The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
Firing off a hundred shots like a crazed paparazzo, I sailed on, as rich as Croesus. It’s the same feeling I get when staggering out of a public library, arms laden with books. Always the cheap date....
I’ve been thinking longingly about these digitals since then. Finally, there was enough clear floor space this week to gesso some canvases because my soul is begging for colour. This time of the year is the only season that stubbornly refuses to provide much in the way of beauty. In fact, yesterday in the park may as well have been a white-flagged surrender to drabness, so painting was a must. That Salt Spring glow of dawn beckoned, demanding a long horizontal (36 x 24) format.
My intent is to develop the painting through colour blocking. Pam Carter, the Scottish landscape artist who regularly paints this way, earns my admiration for her juicy blocks of colour. It is misleading to assume that there is no sophistication in this style — Carter’s expanses are full of subtlety and masterful blending — so I too am looking to set up masses of what is apparently a single colour, but which are full of mixed colours and quiet transitions. While Carter uses a high-key palette as I often do, this painting will be closer to the pastel register. Time for stronger colour once my eyes adjust to spring.
In her exquisite novel, The Winter Vault, Anne Michaels describes an ancient Nubian village about to be lost forever to the Aswan Dam construction, a human tragedy compounded by an aesthetic one. Here is Michaels' gorgeous word-painting, which I visualize as colour blocking:
The houses were like gardens sprung up in the sand after a rainfall. As if cut by Matisse’s scissors, shapes of pure colour - intense and separate - were painted onto the glowing white walls. Designs of cinnamon, rust, phthalocyanine free, rose antwerp blue, tan, cream, madder, lamp black,sienna,and ancient yellow ochre,perhaps the oldest pigment used by man. Each a shout of joy. Embedded in the whitewashed walls were decoration - designs of brightly coloured lime wash, bright as the eye could bear - geometric patterns, plants, birds and animals - with mosaics set into the plaster like jewels, and snail shells, and polished pebbles. Over the gates were elaborately painted china plates, as many as thirty or forty decorating a single house. They were like stones of a necklace set against the white skin - porous, breathing, cool - of the plaster. Here was human love of place so freely expressed, alive with meaning; houses so perfectly adapted to their context in materials and design that they could never be moved. It was an integrity of art, domestic life, landscape…. (131-2)
If my new painting has a theme so full of love, it has something to do with the hope that each dawn brings, a hope bolstered by the survival of such a paradise -- a theme that must, however, be delivered wordlessly.
All I've done so far is to establish the blocks of colour— once this dries I will do some glazing but thinly so as suggest rather than emphasize the mood. No hard edges. I also have a crow and a buoy or two to place in focal points. Playing around with titles, I think today’s best candidate is “Little Cat Feet.” Lots to do.
(Another small hope - that it will be dry in time for the show!)