Sunday, April 15, 2012

Evolution of a Painting

I often make changes to paintings after they have been considered finished for some time.  I’ve learned that “finished” is a relative term.  That’s why I always struggle to answer the question about how long it takes me to do a painting.  The initial painting can sometimes develop quite quickly, but the incremental changes happen gradually after I live with the work for some time. When I review the series of photos that I take throughout the process, I am always surprised at how much a painting changes over time.

 The first painting that I did in the Jewish Identity and Legacy series was titled Sleeping with the Chickens and told the story of a woman who remembered sleeping at her grandmother’s with a box of two live chickens by the bed.  They terrified her at night and became dinner the following evening.   I was never quite satisfied with it and decided to change it in two ways.  The original painting is above.

The woman had told me of how she was terrified of the chickens and I thought about what that felt like physically.  I realized that when we recoil in fear, our eyebrows rise and our mouth opens so I sought to get that effect in the painting.

I also had never liked the distinct lines that seemed to segment the painting into separate spheres.  I often use my Ipad to enlarge and crop an image visually.  When I did this, I found that I focused on the connection between the woman’s gaze and that of the chicken’s.  I wanted to think about how I could emphasize that while minimizing the lines that were less relevant to the story.  I took a wash of white paint and extended the covers, letting the box show through.  The line of the blanket echoed the line between their gaze.  The blanket still was too large of an expanse and needed to be broken in some way.  She had spoken to me of the big feather bed, no doubt filled by the feathers of these chickens' predecessors so I decided to extend the idea of feathers flying.  The addition of several feathers in this space echoed those above and balanced the image.  I also extended the feathers of the chicken to make it feel more menacing.  The effect of these changes is to further the telling of the underlying story.

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