As I was transitioning between work items today and scrolled through Instagram, I came upon this quote:
A childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows. ~ John Betjeman
And it struck me that this is what I aim for when I create my art. I want people to experience a piece of work viscerally rather than intellectually, first. I want people to feel something, recall an experience, remember a moment or mood or smell or taste or event; to make a connection between their own lives and what is represented in that work.
And then it occurred to me that with the death of my dear mother-in-law last month, came a lot of personal reflection on what life is all about. And what we leave behind when we depart. If we don’t have children to carry our genes on, what evidence if any will there be of me even existing on the planet? Is there nothing but memories in people who have known me? (as a wee bit Buddhist then that’s okay with me) After all, isn’t life about the right now rather than the past-tense? Of course there is the art but that is also temporary.
But I really do think I’m okay if what my life is about is making a connection with another and effecting their thoughts, emotions, feelings… if only for a moment. Evidence of life.
It has been a month or so since I posted here. And a month or so since I was in front of the easel. I did make a couple short-lived attempts and we went plein air painting last Saturday. It has been a forced hiatus due to a death in the family. Life interrupts life sometimes.
And now that I am back it is that time of year to start choosing and prepping work for the summer art season. Small works at the AGGV, Sooke Fine Arts and Sidney Fine Arts. They were all fruitful for me last year so let’s do it again! A new one is the Al Frescoes annual show into which I *think* I will put a couple landscapes. I don’t paint with them often because I work Friday mornings. And those will likely be the only landscapes I show this year. This year is all about the portrait! Both painted and drawn. Big portrait year, this one.
In January I bought and prepped 10, 5″ x 7″ panels and rather randomly started painting these tiny portraits. Randomly, without much intent at all except that I had been doing all those charcoal portraits… these are my favourites:
The Mountain Guide, oil on panel, 5" x 7"
The Author, oil on panel, 5" x 7" SOLD
The Tugboat Captain, oil on panel, 5" x 7" SOLD
The Policeman, oil on panel, 5" x 7"
The Painter, oil on panel, 5" x 7" SOLD
Oil on panel
5" x 7" SOLD
The Author, oil on panel, 5" x 7"
The Designer, oil on panel, 5" x 7" SOLD
The Negotiator, oil, on panel, 5" x 7"
Enigma, oil on panel, 6" x 8"
The City, oil on panel, 5" x 7"
And so, now that life has settled back into routine, in between prepping for the shows, I want to get back into the large charcoal portraits. I just need some subjects to photograph. And time. As usual. Goodbye hiatus.
I recently made an order of paint brushes from Rosemary & Co for my standard long bristle brushes and to that order I added a few brushes that I have been wanting to try. I’ve noticed that some fabulous artist’s such as Colley Whisson use very soft brushes, so I added to my order one brush from each of these lines:
All of a sudden my portrait painting stepped up it’s game and I’ve started a series of 5″ x 7″ character studies.
The brushes are AMAZING! It is difficult to explain why… they hold a lot of paint, the paint goes on softly and smoothly and the comber helps to soften edges even more. I use the Evergreen primarily as a background brush right now because it is too large for the details of the portrait. The long flat is my main brush and as I said, the comber is fantastic at creating a random softness between two fields of paint. Oh boy, are these brushes a pleasure to behold. So much so that I had to put in another order. I like to work with 3 brushes of the same type and size so that I have one each for my light, middle and dark tones. That way I’m not wiping the brush in between every change of light.
And the little portraits are so much fun to do. I can complete them generally in 1.5 hrs, which is currently about the limit my focus, free time and energy level allows me. I am using random references from magazines and news stories – just as structural guides rather than portrait references. I find I will start a piece and it just doesn’t feel right so I wipe it off and try another. When they are so small like this, I don’t lose much time or effort starting over – it’s actually a good little warm-up exercise. Then when a piece comes together, the person that emerges tells me who they are. Author, policeman, chef, etc.
I don’t really know where I am going with this series but I sure am enjoying the process and the progress that it appears I am making. I do feel it is leading up to a course I’m taking at MISSA this summer called Charcoal Noir: Creating Compelling Visual Narratives. My hope is that with the work I’ve been doing on these oil portraits and my charcoal portraits will coalesce with the course into a full-on multiple figure painting or drawing. It’s been decades since I created large-scale figurative paintings and I’m curious to see what I will come up with, especially with these miracle brushes!