Sunday, January 29, 2006

Breathe Deep the Gathering Gloom....

Some of you may surmise from the title of today's post that I'm a big Moody Blues fan. Nights in White Satin, they just don't write lyrics like that song anymore. "Cold hearted orb that rules the night, removes the colors from our sight, red is grey and yellow white...." Today I struggled with a nocturne. I have a very vivid memory of a trip out into Fallujah shortly after first arriving here. Under a blazing full moon we visited a gothic nightmare of a place called Observation Post Ethan. Getting into OP Ethan was like entering the decaying skeletal remains of a leviathan. The building's roof was flayed off of the rafters and hanging in fleshy tatters. To get to the main part of the OP you had to cross a courtyard thick with the dendrus of battle and, in the light of a full moon, combed by the exposed rafter's jagged shadows. I returned to OP Ethan during the day and took photos. Today I attempted to translate those day photos into a night scene. In preparation I googled "paintings, moonlight" and happened on a wonderful exhibition the National Gallery of Art put together a couple years ago devoted to Frederic Remington called "The Color of Night". Here's a quote that blew me away:

Layered, complex, and technically innovative, these images of night are also profoundly personal works of art. Filled with danger, threatened violence, and menacing silence, they mirror—metaphorically—Remington's experience of war.

Apparently Remington, after covering the Spanish American War in Cuba for Colliers Weekly, returned changed in significant ways both creatively and personally.

"Menacing silence" expresses perfectly what I was after. Nocturnes are very difficult to create. Remington was known for them as was Whistler and a Pennsylvania Impressionist named George Sotter. I haven't got it quite figured out yet, but it seems that your palette needs to be tuned heavily in the key of green, which, like sour apples, isn't always the most pleasing experience. But I gave it a shot and here's the result.


Samantha West said...

I think you expressed menacing silence well. To me it actually feels a little cold and too welcoming as if to say "I want to swallow you up into the darkness." I feel like something from the dark corner in the center of the picture is waiting to engulf me.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insight of how you prepared for this picture. And the result shows that your preparation paid off.
V. Schroeder

Kat said...

Well, I'm sure you've heard it before, but this is some great work. I particularly like this drawing because it really gives the feeling of being there in the dark with potential violence and danger.

Fantastic. Can't wait to see more.

I have a professional question. Is everything that you produce while actively serving considered the property of the US military?

Beth* A. said...

I didn't know what it was, so I looked it up:
"nocturne - A picture of a night scene.

Visual art would seem to be most concerned with realms of light. The nocturne proclaims the values of looking at greatly diminished light. It examines darkness, and conditions near its edge."
This painting feels 'near the edge'. Eerie.

mdfay said...

Thanks for the feedback. Working on this piece sort of creeped me out a bit. I finished it about 0300 and posted it immediately. Sometimes being discomfited is part of an artist's bag of tricks (sort of like method acting). As to the questions about to whom my work belongs....all my production over here pertaining to military subjects and created with USMC supplied material and on government time becomes property of the Marines.

Bag Blog said...

I love the art work as well as the words - both tell the story well. A watercolorist known for her night works introduced me to Winsor&Newton Neutral Tint - makes a great black, but is still transparent. Mixed with Winsor blue it is great.

GunnNutt said...

I had to come back and look a second time - it's still creepy! You did a terrific job of making the really dark recesses prompt imaginary goblins and bad guys. I love it, but then again, I didn't have to be there.

Lil Toni said...

I don't comment as much as I should.
As usual, well done Michael.

william wray said...

Do you know Noel Sickles work? A top cartoonist and Life combat illustrator. Do a search on him. I think you will like what you find.

Anonymous said...

My Dad was a WWII Marine, serving in the South Pacific. Went there, did that and would NOT discuss it afterwards. When I told him of the mess in Iraq, he said "They always send Marines where it's worst." He passed away not long afterwards.
s m

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