Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Gayle, Somewhere Else"

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
~T.S. Eliot

I have traveled a lot over the past two years. A LOT. I believe travel is the best education certainly, yet there is a time and place for it. As a painter, I need a quiet studio, without frenetic energy, in which to create. Some artists thrive on chaos in which to make their art, but not me. To gather moss is not necessarily a bad thing. Moss is productive in its own right. But the "rolling stone gathers no moss" maxim has an important message. Do not stagnate. Stay active, even when you are still. 

So, travel. Experiences outside of the studio: Camping in Denali and Yosemite National Park, The Mediterranean, Cappadocia, Vancouver Island, The Yukon, Manhattan, The Outer Banks, the Midwest, the desert, the ocean, fireflies, many moons. All of these experiences have enriched me enough to last a lifetime. I cherish each memory. But the most important thing I have gleaned from these two years is that I need to return to the figure. I want to re-examine what can never be truly understood. Painting a form, a person, who may be somewhere else, far away, but appears to rest, that is the undiscovered country that I want to explore. 

Many people have commented that my self-portraits and figurative work convey sadness. "Gayle, Somewhere Else", oil on panel, 40"x48"is no exception. But she is not sad. Or maybe she is. My goal is not to paint someone 'posing', someone aware of the viewer. I want to capture the quiet moments of solitude. Often in solitude we are not smiling from ear to ear, and sometimes we are. Thus my portraits are contemplative yes, but, by and large, not sad (to me). And to be that such a horrible thing? Without sadness how could we appreciate the happy times? Just saying.

Here is the first stage of the painting. I wanted to include these so that you could see how it all developed. For the first couple of painting sessions I just tried to cover the white of the canvas. I should do an underpainting, but I'm too impatient. I try to move around the canvas and work the entire piece as much as possible to retain balance. I mix each brush stroke or two with new paint. I never work with a pre-mixed batch of a certain colour. Again, no patience. It is funny how we get into habits, routines. Perhaps we are not meant to break them :)

Stage two finds the colour spreading as the drapery starts to take form. 

Below you see the painting almost completed. I wanted the drapery to encircle her, as it protecting her. I had worked quite a bit on the skin tones here but still was dealing with rendering the sheets to my satisfaction. One friend has commented that the sheets resemble the folds of one's mind. I like that metaphor. She is quite oblivious to the outside world, or appears so, and instead is negotiating the terrain of her mind. 

Upon completing this painting I was filled with a sense of happiness to be back doing what I love most...capturing the figure in quiet moments. The next year will be filled with more of these paintings, as well as completing some commissions. I know that I will always travel, always need to get out, camp, hike and see new places. And be aware that this blog post is coming to you from Fairbanks, Alaska! But happily, I will take off my hiking boots soon. It is good. It is balance. And balance is everything.   

Have a wonderful day, wherever in the world you may be....


"Gayle, Somewhere Else" is also available as a print!  Check out the link here on Deviantart. Thanks!
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"Reality leaves a lot to the imagination."~John Lennon


Vern Schwarz said...

Heather, I love this painting, and really appreciate the photos and narrative as the piece pun intended. There is a luxurious feeling as she cocoons within her pillow and sheets.

Anonymous said...

Nice to hear you are beckoned back to the destiny you have so clearly ratified (fiqure),,anyone can be a tourist,,nobody can capture the human condition in such a distinct and unique manner as you are able,, A nice piece,,,more please

"Seguire le stelle che brilla per solo lei"

Caroline Bray Art said...

I agree, travelling is the best education and experience you can ever have. I'm addicted to it too! And I think it really feed your works. I think there's an air of contentment to this piece, no sadness. I'm amazed at how you've made acres of white look so varied and!

Happy travelling!

Herr Blind Metzger said...

Your mastery of folds is stunning. I can't add much of value to your description of this piece other than to say it is beautiful. Thank you for creating it.

David Caesar said...

Un-freaking believable work!

Peggi Habets said...

Great post on your travels. I love the painting and the vastness of the sheets. Beautiful and emotional.

Shea said...

You are awesome!

Saint William Brewery said...

Great blog, just discovered it, and really like it!
Reading your last post, the bit about sadness, and then in the previous post about Paris seeing that Pere LaChaise statue, I had to think of one of my favorite pieces of sculpture, by K├Ąthe Kollwitz: the grieving parents. The way she portrayed different aspects of grief in such manner that it is not repulsive, but manages to make you relate and understand, is just genius. Ha, couldn't help but mention her work :)