Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Adagio for Peonies
20 x 16    Oil on Linen

Sometimes, like Appassionata in the previous post, my work is inspired by a specific piece of music. More often, however, I hear what a painting sounds like while I am working on it. Not as a finished piece of music but snippets of rhythm or cadence, harmony or dissonance. In the process of painting these peonies I became aware of what the tempo of the piece should be. Artists usually paint flowers in the early stages of development in a soft, flattering light with little or no shadow to express their innocent, gentle, delicate nature. Flowers in full bloom are often depicted in a more dramatic light or a more colorful setting, using livelier brushwork to set off their magnificent array of petals. I was ready to follow that familiar pattern but as I was cutting these peonies I began to feel that they wanted to be presented in a less dramatic fashion. As I set up the arrangement in my studio I could see that it was rich and full yet I heard it not as an allegro or presto tempo but as a lovely slow movement. The brushwork was lively but not showy, the color was intense but not loud, the mood was calm, tranquil, almost meditative. It had become an adagio for peonies.....

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

24 x 20  Oil on Linen

I heard a program on the radio recently discussing Beethoven's Piano Sonata #23 in F Minor, Op. 57, the one we now know as the "Appassionata" sonata. The host of the program talked about the historical background of the piece and the way different artists have played it using recordings to illustrate his points. It was fascinating to hear a variety of artists playing the same passage. As I listened to each unique version of the opening of the first movement I thought about how I might play that passage on my canvas. The piece opens with a quiet, somewhat menacing, theme played pianissimo, then explodes with a sudden outburst. Some pianists exploited this contrast to the hilt playing nearly silent passages followed by ones that were wildly frantic. Others tried hard to find a way to make the transition without having a heart attack. It is a fabulous piece of music that can make your heart leap and break at the same time. So now the question was could I create a painting with ominous silences and violent outbursts in the same piece? I had some peonies that were about to bloom so I decided to experiment with them. They were budding, pure white festiva maxima peonies, fabulously showy when they in full bloom but achingly beautiful as they begin to open. Piano, piano I thought. Then I set them against a deep red velvet drapery creating a dramatic contrast. Forte, forte. The white theme returns in the drapery, this time less gentle, not played quite so softly. A rich dark frame is the final passage in my sonata. Breathtaking beauty in a rich, dynamic setting. Passion, drama, serenity. Interesting. Now on to the second movement.....

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Women in Art III: Painting the Feast
40 x 48   Oil on Linen

The canvas is an empty space. It is the task of the artist to fill that void with light and form and atmosphere, with wisdom and challenge, with thunderous noise and breathtaking silence, with the glory of heaven and the horrors of hell, and with all the infinite variety and nuance of the human condition. The goal is to create works of art that are able to reach out of the canvas and touch the viewer, to move them in a profound way.....