I thought I would start the year out with a reminder to myself to really study work before it leaves the studio. I painted several pieces that are centered on my thoughts about Ophelia from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. My goal was to work through the emotional bonds between Ophelia, her father, her family, and Hamlet and how these emotions must have been stretched and frayed and finally torn apart in this story. I as a daughter, can truly resonate with Ophelia as the father/ daughter bond is never more strong and never more fragile than when the daughter falls in love with someone for the first time. All of this to say in this piece, I am thinking of how Ophelia must have felt as she began to drown. The clenched fists emote not only the last mortal minutes, the fight to live, but the frustration of the knowledge of how no one can truly know your heart and understand you or vice versa.
This is painted with acrylics on a primed 48 x 36 x 2 inch deep panel. I paint in layers. I started working in layers years ago and have never been able to leave this process. I firmly believe it leaves open the possibility of change at any time which I find consoling as I work. It also allows me to create color that otherwise I might never have found by mixing on a palette; as it allows through translucency the development of color that is both transparent and solid at the same time giving the illusion of dimensional space in the color as well as interesting tints and shades of color not found in ready made tubes.
I worked on this piece late last fall and had it up in my studio for a couple of months after I thought I was finished with it..but something never felt complete in the painting to me. I just kept working on other paintings with it standing in the perimeter of the studio, and on occasion I would put it on my easel and look at it. I would think about it and then put it back around the edge of the room. I found myself referring to things in this painting while working on other paintings. I would often flip it upside down, or on its side just to remove the content from it when I would glance at it. This painting although incomplete, was a an influential part of the next several pieces I worked on. I found this rather surprising but a very welcome surprise and I highly recommend doing this with your work. Here is how it sat for probably 8 weeks or more…
Ophelia Lilting Lilies stage one...
There was something very bold and colorful that I loved about it, it also had so much of the symbolism that I use in my work and that linked it solidly to my past work and to me. It had all the makings of being a finished painting but somehow I felt it missed the mark. It had the emotional charge I wanted it to have but it lacked unity in my mind.
After weeks of staring at this piece I finally put it up on the easel again, and after about and hour of putzing around in the studio on housekeeping chores, I began to work back into the painting. I felt a relief in the beginning again on this painting, it was not going to be a paint out; but rather a finessing of sort and that alleviated a good bit of pressure. I determined over the course of all the gazing, glancing and looking that what I needed to do was to work at the edges and values. I moved them back and forth until I felt as if there was no obvious delineation between a foreground and background, I wanted this piece to be an otherworldly piece, something new. I wanted the surface to appear textural while also being quite flat. Here is how it ended up, I am fairly happy with it now; but again, it will sit in the periphery for a while before I decide to send it out into the world.
Ophelia Lilting Lilies by Cathy Hegman
Happy 2018 to everyone! I am grateful to you for taking the time to read my blog and it is my greatest wish that it inspires you and encourages you to be persistent and unwavering in your work. I have yet to find the secret of painting, but I have had a large number of years searching and struggling to find it, and perhaps that might be real secret after all!
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