Sunday, November 28, 2010

Synchronicity in distant dusty corners so very close to home

1960's era reproduction of the Portrait of Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan
by Thomas Gainsborough.
Click on image to enlarge
Yesterday, I stood before this very painting at the Cincinnati Art Museum. As I had posted recently, this portrait of Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Elizabeth Linley) was my favourite non Pre-Raphaelite painting of all time. While it was great to get the exhibition catalogue with a lovely reproduction of the painting on one of its pages what I really wanted was something I could hang on my studio wall. Also, I had been planning to go over to Patti Fairbanks' Antique Shop where I live in Paris, Kentucky to do a little Christmas shopping but since I was working on a painting today, I thought I might not go after all. As I worked, I just kept getting the feeling I should go to Fairbanks Antiques anyway so I took a break to let the sunlight work its way over to the studio and hopped in the car and set out for the antique shop. While there, I'd do the originally intended Christmas shopping.

Fairbanks Antiques is in a vastly expanded and better organised location that at one time had been a downtown Paris hardware store that Patti filled with everything from her previous separate locations. Patti and her sister Lee did a fantastic job organising all the books and more. I found a couple of gifts, so I decided I was going through every nook and cranny making two circuits of the shop. Hung on the wall in a crowded corner near the front of the store was the portrait of Mrs. Sheridan in a perfect size and in a frame that fits well with the studio. I can only imagine how wide my eyes must have been when I gently lifted the picture off its hook. Dusty but in good shape. I thought I should be taking the money for this and buying someone else a gift, but at the same time I was afraid I would never see this vintage reproduction ever again so I bought it along with the stocking stuffers I found for Valerie. As I had written before, various photocopies of this painting had been tacked on studio walls for years.

Yesterday, I felt sad that I couldn't come back and visit the original painting as often as I wanted because it wasn't part of the Cincinnati Art Museum permanent collection. The original painting has a very strong presence as though something of the soul of the subject resided in the painting. That's a quality I want my paintings to have and because I knew I would likely never see this painting again went back upstairs one more time with Valerie while a friend who travelled with us was perusing the gift shop to say goodbye to dear Mrs. Sheridan. Mrs. Sheridan looked a little sad too.

Is it just my deepening into middle age or are synchronicities on the increase? I've experienced some wonderful synchronicities in the last few years of which today's would both be minor and somewhat profound. Minor because (it's a probably 1960's) reproduction of a 1780's painting but profound because its a vintage reproduction of a painting that I literally stood in front of only 24 hours before. A painting that normally resides at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. A painting that I would gaze at in my copy of The World of Gainsborough and dreamed of seeing for real. What's next? Standing in front of John William Waterhouse's 1888 version of The Lady of Shalott? Sir Frank Dicksee's 1903 La Belle Dame Sans Merci ? I already have lovely prints of those paintings on my wall so if there is to be a synchronicity involving those works, it will have to come about another way....Something wonderful I hope....

One painting finished, another started

I have to admit a lot of the time spent when the weather was warm was spent on working on my 1968 Plymouth Fury VIP. But that didn't mean I had stopped painting altogether. I finished a three quarter length portrait of Charlotte Harwell and have started another painting based on a photograph of Valerie I took recently.

The painting below is a birthday portrait of Charlotte Harwell. I have written elsewhere about her personal significance to me as an artist so I won't repeat all of that here. What is different in this painting is that it was completed in three working days, but if you broke it down into actual hours perhaps less than twenty four from start to finish. While Charlotte has been a decades long inspiration to me, I think that what is happening is that my style is undergoing some changes that are becoming more manifest in the last year or so. It has been commented to me that my style while continuing in the Victorian/English Pre-Raphaelite/romantic influence has begun to pare down somewhat.

Portrait of Charlotte Anne Harwell, 2010, acrylic and coloured pencil on cold press watercolour paper, 22x30 inches. Collection of the artist.
 By paring down, I mean I seem to be getting more to the core of the subject and less on large amounts of detail that slow down the actual act of painting. Last year's portrait of Charlotte also went very quickly though that painting would certainly seem to have more overall detail. In some respects I may still be too close to what I'm doing to properly get across what I think is happening. Whatever it is, I hope it results in better paintings.

Portrait of Charlotte Anne Harwell, detail

Below is a painting I pencilled out about three weeks ago but have only just started putting down the coloured pencil under painting today. Again, reduced to core elements. This doesn't yet look as much like Valerie as I originally intended but while taking pictures of her in a wonderful sort of Goth/Medieval/Pre-Raphaelite batwing sleeve dress with a lace overlay Valerie assumed the pose that led to this painting. I eliminated the other background elements and objects that would have otherwise distracted from the lady and the gramophone.
Untitled, acrylic and coloured pencil, 22x28 inches
Like pretty much everything I do on watercolour paper, I like to combine the coloured pencil and the glazes of paint together keeping the virtues of both. As the painting progresses, I'll post work in progress photos. In between these posts, I may also have additional postings on the Lost and Beautiful Past Facebook page which is accessed from the lower front page of the website. Next to my link to return to my main website there is now a link to the Facebook page. If it seems too quiet here, check there. I sometimes post painting in progress photos there.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!