"The countenance is the portrait of the mind, the eyes are its informers."~Marcus Cicero
The only place that I have ever left that brought tears to my eyes is Alaska. "Self-Portrait, Smallest", oil on panel, 3"x4", symbolizes the vacuum I felt between the 49th state and my studio a few days after arriving back in Ontario, Canada, thousands of kilometres away.
13 wonderful days were spent in my favourite place, meeting new friends, reuniting with old ones and exploring new territory. My friend Jay and I camped and hiked in Denali National Park and spent lots of time in Fairbanks with my dear friend Ed and other good friends. Once you have friends and a community about you, it endears you even further to that land. It attaches itself to your bones and beckons you to return.. Perusing photos I had taken, a melancholia descended upon me and I knew I had to paint that impression. Could this be seen as melodramatic? Perhaps, but this is how it felt and thus it is the truth, and I had to capture it.
I think that often the smallest paintings can be receptacles for the greatest depth of emotion. These tiny paintings are often studies that depict moments of reflection, of poignancy, of quiet urgency. They are easily missed but if you notice them they challenge you to look away. Perhaps that is what I love about Alaska: it challenges me to look away from it when I am off in other places, working on other projects and exploring other landscapes. And perhaps the North, as a corollary, is where the true allure lies. This is what will take me to Greenland and Norway next year, yes further Arctic adventures are in store! Yet each time I gaze at this little painting I am reminded of the mist that lay low in the valleys of Denali National Park the morning we drove out, of the lone caribou that wandered towards us as we hiked along the park road, or of seeing Mt. McKinley out and perfect in its full glory on that special day. It is a small remembrance of a much larger experience. Here are some photos from that journey to provide context...
Driving towards Cantwell on the Denali Highway
Mt. McKinley, the tallest peak in North America was fully visible that day...
Driving out early in the morning from Denali National Park...6 million acres of beauty..
Technically, I spent a long time on this painting. Longer than I thought I would but the intricacy of the smaller details is what demanded further attention. Yes, I painted with small brushes, whisper-thin at a few hairs wide, but you are only as good as your brushes, in my opinion. You can mix colour with anything but the care taken when applying it is where true patience speaks and accuracy is essential. I enjoyed the lack of white, but mixing and applying variations of pale pumpkin all the way through to angry russets. Painting transitions is always something to pay close attention to: where the jawline recedes into the pillow behind it, where the creases in eyelids or hands intersect..it all must be considered. Unless I am under a tight deadline, I enjoy this task immensely.
This painting is on wood panel, which adds a bit of weight to it. It is comfortable in the hand...as seen here as I dropped the painting off at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario:
I found out that there were clients waiting to see the painting the day before, when I had mentioned I would drop it off...what a wonderful feeling...to know that people are looking forward to seeing work before it has even dried. Joy!
Speaking of joy, I wish you a wonderful and brilliant day wherever you may be reading this post from...one day I will release a book with photography and paintings together, stitched together from different adventures and the impressions they have left upon me, as well as the beautiful souls encountered on the way.