Friday, January 18, 2008

Lost and found, WIP

Lazarus, oil on illustration board, 6x4.5 in.

I was trying to catch up on some other work so I didn’t do a new painting last night. But I remembered this piece which I had wanted to share for a long time. Last July while we were visiting my parents in California, and before I had started this blog, I happily rediscovered a folder of sketches from (what should have been) my last year of art school....

We were given a sort of long-term project to illustrate the alphabet, and my old classmates reading this may remember it. I came up with something a little too ambitious for my feeble mind at the time – I could think it up, just not execute it. I see now how elaborate I had wanted to make it, and if/when I take it up again it could take god knows how long. When I found this stuff again after so many years it was like having back a substantial part of me that I had carelessly lost.

It was a neat little bundle, with some compositions fully sketched out and some just light doodles (though many blank), photocopies I’d made for reference, and all the little boards that I had gessoed ahead of time so as not to have anything hold me back when I was ready to paint - a few of them, like the one shown, had some paint work started. These boards were really small, as if I thought by working at a ridiculously tiny size with my usual brushes it would have somehow made things less complicated. This was the thinking of someone who, though often hesitant to start something new, could get so lost in his own mind that while working on a particular make-up assignment he wasted hours and ultimately several days painting and repainting an area only a few inches across. Ha ha. I don’t know how I got better but I am better now.

So my idea for the project was a pseudo-English medieval fair, with musicians mainly but with some circus-type folk and others of a pseudo-medieval sort, and each musical instrument or other specialty began with a different letter of the alphabet. Here, I have an Organ Grinder (originally a player of the Hurdy-Gurdy) whose name is Lazarus, and with him is his monkey. I wanted to portray a mix of skin colors and body types and evoke the parts of the wider world from which some of these strange little characters might have traveled, a variety aspiring to that which I might now read about in an Umberto Eco novel. Hence some obscure instruments and some very different moods from one picture to the next, someday to be seen....

I like to think that into each one of the scenes I put a little bit of myself, and maybe that’s why it was such a happy feeling to discover them again.

No comments: