Saturday, November 9, 2013

My First "Real" Painting

Acrylic on 18" x 18" canvas; Tentative title: "Even if it Looks Blue" Click to enlarge.

1.  The other night I dreamed that I was a muscular super hero fighting powerful villains and everything was going okay until they released the mosquitoes.

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I thought about easing back into these posts with some innocuous piece of art so as not to shock you with my latest work.  But I can't.  I cannot because, regardless of its merit or lack thereof, the painting above feels like my first real work.

It is a self-portrait, above, tentatively entitled "Even if it Looks Blue".  [Yes, I have grown a goatee; and yes, it grew in white.  And yes, I kinda like it.]

The painting is not meant to be all encompassing.  I am still cheerful, life-affirming, personable.  I am prone to humor and a smile.  I find wonder in the bark of a tree or the crack of a sidewalk.  I am still the same person you know.

Aren't tree roots beautiful?



But there is more.  This painting captures an unsettling time, and something of what is happening here, both inside and out.  It captures my essence, but not all of who I am, and only at a given moment, which may already have passed. 

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2.  I'm in a different place, but I don't know where I am.

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You may recall that a few posts ago I was wrestling with some frustration with my art.  I was concerned that by painting a person or an object, I could not capture its essence.  In many ways I was happy, such as with the painting below, when I tried a subject I knew that Diebenkorn painted a few times, a pair of scissors.  In that painting and others, I was able to work on technique and composition.  All of that was wonderful and still is.

But I wondered whether there was a way to show what I could perceive that exists beyond the object.  I wanted to find a reality beyond the simple portrayal of the object itself. That is still a goal of mine.  The self-portrait is my first attempt to do so.

Acrylic on 6" x 6" board

The self-portrait obviously contains some symbolic or abstract elements.  For weeks it was sitting on my easel without the shapes at the bottom of the canvas.  Some artist colleagues told me that the painting looked done to them.  But it seemed incomplete to me.  Weeks later those elements became essential additions.  And now, after an additional week of examining the work, I am satisfied.  I think.

The symbols have surface meanings and deeper meanings, some very personal.  They help to tell the full story.   Some of what I tried to incorporate were a mountain or volcano, and an eclipse or unsteady circle, as harbinger of change.  Those are the most evident elements.  More subtly, there is the curve which bears a resemblance to the ying and yang, though on its side.  They were intended as male and as female/creative elements. There is more that I intended. Of course, you may provide your own interpretation (psychoanalysis), but don't send me the bill.

*  *  *

3.  I sit on the cold bare floor.  I need only walk a few short steps to stand on the well-worn, ugly, blues-speckled rug, as before. 

I see only one other rug, frightfully far, but it reflects the light.  Sometimes it flashes all of the colors of the rainbow. 

I cannot tolerate the floor much longer.  It is much too cold.  And there are only two rugs.


*  *  *

Why would I paint a slice of myself?  It is much more effective in showing where I am, that any full image would have been.

A few weeks after I painted this, Hallie Farber posted an I-pad portrait at her blog with a wavy red line approaching the subject's head.  I commented to let her know that I had done the same thing in a self-portrait a few weeks before and that we were on the "same curvy red wavelength".  I wrote so that she would know that I had come up with the same idea independently.  She responded:

"Uh oh, Dan, not a good wavelength...  I'm seeing your painting in my head--electro shock treatment? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a favorite movie."  

No Hallie, and no, dear reader, I am still sane.  So don't worry.  Dan hasn't lost it.  (Although I am now talking about myself in the third person).  It's nothing like that.  And I am within the normal realm of human behavior (or at least one of my personalities tells me so.)  But I am grateful that I can express in art what's so difficult to say in words.

Despite the lack of posts, I have been doing a bit of art and illustration, none of which is so psychological, or so dark.  There are still sketches in public, cartoony drawings, ink and watercolor,  representational art, and experiments.  And I want to share it all with you.  I need to post far more often, don't I?

I also expect to pursue this other path if the muse allows, but not always to dark places.  There is so much beauty beyond everything, that I hope to uncover that as well.  The only question is how.  That is my challenge and my joy.

32 comments:

  1. There is so much to say about this post, but I have to first exclaim joyfully that I got the symbolism before you explained it all and I am so proud of myself...I usually read too much into something or don't get it at all! Your self-portrait is intriguing enough for a viewer to ponder. I like the scissors as well because they are cold without being hard...perhaps like your mood these days?

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    1. I am so glad you got it! "Cold without being hard" is a good description, but not too cold, really. Thank you.

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  2. Well, Dan--count your blessings that we're not on the same wavelength. Yours is a much gentler portrait; there's a wonderful slice of you--but you're surrounded with "bruise" colors. It is a fantastic painting. I think you're behind protective glass in this painting, waiting for the right moment to step out and take control. (No charge.)

    But, wait, we may be on the same wavelength. Your poem hits home. I always go with the ugly, blue-speckled rug. If I made it to the rainbow rug, would I need to paint or sculpt?

    Lastly, I'm always wary of those who claim to be sane. Thank you for the mention (I think) and I love the scissors. Post more often.

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    1. Your protective glass comment is right on, I think. And you totally get the poem - me too, the ugly, blue-speckled rug is well worn. And re claiming to be sane, I do protest too much - don't I? I hope I don't seem insensitive to those with mental problems. I am the father of an autistic child, remember. The whole section concerning your comment was intended to sprinkle a bit of humor into the post. That is all. Thank you for allowing me to use your irreverent humor as a springboard. We share that quality. It is the best way to cope, I think.

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  3. All of your paintings have a serious side but I like what you are doing now, Serious, serious. Never explain yourself or your paintings/poetry.

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    1. Sometimes self-analysis is serious. At times I feel overwhelmed - the painting reflects that, I think. But at other times I can cope just fine. Thank you for your comment about explaining the paintings/poetry - a few thoughts on that: The reason I explained the painting was because I happened to read an artist the other day who said that until she started explaining her paintings folks could not related. Also, it was such a departure. But I have taken your comment to heart, given it much thought, and almost removed the explanation from the post. But I will leave it, and have less explanation for future works. Regarding explaining the poetry - I did not. I interspersed what I consider three sections of the same poem with the text of the post. But the text following is not intended as explanation of the sections. They stand on their own. I anticipate that they are part of a larger work, as yet unwritten. Thanks for visiting, it has been a long time. Great comment.

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  4. First off, I like the scissors; you do too, the way you're cutting into your psyche. I, too, love the gnarled look of tree roots. I think the self portrait is great. I think it's troubling. You are dissecting something. Whatever it is, it will come out from behind the blue--Beneath the Blue, Under the Blue, Behind the Blue are all possible titles. Paint till you see the light. This is really great, original stuff Dan. Just don't let it devour you. Too much thinking is self destructive. The goatee looks good.

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    1. Thank you for your advice. Your comment is insightful. I am dissecting something. I will not let it devour me. No I won't. Just problems to be solved - challenges that may bring me to a better place in the long run. I'm glad you like the goatee! :)

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  5. There is always so much to learn and ponder on your blog. The picture says to me that you are taking time to evaluate the situation-not quite ready to fully face the challenge. But, you have and will continue to do so!!

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    1. Perfect analysis. You are correct! Thank you.

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  6. I agree with Jerry's sentiment that explaining your paintings and poetry aren't necessary. They speak what they speak.
    But I also understand the need and desire to elaborate and to evaluate. I do that too.
    I know I always say this.... you need to do a series of self portraits. Our feelings about ourselves change so often that an artist can never capture it in one painting.
    Congratulations Dan on completing what you consider to be your first 'real' painting! That's a tremendous milestone and I'm very pleased for you. Great work... all of it.

    Love ya kid. Keep painting.

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    1. Pamo, please see my response to Jerry. You are right about the series of self-portraits. But I've had enough navel gazing for now - lol. I will wait a while. Pamo, we are both moving on - you with your book, and me with my "real" painting. Hope we will get somewhere! lol. Love ya too, kid. You are an inspiration. Every time I read your posts I want to begin writing a book, or something. Just to keep up! Keep writing!

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    2. Ah Dan- I'm so glad you didn't delete a word of your post! I read a great comment yesterday that it is easier to criticize than create. Remember that. You create just what your heart desires and flick any little critical comment off like so much dust. (Even if the critical comment is meant to be helpful and friendly.)
      I meant my line as a compliment... your painting is expressive and wonderful. And I apologize if it came off critical. I am making a concerted effort to take the critical out of my comments- but every now and then, it slips out.
      And my book idea is floundering. I'm still working on it, but don't hold me up too high. My tongue is mightier than my pen! (I can criticize myself without reservation.)

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    3. No, no. I didn't take it the wrong way. Not as critical at all. I appreciate constructive criticism, and feel free to do so in the future. In fact, please do. I've seen how you edit. You are insightful and I can and will learn from those insights. As for the book, an e-mail is coming your way.

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  7. Hi Dan, I'm glad to see you back posting. I was wondering how you were doing but figured you needed your time. I find your painting fascinating. The long, skinny slice of Dan makes an interesting self portrait; it reminded me of the "zip" paintings by Barnett Newman. Adding the rest of the canvas changes it dramatically. I like the triangular shape and the curved shapes. The title works too. Mostly, I was surprised and delighted to see your mysterious work. Also liked the scissors. I think its good to push your limits.

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    1. Ha, Peggy! Interesting the comparison to Barnett Newman. I wouldn't have thought of that. I think he considered his "zip's" to be a representation of the divine, so this is far from that. I am glad you liked it and think it works. I greatly respect your opinion, and it is quite a departure. Thanks.

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  8. The first of many I hope. I like way you used your self portrait in the painting and how the painting became your self portrait.

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    1. What an interesting way to describe it! I like it, thank you. I am glad you feel this is a path I should pursue. Your response and those of others helps validate what I am doing. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you Jean. I know that you know how to do beautiful portraits, so I am very much complimented.

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  10. When you paint the complete self-portrait... when it tells who you really are..... when you are fully satisfied that the story is told in a way you would be satisfied with ...then the journey's over! Until that day battle on and you will produce more great works, such as this!

    Good to be back and even better to see you back too!

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    1. Great to have you back John! I brag to my wife that an artist that I know personally (well, you know, online) has his art on tv! Yes I should paint myself in sections until I am ready for the whole. The nose is next. That will take one canvas. lol.

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  11. Your self portrait is very powerful. It "reads" perfectly. You have achieved your goal of going beyond just reporting what is there. You are right to be satisfied with this. Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you Celeste! I want to try to do this without my paintings looking like the surrealists. Using realist and abstract elements seemed to work. I don't know if it will continue this way. Each painting with this difficult goal will be a challenge - and I am quite excited about it. Thank goodness for the painting and my online art connections, like you.

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  12. Wow thank you for sharing such a personal portrait and thoughts. You are very brave.

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    1. Thanks Sue! Brave. That is an interesting term for it. It is a sharing of myself, true. But I would never think of it as bravery.

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  13. A fascinating portrait, both in paint and in words. I immediately saw a railway going into a tunnel. The symbolism is as varied as each viewer perceives it then. I love the painting of scissors too. I would never have thought of the vertical position but it works. A lesson learnt. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Railway into tunnel is a good symbolism for what I was trying to convey. I agree, it is not mine once it is out there - once it is shared, it is much more interesting and multifaceted. I think this may be the last time I describe my thoughts as to meaning. That is too direct, when the painting is indirect and subtle. To provide interpretation is too limiting. Thank you! You've given me food for thought.

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  14. That's so deep and I don't know why, but I can relate to the feeling that I feel when I look at this painting. The feeling of standing back after a long fight, the feeling of calm, a moment to breath. Great light and texture. And I as well love the painting of the scissors, a print of that one would look great in my studio : ) Great post Dan, thank you for sharing this with us.

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    1. Thank you Mari. I am glad that the painting says so much to you, especially since our experiences are in many ways so similar.

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  15. I love "even if it looks blue." It's very mysterious and I love the fragmentation of it. A rich and intriguing work.

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