“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
"Self-Portrait, Renewal", oil on panel, 8"x10" is a small painting that I will be donating to the annual Burlington Art Centre Art Auction this year. This is about the fourth painting I have done with the abstraction of the clear curtain comprising an important part of the painting. It is a fun challenge, to force abstraction and invite emotion and subtlety into the piece.
The notion of renewal comes from the power of water to cleanse us spiritually, emotionally and of course physically. Water cleanses us after we have been in the middle of Alaska, roughing it for a few days, it removes impediments and helps us see more clearly and feel more acutely. It is miraculous what it can do and, considering we are composed of about 80% water ourselves, it is so closely connected to us and a part of us.
This piece was created for two reasons: for the challenge that the warping and abstraction of the shower curtain as well as the metaphorical reasons too. Life is about periodic metamorphosis...not necessarily huge changes but changes nonetheless...changes necessary for us to evolve and grow as people. We all seek to understand ourselves, and it is an ongoing and continual process. Here is the first stage of the painting:
Here I am laying down the first tones and colours as best as I can. From college I have learned to work the entire painting at once, to not focus in too much on one spot, but to move around, and try to look at the painting as a whole, a complete novel rather than words strung together.
I try to soften my focus and not be myopic, remove the blinders that might keep my eyes in one place, and instead I keep the brushstrokes pretty loose.
Here is the end of the second stage of the painting. Tones and structures are becoming more clear yet still the objective is to keep detail hidden, existing behind the curtain but still discernible. Painting is largely a process of comparison...you are constantly comparing colour and value next to the colour and value next to it...and making the necessary adjustments. Sometimes you mix a colour and its value correctly...but often you have to go back and reapply the paint...the eye is a beautiful and frustrating thing...it can deceive you and so you must always question what you think you see....which is a good tenet for one's life too...always question. "Live your questions" as Rilke said.
A friend of mine told me awhile ago that we are like snakes...we need to periodically shed our skins and emerge anew but still with all of our experiences comprising who we are at that moment. Knowing what to leave behind is just as important as knowing what to take with you in your heart. How many times we shed our skin in our life can depend on many things, but the point is that to know ourselves is our goal, the greatest adventure and exploration possible. There is a greater and more vast landscape that exists between our ears than accessible by any plane, by bike or by crampon. This painting is another in a string of spiritual and emotional moultings...amongst all of my work, these are the most important pieces, the ones that still strike a chord, years after I paint them.
The New Year brings with it new projects and new adventures! I am in the studio working diligently for the next couple of months on paintings about Christopher McCandless for upcoming book of his photographs and my paintings. I am also working on commissions, as well as gallery pieces too. I will also be writing and producing a travel/art book within the next year or two including writing and artwork inspired by places including Alaska, Yosemite National Park in California, Newfoundland, Provence and the French Alps, and the list goes on. Stay tuned!
Here is a link to the Burlington Art Centre Art Auction, where the little painting will donated. It will be such a fun evening! I hope you can make it to the auction!
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I wish you and yours a Happy Holiday Season and a fantastic New Year!!
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~Bruce Lee