I’ve been working hard the last two months or so to finish my latest landscape, “Spring in Emmaus”, and begin two more landscapes, ” Summer Sky over South Mountain” and “Summer in Laurys Station”, and I’ve found the reactions to the various stages of completeness of these painting fascinating. Near the beginning of the summer I showed some process stills of the “Spring in Emmaus” piece on Instagram and Facebook, stills that were at the secret painting stage in my process, and – as in the past – many thought the image I showed online was finished. One fellow – whose opinion I respect – begged me to stop when I told him it was simply a process shot. Later as the actually painting came into being still others thought the brooding tone-painting version of this spring landscape piece was the completed work. It was on the basis of that digital image that I landed a spot in an show of landscape/citysacpe works at ReFind’s Gallery-on-the-Walk in Allentown. These responses all make me wonder if I should show process shots of my work online. My thinking behind having ever done so was that I thought it gave a critical view into the rich layering and texture-building that goes into one of my pieces. It’s important for me that a viewer understands that a painting of mine is methodically made and not random as it may appear, especially when I’m making an abstract piece. The attention span of most folks online seems to be short when viewing pictures so these process shots are turning into there own works in their eyes, which makes the average jpeg an unusual-for-me by-product of the painting process.
I’m never quite sure why I won’t allow these under-paintings a chance to live. It’s frustrating to be asked to stop when a deep vision of the completed work so dominates my thinking. I suspect that there is therapy behind the over-paintings that I do in my work and that allowing a piece to live at what I regard at the half-way point in that works’ life somehow confines me to some turgid metal state. This year has been about painting representationally, painting landscapes and flowers. With all the upsetting news this year, and after a bad break-up in the spring, I think the battle I do in these process works are at the very least a productive way to occupy my mind, if not provide for some spiritual release
With these landscapes I’ve found myself sticking to only painting with a palate knife, again adding another restriction onto what is already an obsessive technique. I’m really adept at placing shackles on my process. It’s fun working in this mode, as it forces certain decisions while facilitating others. I can’t paint with incredible detail with the palate knife, at least not yet, maybe I could with more practice; however I can layer like crazy which is always my favorite thing to do in artwork. Painting frosting-like layers of rich acrylic paint lathered with shiny gel medium is about as rapturous an experience as I have had lately. It’s like spreading butter or jam on yummy crusty toast. With each layer a bit more atmosphere is created in the work, and the walls of a created world close in until for me the work reaches a suffocation point. When I feel I can’t breathe anymore when making a piece, when one more scrape of paint will make my lungs burst, when I find myself holding my breath for 3 minutes in a daze, then I know I’m done. With these landscapes this has usually resulted in the gleeful desiccation of a gallon or so of gel medium.
Here are a collection of process shots I’ve been keeping track of on my phone lately showing where I’ve been with these landscapes:
I’ve been listening to all sorts of music lately, usually depending on the people I’m around or the situation, which of course isn’t that unusual. When I’ve been hanging with my buddies King and Edgar I listen to Ozuna’s, “Dile Que Tu Me Quieres”. When I’ve needed to get myself revved up in the car ride to and from work I’ve been listening to Led Zeppelin, particularly the album “Presence” – probably one of there least known and appreciated. The song “Hots On For Nowhere” is my favorite on that record. And finally when I’ve been dreaming of big things to paint in my studio, things which require a grant, or for me to shake off some useless fear, I’ve put on Phillip Glass, especially the opera Akhnaten. Act three, scene two “Attack and Fall”. is my favorite off that work. I’ve provided links to all three below.
Okay in a month or so I should have at least one of these new summer landscapes complete and which point I can transition to my last painting in this year long 4 seasons landscape series, my fall work. I think I’ll next talk a little about the sites I’ve chosen for each of these landscapes and how the journeys to these places have turned into little field trips with close friends. Until then do be well.