The Clarity of Upside-downness

Posted by on Sep 9, 2018 in Blog | No Comments

Guano Rock, Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 24 inches

Cave, Hope, Acrylic on Panel, 2018, 20 x 16 inches

After a one month painting hiatus filled with travel and then back-to-school busyness, it always feels good to get back into the studio albeit a little daunting. I was able to jump back in and finish “Guano Rock” — a painting that I had begun the day before my travels. And then I reworked “Cave, Hope.” But what next?

I had a wealth of new inspiration from my amazing trip to South Africa, but I am not always sure how my travels will manifest themselves in my creative work. Sometimes it may result directly in paintings. Sometimes the photographs I take are the only outward expression. Traveling may inspire me to write, or open up new ideas that I have not even thought about yet. It definitely fuels my inner passions and there is no time limit on how and when it may express itself creatively. With that being said, when you’re stuck in the studio there is nothing like looking through images that you recently shot to inspire something new.

Enter the beautiful South African sunset. I had taken quite a few sunset images but the colors and dark silhouette in this image felt like it held a painting. I wasn’t looking for a literal translation so my initial painting attempts captured the color of the sky with some very abstract dark “earthy mountain” things going on in the foreground. I don’t typically take too many in-progress shots so you’ll just have to envision.

South African sunset, 2018

Needless to say, it wasn’t heading in any direction that was of interest to me. One trick that I have learned and that I find very useful is to turn my paintings upside down or on their side and see what I see. It used to be helpful when I was concerned with realism, as it would make me see the work with fresh eyes, and things that were a little off would pop out to me. Now I love it because my brain will see something completely different and I can head in that direction for awhile.

Upside down I went and the sunset completely disappeared and I started working with the figures below. I actually quite like the figures — from a photo I had taken while on an Arctic hike. The sunset kept calling my name and so it reentered the scene. Before I got too far, I realized that the figures were meant for another painting. One in which the figures could be a much larger size.

Upside down I went again. And this time as I covered most of the African sunset with the blue. I loved the vibrant color contrast and the sunset became flames — perhaps volcanic, or a fire pit. I thought this was how this painting would be resolved. I painted the night sky. But in the end it was too literal for me.

In a last ditch effort for more, I flipped the painting 180 degrees again. I much preferred the sky as a reflection, but before I started painting in this new orientation, I snapped a photo, put it into Photoshop and experimented a little, and let it rest overnight.

The next day, with fresh eyes and new clarity I proceeded in the direction of the painting’s final state. The image could be a number of different things and I like the ambiguity and mystery that that brings.

Deep Dark, Acrylic on Canvas, 2018, 30 x 24 inches