Monday, November 21, 2016

Painting the Faces of Misery – Capturing Emotional Pain

Many years ago, I was shopping for groceries. My gut felt raw as I floated around the store in an “out-of-body” trance. I was going through a difficult divorce, and felt empty and forlorn.

There were no relatives nearby where I could seek comfort. I was completely alone. My heart was broken. A clerk, seeing only the superficial face I put forward remarked, “My god, can’t you at least smile?”

I must have looked pretty bad. My first thought was that he had no idea what I was going through. I was certainly in no condition to smile or talk. I tried to fake a smile, but it was impossible. I was in misery and I couldn’t hide it. His remarks had made me feel even worse.

My crooked smile, lopsided eyes, and fun-house features were simply revealing my inner emptiness and utter brokenness.

Later when I became an artist, I realized that you can’t paint misery and hurt unless you understand the underlying emotions that caused the pain in the first place.

For example, grief after a loved one’s death is different from the shattered grief of divorce. 

In a good marriage there are fond memories and the loss can be shared with friends and loved ones who knew well our partner or spouse. After a divorce, you don’t want to share the failure and the tragic details with anyone.

"Brokenhearted" 9 x 12 Pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame
Anger between loved ones is different from that between strangers or friends. The emotions cut deeper. The fragility of ego and insecurity add to the exploding feelings. There is often far more to lose. The relationship hangs by a thread unless you can get past anger’s unpredictable course. Forgiveness is almost mandatory. The anger with others is sometimes quickly forgotten. There is no intimacy or long-held expectations that stretch the ties that bind.

Try to create studies of people’s emotional reactions. Distinguish the simple breakdown between different kinds of anger and pain.

These subtle differences may slightly change the tilt of the mouth or a wrinkle in the nose. Emotions may be altered only by pushing one eyebrow upward to change an expression. Glassy eyes may add to the sadness. Body language and the way the hand is used to cover up what others see adds another dimension.

Practice will make these changes better over time. Be observant and find out what happens when slight movement gives your markings life and nuance. Your scenes will have more energy and drama; your story on canvas will become more dramatic, more interesting, and definitely more real.

"Serena Shines" Pastel on Bristol, matted
person’s face is like a road map of the life they’ve lived and the things they’ve experienced. Once you have mastered unhappy faces, go on to those of joy and passion.

The decisions you make about “center of interest” must be made before you put one brush or pencil to canvas; where the face goes so goes the body. Every emotion portrayed must agree with the body language expressed.

"A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 Patel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The People have Spoken; it is Time for Acceptance

This was a tempestuous election. I think the media was responsible for fueling most of the misinformation and angst. Their failure to report the truth, and to manipulate polls and push their own bias rather than straight reporting caused much of what’s happening in our streets today. In any case, those who lost are displaying sour grapes as they gnash their teeth in disgust like naughty, spoiled children.

Whether these agitators are professional protesters paid to stir up trouble is in question. Many of them come from other places and are being transported to different areas. I can understand their disappointment, but I do not excuse their violence and property destruction. Protesting is one thing; rioting or breaking the law is quite another.

Before the election of Donald Trump, Hillary’s campaign message was “We will build bridges not walls.” Now that the election is over, I ask, where are those bridges? Was this just hyperbole? What I’m seeing in the streets looks more like “Our way or the Highway.”

Brute force should never be used to get your own way. Have you ever seen conservatives riot and destroy? And when did liberals stop defending “free speech” except for themselves? When did the press start publishing opinions and stop reporting the news?

In times like these, artists need to be more productive not less. How would you paint chaos? What colors would you choose to explain violence, protest, and hatred: black, red, orange, and white?

Would you illustrate politics using angry reds with shades of bittersweet? Would your depressed psych slather on rainy grays and blue blues to represent your sadness? Wouldn’t it be great in our divided world if people could express their anger or sorrow in words or in artistry instead of unproductive and destructive demonstrations that only add fuel to the fire?

"Victims of War" 24 x 18, Mixed Media on canvas

When the Iraq war was at its peak, I chose to illustrate my feelings on canvas. Who are the real victims in the wars that are usually started by men? The women and children. My purpose was to show how history, especially in the Middle East has a tendency to repeat itself, over and over again.

Most fighting in the Middle East begins as religious wars between Sunni and Shiite. Why the U.S. inserted itself into these cultural wars was never fully explained. Was it to help the people become a democracy? At least that would have been a noble endeavor. No. the real reason was likely oil; and efforts to protect our own selfish interests.

Driven by men with big egos these wars have lasted far too long and seem to have no end. The countries have dissolved into terrorism and vicious hatred toward their liberators viewing them instead as captors.

Many called President Obama the “Divider in Chief” because he spawned racism and created an underbelly of lawlessness. Now the Left’s protesters are blaming Trump for the division simply because he won. We are not a democracy, but a republic, friends. As in sports, the best team or man always wins. This is the will of the people. Trump won by a landslide. He has been given a “mandate” and the will of the people must be respected.

When the infighting in Iraq was at its peak, I painted “Prayer Circles” out of respect for those around the world who worship in this way. Respect, tolerance and understanding are the hallmarks the left espouses at least until they lose. Come on people – you are better than that! Get a grip.

"Prayer Circles" 24 x 18 Acrylic on canvas

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bamboo is Strong; Resilient and Exotic

In Florida people often refer to bamboo as cane. There are so many varieties, that one word “cane” manages to cover them all.

For artists bamboo is more than a building material or a symbol of good luck. Bamboo has become the exotic favorite in paintings signifying well being and a good and prosperous life; more than that its jointed stalk is not only sturdy, but uniquely oriental in nature. Chinese and Japanese paintings almost always include a smattering of bamboo and sometimes include a Panda bear or two since bamboo is their main diet.

Indigenous in many parts of the world bamboo cane is used to construct houses, provide privacy and fencing, and in the construction of lasting dinnerware, utensils and furniture. In numerous countries, bamboo is the key ingredient to peaceful domesticity and protection.

Bamboo is a fast-growing plant; between two or three foot a year. The coverage is thick and vibrant providing a tall privacy hedge within two or three year’s time. This fast growth can also be controlled by pruning and purchasing clumping varieties. Some types grow vine-like strands across the ground that allows the bamboo to spread.

Many artists vary the existing colors to lend a bit of magic and aura to the finished painting. Examples in this blog of actual photos and artwork show the depth, design and creativity of each individual artist. I have toyed with the idea of creating a canvas of my own, but haven’t yet decided how to give it my own personal flavor. 

You may want to design your own unique original. There are myriad examples found on fabrics and textiles. Tommy Bahamas’ exquisite patterns on men’s shirts often use a palm frond motif along with hibiscus flowers and/or bamboo stalks and leaves. The Tropical and exotic when combined create sensational color and movement.