A Low Period


Well-known member
After Magdalena III I went through a period of really struggling. The next two pastel paintings are among my least favorites. Then I did a painting I titled Temptation.

18. BeFunky_Temptation1.700.jpg

I was pushing a couple of new elements in this painting. The figure to the left twists and turns more than any figure I had done up to this point. I also made the conscious choice to avoid the use of black... but instead employed a more subtle harmony of colors.


At the same time, I pushed the saturated color in the hair beyond anything "natural". I also kept pushing the use of sandpaper on the gold leaf to create a texture suggesting a weathered surface.


Looking at this painting now I find myself thinking "Not bad." Unfortunately, this painting no longer exists. For whatever reason... temporary insanity?... I decided perhaps a year later to drastically rework the painting. I ended up screwing it up so bad that it ended up being one of less than a handful of my pastels that ended up in the trash.:mad:

The next pastel painting almost ended up the same. I remember starting this painting with the intention of employing two pairs of complementary colors: red & green and blue & orange:


Strangely, I completed the entire background before I was really set as doing with the figures. Initially, the young girl was wearing a dark blue blouse with a star pattern in gold leaf... very flat... like that employed by early Italian Renaissance painters. But I didn't like this... so I painted this out with white.


I didn't like this either... so I attempted to sand away all the gold leaf and go with a flat color and no pattern. Unfortunately, it was impossible to sand off the adhesive beneath the gold leaf... and this even showed through when I attempted to paint over it. I ended up deciding to keep the gold leaf... but very subdued... very weathered.


And then I changed the blouse to Cadmium Red Light/Medium. I had a friend in art school who loved the combination of Orange and Green... which I never liked... so I thought let's see If I can use this color combination. At the same time, I upped the saturation in the green to a Neon Lime Green... and this seemed to work.


I was intrigued by the big eyes in the paintings of George Tooker... who like myself... was very much influenced by Early Italian Renaissance paintings. Around this time I also began consciously using color in the eyes that either contrasted or mirrored color elsewhere in the painting.



This would be the first painting where I employed flowers in a girl's fair (or in the halo). Persephone, after all, was the daughter of Demeter who brought vegetation to the Earth. Persephone was kept for half of the year as a prisoner of the underworld during which time all this vegetation withered and died (explaining Fall and Winter).

19. BeFunky_Prosperpina.700.jpg

Amazingly, after a real struggle over the entire Summer, I completed the painting, Persephone, to my satisfaction.
I like them both, and your development narrative is educational to me.

I see a balance (if that is a term used in art) in the top one, both in the composition and the color scheme that is very appealing.
Perhaps it is the more fluid pose and size of the seated figure that does it for the comp.
The brighter areas of the golden tiles are pleasingly placed and makes the hue sort of vibrate.

The lower painting has more 'content', or something, that makes it appealing to me.

I wonder what your paticular reasons were for choosing the size, which I figure must be at least 16x30 inches for an almost 2:1 ratio, and more importantly to me, whether you use a fixative for the pastel at any stage. I take it that when you say you painted a passage out with white, that you must have done it with acrylic or oil.

Great stuff.
Actually, the scale of my paintings is much larger than 16x30":



I employ a standard 80x45". I chose the almost 2:1 ratio (HtoW) because it was not overly common in Western art... and it was a format employed in several paintings that I admired a great deal, including portraits by Velazquez, and paintings by two of my favorite artists: Max Beckmann:


... and Gustav Klimt:


and well as the master of Art Nouveau poster design, Alphonse Mucha:


I also liked the fact that this unusual format forced me to rethink my approaches to composition after years of painting (usually) on a horizontal surface. And then it just seems logical to employ this format as best suited to painting the standing figure.

My experience in art school also impacted my preference in terms of scale. CIA had the largest individual studio spaces for undergrad students at that time. The painting studios were in the old Ford assembly factory. We were on the top floor with 30 or 40-foot ceilings of glass. Painting small just seemed absurd. Upon graduation, I joined with several other former students/friends and leased studio spaces in the old warehouses in Cleveland. Cleveland's real estate is absurdly cheap in comparison with other cities. At one time I had some 2200 square feet to myself. Again, working small just seemed out of place.

At the same time, I enjoy working large... drawing from the shoulder as opposed to the wrist... physically putting myself in the painting. Small painting are like looking into a window. I'm not suggesting I don't like small paintings. The tiny Vermeers in Washington's National Gallery can hold their own against acres of canvas by lesser Baroque masters. I also prefer drawing the human figure on lifescale. I enjoy this process... but I also like the results. A large painting reads from across the room like a motion picture in the theater... but moving closer, you can appreciate the nuances of the marks and how the materials were applied. I also feel there's something less "voyeuristic" about the life-sized nude... something more assertive. The nudes hold their own... at times in a manner that is confrontational as opposed to demure, modest, and reserved. This was another reason for my preference for the standing figure... especially the standing nude... as opposed to the traditional reclining nude.
I love this one with the little girl, but I wish you hadn't thrown away the other one. And no disrespect--perhaps you'd maybe choose to do this one day on another painting(?), but I really love how this painting was looking at this middle stage when you sanded some of the gold-leaf and it looked like this:


Especially the colors of the little girl's dress. It's all perfect! I like it un-rendered too, or if very little more was to be done and it had an "unfinished" look to it. The little girl (to me) is pretty much "done" and the taller figure could be finished more, but otherwise, I'd love the way this could look with a little complimentary color over the part that is seafoam green behind her head at this stage. Otherwise, I love the colors, and I love the flowers in her hair and all the rest. It's just a suggestion of course and may not be your thing. I just thought I'd tell you my opinion that you didn't even ask for. Ha ha.
Thanks for the info!

2000 square feet, WOW, that must be an unforgettable feeling that I would love to have.

Your analysis of the vertical format and size is really appreciated; I feel sort of validated now since I have had the same preference for the vertical.
I had not really considered painting life size, but after seeing your paintings on the wall, I know I have to somehow try it.

The impact of your paintngs must be pretty strong when viewed at their real size, judging from what can be seen in your photos of the studio.

A. Mucha is one of my favorites as well as the hardly ever mentioned L. C. Tiffany's paintings and glass works.

You are a fountian of knowledge as far as I'm concerned and I hope you keep posting!
Working at this large scale has many challenges that are hard to grasp unless one has tried it. In my opinion, you have much success in these pieces. Space and form are convincing. They are very engaging.
I haven’t worked at a large scale since shortly after graduating from college. I remember my mentor encouraging not to work too small. Until I finish my basement and move my studio, I don’t have enough space. Your work has given me some motivation. Thanks.