Dear Claude Monet, you won’t believe what your painting just sold for!

Claude Monet, Meules, 1890.

Claude Monet is famous for painting many subjects, water lilies, cathedral facades, footbridges, and of course, hay stacks. It is his hay stack painting, Meules,  that captured a huge sum of money at auction recently 110 million dollars to be exact.   What makes these paintings so captivating?  Two ideas: they are all painted in multiples, and the the subject is light as metaphor.  Monet captures the light as it plays off of natural objects.  In fact, he is more interested in light than the subject itself.  Think about it: Monet is at his most prolific during the height of the industrial revolution when change is constant-much like our world today. Light changes at great speed, thus his focus on light as a metaphor for constant change.  By painting in multiples, he revisits the same subject but in a different light.  Years later, Hollywood directs such as Martin Scorsese will create similar effects using film and stage lighting.

I have been thinking of Monet as I have been painting this series of River Road, Topsfield.  To be sure, it is a beautiful place-tree lined winding road, open fields, wild flowers, gorgeous architecture. But, much like the great Impressionist artist himself, I have been focusing on the natural sunlight as it moves through the day, through the seasons, and through all sorts of weather conditions-something New England is famous for!  And, in keeping with his idea of multiples, I am painting in a series, five paintings to be exact, two of which are featured here.

 

 

Meg Black, Morning light, River Road, Topsfield. 2019. In progress.

Two River Road paintings in progress, showing different light effects.

 

Chiaroscuro, River Road, and Caravaggio: a painterly connection.

This is a photo I took of River Road, Topsfield in the early morning. The light coming in from the left creates a strong shadow on the road.

I was lucky to see the original painting by Caravaggio in Rome this past spring. It is still in its original location in the Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

Early morning, River Road, Topsfield. The light in this photo has a dramatic quality that reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Caravaggio. Caravaggio placed light colors against dark to create a dramatic effect in his work, known as chiaroscuro in Latin. The early morning light plays against the dark shadows giving off a similar quality. Caravaggio does this in his painting of The Calling of Mathew.

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 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 . . .

Paper making workshop at Meg Black Studios, May 23, 2016

Papermaking workshop in my studio, we had a blast and made a lot of paper.  Cant wait to see what these talented students do with their new paper.

IMG_1717

 

 

 

 

Working with pulp. Couching the colored sheet onto the woolen felts.

 

IMG_1716

 

Pulling pulp from the trough.  Colored pulps in the foreground.

 

 

 

 

IMG_1722

 

Teaching the basics.  Garbage bags make perfect aprons for this very wet process.

 

 

 

 

IMG_1729

 

Pressing the paper in my custom paper press, compliments to my husband and his friend the expert welder.