During the last few weeks of work much went on- subtleties upon subtleties that really in the most part can be seen if standing before the work or with detail shots to come in the next and final installment of these chapters and as well on facebok and my web-site.
But it is here in the course of the 2 weeks or so that I finalized super-hero Cupid, added the 4 Beatles and the “crumpled” papers -one painted in trompe l’oiel the frontal one actually a real piece oc crumpled paper with the words: All You Need Is Love written on it- afterall these are Beatles, et al.
Just an incidental- I’ve come to think of this work as a Bachannal midways between a Pagan celebratory and that of perhaps a Christian allegory- although neither would I believe hold up under much scrutiny as I never meant this work to be anything more than a valentine to the “pretty” and for me a respite from doing heavier and more substantial subject matter. BUT there is one element I placed in here that does carry a darker tone though it is rather underplayed and that is the snake carved in the relief just to the left of Eurydice’s leg- foir she is destined to die from a vioper’s bite. At some point during this work I thought of maing this work a triptych with this the center panel a left panel continuing the festivities but with a character or two noticing a spray painte grafitti on a relief extension of the ones here of: In Arcadia Ego. The right panel I’d thought of depicting Santa Cecilia after she’s broken instruments but then slightly regretful in her recognizing Francis’s conducting. I suppose the snake here is the one remnant of the larger and more philosophizing work had I chosen to go forward.
Recently I wrote this to a friend Simon:
My intellectual-rather my thinking side disavows the notion of God, while my sentient side is a victim of as for most of us, of familial and societal habits and upbringing, and in some cases (not mine really) brainwashing, so that there’s always that pin-prick of some moral and grandaddy or grand-mommy Jehovah out there somewhere. So no I’m not a believer. Carol and I go to church on Christmas and Easter- but so do many for the societal participation of it- but not much more. BUT: This I do believe- We can no more jettison Shakespeare, Dante, or Euripides, - you name em from life and not suffer a defficiency of culture.
SO- Like it or not The Bible as literature, that underscores so much of Western culture- that throwing it to the rubbish heap would leave dead-ends.
I paint the stories often enough as they are fun stories (well, lots of them) and if I can I add my two cents of modernism, my two pennies of critique, or Hoorays, -my own politiics so to speak, I don’t think I’m betraying my contemporaneity. Too!- more people -at least in our Western sphere have a familiarity with Biblical themes than they do with Pagan literature (which I absolutely love).
As I’ve said before- painting this painting was the act of adding and subtracting constantly things in things out things back in things back out and magically re-appearing in slightly diffrent guise or “painterly hand”. And yet the work here is finally coming to fruition although seemingly permanent elements still shall do the “going away act”. But one may see here the relief beginning to be resolved , the yellow brick road is to be finically a thorn in my side till its completion later down the road.
My placing the small 2 figure predella in the middle of a seemingly real space was a sort of oddball but adventurous thing to do -however it wasn’t working thoroughly no matter how I was creating a tiny illusionism there UNTIL I’d the eureka of placing an enframing circular device about it. I placed several different cut-outs around the little image ultimately using the first as you’ll see. After I chose to use it above the others I put it away and completed the rondell’s image and other areas of the work so as to not dirty the yellow circle wanting it clean when it was finally glued on.
State #35 I’m sort of sorry for not shooting details of the work as I was creating those very details although I managed 1 or 2 till the day it was done.
But I’m very classical as an artist by nature and by educational nurture, so this as most of my pictures is driven by the pursuit of stable composition. Composition can be anchored by color, the weight of the figures, hell by many things.
As I painted this work- as I’ve said already I’d no idea of the narrative concept but by now, a little “birdie” was whispering, clarifying it: a happy bacchanal of Pagan and Roman Catholic spirits -a Saturnalia of impossible sweetness. Yuck! in its description- I know!; and although I re-worded the ideas everyday here-on-in till completion in actuality the painting (I BELIEVE) succeeds in being just that a: Happy carousal rife with symbols for any viewer who’d want them.
State #36 In the sky you may see the beginning of a an addition- a super-hero Cupid carrying off his “Psyche”. I know it’s fashionable- super-heroes as a subject, if not ubiquitous now; but way back in 1978 I painted some mythic characters in the costume of super heroes-and have done so over the years. But here it seemed a wry element to include- otherwise why? I’m very careful about the things I do and the way I do them in painting; I do not want to be the geriatric rock n roller who plays his oldie hits and insists he’s relevant or rather- a rock n roller.
36b- In the sky the 1 and 1/4 inch figure group is just begun here- the charcoal line is merely the beginning of Cupid’s cape.
State #32- Here clearly I’ve begun playing with the “whatever- it is- stonework” relief. BUT:
In apologia- this painting as fun as it will turn out - was as I painted it an attempt to create a “Bacchanal” for now, today; - a Pagan spirited work as I’m exemplifying the paganist
congruencies of a Catholic Saint- the best of em, Francis and the legendary Orpheus, not via illustrating their holinesses, nor via any indication of god-head. I cannot do everything in one painting so though I consider myself very-much a contemporary conceptualist I believe in breaking rules and embracing conservative values as I do liberal ones in order to make my work.
BUT this too is a comedy this painting of mine- and short of a figure slipping on a banana peel there is much humor and slap-sticky ideas- much of that not yet placed in the work or refined.
State #34- All of this work was a surprise to me despite my being its creator.
When I did my education- even going back to when I was 15 year old in a school in Florence, Italy and learned that Da Vinci (so they said) would sit for hours and hours staring at his Last Supper and then jump up and in a burst paint something.
This happens to me but never more so than it did with this work. Partly for the fact that I’d no idea what I was going to paint when i stretched the work, but also for the fact that while I created this work most of the time I was working on other things,- with this always staring at me or my back thus fomenting constant ruminations over what it needed. Resultantly I’d have momentary eurekas run to the canvas and attack! So:
Follow the yellow brick road.
State #27 REMEMBER these are snapshots- some better than others- my ego is fine- I don’t need to make perfect set-up shots every time I want to shoot…
This shot captures -though accidentally, what most of the time since, the camera has stubbornly managed to shoot always with glare- Saint Francis’s face!
Here after a series of tries- it’s hard to paint a Saintly person and one everyone knows of; one can paint him as: too pious, too bleeding heart, too handsome, too ugly,too philosophical, too “fairy-tale” good or sweet or magical, and so forth.
So when I managed via a N.Y. Abstract-school painterly stroke work, to “Get” him I was rather puff-chested to say the least.
Executed with no elaborative detail- I managed to paint here an exultant Saint Francis -and this is the face that inhabits the completed work now. From here on in completing his figure was an easy prospect and largely in how I’d complete his hands and in how they were being used.
State #28- I only got two hands- and one just generally watches the other do all the painting! So given that this work is just short of 8 feet in length while I’m painting one area there are always at this stage areas in dire need of attention and ares I absolutely loathed but awaited my eventual “getting to them” attention. Finally I was able to get rid of Orpheus’ present head and so I did.
State #30- At this moment things are about to snowball- the new bird here, and too the roughed-in plane, just the first of many new additions, - are akin here to musical notes coupled with the already included birds, enhance, the overall work’s composition built more and more upon a serpentine whirl.
But what’s here now are heralds for a sometimes baffling new array of imagery and marks; “baffling”- if not for the fact that this painting has been A gradual but sure evolution in all of its parts.
State #31- Obviously here I’ve placed another bird into the work. It is a dove but I recall at some point for composition’s measure tinting it up with yellows- although it is essentially drawn from doves. However if you look closely -I’ve seemingly crazily, added 2 small figures- in fact a small composition of 2 figures- one Francis the other Orpheus- a visual leitmotif just below the reclined figure. I remember thinking to myself “how bizarre” but the painting demanded such an odd-ball choice.
This predella, a narrative exclamation point over the next weeks would be refined and would be elaborative element upon the overall painting’s narrative.
State #32- Decided that the yellow bird should be white- as doves are- it wasn’t needed to be yellow for color balance.
Finally returned to a little work on the stone relief work. More more take-outs and more rough-ins…
State #21- Placing the reclining figure in the work the way I’d just done was rather impulsive- but then this entire painting had been. In retrospect from the time of its beginning well into 2/3’s of its completion I’d done no studies and wouldn’t at all, - there was no meaningful theme nor driving commentary other than the desire to create a PG rated “Happiness” painting.
I put in the reclining figure for its compositional ability but knew too it would force me into grown-up decisions: Take a Stand- anchor the images and composition with some meaningful narrative with some “iconographical” basis.
State #22- Raphael’s Knight’s Dream, for God Knows how-long was a school-boy’s favorite, the Humanist’s “perfecto”; when I was a young boy first discovering him, this picture- not my absolute favorite though- still got under my skin enough that over the years I’ve created some little works or parts of larger works that examined similar ”the Knight’s” journey[s].
My addition here of the reclined figure somehow ushered this work into the terrain of Raphel’s “Allegory’- rather making it the largest representative of my these “Knightly”-Raphaelesque musings.
I think it was at this point that this painting had a caring creator.
State #24 Again, as I paint i simultaneously compose, I scrutinize and though I concentrate on one area for awhile leaving it for another and another and then back again- I’m still caring more about laying on paint and building the balances of color and getting the overall design in place -I’m still not refining although there may be areas -even unknown to me that may be as they eventually shall. But accurate drawing (as any given painting deems accurate drawing to be accurate for its needs) be damned at this point.
State #25 Of course paintings change minute by minute and unless you are in front of one in the throes of creation in real time as it evolves you mightn’t like the minute hand of a clock decipher any movement.
Finally sick of modifying or changing head for head once again I Tom Sawyer-ed out Francis’ face. Now that’s evidential change!
State #26 Just a good studio shot- the head’s wet here- just one of ten or so for the next while.
I’ve created 5 or 6 images of Francis over the years and an equal amount of images of Orpheus. Diffrent personages with fully identifiable and different personalities- and one of the guys being legendary I’ve nonetheless intertwined them in my own perceptions of them. Both animal lovers, bot poets, and both thoroughly of religious convictions- however one representing the best of Paganism the other Roman Catholicism, this new painting I suppose represents a non-denominational Pagan party and one with certainly absurd elements. BUT I’ve never felt I was painting some religio-treatise but rather a “PG” Pagan Bachannal of sorts.
State #18- I look at this shot and I laugh at it’s stark background and think to myself little did I know but over the next few states the stark background would give way to a growing baroque melange of other stuff.
Here, once again I’m repainting Francis’ head- and this one will I’ll reject as well down the line. Now that the elephant is gone why now paint a stupid blue cloud?-Once again playing the improv game. But the cloud was a way of reminding myself that there was something needed to serve as compositional weight, or something or other.
Too, re-painting a figure’s head over and over enables(d) me to pay equal scrutiny to hands, feet to other elements of a given figure- avoiding dawdling time to a face by painting one atop another, I was free to change and alter and refine all the aspects of the work’s figures up until the last day. So then I never really got into a tizzy over the features of any of these painted people- I relaxedly and gradually completed them.
State #20- I recall this moment very clearly- up until this point I envisioned a simple frontal lne of figures sort of in a parade with little if anything in the backgound. However this somehow didn’t enable a great composition nor enough elaborative ingredients for an interesting painting. With no clear notion I just charcoaled this figure into the ensuing negative space almost cookie cutter-like. BUT as a result I’d just gotten myself fascinated with the work and where it’d go. I was finally hooked by my painted musings.
State #13- Gradual change fingers beginning to entwine with Lion’s, other hands being introduced.
State #14- No more elephant, no more hill, no more hi-way. Although there is the beginning of some coherency exhibited here it is just an illusion. So very far to go but at this point I went to NYC for three weeks.
Francis’ first incarnation here but a big step towards the end result, the “reading” woman obviously has decided to at least wear a skirt and she’s begun to look like her facial self. Francis’s birds here only point out how far I’ve to go regarding the sky- oh my!
State #15- Looking back at these early wrestlings I’m both amused and horrified at how long I had yet to go on the road to the wok’s completion. Calculating this work was rather a rapid execution of (if I’d worked it one fell swoop) of about 10 hours a day for about a month. But with two interrupting trips of 2 and 3 weeks respectively to N.Y.C., and many hours and days spent on other works and projects the work was done over 5 1/2 months.
So in this momentary “state” I just shudder a retrospective knowing smile at how many times I’d alter this or that sleeve or arm or head , whatnot.
State #9- Goodbye turtle- I’d have never been able to paint him as well as the times years ago as there’d been no apparent narrative need for him here- it’d have just been a lazy move. Hello then to another figure which shall go through various changes from here on in; and hello to a new St. Francis face - again one that shall change in due course as well.
State #10- At this point I am truly really working on this work at the pace of about 3 or at most 4 hours a week. Now that I’ve jettisoned the turtle I’m blocking in this woman. Awkward drawing, awkward realizations, rule the roost oftentimes when roughing in, and even well into the given work’s creation; there is no time to meander, no time yet to baby a section. At this point in a work what goes in may often-rather most probably shall be eliminated soon thereafter- one (should be) is too intent on the overall than on the correct details at this point.
Roughing in new figures or new terrain is just that - roughing in more to attain a good underpinning of composition. “Later” is a perfect catch-phrase for execution- fix, clarify, fine-tune “Later”.
I find it much simpler oftentimes to construct compositions with nudes- nudes that I know will be fully clothed in the long run. It is easier to rough in the generalized necessities if I don’t have to paint all the drapery teal as I test out, explore all the basic elements of the future work.
State #11- Maybe 10 minutes later (separated by a day or maybe three days)- like I said for awhile I’m working mere hours a week- I’ve added a semblance of a hi-way- of course half assed to see if it would work at all- and too, seeing if it would play with the canvas’s seam rather than fight against it- “form following function” once again.
State #12- Face change, blue flowers on the ground, Lion’s paw work- all mere painting to get paint built up- and to move the work forward- however with still little conviction as to “Oh wow this is worth keeping or building upon enthusiastically”.
Yeah,… while I was slowly, very sporadicly getting this work off the ground I was deeply involved with other works and other concerns. This work was still in its infancy- still not “my baby” I truly cared about…