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 Nine: Rocks and Water as metaphor for life’s journey.

Rocks and Water as Self Portrait 2017), 40 x 40 x 3 inches, pulp painting.

Start of day nine. I begin today’s studio session with the goal of painting the waves so they appear to be crashing up against the rocks and in contrast to the calm waters of the tide pool in the foreground.  For me, this is where the metaphor of rocks and water as life’s journey comes together.

The ocean water is soft and cool at the shoreline, but, when the weather conditions are right, the ocean tide relentlessly crashes against the hard rocks.  The rocks weigh much more than the water, but the strength of the crashing waves can literally move the rocks into new formations. Ultimately, the rocks are smoothed by the water,   and over time, they will disintegrate.

The crashing waves represents how life challenges us-often unexpectedly.  These sometimes violent storms shift us much like the waves shift the formations of the rocks.  We long for the stillness of the tide pool, but we find our strength when we are challenged by the storms.

Similarly, we want to see ourselves strong like the rocks, able to weather the most violent storms.  But time softens us, heals us, the storms we weather wizen us.  We are smoothed at the edges and anticipate the next storm, for which we increasingly know we can weather.

Rocks and Water as Self Portrait, MFA Thesis exhibit, Massachusetts College of Art, 1989.

This metaphor for life is why I have returned to the subject of rocks and water as self-portrait for close to 30 years now.  The paintings in my MFA thesis exhibit from Massachusetts College of Art back in 1989 featured this same subject.  Even then, as I was just starting out on my journey as an artist, I saw this connection between rocks and water and life’s journey.  Here goes: day nine.

 

 

 

 

Day Seven: Rocks and Water as Self Portrait.

Day seven. The water section needs a lot of work-more energy, increase the crashing waves. This is the part of the creative process that is difficult. The painting feels to me that it is going nowhere. Faith in the process is crucial at this point. #megblackstudios

Day Six: Rocks and Water as Self Portrait, applying the foreground.

Rocks and water as metaphor for self portrait, day 6. I see the pool of water in the foreground-quiet, cool, reflective (literally), as the quietness of life-cell phone free! The waves , however, represent the endless activity of life-crashing through our reverie when we least expect it. #seascape #megblackstudios.

Rocks and Water as Self Portrait: Day five

End of day five: sides of painting are glued down to the armature and pulp is added to the surface.

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 . . .

The Latest Creations from Meg Black Studios


I’ve been working on a series of handmade paper seascapes.  Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the summer-my northern blood can’t take the heat!  But, I always love being at the water’s edge.  I’ve created each of these seascapes from the angle approaching the area where sand meets shore.  I love the sounds, smell and feel of this place.  These paintings were created exclusively with handmade paper pulp: cotton, abaca, and pigments.

The Latest Creations from Meg Black Studios


I have continued to work with the Rock and Water motif.  This painting, made exclusively with handmade paper, is 40 x 40 x 2.5 inches-very large scale compared to my other work.  I love the bulk of this painting and the textured surface.  It reminds me of the ocean itself.  I call it “Atlantic Palette.”  The colors of the rocks and water are inspired by Eugene Delacroix-his use of earth tones and cool colors to create not only the sea but the weather of the sea.  I hope you enjoy viewing my latest creation from Meg Black Studios.  Thank you, Meg Black