Sunday, February 15, 2009

You can never tell...

I haven't painted for three or four years, so I am surprised to find myself returning to painting intensively over the last few weeks. The work I'm doing is clearly an extension of previous work in two series, the oldest of which I did over ten years ago, when I had my studio in St. Johnsbury.

That was a series of 14 paintings responding to a group of drawings my mother did as part of a manuscript she had written called Promethea. Here are some of the early ones in that series, shown mounted with a copy of her drawing, and excerpts from the book's text. When I exhibited them (at AVA in New Hampshire and at the Woodenhead Gallery in Key West, Florida) the show was called Jungian Journey: A Mother-Daughter Collaboration.

Next came the the Priests series I was making the last time I was painting (below). (L-R): The Priest of Moisture, The Priest of Red Dresses and The Priest of Closure.

This time there seem to be two rules for the portraits
  1. Something is coming out of (or going into -- I can't tell which) their mouths (or the mouths of someone or something in the painting) and
  2. There is a pattern or decoration on the face (this is less important).
I have been calling this series Afflatus as a working title, as it seems to have something to do with the movement of wind, breath, or inspiration into or out of the figures.Here is a look at one piece that I've been working over a great deal in my current fling with painting; it started a long time back as a bird sitting on the figure's shoulder, but I didn't like it and put it away.

It's been through quite a few changes, and at the end of the day today I shortened the tail on the big bird at the left and painted in the rest of the shirt. I may wind up putting gold foil leaf on it (like two of the priests above) instead of the yellow ochre. I don't like this painting yet, but it may wind up being a keeper. Right now, not.

Here is another one (right), painted on a smaller board (8x8"; the ones above and below are 16x16") that had been put away long ago and actually used as a palette, so it had globs of dried paint on it. You can click on it to enlarge and see the paint globs.I think it will need some more work, but I rather like it.

And finally, two more below, with a large image and a detail shot that shows you more of what the surface is like. An interesting thing is about gender and how we know which of these figures is male and which female. In the figures below, I think the second figure is a woman, but someone who was in my studio was surprised to hear that. Remember, these are all in progress. They will all change.

Sorry for the long trip down memory lane that I started this post with, but somehow it seems good to put it all in context.


Unknown said...

I had forgotten how much I loved your Promethea paintings. I like the trips down memory lane!

Maggie Neale said...

I also enjoyed the history of your process and your blog seems to be a good place for history and working as well as finished works. I am liking this progression through your blog. Thank you...for all you do.

Rob said...

The new series looks great. Not sure why you don't like the first piece, I think it is the best. On first glance, I thought the last figures were male because of the short hair, but the facial features are soft, so I also think they could be female. "Afflatus"? Have to admit, I had to look it up. Is this one of those common usage words that I've some how missed all my life?

janetvanfleet said...

Afflatus is one of those high-tone spiritual words, full of classical references, with a bit of new-age pizazz thrown in for good measure.

The first piece is the one I've worked on for longer than all the others, but is still falling short. I think I haven't painted for a long time because it is harder in painting than in three-dimensional work to achieve a place of confidence and clarity. I paint kind of thinly (not with thick application of paint) and that can lead to a kind of fussiness, and thinning down of layers of color (kind of like watercolor). For that reason,I prefer dry brush, but you can't get a very fine line (at least with the brushes I have in my possession). So there are all these technical problems, and when I look closely at the work, it seems amateurish. I just haven't painted enough to have a forceful style.

Gee, how old do you have to be to get it right?

Anonymous said...

It is so interesting that you don't really like the first painting. I love it. I like the placid quality of the blue figure against the gold fire of those crazy birds. Gold leaf would be cool and a great texture!

I love seeing all of these portraits - esp the early ones. It's hard not to have a gut reaction to them all but then I love what you create.

And my 2 cents: I thought the last figures were male too.

KarenThomsen said...

I like the trip down memory lane too! I will send you a photo of the mother/daughter/balck and white painting you gave me years ago. I think it is from the same periode?