Monday, August 30, 2010

Blind Walker

I was asked to set up a conceptual pose for a figure painting group that I am part of. This pose kind of popped into my head out of nowhere, a step out into the unknown. At first I was inspired by "The Folly of Love" by Emil Meyer, a symbolist painter.

Well into the painting, though, it became obvious to me that I was strongly referencing my favorite painting by N.C. Wyeth "Old Pew", an illustration from Treasure Island. The eyes covered, the textured road with shadows thrown across it, even the stars in the sky.

It is amazing how powerful images will haunt you, permanently become part of the way you see and imagine things, and then crop up in the most unexpected places. This may be my favorite thing about painting.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I made this painting during the time that we were out of our house for tornado repairs. Our good friends in Cabot, Arkansas were kind enough to let me set up a makeshift studio in one of their rooms.

Controlled Burn

This began as a classroom demonstration, and eventually went in another direction.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I am not from the country. Most of what happens here is alien to me, and it sometimes inspires wonder. The neighbor behind us raises horses, and periodically burns his field. The first time I saw this the fire seemed to whip around wildly and reflected in the pond where geese swam indifferently. I was interested in the idea of representing all four of the greek elements in one scene. The nude figure represents the fifth element, aether, which they believed the soul is made of.

Waterhouse's "Miranda the Tempest" has always been a favorite of mine, and was an influence on this piece. It is a small painting on a 9"x12" panel.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mother and Child

Here's an obvious reference to old Madonna and Child motifs, although without the idealization that was in fashion when most of the great ones were painted. In fact, such harsh lighting, scraggly hairs, and anxiety in a Madonna would have probably been considered vulgar or even sacrilegious in the renaissance. Out here in podunk Arkansas the stars shine very brightly. The sky in this painting is an eastern view of our backyard. Lately, the planet Venus shows up first and outshines all of the other stars, which naturally reminds me of the Bethlehem star.

This pose began as a candid moment, unstaged, and the first thing I saw was a Dorothea Lange photograph of a very similar pose. That gesture of the hand to the side of the face, the open shirt, and the baby across the lap were all perfect. I intentionally avoided really studying the Lange picture in any kind of direct way until I was finished, though.

Dorothea Lange "Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California", 1936

The red shirt on the mother was as unstaged as the gesture, but perfectly served as a shout out to Raphael Sanzi, the grand master of Madonna and child paintings. The addition of a renaissancified Arkansas landscape is another little push in that direction. Whether the "prince of painters" himself would have appreciated the comparison is another matter. I hope he would.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dream Giver

This Painting is entitled "Dream Giver". Initially, I got the idea for the painting while viewing another of my paintings, "Iconoclast", and interpretation of Abraham and Isaac, upside down.

I liked the supernatural feeling of the boy swooping down from the ceiling, which immediately reminded me of the Inspiration of St. Matthew by Caravaggio. I really liked the way Caravaggio uses the cloth patterns to create the drama of what is going on. I like the kid drawing of a spider as a reference back to Iconoclast. As I worked out the composition, I found that the angelic figure was becoming somewhat of a sandman type being, and enjoyed the dripping flake white as a crusty sandlike substance that is actually dripping from the cloud-like thing that is the boy's body.

Just before completing the painting, I saw Caravaggio's Annunciation in Rome. I had never remembered seeing it in reproductions, although it is in one of my books. I found the angel in this one strikingly similar to my dream giver.

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