I am a notoriously slow painter. I have been known to take, at times, several months to complete a painting. In my defense, I often work on other smaller pieces when my inspiration and motivation for a complex, large work dries up -- so I'm rarely entirely unproductive, just switching back and forth. Still, it's unheard of for me to take a single piece from conception to completion in as short a time frame as, say, 3 weeks.
But that's what happened with this piece. I sketched the piece onto canvas and laid an underpainting onto the surface in the third week of January, and completed it the second week of February.
So what happened? Why the rush, why the sudden outburst?
First of all, I'll state the obvious: this painting is smaller than many of my larger pieces, which are usually 36"x48" at their largest. But at 24"x24," it's not diminutive either. I think it's more notable that I skipped my usual multiple thin washes of color, which must dry before I can begin to lay down thicker paint and the skin tones (and anything resembling the hue and tone that will eventually be prominent). No -- instead I went straight for it, in a more alla prima fashion, laying down colors that are at least close to what will eventually make up the final painting. The wash of solid color underneath is thought to lend critical depth, so I worried that skipping this step would result in flat, unrealistic, boring color.
I didn't need to worry.
It turns out I can't help but lay down swirling layer upon layer of color, both lowlights and highlights. The most passionate love affair of my creative life belongs to colors dialed to 11; crazy bright, bursting, buzzing electric colors so saturated they practically sweat excess pigment. Despite this, my eye still seeks out respites of cool, earthy, tones -- phthalo turquoise ropes of veins encircling a wrist; diluted violet and ultramarine eye sockets -- as these just serve to bring out pops of warmth even more.
It turns out, it actually helps me to not swing my colors in any one direction in the beginning. When I ground a painting in a single color at first, I too often strive for the rest of the piece to create equilibrium, a calm realism, something that feels 'normal.' And I have to say, the result can still be interesting, but it's not nearly as unique to my specific artistic style. It doesn't feel as 'me,' whatever that means.
These images were shot with my phone, so they can only go so far to show you the real quality of the piece. Therefore, I'm only sharing detail shots here. I'll share another update -- showing the piece in full -- when it's professionally scanned into a print-quality high resolution image next week.