Working intuitively

Posted on Sep 13, 2021 in General

I’m obligated, I suppose, to come up with a “statement” about these paintings, though hemming them in with words – and trying to be consistent – seems quite counterintuitive to the processes and experiences from which they came. Why was I so strongly attracted to icons decades ago, I don’t know, but it tied in very nicely with my interest in Matisse, who found icons quite exciting as well when he went to Moscow.  Taking some courses in traditional iconography was fascinating, and certainly informed my understanding of them, but following that very rigorous spiritual path was ultimately not for me, and I didn’t enjoy egg tempera one bit.  It’s very important to me to have a sensuous enjoyment of the materials.

I wanted to use already established compositions of historical icons (as orthodox icon painters do, working from patterns), yet feel free to alter them, combine them, or edit them. Layers of sheer colors with dry pigments dissolved in casein emulsion solution wouldn’t necessarily follow traditional color symbolism – unless I wanted them to. I could also add oils as a glaze, or as a scumbled layer.  As for religious narrative – it sometimes goes, sometimes stays. During this past difficult year, it has tended to stay more than not, even if only suggested.

What I particularly enjoy about this way of making paintings is that I honestly have no idea in advance what they will turn out to be. An element of composition in an icon or several icons catches my interest, or a juxtaposition of patterns and colors, or even a feeling – and off it goes until it seems like the painting’s done, or done enough. The painting has (I hope) a coherence in its visual relationships, and a beautiful surface (yes, a surface for the eyes to touch), and maybe a gestalt that can entice the viewer into a moment of stillness and contemplation.

I have no agenda other than to allow various visual influences in my life to play with me, and see what happens. If that turns out to speak to others in some way, that’s a nice thing.

Years ago I had a picture of myself as a painter: No figures. No narratives. Direct alla prima painting in oil from observation, trying to nail down the ephemeral character of light in nature. This current way of working couldn’t feel more different in many ways. I wonder if I’ll ever want to go outside and paint a tree again.



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