August finds the world suffocating from heat, wrapped in a tight plastic grip that removes the ability of breath to nourish the body. Even the non asthmatics have trouble now. On the nineteenth day of record heat and no rain, it comes; the heavens open and wash the world and the thermostat goes down. Not a moment too soon.
Another in the ongoing Weight of Balance series has been finished. I must admit this painting began its life as a totally different painting in both thought and emotional context. I feel the need to share and define my moments of struggle and defeat in my work, as well as the triumphs. Both the good and the bad days amalgamate and balance out and become a part of me and my work. I started this painting with several layers of gesso, acrylic paint, and soft gel on a cradled wood board. I often like to use soft gel with my gesso, to give the wood a texture as well as protection. After these layers had dried I began to put the design down on the surface, I do this with paint rather than drawing it out with pencil or charcoal, when I am working in this manner with acrylics. My thought was to paint something figurative but I really wanted to see if I could leave my Weight of Balance series for a while and start a new series. Time was of the essence to begin this painting because I knew that I would have to leave to make an art delivery to Atlanta the next day. I left the painting in the state of the jpeg above. I wanted this to be about two animals and their silent dependence and interaction with each other. A really peaceful and somber state of grace that animals have has always attracted me to want to paint them in this manner. I left with the intention of coming back and diving right back into the deeply textured layers that I left that day, but something happened to either me, or the work in that expanse of time and space.
When I came home I walked into the studio and looked at the painting, I still felt the familiar little tingles of excitement about this painting’s early stages and even the contemplative thoughtfulness about the subject matter remained. I was still tired from driving, so I forced myself to wait until the next day to begin the work on the painting. This was probably a mistake to wait. I was so excited about this painting, it would be something new and different,I almost could not sleep that night. I love the Weight of Balance series but they are all intensely personal, and almost so introspective, that I felt I needed a break, or so I thought. I awoke and drank my coffee, and did not finish the last cup before I headed into the studio. I laid out my palette, and got my brushes lined up, and music going. I faced the painting and suddenly, there was an uncomfortable blankness in my mind. I mean literally nothing… What happened?! Had I just thought too much about this piece? I just could not make a move, I was paralyzed with numbness. The way I usually handle a situation like this; is to just dive in; and just go for it , make a bold move good or bad, just make a move, and try to start the reconciliation process. The very aspect of just painting usually will solidify the work for me, sometimes it takes a while but it gels eventually. So I did the old dive in and paint adage; that had worked so well in the past…this would prove only to begin a long and painful process, one stroke led to another and then another and the more I put on the painting, the less I felt any connection to it. What is wrong here? The sure sign of defeat to me is when I no longer feel any pull to the painting, the cords that should be there were gone and there was no sign of their ever having been there. It was dead, and there was no way to save what had lay dormant and dying for the last 48 hours, while I was away in Atlanta. So I pulled the plug. I took the life saving colors away and sanded it down to almost bare wood, and white washed any remnant of the prior layers and life it had possessed. I readied it for new life. I don’t adequately know how to describe the way this feels to me, there is this moment of total control when you destroy something that was a part of you only hours before, but it is heavily mixed and laden with a deep emotional fear and dread. I would be lying if I told you otherwise and this opens the door to a whole plethora of negative thinking thoughts like maybe you are just done, you have nothing left inside anymore, your best paintings are behind you now. And worst of all you are the probably the last to know it. It is a somber moment, but it is only a moment, remember it will pass, so you have to put on a good face and go at it again. The time between the gesso drying and the first labor pains of the new painting are the best, and I start to feel refreshed again, there is now room for redemption and by golly I WILL HAVE IT, come hell or high water this board will have a painting. Game on! But with a new piece in the making, the concept and thought will take a new direction. I had to forgo the previous one and begin anew. And then it happened….
The impetus of this particular piece happened to come from out of the blue and unexpectedly with an early morning phone call. The call made me reflect on many parts of life, and the hand we are dealt, and how we play it out in life, and how very helpless we can allow ourselves to become.
We all have some addictions, whether it be as serious as heroin or as seemingly benign as chocolate, it is still comprised of heavy binding strings that wrap and hold us in their grip, while we watch the world revolve around us, without notice of the struggles we face. The painting resonates the feeling of addiction partly due to the scale and proportion of the figure to the surrounding landscape, and the tenuous balance achieved visually. The lines that both bind the figure, and extend and tie the figure to the landscape, in a diverse and odd way, also give the painting a connecting balance. For me, this single figure dangling by strings that both entrap and uphold it ,seems to portray the feelings of addiction. The feeling of being enrapt by the contentment of the addiction being suffered, all the while being powerless to break free , left simply to remain motionless. And so this is what became of the board, I am happy with the outcome, I feel connected to it; and I feel it has the same umbilical pull the others in this series have had for me. For now this series has taken a life of its own and in a strange and familiar way I think I knew it all along.
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