Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Roeliff - Painting Childhood Feelings - Losing Control

I got a hint several weeks ago that I should depth journal about the Roeliff, the stream that flowed past most of my childhood.  I could write at length about that dialogue, and the twilight images that came out of it - but that's another post.

Here I am revealing how this painting is unfolding.  I am "doing it all wrong" and that's perfect.  I started in an unconventional way, I've lost control of this piece, the composition, the direction, the emotions I was trying to invoke.  It feels a bit like being thrown out the window and the car careening on without me.  No broken bones... I rolled end over end a few times, dusted myself off and walked away to come back later.  I was grinning.

I've waited a few days (these photos were all taken last Sunday, July 20); I worked a bit more tonight.  I'll show later stages in another post, but for now I'm posting Sunday's photos and waiting for the paint to dry before I try a few more things tonight.  Click any of the images below for a closer look.

Here (above) is the drawing, with taped borders, ready for painting.  Normally I would resolve more during the drawing, but I deliberately left plenty of decisions for the brushwork - lots of room to lose control.

Here are the first few objects emphasized with bright color.  These are almost like icons or totems for me in my stream memories, and I want the painting to be sparked by them.  More about what's what in a later post.  I would love to hear your guesses and impressions.

This is where the water starts, and the sycamore trees, the house where I grew up...

I'm starting to lose control here...  can you feel/see it?

And here is where I seriously went off the road.  This doesn't work for me at all, and I could not even see where order could start to spread from one area to others.  I have no idea what composition to assert here, or what to do next.  It made me a bit giddy, and that was great.

I have moved beyond this a bit, tonight, and it looked less like nonsense to me when I pulled it out this evening, but it's still totally over the curb and into the weeds, to me.  I wonder how it will look Friday.

Tomorrow several family members open in Seussical, so I probably won't paint.  I'll be deep into someone else's art and enjoying the sets designed by my oldest.

(Painting above is 18 x 24 inches on Arches hot press, stretched on plywood to keep it from puckering during the many times it will be wet and dry over the next few weeks.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sun and Moon 2

The sun and moon theme continued in some of my doodles/sketches.  These are not as automatic as the first Sun and Moon drawing, but I didn't start with anything premeditated.  I over-controlled both of these, and the results are not what I was after.  Often I can't let go.  I'm determined to show more than just the successes on this blog...  What do you think?  The first one (below) feels like a cartoon landscape to me - wave, tree, mountains, ploughed land, clouds, luna moth, sun and moon.  It feels like a formula, or a picture of a word-problem.  "If the sea were the height of the trees, how fast would the luna moth have to fly to reach the moon before the sun set?"  Or maybe it's the four elements in the four quadrants.

The second of these (below) gave me the feeling that the sunlight is somehow locked up and off limits, while the moonlight and night are more accessible, but to me less desirable, less luminous, and I'll have to stoop or crawl through that half door.  Do I take what's easier, or struggle for what seems impossible?  And this captures some of my frequent feeling (and dream theme) of being compelled into a smaller and smaller space, where a decision will be required from too many poorly understood options.

In contrast, when I painted today (I photographed at multiple stages - that will be a later post) I was quite loose and totally lost control of the surface and the composition.  It's the piece I'm doing about my childhood along the Roeliff, and I'm excited that I lost control.  Now I have a harder situation on my hands, and I have to think differently.  Instead of painting what I already knew, I'm going to end up somewhere unexpected.  I deliberately put precious things in the painting, which I probably can't keep, and that will be a struggle, as well.  I will have to decide what I really want - something I'm not good at.

Rereading this, I'm revealing more of myself than usual...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sun and Moon

I've begun doing more drawing and painting without intention.  I just let my hands go.  I have to work hard to keep myself from intervening.  In a way the results are a surprise to me, and I can't usually explain what they are.  Sometimes they are just a mess.  Sometimes they seem to mean things to me, but I can't tell what.

This one stirs up feelings about sun and moon, and both appear in the drawing (hot orange sun on the left, blue moon on the right).

Often I try to do a simpler 10 minute exercise like this in a bound journal just before sleep.  I've been using Louise Fili's Perfetto pencils for those last moments of my day, switching back and forth between the graphite and the red ends as my hand and heart direct.  I just watch.  Often the results are too personal to share here...

I highly recommend both the pencils AND Louise Fili's book Elegantissima.  Both are deeply satisfying because everything about them is so beautifully designed and executed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Clarity of Vision and Heart

I just had dinner with one of the friends who has been the most clarifying for me.  Things that have been puzzling or troubling me get straightened out in conversation with him.  The fog clears.  If I've embarked on something new recently, but without confidence or without velocity, after a dinner with him I either adjust or I step on the gas.  We may not have talked (except in short e-mails) for months or even a few years, but from the time we enter the restaurant for dinner until the wait staff is putting chairs on the tables, it's like a continuation of the last conversation.

I hope I have even a fraction of the positive effect he has on me.

This time, when we met, I drove past him in the parking lot and so he saw me in my new ride, which he later confided has been one of the automobiles he has "lusted after."  As I drove home, in falling darkness, I enjoyed her a little more than before - a shared appreciation is magnified.  I exited the highway a mile before my road, and pulled up to the top of the ramp.  I lowered both windows and opened the roof.  The western sky had just enough light left to show the silhouettes of summer clouds, and the katydids were loud in the dark countryside all around me.  I put Anginetti in first gear and appreciated the low growl as we turned south and drove into the woods.  The wind was almost too cold, even in July, and the smell of fresh grass increased with our speed, and the insect chorus got noticeably louder as we approached the one-lane bridge over the stream.  I felt very much alive.

Thank you, David, for an exceptional evening and the renewed energy I will carry with me for weeks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Charleston Wrought Iron

It was a great pleasure several months ago to sketch in Charleston with my oldest son.  Wrought iron is on display all over the historic district.  These lyre gates are a typical Charleston example.

Pencil, ink, watercolor (a tiny set I carry in my backpack with Cotman trays of pigments and a cute little flask of water that is also a mixing tray) in a coldpress watercolor sketch pad.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Roeliff - Part 1

When I was about six years old our family moved from the suburbs to the countryside of southern Columbia County, in New York State.  The only things dividing our new front yard from a noisy section of the Roeliff Jansen Kill was Jackson Corners Road and a steep bank.  There were many things I loved about living there for the next eleven years, and a number of my paintings are about that place and time.  Increasingly I find those memories emerging through dreams and in my depth journaling.

Recently I was doing a twilight image dialogue and the Roeliff filled the session as an ancient, wiry man with a lot of wild facial hair, limbs like driftwood, and a face full of quiet light and laughter.  I feel like that water, and my boyhood obsession with it and with the rocks and fish and sycamores that shared its bed, still run through my veins thirty five years after moving away.

A recent painting start seems to be about the Roeliff, and I decided to post progress here.  This photo has the contrast hopped up so you can see the lines - they are fairly faint on the actual paper. Click on the image to get a closer look.

What do you see in these scribbles?  Maybe you see things I don't see yet.  And there are many things that I see in my heart which belong in this image, but they haven't arrived yet.  My memories of the Roeliff are of abundance, things all crowded on top of each other, continuous movement, distractions, the constant chuckle of water, and light.  I doubt I can capture the ancient man who came into my dreams (yet), but I will take a shot at catching some of the feelings and images which have bubbled up as a result.

Here is another post about the Roeliff Jansen Kill.
A few other posts about that place and time:  Pursuing My Father, Landlocked SycamoresMy Shadow (Pouch of Seeds),

And here is another painting I did years ago, with the Roeliff in it.  The painting is called Turkey Hill - the hill on the other side of the stream from ours.  To my young boy's imagination Turkey Hill was a magic unattainable place, across the deep water.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sycamore House

A friend at work commissioned a painting after seeing and admiring Mistletoe House.  It surprised me to realize it's been over six years since I painted Mistletoe House.

He inspired me with a photo of a painting his father had done at age 8, of a mill with a tall house and a tall mill wheel above a pond with a duck (Donald) floating upon it.  It was impressive and expressive for an eight year old and evocative for my friend.

While on vacation at Black Mountain recently this watercolor seemed to emerge from the page.  I started with a lot of random blind contour lines from interesting photos, as I usually do, and this was the result after I cleaned up and dreamed over it.  Most of my watercolors leave more to chance or to work out during the painting, but this composition was almost completely decided with the drawing.

Here is the painting partially completed.  I tend to go yellow first, and then lay in a first few layers of glaze moving around the painting as I realize what colors different areas should be.  That phase is like doing a puzzle, sometimes I can only see one step I understand, and I don't see the next one until I complete that one.  Then it feels like painting in fog, where I can only see a few feet in front of me.  Sometimes the work follows more conventional methods and I work up the whole surface from light to dark.  Other times I block in all of the darks to get the overall composition and then I work color over the light and dark.

Regardless of the start, most paintings finish the same way, working the composition and emphasis, making fewer and fewer decisions until there isn't anything left that seems to need or want doing.  While there was no duck in my mill painting, there were the usual fish.

19 x 19 watercolor on Arches 140 lb hot press paper.  Sold.