I went out with a grand plan to paint many things this summer. Most everything conspired to make the number of finished canvases fewer than expected. I even painted a sign for the front of the cabin, weeded, painted bookshelves, and read many books on painting instead. I think I paint for beauty, and landscapes are beautiful. I also love capturing the personality of someone I know in a portrait, taking those parts that remind me of them and leaving the rest. I don't want to lose the skill of painting, but I've got to find something that gives me more of a voice. Some creative paint/textile endeavor that stands up and really speaks what I think in a unique voice. This is probably a common thought process among painters or artists--so goes the search. TBD. Until then, here are two of my paintings from the summer.
David and I heard the St. Lawrence String Quartet on Sunday at Bing Concert Hall. It was their twenty-fifth anniversary, with works by Hayden, Adams, and Beethoven. The composer John Adams was there to talk about his new composition! So prolific. See here. He said he felt like a chihuahua between two great danes on the program, but to me his composition was so much more interesting, since he totally engaged all four instruments. And of course, it was more modern. Plus he mentioned he used software for one of the small themes of the quartet to actually take parts of a Beethoven piano sonata and turn it around, manipulate it, and then have it stand as a part of the string quartet. I first visualized this as Marcel Duchamp's cubist, "Nude Descending Staircase," although I guess finding the sonata would be more like finding something you recognize in a painting that you didn't expect, not a full composition mixed up. I wish I could do this with a painting... A real journey that could be a painting in motion...When I listen to this particular Adams music, I am drawn to a landscape, and feeling the hike as I walk through that landscape. I could work hard to follow the original pattern of the Quartet (and be quite lost unless I listened to it many times) which is enjoyable, OR I can think of the path of the hike through the landscape as I listen -- to stumble or find. This mode of searching ties me to the process of painting. You listen to Adams' piece, you'll need to wait till later next year, when Adams has finished his tour. Until then you can listen to Adams first Quartet here . There are other examples of travel tied to music and painting: Hockney created music sets for his car with cameras, and then took friends for convertible rides through Southern California. Also Hiroshige's "53 Stations of the Toikaido" are another example-- see woodcuts here.
During the holidays, I had the chance to compare fabric painted over the centuries and think about how types of fabric reflect light differently. Silk, wool, cotton and even the color of each or how they're draped make such a difference. I was surpised however, that generally, techniques didn't change that much over time. Looking at the Rembrandt painting below (1634), I can assume the fabric is cotton voile...and all the interesting folds are captured with (his equivalent of) Titanium White and Payne's Gray. Of course, Rembrandt also captures the reflection on her right cheek of the light from the collar bouncing back on her, the neck shadow shows through the voile, and even the individual eyebrow hairs are there. When you get close to this painting...I must say, it almost looks easy, and then when you back away, you think, "whoa, how did that ruff start looking so real?" Not to mention the complex feeling expressed in the woman's lips and eyes...but I digress. I love the way Rembrandt always adds a touch of white to the lower eyelid and on the nose. And how crisp that little bit of white makes the outer edges of her bonnet and edges of the ruff. Still digressing...It makes me want to ask, "and how did they wash and iron those things?"