Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Big Challenge

I have been working on a Caravaggio copy, Supper at Emmaus, recently. It has been something I have been wanting to do for a few years after starting a copy of his Saint Francis in Ecstasy, a painting I failed to complete. Since then I've been wanting to take on the challenge again. This painting will be important not only because I'm expecting to learn from it, but because it will make me aware of my talent, and because it will hang on the wall of someone I love. I will not say who, or for what occasion this painting is for because it will ruin the surprise.
The downside is that I set an unreal deadline for the painting. I thought I was going to complete it in four weeks, including the stretching and priming of the canvas. I'm nearing the middle of week two and so far the composition is not even outlined. The most important thing is to complete a good painting, so if it takes me double the time allotted for it than so be it. It will be worth it in the end.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

On Rothko

He's never left my mind, especially after encountering one of his large paintings at the San Francisco MoMA. For quite some time I have admired Mark Rothko's paintings; he has been my idol and during the last couple of semesters at the Hartford Art School, he was the inspiration for my large abstract paintings. His work was an obsession I couldn't shake off, and every time I looked through Rothko books at the library I would gasp for air and feel my soul wanting to escape from my body. This kind of response intensifies to greater heights when I come face to face with the real thing, and a few weeks ago I stood in front of No.14, 1960, mesmerized and speechless.
It was a painting difficult to miss. The large canvas at the end of the hall could be seen from galleries away, framed by multiple doorways as it hung on its wall like a light at the end of a long dark tunnel. As any Rothko painting, it called out to me; it enchanted me from afar and the closer I got to it the more it had me. Standing in front of a Mark Rothko painting is like being in the presence of the divine. No.14 towered over me and the color jumped from the surface intoxicating me. Quite an experience from an object constructed out of raw materials such as canvas, oil, pigment, and wooden stretchers. But Rothko had a way of creating magic with his materials, a gift that requires more than simple technical education from any painter.
Rothko was a blessed man. In each painting he tried to understand the mystery of life and through the use of bold color combinations and blurred rectangular shapes Rothko was able to materialize the power of emotions. I have begun to understand that a lot of his paintings are not representations of happy ideas or times. The intensity of his color and the immensity of the painting surface are overwhelming statements capable of bringing the viewer to tears. For a painting dominated by a fiery orange vermilion, No.14, is a deep and private work; it draws you into a dark space. Mission accomplished I have to say since for Rothko all that mattered most was that art show drama and tragedy.
As I got lost looking at the painting I didn't know whether if I should smile or cry, and this is not an exaggeration since the impact his work has on me can never be put into words. My body simply reacts in strong ways I've only felt when I've lost or gained something important in my life. I will never be able to put my finger on that it factor that Rothko has, but my reactions to his painting will not change as I come across more of his canvases hanging on museum walls.

*Photograph courtesy of Justin Ames

Monday, July 07, 2008

Still Painting

I resumed work on the red onion painting tonight. I'm starting to get the feel of it, better than the last time I worked on it. My goal for this painting is to experiment with colors I haven't worked with. So far I'm pleased with the progress although I feel the palette needs a little more fine tuning. But this is only the start so there's no need to get to obsessed with minute details.