Friday, April 11, 2014

Exploring One Possibility

Back to the studio for round two. This is more difficult. The first day of painting is hard in a different way. I have to tackle virgin canvas, make that first mark. With acrylic or oil however, I have some forgiveness. I can always paint over it. My expectations are lower. All I need to do is cover the canvas, block in forms and color where I expect them to go. Day 2 is when the real work begins.

Day 1
Preparatory small painting
I had begun by roughing out a small painting of the forest so some of this had already been attempted. Now I had a bigger canvas and had to incorporate additional imagery.  I was losing the peacefulness of the forest image and part of me mourned that loss, the loss of possibility, closing one door to open another. I held my hand before my right eye, covering the side with the chimney and imagined all forest, all peaceful, no disturbing column of death.

 But I accede to my friend's insistence that they should co-exist and forge ahead. Today I fine-tune and develop, gaining and losing. The gain of definition, sharper focus, the loss of other possibilities without destroying this possibility.

Where to start? I laid out a roadmap in my last post. Listen to yourself I remind the painter. First those clouds of smoke. I like to paint smoke, but more isn't always better. Then I shift to flames. How do I make them more flamelike? I add streaks of white and then glaze it with my favorite iron oxide to add some brightness. 

I build the structure of the trees, adding shadows, limbs within, a trunk, greenish segments between dustings of snow. I step back and observe the image as it begins to emerge.

Day 2
Back to the chimney with reddish brick tones and a darkened side to echo the dark side of the train cars. Are the train cars too short? Should I combine them? A quick search on Google finds cars of all lengths. I remember the one at Auschwitz was short. I decide to leave them, besides I like the shapes it creates when one car abuts another.

Figures. My friend insisted on figures. I knock a door into one of my train cars and sketch a row of figures entering the car, first in black, then white modeled over it. My friend had told me they wore dresses so I sketch in the form of women in dresses. On the other side of the train I do a more random gathering of people. Hard to make them look up in a little sketch, but I make their heads a horizontal oval in the form of one looking up.

Remember I wrote of using the letter aleph (א) to represent the sparks in the fire and the stars above. I took a pointed tool and dipped it in white paint and began to inscribe alephs in the sky, representing hope and souls. I glazed over the sparks with transparent yellow until they are subtle forms. Finally the moon. I imagine a full moon peeking from the smoke. The same moon shines over both horrors and beauty, but I draw its moonbeams down into the forest. Beams of hope, a blessing.

Then back to shadows. I add a shadow for the chimney, brighten the snow in some areas, darken it with shadow in others. So what next? Is there a to do list?

 In my omnipotent role in this universe I've created, I can move stars around. Having plunked the moon in the midst of my already created universe, I think I need to give it some room to breathe. Perhaps I will have my stars echo the pattern of the people below, a subtle repetition of pattern. Beyond that I need to live with it for awhile. At this stage changes emerge more gradually. When I return to my studio I will view it through fresh eyes and adjust as necessary. One of my favorite things to do in analyzing a painting is to segment it on my iPad and examine it in sections. Can each segment stand alone and create an engaging image. Here are a few of the segments. So far it holds promise.

Entering Boxcar
In the Forest

Fire and Moon
Moon and Trees

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