Thursday, February 09, 2006

Drying time

Okay, I lied. The current canvas is still hideous, but it is too sticky to keep working on at the moment. So I shall lay bare my process and show it to you.

This is how "Dissolution," as it is tentatively and temporarily titled, appeared for about a month after I stalled on it:

General theme--roses, cliff, sun, decay, movement. Love going into light and ashes. Cliche'd rot like that. Don't blame me, I don't make this up, it's dropped into my soul like a bird between two mountains and I have to try to paint it.

So after staring at it for a month I turned it upside down for a fresh, less literal perspective and whacked into it again:

Generally, ambiguity has increased, transitions are richer, and the corny rose shapes are almost obliterated.

Right side up again; horizon line more dynamic, interesting, fully realized; scratching into the inner 'rose' in a more geometric, compass-like way. Circular shape mirroring sun shape; 'as above, so below' theme seems to be happening.

Extending and defining lines, light, shadow, form; 'roses' starting to appear again out of the muck.

And here we stall again. Trying to integrate 'organic' rose form with geometric compass lines, plus light and texture and variety of color, and signally failing. Tune in next week after next scrapedown.

Meanwhile, on the next canvas, we have a grounded mandala:

You would not believe how hard and time-consuming it is to get these things centered and symmetrical.

Still not terribly dynamic.

A bit better. This is only a rough estimation; most of the lines will be tweaked and/or obliterated when the actual paint goes on. I have big plans for this one, but that would be telling.

Layer of pale yellow underpainting, which must dry thoroughly before I touch it again, or it will just come off when I paint over it and not remain to glow through when I paint over it with white or scratch into it. It's also incredibly hard not to completely obliterate the charcoal.

Good thing I took photos.


jackadandy said...

Serena, I'm intrigued by the way you begin the mandala with a floral form, especially considering your concurrent struggles with the geometry versus organicimity of the roses in the other painting. Do you usually begin your mandalas that way?

I feel a post in my own blog coming on...

By the way, I'm actually an advocate of using the "corny", from time to time. Trying to get back to what the icons meant when they were fresh by insisting on an innocence, on top of all the layers of cliche and irony and just plain fatigue.

Once I found a dried-out bouquet of roses abandoned in the desert, all by itself, ribbon still on it. You never see roses out here. The effect was not unlike your painting.

serena said...

Very interesting question, thanks!

My baseline 'calligraphy' of drawing and painting has always been extremely organic. Every mandala that I draw tends to start with either some sort of growth curve or some sort of wave pattern. Then I play with the theme, building up complexity. Since this is just an underpainting, I didn't get into the complicated part, thus it looks like a boring old daisy.

This particular one ended up being floral by accident--the important part, the part I saw in my head when the concept for the painting appeared, was a series of long curves coming to points. I drew the curves and points and lo! flower. I was actually thinking more about bows and arrows.

I am totally in agreement with you about the innocence/corn factor, particularly after becoming familiar with Tamayo's work. It's not the subject, it's how it's painted that makes it powerful, or just stupid.

Liz said...

I'm fascinated with your rough drafts and process! Amazing. The whole idea of it scares me. And the thought of working on the same thing for that long also scares me! And then the words "scrape-down". Eeeep! My god, with words, I can delete them, but I can also PUT THEM BACK. Anyway I'm loving the cliff/rose thing and look forward to seeing it someday.

serena said...

Re: scrapedowns--a professor of mine once said, 'you've got to have an attitude to be a painter.' If it's not perfect, it's nowhere. Labor is never really lost, it's just recycled.

k said...

I like how you turned it upside down. Cats like to look at things upside down, too.

Have you read *Why Cats Paint?* They have an interesting section on cats' upside-down painting habits.