Rocks and Water: Art historical inspirations.

I am often asked “what influences you as an artist?” The answer depends on the subject I am working on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this Rock and Water as self-portrait painting, I considered the sculpture of Doryphoros (the spear barer) by Polykleitus.
In this classical Greek work, Polycletus does an outstanding job with the zigzagging lines that flow up the sculpture. Notice how the feet are going in one direction, the knees in the opposite direction from the feet, the hips follow the knees and are contrasted with direction of the chest, etc., all the way up to the head, which follows the direction of the feet-where the sculpture begins. Brilliant. I tried to do something similar with this painting: the rocks are rough, the tide pool smooth; the next set of rocks is rough again, the shoreline is smooth; the waves are rough, the ocean water is smooth, the sky is rough again-same as when the painting begins with the rough rocks. Thank you Polycletus for being such a great composition teacher.

 

 

 

The other artist I was influenced by as I worked on this painting was Winslow Homer. His seascapes are churning, rough, jagged. I love the blue/greens he uses. He gives seascape painting a good name. I love anything he does where it concerns water. I tried to make my waves the same blue/green color and make them churn as he does.

 

 

 

Finally, I have to say JMW Turner’s Slave Ship with its boiling water and death defying waves is just awe inspiring. The way he makes a yellow sun appear angry and how the ship is tossing in the wind is one of my favorite moments in art history. Very happy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston owns this famous painting so I can visit it often.

Day Four: Applying the background colors.

Day four: Today I applied the background colors and reconfigured the palette. The sides of the painting are as of yet not glued to the back of the armature. That will happen sometime next week. My goal today is to shore up the details in the rock areas and add more motion to the waves.

Day One: Laying out the grid and painting in the background.

Day one: Colored grids are measured by inches and 1/2 inches and marked up on the photographs. A corresponding grid pattern in 10 inch increments is marked onto surface of the painting. The surface is made up of beaten cotton and abaca pulp. I use a combination of red, black, green and blue china crayons as grid markers. Once I complete the grid pattern, I apply beaten abaca pulp to what will be the under-painting.

 

 

 

    The background color in this photo is the blue area which will ultimately become the water.

New England Seascape as Self Portrait: painting process.

Of the over 200 photographs I took yesterday, I have chosen this one to use for the painting.

I spent the day yesterday wandering the New England shoreline in search of just the right configuration of rocks, ocean waves, shoreline, seaweed, salt deposits and sea urchins for which I cannot name. After taking upwards of 235 photographs, I’ve settled on this one as the perfect metaphor for my rocks and water as my self portrait. I plan to make a large scale (40 x 0 x 3) painting for an upcoming exhibit of the same subject: self portraits.
As a transplant to New England back in 1986, I instantly connected the metaphor of rocks and water to life’s journey. The rocks are hard, unforgiving, especially if you have a camera in your hand. I slipped on one very nasty arrangement of rocks yesterday during one particularly brave moment. The water is soft, cool, sticky. But, the water is also violent, charges at the rocks and does not surrender.
Sooner or later, the soft water erodes the rocks and softens them in due course. This for me is what life is and what my self portrait is: a series of hard and soft moments that connect and challenge until some form of agreement is met and the journey of push and pull begins all over again.
So, for the next few weeks, I will be transforming this photograph into my painting. If you care to join me in this adventure, check back often. Ready? Here we go . . .