January inspires reflection and anticipation. I’m reminded of January’s namesake, the Roman god Janus, known for sporting two faces on one head, one face looking back to the past, the other forward to the future. This time of the year, we’re all Janus, aren’t we? This post will have a looking-back theme, specifically regarding the progression of my work during the past year.
Early last year, I responded to an inner calling to include figures in my paintings, to express universal narratives. (You can read the backstory here.) The transition from abstract work was awkward and clunky as I felt my way through the challenges and joys of figurative painting, but it was a rewarding one. It gave me focus and the opportunity to infuse the work with my DNA.
I chose works from each quarter of the year to represent studio activity at the time. These three are from the January, February and March of 2019. I choose to keep my figures symbolic and archetypal; the faces are obscured or indistinct to communicate universal experiences. Colors pop against each other; backgrounds are abstract and expressive, with collage animating the surface.
The representative paintings from April, May and June (below) show that collage and intense color remain consistent elements. My figures remain symbolic, but I’m dipping my toes into the pool of portraiture. The self-portrait is one of the first I’ve done in several years, serving as a refresher course on observational work. I discover Caran d’Ache crayons during this period, which give me tools for making marks. Self Portrait and Morning Coffee both have mark-making in the backgrounds. In Morning Coffee, the outlining of the figure appears here for the first time. I notice an attraction to the effects of light and shadow on the face and figure.
Works from July, August and September (below) show a continuation of the archetypal figure as well as a continuing interest in the human face. Faces and figures in ambiguous backgrounds are a solid part of my studio practice by now. I’m becoming more intentional about outlining both face and figure. The line flattens the subject in space and conveys a sense of universality. I begin to include the use of vintage black and white reference snapshots in my processes, as I did in Desert Visitor. (Reaching into the family archives.) Mark-making and patterned collage elements animate the backgrounds and help reveal the subject’s personality.
During October, November and December, I continue to mine a rich collection of family snapshots, while also looking for evocative faces and gestures in everyday life. I stumbled over corrugated cardboard as a painting surface (From waste to obsession). A trip to Caprock Canyon brought Texas iconography to the fore after a long absence, bringing surface and subject together in Quitaque Cowboy and Where’s My Horse? Revealing the cardboard’s fluting adds a rough texture that makes my heart happy. In Before I Knew Her, (read previous blog) I use crayons again for expressive mark-making combined with collage for a lively background. A tiny black and white snapshot inspires Fleeting Moments where I’m learning to use acrylic paint markers as possible replacements of Caran d’Ache crayons for making marks. The contrasts of light and shadow continue to appear.
I hope you’ll forgive the navel-gazing, but channeling of Janus by looking backward was instructional and affirming for me. I’m seeing direction and focus that doesn’t ignore my experimental nature. It will be fun to perform this same exercise January 2021. Do you notice something I didn’t? I’d love to read your comments.