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During my several visits to Costa Rica, I met an artist named Miguel. He was well known in the country for his heroic actions during the Costa Rican War of Independence and for establishing many of that nation’s wonderful ecological reserves. He was in his mid-eighties then. He told me he used only his current nine girlfriends as models. They all would gather at his home most days to cook and take care of him and watch him paint.

I liked his painted images very much. He painted primarily in a pointillist style — applying small points of color rather than brush strokes to build up the images. I took photographs of several of his paintings, cut out those images that I liked and applied them to my canvas replacing the pointillism with brush strokes. I eliminated Miguel’s more colorful backgrounds, exchanging them for solid black as in this photograph.

I created about 15 or so paintings this way, including a triptych that hung in my bedroom. The lower quarter of the center panel contained a woman lying with her back to the viewer. Only that portion from her hip to just below her shoulder appeared, producing an elongated S-curve between it and the blackness. The panel on the right contained the same woman’s back but above it, I included Miguel’s image of a forest fire, all reds, blacks, and yellows.

The left panel had the same S curve but in the space above were painted three women I called the graces. This panel was a disaster so I never hung it hoping to try again sometime later but instead, I gave up painting.

The painting here contains images from two separate works of Miguel’s that I joined together. The elongated shoulder of the woman on the right occurred because I had photographed Miguel’s painting at an angle. When I projected the image onto the canvas I noticed it but left it that way because I thought it looked cool.

I was never happy with the black backgrounds. They looked empty. I wanted them to appear full the way Rothko’s do in his paintings, but that was far beyond my ability.

Now that I think about it, I could have just let the black brushstrokes feather off towards the edge of the painting leaving it with the color of the canvas showing through — sort of like someone painting the side of a barn and walking off with it unfinished.

I got a similar effect by using the matting control on the photograph.
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