Nuances, 24 x 20, oil on linen
Today I want to share with you some of my recent figure paintings. I have been playing with dark backgrounds lately, and these are a few of the successful ones.
The one up top is a larger canvas – 24 x 20 inches. Most of my figure paintings are around 12 x 16 right now, but as I become more comfortable with the current process, it is starting to get bigger.
I did struggle with this one, however. I've painted it over several times in the past six months or so. Each time I ended up wiping and scraping a part or all of it, in frustration. A few of the incarnations had very light backgrounds, a few had more color, more anatomical definition, and a few had a very much darker feel over all.
I finally ended up with something I'm happy with. Often we marvel at precision and apparent ease of execution exhibited by skilled painters, realistic or expressive. I appreciate those too, but with my own work I'm drawn to signs of struggle. I want to see on my canvas how I pushed and pulled, worked it to death, and brought it back to life. I want to see, as it were, the footsteps of the journey.
Because for me, the story of the journey is always more interesting than what was achieved in the end.
Still, 12 x 9, oil on panel
Still was painted from a model, as opposed to Nuances, which was painted using a 2-minute drawing as reference. The drawing was done from a model some years ago. Notice the dynamic pose in Nuances– a model could never hold a pose like that for 20 minutes!
Typically, when I'm working from a model, the first couple of hours produce a very traditional looking painting, more conservative and representational handling of colors, values, drawing, etc. Not so much abstraction and certainly not as much expression.
And then, once all the information is in, I begin to deconstruct, losing edges, re-drawing, cutting loose with strokes that have no relevance to what I'm actually seeing. At the end of a three hour session, my paintings are usually just beginning to suggest what the end product might look like.
And then I put in a few more hours (or days, or weeks...it's not a cut and dry process) in the studio, away from the model.
Don't Be Afraid–It's Just Bill, 20 x 16, oil on linen
This one is what I call an accidental portrait. I worked with a model, as is my M.O., I didn't bother to give it recognizable facial features. When I finished, it reminded me of someone I knew, but I couldn't put a finger on it. Bugged me for weeks! And then recently My friend Bill Wray posted on Facebook something to the effect of being startled by a thug appearing in the doorway of his studio, but it turned out to be his own reflection in the mirror, and it hit me; my painting looks like Bill!
Nuances and Still will be going to Sloane Merrill Gallery in Boston. If you're interested in adding these to your collection, please contact the gallery.