Had a major session with this image yesterday, had not worked on it in months. I could finally see her again. I love the image, a sort of Medusa, with the floating hair, and that expression that I love, the looking and the truth of that ray of light crossing her chest, straight over her heart. But somehow it had been difficult for me to achieve that stepping forward motion, that stepping up thing. As always, painting, the best painting, always illustrates real life and so it is again that my mind can learn from my own hand things it knew but did not know it knew...
Make no mistake, this woman is undergoing a major transformative process, and apparently it is not over yet as she materializes in and out of various skins, this being merely her latest molting. Currently she may appear to be lacking the top layer of her dermis and is perhaps looking a bit raw, but I have been working all day to get the underlaying structure of her new surface up to par, preparing for another layer, another skin.
I have also removed what was an almost comic book depiction of the surrounding water, and in doing so have obliterated her original background and completely redefined it.
I must wait a couple of days now before I go further, as tempting as it is to just keep going. The changes need time to sediment, and I must empty out my eyes and learn to see the image as an existing entity, not an accumulated history of 10,000 brushstrokes.
There is always a point in which the reality of visual experience (as far as we can tell) forfeits its sensory integrity and just plain gives in to all the rest of the information that surrounds it. Inevitably the image loses it's wholeness, splintering under the pressure of all that random orbiting data, related and unrelated, coincidental and derivative, all that other stuff, pushing and pulling, doolittle's pushmepullyou. That is my favorite visual place, I like to linger midstream.
Midway through this painting, however, I received a photo of Vivian out of the water and I started to pull some of the distortions back. And then I received another in which half of VIvian's face was outside of the water. Normally no part of my images emerges from their amniotic wateriness, but I want to think that this image is different. We shall see. I have gone perhaps too far into description, but I sort of have a plan to build a bridge between the two worlds...
It is a struggle to balance the distortion while retaining the description, a careful balance, a constant search into what can be moved, removed and how much can be added, a drop, a ray of light, a bubble. I am in the zone today, thinking about one of my great spiritual mentors, Chuck Close, whose book I was reading yesterday among other things, and all the random lovely vibrating particles which are no longer dots, but strings, strings of light and energy, strings of color and joy. Tomorrow I will keep working on the features, darken the lips, lighten the eyes, re-draw the contours...and when I get it right it will finally be time to unify the universe with a bit of harmony and glazing
Starting to lay down some flesh tones, creating a continuum of human skin tones that travel with the light diagonally from lower left to upper right. I will need to revise form soon to balance the distortion with the description and then (and only then) activate the surface with the calligraphic strings of light. Today I will be establishing the arms and face as dissolving three dimensional forms, a tricky balance, as usual, between description and decoration, illusion and surface tension...a valid metaphor for oh so many aspects of my life!
Give me a minute please to boil myself down to a single descriptive sentence...I am still working on this!