"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Feb 13, 2011

Portrait Problems and a Poem

I used to do a lot of portrait commissions, but have backed away from them in recent years in favor of less detailed work, and a looser painting style.

I sat in my studio this afternoon looking at a portrait I started several years ago and never finished. The problems I had with it and guilt I had over not completing it are part of the reason I stopped painting for a while: every time I would enter my studio, there it would be, reminding me of my failure. Normally I do not find portraits such a challenge at all --  I have had quite a bit of success with them, a few examples are shown here. 

Why does the one I am revisiting in my studio, of a young girl at that beautiful time of life, just entering her teen years, cause so much trouble for me? The answer is simple--- the photographs. Without good photographs, a portrait artist can do nothing but fail. And in spite of repeated requests from the formal photographer who refused to give me anything but minute, non-enlargeable copies of the images I needed, and from the family who just did not have the right photos, I ended up with nothing that really worked. What is needed for a portrait are photos which 1) even if for a full length portrait, include head shots that are not too small and are very clear images; 2) reflect the accurate color of eyes, hair, skin tone; 3) include clear distinction between pupil and iris in eyes; 4) be correctly lighted, in sharp focus, and not be washed out; 5) for head portraits, not be straight head-on shots with no shadows on the face –some shadow is needed for definition.

I have procrastinated all I can by cleaning my studio, deciding I needed to order more supplies, and working on some other incomplete paintings. But now, it is time for the portrait. I really need to complete this very overdue, cold and paint-dry painting, and NOW. The painting is dead-ended, and I need to bring it to life, but I am finding it an overwhelmingly difficult job.  I first covered it with a thin layer of medium, just to bring back the original colors. Then I begin work on the easy parts--- hair, background, etc. but  eventually, the artist takes over, and I have rebegun work on the face. It is still terrible, but I think maybe I will get it this time around if I use a looser, more impressionistic style. I hope this will be acceptable to the family.

I am in the midst of some preliminary discussions with a high-end gallery in New Jersey which caters to the interior design trade. The owner seems to be interested in handling some of my buildingscapes and landscapes. Wish me luck on both endeavors.

And here is a poem I came upon today in another artist's blog which I liked a lot. if you change desk to studio in the final line, it is a  very fitting poem for an artist. 

What to Remember  When Waking
by David Whyte © 1999 Many Rivers Press 

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the waiting desk? 

1 comment:

  1. Debra Resse - I wish you luck with your work and thank you for sharing. It is nice to know that work sitting on the side lines in my studio could come out of hiding as you'r doing. The poem is Jamin!