|Figure & Field|
Except for regular days of drawing, I spent July re-working two paintings that I’d started and set aside several years ago. One is still unfinished, the other is the painting I’d like to talk about here, “Figure & Field.”
At 36” x 36”, it isn’t an especially large canvas, but it is bit bigger than ones I’ve worked on in the past. Painters know that an exact square isn’t the easiest shape to use. A lot of people prefer working just off the square, at 48”x 42 ”, for example. Coming up with a non-static composition can be a challenge in a square format—it certainly was for me.
Version 1 was basically a recording of the original pose with the model. All other versions were developed in the studio, though I did make additional drawings from the model to re-think the image. In version 1, you can see me struggling to use color--variation to come to terms with form. This is NOT something I recommend, but it’s often been a fall-back position for me. A more solid and confident structuring of the initial image would have saved a lot of time and eliminated a lot of problems. Yet these same seemingly avoidable problems became essential entry points to the painting.
Versions 3 & 5 shifted the color and pose. The painting became more naturalistic and stiffer at the same time. There were also other changes starting to take hold: the overall tone was growing quieter and a rhythm was developing between areas of flatness and deeper space.
Version 7 took a wide U-turn, exaggerating form through contour and color abstraction. It was a necessary advance, but a jarring one. It displaced the intricate balance between observation and invention, a balance I had to spend many days recalibrating. Once again, false moves were just as useful as positive steps; they both led me to the completed work.
There are at least two fields in the final painting, the one the figure looks toward and the field of her back. (This last is the likeliest focal point for the viewer). As in many figure paintings, there are also two viewers, one inside and one outside the frame. Though they’re involved in separate acts, they remain connected, nonetheless. They share the same occupation: the making sense of a world.
“Figure & Field” has its own life now and I’m moving on to other paintings. Still, this one remains important to me. It’s taught me a little more about keeping my head through the roller coaster of process, the finding, losing and regaining of insight.