, here it is once again.
Sometimes people ask artists why they paint themselves so frequently. I suppose the answer is as individual as the artist. Our bodies and minds are the filter that this world has to pass through into our consciousness. It stands to reason that we would want to depict ourselves living our lives, experiencing the emotions that make us so very fallible, so fragile yet resilient, so very human. I paint myself for many reasons. Yes, there is an autobiographical intention behind some of the paintings....rubicons that are passed that I am compelled to chronicle, a change of perspective, a joy shared, an emotion thus caught in perpetuity.
"The Green Couch" is named for the couch that the duvet has been thrown over. You can see a little bit of the green visible on the right hand side. I knew that I wanted to paint folds and creases on a pale-coloured fabric so I removed the duvet cover (which was black) and voila, the elements were ready. I wish I could say that there is a convoluted existential narrative behind this painting but no, it is simply what it is. I wanted to paint a figure resting...plain and simple. I was available (as I usually am). Thus I got to work organizing the composition. I forget exactly why I had such an oddly-sized canvas but this painting fit nicely onto it.
I really tried hard to express "weight" in this painting..I wanted the viewer to really feel the figure on that couch, to sense the arms and torso really existing with their own energy and heaviness in that place and time. The folds were of course, sanity-testing at the best of times, yet there is also a joy at painting fabric so that when you step back a few feet, with fingers crossed, the values and shapes mesh together. Up close my paintings are quite planar, almost abstract. I do not blend on the canvas if I can help it. Any blending is usually incidental, a bi-product of a wet layer of oil underneath the pigment applied over top. In fact today I realized that there's a moment in the painting process when the paint underneath is at a perfect stage of pliability so that when you place another layer of paint across, there is a "pull" for lack of a better term, a harmony of texture that makes the two colours cohabitate and blend just so...not too much, not too little.
There is a strange sensation that you have when you paint yourself. To render that which you have looked upon so often is paradoxically familiar and strange. In truth I enjoy the end product of the self-portrait but enjoy painting friends and those I am close to the most. I enjoy learning about them and their own uniqueness with the line of a nose or the curve of an ear (a favorite part to paint). Ears are fun because they are generally translucent and inclined towards more ruddy colours due to the light penetrating the skin. You can be sure that even when some tones on a face are not uncommon or vibrant, that the ear will have a lovely flash of red to add to the painting. At least, this is what I have found over time.
This painting had a lot of direct light hitting me when I shot the reference. I find direct daylight really reduces saturation and tends to inhibit lovely, rich tones. I need to make an effort to start shooting reference with lights as I think you can achieve a beautiful quality of colour and value with artificial lights that can be lost with direct, natural light. I need to learn about these variables more to help me create the best paintings that I can. Fortunately the joy is in the learning, the doing, the work. In fact, Walt Whitman had a note on his desk that simply stated "make the work". Excellent maxim.
Have a beautiful evening, day or afternoon, wherever you are.
"The only time I feel alive is when I'm painting." ~Van Gogh
Here is some information on my solo show, Portraits Of Newfoundland, that is coming ever closer!!!! I hope to see you at the opening! Please see previous posts on this blog that describe some of the paintings that will be in the exhibition.
Portraits Of Newfoundland
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm