Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lender's blueberry bagel

Lender's blueberry bagel
1/18. Lender's blueberry bagel, oil on linen panel, 4x4 in.

Don't know why I haven't painted one of these before as I eat so many of them, which I probably shouldn't do because the doctors on the TV talk shows say one of these is nutritionally equivalent to a bowl of sugar. And how I like sugar. My wife says these aren't even "real" bagels but who cares, really - it's not like the difference between a crumpet and an "English muffin." These big (still not really very big) ones now come six in a package!

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.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pair of gloves

pair of gloves
1/16. Pair of gloves, oil in linen panel, 5x7 in.

A late Happy New Year greeting to everyone, and a thanks to those who wished me well. We had returned from a lovely visit with family and were getting comfortable at home when my wife and daughter and finally I came down with a bad virus. They had it worse, with fevers and all - Breagha one weekend got her first ever fever, and slept (not too successfully) in bed with for us for several nights. She got better quick, but my wife and I are still fighting monster coughs. It’s really too bad when you have just a virus (i.e. a cold) because your doctor, if he/she’s responsible, won’t have anything to prescribe other than a cough suppressant that doesn’t work. A sore throat is always the most annoying thing to me, and I was real glad when mine went away. I hope everyone out there has been well, or at least suffered only a teeny cold this winter.

Over Christmas I found it hard to get motivated to paint anything, so I didn’t, and consequently I’ve felt that weird burden that comes from detachment. During the couple of weeks at home I could feel myself already getting rusty, but being sick I didn’t have the energy. The longer I went the heavier that inertia felt. It’s a funny thing that invisible force, the hurdle in the mind that grows higher with time and inactivity. What should be another step in the journey slowly becomes a "first" step, as more and more importance is attached to it. But the key is that it really is in the mind, and all of this burden is as quick to vanish as it is slow to appear. (A strange thing is, I always believed, that an extended time away from something can help, as my accumulated years away from painting had helped, in terms of developing strong likes and dislikes and subconscious feelings of what I was ultimately after, and perhaps making it easier to unlearn some things. But of course this is a theory and unprovable.)

My wife got me these real nice gloves for Christmas, which had come in handy in upstate New York but Virginia weather hasn't much called for (last week it was almost summery here). I had never painted leather so this was a new texture and more limited palette (for me). Rusty as I felt, I wasn’t sure how well it would turn out, but it was an easier subject than the pepper shaker so I wasn’t too worried, really. It was nice to paint again; when I finally took my glass palette out of my paint box and slid it onto its place on the easel it felt like a handshake with a good friend.

Old English word of the day:

glóf [glōf]: glove