I’ve been writing about my art here in terms of technique and how I go about making the different types of things that I do but now I thought I’d start writing about a specific pieces. I’ll begin with the last painting that I made because it’s still sitting on my easel and is fresh in my mind. So why not?

One of the problems with an artist writing about their own work is that they often don’t know why they do a certain thing. Sometimes you get and idea and then put a line or brush stroke down to see if it works. Then it either does or it doesn’t. At times it’s explainable and at times it’s not. It can get tricky. With things that are explainable I often have two different points of view on. The first point of view is of me, the artist, who made the painting and knows how it got from point A, nothingness, to point B, a finished painting. That’s the insider’s point of view. Because I made it I know things about the painting that others don’t.

But I also have the same outsider’s point of view just like everybody else. I’m looking at a finished painting and what does it mean? As time goes by I may even forget a lot about the making of the painting so my insider’s view gets hazy. Most artists I know find stuff they’ve forgotten they’ve even done when digging through piles of old work. Sometimes the memory of doing it comes back and sometimes it doesn’t. The insider’s view can fade but the outsider’s view is always there.

The insider/outsider point of view thing is especially at play in my work because I like to pull images out of my mind that I might not be conscious of, know where they come from, or what they mean. I might not be an outsider on how the painting is made but I can be an outsider on what it means. Of course I like the search for meaning and that’s what things are often about.

The name of this painting is “Fun in the Fall”. Don’t look for any meaning in the name since I go with whatever pops into my head after I’m done making a drawing. I need names to distinguish between drawings. I used to not name things but as the years when by it became impossible to organize, write, or talk about my work if they had no names. Now I put a name on the drawing and that is that. No mater if it becomes a painting, a print, a marker drawing, or whatever else I stick with the name I gave it as a drawing.

“Fun in the Fall” isn’t one of my more mysterious paintings since it’s all about a face and hair. Faces are one of my favorite subjects and I return to them again and again. This is also one of my eighteen by twenty four inch acrylic on canvas paintings. It sat on my easel for quite a while. I hadn’t worked on any canvases for months before I put this one on the easel and started it up. Then I hated it. I felt like I was going through the motions of making a painting and didn’t like how it was coming out. So it sat on my easel for another month. Finally I decided that I’d better go through the motions of painting or I would never finish it. So that’s what I did. I kept on painting until I finally figured out what I was doing. Sometimes going through the motions is bad and other times it’s good. How about that?

The first thing I notice about this is the composition. It’s diagonal. I like to work with geometry and grids in my compositions and occasionally have diagonals cut across all those verticals and horizontals. This is one of them. There are four major diagonals in this painting. That’s a lot. The two lines of his hair from top to left and right, the line of his cheek from left to right, and the line of his other cheek plus shoulder from right to left. The horizontal lines on the bottom create a horizon for the picture to sit on but the composition is all about diagonals.

I called this painting “He” but it could just as well be a she. The faces I draw can be quite androgynous since they slide away from reality into a place of simplified drawing. Often I’m not intentionally drawing a man of a woman but in the end I tend to assign them a gender in my mind. Sometimes people assign them the other gender in their mind when they see them. It has startled me from time to time when I hear someone say “She” when I’m thinking “He” but that’s okay. Like I said I pull drawings out of the weird recesses of my mind and often I don’t know what they are. So if this painting is of a woman to you that’s fine with me because I’m not positive of the gender.

After working on this painting for a long time and putting down brush stroke after brush stroke what finally made me like it were the eyes, the pink spiral, and the small orange brush strokes around the outside of the face. With my simplified drawing style eyes can be hard to paint. There are not a lot of ways to paint simple eyes and I was tired of all the ones I usually use. So I stumbled onto this method where I make them a bit gear-like. I think I’ve used it before but not in a while. It broke up the outline of the pupil an a way that pleased me.

Breaking up the outline of the whole face with little brush strokes of orange pulled the whole painting together for me. The brown outline around the face was too strong and obvious. I needed it to be weaker than the diagonals. I used orange bits there as they harmonize well with brown and connect with the orange shirt. Before I put those orange brush strokes down something was missing but after all was well.

The final thing that makes this painting for me is the pink spiral. I like spirals and use them often but they’re not as easy as you’d think to pull off and they don’t come together until the end of making a painting. This one works compositionally as a third point in a triangle with the two eyes. A triangle within the triangle of the hair. More diagonals. It’s also a color in isolation. With the green hair, the orange shirt, the purple fence (wall maybe?), and the brown face it’s secondary colors that dominate this painting. The blue background and the red lips are the only primary colors. The pink spiral is the only color tint (a color plus white) on the painting so it stands out and keeps the eye moving around the composition. I like to keep the eye moving.

So there you go. That’s my insider/outsider analysis of this piece. I’m not sure how much I helped anyone out but I’m going to write a few more and see what I can come up with.