Marriages of Love

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Map of the LaBrea Flower Fields

“I adore the theater and I am a painter. I think the two are made for a marriage of love. I will give all my soul to prove this once more.”  –Marc Chagall

This is a lovely statement by an artist who loved color as much as I do.  But I long ago gave up the theater, so I would amend it to this:

“I adore poetry and I am a painter. I think the two are made for a marriage of love. I will give all my soul to prove this once more.”

In addition to adoring poetry, I’ve long believed that poetry is more like visual art than it is like other writing genres.  There are arguments against my belief, to be sure, but I hold it nonetheless.  One of my favorite poetry books includes a center section of paintings with poems written about them.

In both poetry and painting, I prefer a certain economy of line not really possible in sprawling novels or exhaustive wall-sized paintings of the English countryside.  In both poetry and painting, I like to leave room for readers or viewers to add details of their own, to participate in the story. This is not for every artist or poet.  There’s room for us all.

Recently, after a few years concentrating on my painting instead of writing, I was surprised to win a serious poetry prize.  I submitted a poem rather on the spur of the moment with no expectations and lo, it won.  The win shifted my energy and I’ve been spending more time with poems lately.  Still painting, but the balance has changed.

The energy is there again for the writing and I’m enjoying it more than ever.  I’m not fool enough to turn my back on it and proclaim “I’m an artist!”  Nor have I turned my back on the art. The paint-splattered work table and the drawers and rolling stand with more supplies are still intact in the middle of my living space with paints and tools spread all over.   The words and colors are feeding each other, and it’s a lovely thing to experience.

It’s late in the game for me to attain real fame or fortune with either the words or the art, but they are, together, a lovely team pulling my chariot through a new and vivid landscape.   I can’t wait to see what’s over the next hill.

A Note on Technique

Last time I posted a photo of a recent painting, “Map of the Elusive Waterway,” and it generated a couple of questions about my technique.

Did I have a plan when I started a painting?  Did I just throw the paint on and see what happened?

I think any abstract artist might be asked similar questions.  Anyone who thinks Jackson Pollock’s drip or action paintings are entirely random and could be painted by a five-year-old must have the idea that there was no thought behind the finished work at all.  (Please don’t think that my mention of Jackson Pollock is in any way a comparison of my work with the master.  I have miles to go…miles and miles!)

Yes, abstract painting has a different “feel” than realistic work in which the subject is readily and clearly identified.  But most abstract painting includes thought along with emotion.  The answers to the two questions I was asked are Yes, I have a loose idea of what I want to create when I start a painting and No, I don’t just throw the paint on and see what happens.

Like other artists I consider design and space along with color theory, matching how the painting feels as it evolves with what I know about the basics of painting.  I also work in layers – layer upon layer – for the end result.

Because a single photo can never show the depth or detail of what’s on the canvas, I’m including here the original photo of “Map of the Elusive Waterway” along with a few close-ups of various sections of the painting to give a better idea of the texture and layers.

It’s all in a day’s work.  Or in the case of this painting – several days’ work.  I paint with acrylics which dry quickly – both a blessing and a curse – but even though the paint dries quickly, it still takes me several days to complete any one painting.

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