I currently have two paintings at the New Hampshire Art Association’s Robert Levy Gallery in Portsmouth, NH, as part of this month’s “Feed the Soul” group show. I created them late in December specifically for the show, because I wanted to experiment with smaller, simpler canvases. Here is what I came up with:
Both are on smaller canvases than what I usually work on. Each one is 20 by 16 inches. My idea as to try putting up something that is smaller and more affordable and see if that helps them sell.
Well, remember, my theme for this website is “Painting for fun and profit.”
I’m a member of the New Hampshire Art Association and every year they have a holiday show for members in December. Even though as a Baha’i I don’t celebrate Christmas, I do enjoy all of the visuals of the season – the lights, the ornaments, the shows, and, especially, the evergreen trees and wreaths. (Love the piney smell.)
So I decided to paint something in a holiday theme especially for the show, and this is what I came up with, which I titled “Tannenbaum,” which is, of course, German for “Christmas Tree” or “pine tree.”
I usually don’t work with any specific visual image. I prefer to work in a pure abstract fashion. As my friend and painter Robert Wilson told me recently: An abstract artist “should work in pure thought, and pure thought is that not influenced by any ideologies or opinions.” Or, in my case, any preconceived images.
Of course, many artists do start with some idea or conception. And I usually have some kind of a notion when I start a painting. But in this case, I tried to visualize a Christmas tree stand, all light up with red lights or globes, in a snow storm. And that’s what I came up with.
I also put an earlier painting into the show:
which I shamelessly renamed “Holiday Traffic” in an effort a pure commercialism. And guess what? Someone liked it and bought it.
Is this the power of a name? Or the beauty of the work? I hope it is the beauty of the work.
I went into a flurry of painting yesterday, during a late-season snow storm. I had several canvases I’ve been working on for a while, but not quite satisfied with them. But then I “discovered” a new way to add paint to my canvases — and I was happy with the results. Here is the first one I completed:
I was working simultaneously on another old canvas, and I decided to go with some cooler colors, blues and yellows, and here is the result:
And I also produced this one, working quickly on a blank canvas and using a combination of methods, new and old.
Above is a new painting that I completed last weekend. I hang new works on my wall outside my home office where I can encounter them during the week, to see how much I like them. That’s how I decide if a painting is done or whether it needs more work. And I finally decided this one is complete, and that, for now, I like it a lot.
As you can see, it is composed of many layers. That is part of my creative process. I start with some tiny idea and then begin applying paint to see where it takes me. If I see something I like, I start to build on that and then branch out from there.
So this new painting, which I call Three Red Figures, emerged from that process. I started with a big canvas – in this case four feet by three feet – and laid on a base layer of white and some black.
Then I began to lay in some blocks of color. I usually work with primary colors. I want my paintings to be bright and bold and exciting, and primary colors do that.
Then I hung it outside my office for a while and decided it needed more. So I took it back downstairs and began to work on top of that, eventually hitting on the long horizontal strokes that became the real basis for the painting.
Then I added some yellow and red splashes. And then three central red figures. And finally some white wash over that, followed by some other washes of color.
For me, the beauty of it all – the fun of it – is NOT to have a real thought process behind it all. (Hence the “abstract” in abstract painting.) It is about letting go, and being free. It is about not having linear thoughts. As I’ve indicated, my real training and profession is as a journalist and writer. And all day, I am mostly consumed with putting one concrete idea in front of another, and applying those ideas to a different sort of canvas (a computer screen, mostly).
So what I like about painting is to abandon all of that linear thinking and just see what happens on the canvas. To open some tubes or cans of paint and just to start what I call “throwing paint” on a canvas. (This is not necessarily literally throwing, although sometimes that does happen.) And to see where the journey goes.
As you can see, I am continuing to experiment with a particular style that uses very light strokes of many colors all over the painting. I work somewhat randomly until I see patterns emerge, and then I try to amplify those patterns. And in this case, I decided it needed more structure at the end, hence the six white lines.
For me, painting is all about experimentation and exploration. I haven’t really settled on a style yet. I am only guided by what I like.
Plus I have a whole basement full of experiments gone wrong. Stuff I don’t like. Maybe I’ll post a few of those at some point, just for fun. Which is what this whole thing is all about.
I also uploaded a couple of older ones today.
This last one is one of Ruwa’s favorites. It currently resides over he desk in her office. It is actually one of my earliest experiments in this particular all over style, which I don’t really have a name for yet. Well, Ruwa and I refer to it as the “cheh-cheh-cheh” style, kind of onomatopoeia for the sound it makes when I dab the paint on in fast, rapid strokes.
By profession, I am a journalist and writer. I spent seven years in the early 1980s working as a reporter for The Boston Globe, covering northern New England and later science and technology. Since 1987 I’ve worked for the Baha’i International Community as an information officer, writing about human rights, international development, and the United Nations and the Community’s involvement with those topics. In this work, I’ve traveled to more than 35 countries.
I’ve long been deeply interested in the visual arts. I studied photography and film-making in college. And my interest in images has been greatly influenced by my work as a journalist and editor and my travels around the world.
My explorations with abstract painting are a relatively recent effort. I took up painting in the early 2000s, mainly as a form of pure expression, and have worked more steadily at it over the last few years. I find it an important contrast or counterpoint to my daily professional occupation with words.
Although not formally trained as a painter, I’ve spent many hours studying paintings in museums when I travel. I find myself greatly influenced by painters like Mark Tobey, Jackson Pollack, and Gerhard Richter.
My goal is to experiment with color and form in such a way so as to create images that, without words or descriptions, are aesthetically pleasing. Another goal to express a sense of spiritual beauty and wonder, perhaps influenced by my understanding of the Baha’i Faith.