Thursday, November 1, 2012
For those who know me, (and you know who you are, even if you refuse to admit it) it is no surprise if I admit that I'm not really an emotional kind of guy. I'm just a meat and potatoes, black and white, tell-it-like-it-is sort of person. The pool of my emotions runs about ankle deep. It shows in my paintings, doesn't it? Needless to say, there's not a whole lot of "I wonder what that means?" in my pictures. There's a simple reason for that:
Re-read the above.
But I do see beauty in much of what I observe. It's just that I prefer to show it to you as faithfully as I can, and not try to interpret it for you. I'd rather let you feel your own emotion. My feeling is that if I think something is cool, then you probably will too. You know, a "Hey-- Check this out!" type of approach.
I am not unique in that like many painters, one of the things I think is really cool is the interplay of light and shadow. It strikes me as somewhat humorous (and a tad bit pretentious) when I hear painters say that they "paint light." As opposed to what? Darkness? But I digress... Anyway, I've long been intrigued by the play of light that comes filtering in through my studio windows. I liked the way the color of the light affected the color of the shadows. But I couldn't very well just paint a window, could I? I needed to have something to show the affect. So I thought about having someone standing there and looking out the window. Sure, it might be a figurative painting, but in my mind it would really be about the colors of light.
As I have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of the great illustrators of the past. I like the paintings they did that tell a story. Therefore, it isn't enough for me to just show a bored model staring off into space, looking like they are in a catatonic trance, or worse-- dead. I like for them to be doing something. When I put a figure in my painting, I want you to be able to guess not just what they are doing now, but maybe what they did before, or what they might be doing after. I want them to be part of a larger story.
So that leads me to the idea of the painting above called Homecoming. It started life as this thumbnail:
I envisioned this as an older gentleman looking through the blinds. I had bought some vintage clothes recently, and I wanted to paint them. So what better excuse than using them in my painting of a window, right? Nothing deep about that. Problem was, I didn't have an old guy to wear them.
So, I'm thinking to myself, "where can I get an old guy to pose for me?" And that led me to a Doctor I know. You wouldn't know it, but the old duff I painted is actually a well respected surgeon! But you'll also notice that he's not wearing my old clothes. That's because he posed for me on a hot August afternoon at his place on the coast. I figured I'd dress him in the painting, if you know what I mean. I originally wanted a somber kind of picture, but Doc was in a jolly good mood, so he kept smiling while he posed for me. I also figured I'd change that in the painting process.
Now, all of this was back in August. I had to set this on the back-burner due to my foot surgery, and a couple of commissions I was asked to do. I've also spent a large amount of time preparing for my mother to move in with Ellen and me here in our house.
And then, the whole meaning of this picture changed.
You see, my mom lives by herself near Philadelphia, about 400 miles away from me and the rest of her children and grand-kids. We all would get down there as often as we could, but that only meant maybe two or three times a year. Mom's older now, and living alone is becoming more and more difficult. And maybe, deep down, I was thinking of her in my thumbnail of someone waiting at the window. So her coming back home is a good thing.
And that's what my painting became. It went from a painting about how light affects an old man looking out a window, to the joy of an elderly man as he sees a loved one coming up the walk-way to is house. The window is dirty; there's dust and cobwebs on the glass ornament, but there is pleasure in his expression. Something good is happening. I didn't need the props, his face tells the story. And maybe-- just maybe-- his apparent delight is really an expression of my mom's feeling of joy at coming to live near her family again.
Well, this painting's in the books. I'm already gearing up for the next picture. I'm thinking it will be of a lonely boulder nestled in the deep dark, menacing woods. You know-- really emotional.
Because that's how I roll...