Monday, December 21, 2009

Candlelight Mass

 11.5 x 10.5" Soft Pastels on Wallis professional grade sanded paper

This painting began with a photo of Japanese Maple leaves back-lit by the bright November sun. I imagined I would paint a sunny salute to the winter blues. But I studied the reference, squinting and glancing for quite some time. I wanted to be sure I knew what this painting was about before I began. Christmas music played soothingly in the background. Soon I saw that the leaves looked like little red-robed fairy-angels hovering over a candle lit service in a large cathedral. The blue sky became the cathedral window, soft with the blue of an early evening sky. The little halos of light became distant candles. When I finally finished, I saw the Virgin Mary in silhouette with babe in arms, an entirely unintended likeness.

I liked the process for this painting. Figuring out the background was a trick, but after that I was not plagued by fears that I was toiling over a disaster. I love layering rich color with pastels.

Have a blessed holiday season, everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ladies of the Court

7.5x13” on Wallis museum grade sanded paper

Rex Begonias sport some of nature's most beautiful foliage. Their leaves, like fancy court skirts are quilted, blistered, crimped, and ruffled. Their fiber optic-like stems can light the interior spaces with an appropriately sultry and spicy glow.

At first I felt that this subject was a bit ambitious for me, especially since I just spent a week working on an utterly lackluster piece that I buried with the other junk. But, this is where I want to go, sharing the intimate spaces of nature that have always seemed to be my secret treasures. I figured I had better start reaching for the hard stuff. With each of the many times I was ready to throw it away, something would go right and I would keep working. I was surprised at the end by the contribution of the final lower left leaf. Its strong design really suggested the 'courtliness' of this scene in a way entirely absent from the photo reference. I was finally able to describe the sense of whimsy that accompanied my admiration of these leaves and their interior spaces.

(I don't yet understand it, even years after this was painted. Whenever someone (so far that means 'anyone') see this painting for the first time, they have an instinctual and physical revulsion to it, as though they have been punched in the gut. I've seen a lot of ho-hum paintings in my life and none made me groan out loud. Very curious indeed.)