Notes toward a new set of paintings

You may have noted that the head above isn’t capped. That’s because I’m quite tentative about a new series.

I’m tentative in part because while I’m excited about my current ideas I can’t leap into them immediately (I’m getting a hip replacement tomorrow which will prevent me from leaping for six weeks or so). It’s also partly because I tried to explain to one of my most savvy comrade-in-arms, Bruce from Corvallis, what I was trying to do, and I’m not sure I either explained so I could be understood or persuaded even myself that my thoughts were rational.

On the other hand, it was a great conversation, one that will sustain me for some time.

I was trying to explain what I wished/hoped I could work toward in the small triptych that I did at the Painted Hills. Here’s the art we were looking at as I blathered:

JOU The Painted Hills, 12 x 48″, oil on masonite, 2011

I told Bruce I am hoping to turn these three small (12 x 16″) panels into very large ones, surrounds of some sort that will immerse the viewer in the sensation of the hills. Not a view of the hills, nor a panorama as we normally think of it, but a kind of viewpoint just short of falling into unoriented space, just a snitch before crossing into abstraction.

Bruce, my painter/architect friend, was skeptical.

First he challenged me on the notion of doing in the studio what I had done plein air. So I allowed as how, logistically, it would be possible to mock-up the beginnings of the large panels and then revisit the site and finish them plein air. I could do that — I have enough photos and memory to manage the initial prep. And the site was along the Painted Hills Park road, so I actually could get large panels to it.

But, was that necessary? I asked him.

Light, he said, and air. Plein air painting is about light and air. You look and you paint. You paint what’s there. You use the paint to make the retina reflect light and air.

No, no, no, said I. Not my painting, I said.

My plein air is about perception and bringing the viewer into something resembling the perceptions I garnered while I was painting plein air.

Besides, I said, I couldn’t have painted this triptych without painting another, far less interesting painting from a very different spot. So my local perception for the triptych is really based on a different plein air experience.

Here’s the uninteresting painting from the fascinating spot:

JOU, The Painted Hills from the Backside, 18 x 24″, oil on masonite, 2011.

The painting is mediocre but the experience was exquisite. And combined (mentally) with another painting, I foundĀ  what I wanted to paint. Here’s the other painting:

JOU, Painted Hills, Evening, 18 x 24″, oil on masonite, 2011

This last painting, Evening, told me of the way I could work the canvas (sweeping, abstracted, barely perceptible landscape forms) doing so in a much larger format. The experiences I had while I painted Backside (total immersion in the landscape, a perception of being one with the hills, pressed into them, feeling them) told me what perceptions I wanted to present in the canvas. A way to proceed; a notion of what I was working toward. Voila!

I said something like that, only using a lot more words, while Bruce asked intelligent questions and looked skeptical. And then, without ceasing the furrowing of his brow, he said that what he wanted to do with the triptych was to turn a couple of the panels upside down.

Well, why not? The paint was dry.

Here’s my favorite panel post-turning:

So what does all that mean? Well, I certainly am able to ‘splain more clearly what I was trying to do with the various Painted Hills paintings. And where I might go with them in a couple of months.

And I certainly am intrigued by the upending of the images and the consequent loss of clarity of space (hence dis-orienting if not unoriented). And I certainly am flattered that Bruce listened so patiently, with furrowed brow, asking interesting questions and not abandoning me nor rolling his eyes.

So as I lie about eating bon-bons and reading trashy romances for the next few weeks, I may emerge occasionally and think further on how to accomplish what I think I might have an inkling of wanting to accomplish. As I said — tentative.


2 thoughts on “Notes toward a new set of paintings

  1. Lia — I occasionally stray into trashy romances or even struggling-literate novels — a bit of diversity is good for the diet. And I’ve discovered that even better than bon-bons of the imagination are Peets chocolate covered berries in the mouth.

    Does the fence matter? Ah, there’s a question. It’s the only thing that anchors the forms, so to speak, into a background space, hence providing a sense of space. Is that what I want? Well, I’m pondering that and other questions. Lots of time to ponder, in fact.

    At the same time I’m also working on some new, really raw stuff on my android tablet. Stay tuned, if you like.

  2. You?! trashy romances? I thought mysteries were your thing.
    I wonder if the desire to turn the panels upside down would still be there if the fence were not part of the paintings? or does that part not matter?

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