A question of balance.
Usually I show the painting I did yesterday first, then the drawing. Not today! I find the newest state of "Crazy Love" problematical. It is in need of repair. Thus the drawing first, which is a good one.
"Crazy Love" is going through a grand transition, as am I. I am coming to terms with the figurative impetus of my soul, mixed as it is with a visually abstract, non-concrete universe. Yesterday's drawing began as a study for "Crazy Love", but it quickly took its own direction. Two remnants in yesterday's drawing refer to "Crazy Love". They are the heart and the distorted, ex-body head. The current ex-body head will be substantially repainted. I am also imagining (during this writing) the appearance of a second head in the bottom right quadrant.
A lesson in spatial rotation.
This drawing took me nearly four hours to complete. It is filled with normalcy and abnormality. Nobody has a nose like the man's, but the breast of the woman looks familiar. And so it goes — I am testing the waters of abstraction versus traditional figuration. For me, this is becoming a forever problem. Besides my addressing this issue of abstract forms versus more naturally derivative forms, I would like to point out the complexity of this drawing's space. The drawing, after all, is on a two dimensional piece of paper. Wandering through its space is a deceit, driven by form, perspective, light and shadow, and line. In this drawing, and in the drawing reproduced in my previous blog post, I have used lines to create surface values which simultaneously drive and animate space. The easiest place to see this occur is on the top of the box on which the woman sits.
It is important to me that you look carefully at one minor element: the woman's left hand. I drew that over and over, till it felt right, at least five times.
Here I come...
This process is not easy, not at all, and... I wish it were easy! Wishing gets nothing, doing does. The more I do this the greater the force of my insight: I must move away from figuration. Figuration, for me, had become a dead end. I want to express using painterly purity: color, form, composition, surface energy, and light. If I remained fettered to the figure I would have concerned myself with thoughts of physiognomy and anatomy. This diversion had removed me from the direct and the simple, and the possibility of true expression. Authentication of my primary impetus, to find meaning through making art, had become impossible. It is no wonder that it took me so much time, and energy, to complete the last two paintings you can see on my website, MEHRBACH.com, i.e. the triptych and diptych (Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014 and Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014). My time and energy were me seeking true expression. I was a true detective, but I missed vital clues. The struggle to get it right was the major clue, and I missed it! This dumbfounded miss, this failure, had told its own story. I ignored the clue, and went on and on and on. Is this a problem now? Was this a failure from which I learned nothing? No, no, no! I am a better man for it! Today I begin a new painting. Watch me crow!!!
Every now and then I get so involved in the emotional impact of a work in process that I do not remember to properly check its anatomy. Is this good or bad? I am unsure. I believe the emotional impact should trump all other concerns. It is the emotional impact that secures the viewer's interest, and, after all, is the conduit to my personal expression. I am writing about the problems with the man's anatomy in the drawing reproduced below (from two days ago; I did not post yesterday). For some reason I wanted to depict the man from behind. He is looking up, with his scapulas in stress. It doesn't work properly because the neck begins too far down the back. I feel I could easily reverse him, making his back into his front by simply changing the scapulas to pectoral muscles (his hands and arms would have to be reversed too). I am not going to do it. I'm going to move on. BTW: I like the floating woman. I am especially pleased by her head, feet, tummy, and hands.
The right panel of the painting Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014 now plays well with the left panel. That done, I will now move onto refinements to the heads and the hands (i.e., the details).
Living & Learning.
I have been trying to talk myself into the belief that Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 is complete. But every time I touch the painting, it gets better. Yesterday I learned something important. I worked on the hands of the man in the right panel. I was startled by the importance of these hands, not just because of the emotional expression they add to the figure, but also compositionally. The fingers on his right hand (on viewer's left) act as a small plane which helps the viewer fall into the composition using its third-dimensional aspect. I am bolstered by this success. That right man's hands are not complete, but I will wait a day or two for the oil to dry before completing them. Today I will work on the woman's feet in the left panel. Tomorrow I will report to you my perception of this seemingly minor change. I thought the man's hands I changed yesterday to be a minor alteration. Perhaps defining the the woman's feet will be just as important as the man's hands. I really would like to move onto the next painting, but the knowledge I am absorbing as I continue to work on Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 is just too important. What I learn now will stay with me forever.
I wrote in yesterday's post that I am accepting my total fascination with the surfaces of three-dimensional forms. You can see this in yesterday's drawing. Yesterday I reproduced a Lucian Freud etching in order to exhibit a common thread between him and I. Today I show you an early Matisse, where he, in his imitable way, plays with the color and light on the three-dimensional surface of the face and upper torso of a woman.
In the order I like them.
It is difficult for me to go through the ups and downs of internal, physical, intellectual, and consequently, creative energy. The last few days feel creatively low. But, who am I to judge? I am just the guy making the stuff. In any case, right now I feel today will be the day I return to full creativeness. Yesterday was a typical day of energy seeping back in, a day of returning to the way I prefer to feel. Yesterday's middle drawing is the best, so I show it first. My interest in surface it apparent in drawings #2 and #3. These exhibit my great interest in the emotional subtlety that minor forms emote within the overall form of the human face. Knowing this, I looked back at the works of Lucian Freud, which is a relevant comparison (see an image of a work by Lucian Freud after my work).
This drawing is all I have from yesterday. It seems to be a celebration and exploration of drawing skills. I have little to say because I don't feel great emotional attachment to this drawing. It was pleasurably analytical in the making.
Right & Wrong.
Right: The changes to the man in the left panel.
Recently I have been wondering, "Why am I drawing so much?" Now I know. For the first time I feel I got that man on the left right! Weird as it seems, all those recent drawings brought me to a simple change in his jaw line, which led to a simple change in his neck. That is a boring technical detail. It is expression I am seeking, and technical problems must be solved to solve the problems with expression. This painting, Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014, can now (hurray & hurrah) come to conclusion. Apparently I have been waiting for the solution of this little detail. Happily it will inform me going forward, thus reducing the time it will take me to complete future paintings. And, wow, do I want to go forward to the next painting. Yesterday I began preparation of the second of the three canvases for my next painting, a triptych. To get there faster than I have with Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 I will use paint sticks and acrylic markers to draw the initial composition.
Wrong: The reproduction of yesterday's drawing.
To photograph yesterday's drawing I moved the lights closer than usual, thinking I would be able to reproduce the drawing better if it were more brightly lit. Instead, the lighting on the drawing's surface was inconsistent and the lower part of the drawing washed out. No matter, this is not one of the better drawings among the recent ones, so there is no great need to make an effort to reproduce it better than seen here. Obviously, I am experimenting with the problems of photographing for reproduction, and this failure is just one more note along the way to better reproductions.
At last, a man I can accept!
Today's version of Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 is one that is nearly final. At this point there are minor, albeit well understood, final touches to be made. I don't see any more grand and complicated problems. Hallelujah!
Yesterday's drawings are me playing with the head and neck as expressive forms, examining the major and minor surfaces as light and shadow. These were done after I painted. Having struggled for several days with the man-on-the-left's head I wanted to celebrate my presently visceral and available knowledge in drawing.
Yesterday was all about the painting Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014, now in its 36th state. Good stuff happened, and it is getting there, but it will take a few more revisions before I find it fully acceptable. Small things continue to bother me. The man in the left panel is almost right, but his lips are too small. Once again, zooming in makes all look better. Which means the intermediate and close viewing distances work well, but the longer distance, as seen on my screen, needs repair. Remember, this painting is 10 feet across, so the figures are approximately life size, especially the one's in the left panel.
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