"Character develops itself in the stream of life". ~Goethe
"George Hill", oil on panel, 40"x30" is a portrait of a man who extended a helpful hand to me when I had just arrived in Newfoundland last September. I was rather bewildered and awed by the vast expanse of rock and sea all around, pinching myself that I was there and along came this gentleman with a big wave and a gentle manner to ease the transition into paradise.
I meandered up the hill to George, who was in the process of mowing his lawn (no easy task in Newfoundland as it is so very hilly and often marshy). I fell in love with his little shed with the low doorway,with his galoshes, with the character that flowed from him in his special place. I enjoyed the thought of painting the space between his teeth, his ruddy, windblown face, his humble demeanor. I gave my little introduction as to why I was there, and asked him if he would mind if I took some photographs of him mowing his lawn and also standing in his shed doorway. He was very polite and agreed to let me take some shots.
I painted George's house in a previous work, "Storm Over Wesleyville", which you can see here. His shed is the little building perched on the rocks on the right hand side, and his house is the larger white structure beside it. This gives the painting of George a bit more context.
I love environments that show that they have been lived in. George's shed does just that. Peeling paint, worn steps, wood smoothed and concave from thousands of steps that comprise our lives lived. This little place and the man who dwells there are great indicators of how each of us lives in a world that is permeable: there are the comforts of habit and our environments of security, but there are also people who flit in and our of our lives for a minute, a day, or perhaps they stay for years and inhabit our space with us. My limited but happy exchange with George left me with a wonderful feeling and I knew that the painting must be done for the show.
Sometimes ideas for paintings come to us in a dream, sometimes when we are at the grocery store, and sometimes they arrive right in front of our eyes, with no preconception of their existence until we see our subject, the composition, the painting itself in front of our eyes, just waiting to be painted. This is just such a painting.
From a compositional standpoint I liked the combination of vertical and horizontal lines that make up the angles of his shed. I enjoyed that the structure had warped a bit from time and weather. The darkness inside, subtly suggesting objects behind him, the contrast between the brightness of the shed and daylight outside also appealed to me. Plus, his stance, lowering himself to fit in the doorway, is one of my favorite elements of this painting. His galoshes, so ubiquitous in Newfoundland, are at an interesting angle. He was standing naturally, even though his stance seems a bit awkward to suit the low doorway. I liked that contrast and hope I have captured a bit of his spirit in this painting.
This piece is a biography too..it is a visual symbol of the history of a man and his life. From the lines on his face to the little shop in his shed, what is rendered on a flat surface is a small but eternal moment in time of George's life. Our lives are one long string of moments, some more profound than others, but this one exists simply as it is, as he was, and as he will continue to be captured in that moment forever. Thank-you George.
"Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face,
or what's behind it?" ~Pablo Picasso
The exhibition is only a few weeks away! Here are details. I hope to see you there. Have a beautiful day and share some happiness...