Tuesday, February 4, 2014

20 Days in the Life of a Painting

Phoenix: Finished Painting

I love to allow the viewer into the day to day excitement of making a work of art.  My style of painting has developed over years of practice and trial and error, evolving into an idiosyncratic intuitive process of layering.

This is the first finished work I accomplished in 2014.  I feel very aligned with the universe with this one, the cocoon - butterfly theme combined with the Phoenix rising from the ashes captures a mood that seems prescient.  Although it seems moody or even dark, to me it is a painting about evolving, about growth and action, and relationships in motion.  I feel a triumph and connectedness within the images, and the dark and the light are both necessary.

I'm starting with the finished Painting, not to ruin the surprise, but rather to give you a step back after seeing the final product.
It's such a rewarding experience to create one of these, I hope you the reader can experience some of the delight with these images.

Here is the very beginning, Day one.

Day One             
I love the first day of a new painting.  Nothing has become a struggle yet, it's pure play.  It's almost impossible to make a mistake or have a critical eye about my work in the very beginning, because it is a journey into the unknown.  All I have to do is be receptive and dive in fearlessly.

I began this painting with a Moth image I had drawn in my sketchbook, a timeline from Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" and a diagram from a agriculture textbook illustrating irrigation techniques.  The tiny image on top is a Mayan image, a god, I believe, throwing a comet.

These seemingly random images actually all seemed connected to me, and they set the stage.

When I applied paint on this day I primarily thought about connecting the images.  Although the connecting is mostly just through design, I also began thinking about how they literally connect.  Humankind's relationship with nature, often a theme in my work, was the overwhelming response.  

Days Two through Five

Adding both broad areas of opaque paint and detailed areas of drawing (Both with paint and with fabric that is drawn on with Sharpies then layered into the image) the story starts to take on a life of it's own.  New Characters arise, seemingly out of nowhere, and take their place in the drama.  Some of the images that started to appear in this stage surprise me.  The skull and the fish were completely unplanned.  But most of all I was delighted by the appearance of the winged human-like form that showed itself to me at the top of the painting.

When I talk about these developments, I speak as if they happened without my doing.  Of course that's not true, but in a strange way it's accurate.  I painted these images, but I did not plan them.  Often I paint something and step away before I even realize what is it.  I'm sometimes very lucid and sometimes in a trance-like state where time is lost.  Those are fun, I have complete trust in this state of mind, my "painting state."  Whatever happens make sense to me at some point in the process of creating each painting.  There are attitudes and frames of mind I have to maintain while working in the middle stages of a painting, primarily revolving around the concept of "Being true to the painting."  I let the painting itself direct my choices more than preconceived ideas I have about it.  It is a zen-like intuitive response of complete honesty and trust in the process that I often try to carry over into the rest of my life.

Days Six - Ten


During the Middle stages of painting I add a lot of paint.  Actually the first of these three images shows a new layer of dark oil pastels, draw over the acrylic paint, which will be worked into future layers of paint.  (Very hard on the brushes, I use the cheap tattered ones for that)  Sometimes during this time I cover entire sections and then decide it is too much and bring back some of what was covered.  I play with color, try things out and change them over and over.  The painting changes daily at this point and sometimes goes back and forth, looking more like it did two days ago.  It is a struggle often at this point.  I may have said I hate this painting a few times at this point.  I don't really hate it, but I do get frustrated with the tedious work of finding the best combination of elements to work together in the image.  A layer of dark oil pastel lines blend with bright colors… a layer of dry brushed whites add dimension, cool colors push back, warm and bright colors jump forward.  It's still fun at times, rewarding at times, but it feels like work more than ever at this stage, a necessary part of the evolution of am image.

Days Eleven through Sixteen


 This particular painting went  through these stages of development more than any I've ever worked on before, that is why I am so happy to share these stages with you.  In the second and third week of painting I often said, towards the end of the day, "I think it's almost finished," only to make major changes the next day that required more and more hours of painting.  During this time I added new colors, a layer of a transparent cool colors and lots of detailed patterns in the solid areas of color that I had finally settled on.  The detail in this piece required sitting over my work table for hours.  I had to do a lot of stretching after studio time!  After a few more days the painting was finally finished, as far as I can tell.  The first image on this post is the final result of all this work.

 For me it is a labor of love, every moment is worth it and rewarding in the act itself.  I am hoping to be able to sell these paintings and others, as well as prints of the work I do this winter.  This painting is available for sale as a print, as well as other printed merchandise on Society6: http://society6.com/DawnPatel/Phoenix-djT_Print#1=45
If you are interested you can copy and paste that link and check it out.

I hope this was enjoyable for fellow artists and/or art appreciators.

I haven't touched upon the ideas and meaning in the work in this post intentionally.  I try not to sway the viewers experience.  I think the individual reading of the work is as important as the intentions I had while making it.  I will post one day in the not too distant future an explanation of the ideas and thoughts that are behind my work… stay tuned.

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