Sunday, May 28, 2006

Birthday Greetings.

Today is my 48th birthday. True to usual form, this morning my daughter, barely conscious, staggered onto the deck where Rich and I were sitting enjoying the morning, and said, "Merry Christmas".

I told her to go and have a large cup of coffee.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Latest Painting.

This painting is actually 4x4, and still unfinished in the sense that there is more I could do, but won't.

Went to the Art Institute of Chicago with my friend Charlene yesterday. It was a lovely trip-- the weather could not have been more lovely. All the same, we spent several hours in there looking at the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. At this time I am doing small details of certain paintings of four artists: Francisco Clemente, Alice Neel, James Whistler, and Toulouse-Lautrec. The details all include a body part such as something from the face, or the hands. All these artists differ widely-- some are very traditional, some quite modern, bordering on the abstract. There's nothing quite like copying an artist's work for getting inside their head. Sometime in the next week I shall begin doing self-portraiture on these same body parts in imitation of these artists' styles. In the meantime (if there is a meantime, which is doubtful) I am working on two grisaille self-portraits. Grisaille is painting done in value tones only, not in color, for example shades of umber or grey. It sensitizes me in the extreme to value subtleties. One of these will then be glazed in layers to add color. I am very much looking forward to that.

I am very interested in some of the particular portraits done by Modligiani and Van Gogh. Here are some examples. This is the Modigliani:

And this is a great example of the Van Gogh I was looking at:

What strikes me is the graphic quality of these. They are very flat, yet not totally. You can quite tell the individuality of these people. I have no doubt that whomever knew Van Gogh's sitter was able to say, Yes, that's Aunt Odette, all right. Her hands must have been hurting with the arthritis that day. Or of Modigliani's, Was not Suzette perfectly fetching in that hat back then? But here it isn't about a photographically or romantically accurate picture of the woman involved. Aunt Odette is not romanticised whatsoever. She looks like exactly what she must have been: a gruff, opinionated woman in some pain who nevertheless had some comforting quality about her, like the wallpaper behind her which is rendered with more care than Odette's garments. You could translate this painting into a weaving or woodcut. And then Modigliani's sitter-- the winsome tilt of her chin and penetrating, flirtatious eyes. She is bewitching, all rendered into decorative two-dimensionality. It is an interesting thought to me that someone can intentionally pursue that decorative, graphic, two-dimensional quality in a portrait which almost by definition should seek to be as three-dimensional as possible-- and still get away with being able to capture the quality of that person..