1 : a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life 2 : a power or process of transforming something common into something special 3 : an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting
Monday, December 7, 2009
al·che·my : \ˈal-kə-mē\, Noun.
Date: 14th century
"The Alchemist", 2009, Oil On Canvas, 36"x24", is a metaphor for the life of my amazing friend Wyll. As a figure who to me represents the unquenchable fire and desire to continually reinvent oneself, Wyll is an old soul, a sage, a mystic. We have met thousands of people in our lifetime but very few truly stand apart, in a realm reserved for the those who we simply cannot see enough of, share enough energy with, learn enough from. I have known Wyll over half of my life and there's a beautiful history there that I am proud to share with her. When we spend time together I know that there is no place I would rather be. There's a symbiosis, a quiet yet constant energy that is rare and that I truly value each and every time we share one another's company.
When we were younger, Wyll and I would get together and just sit and read books, together in the same space yet sharing a lovely silence. Both only children, we respected each others solitude, as I'm sure Rilke would approve for he said "I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other".
Some people they have a particularly strong pull to rediscover who they are through different, transitory periods in their life. I believe Wyll to be such a person. She and I are both ruminators, well, perhaps conscious reflectors might be a better word. We actively process as much of what has happened to us and how we fit into the larger picture as we spend time interacting with the external world.
This quiet reflection is what I sought to capture in "The Alchemist". We were at LaSalle Park in Burlington hiking along the trails and I had had this idea for a painting kicking around in my head for awhile. I wanted a figure close to the earth with lots of sky above...so out came the camera and we tried a few shots. The brooding sky was incorporated later on as the sky was relatively calm that day. The choppy clouds are perhaps indicative of particular trials and struggles that we all face in our lives, but there is a light on Wyll too. This is optimism, strength, courage and the ability to celebrate that which gives us joy. If we did not shed our skin periodically we would stagnate, languish, atrophy. Instead, we push ahead, learn, grow and evolve.
Originally I conceived this painting to be on a taller canvas, 48"x24" for example...but when planning it out I realized that if the canvas was taller than 36" it would look strange...so I chose the smaller dimensions. There was also some initial wondering about whether to keep the tree on the right hand side, but, following the advice of a good friend, I painted it in and am happy that I did...it helps to draw the eye upwards and towards the darkened sky.
This piece is a juxtaposition of two styles of painting...the more loose and impressionistic application of paint for the surroundings and the more refined, detailed elements typical of my figurative works. The former application is a product of impatience...I am not one to render leaves separately, to depict dewdrops on grass etc...I'd rather capture the mood and emotion of where the subject is rather than get all wrapped up in the details of said environment...besides, I want the painting to look like a painting rather than a photograph. It is a conscious choice and I admire those who have the patience to paint highly detailed paintings across each inch of the work but I cannot paint that way! This is the best and most beautiful part about different artists, each style is a fingerprint of who we are and how we see the world. My world is made even more beautiful by knowing Wyll and being inspired by her every day. She truly transforms a regular day into one that is golden.
"You are an alchemist. Make gold of that." ~William Shakespeare
I am working ahead on new paintings which include commissions, new figurative works for galleries, as well as my continuing involvement in a wonderful project about the life and travels of Christopher McCandless. I am working on creating 24 paintings based on his life and work....stay tuned! I have included one of my new paintings below here, entitled "Pilgrim's Dinner". Have a beautiful day...enjoy the holiday season and share some happiness with those who are precious to you...