Friday, July 07, 2006

Almost Done

Before the Storm (work in progress)

Before the Storm - Study of irrigation ditch

Here's the present state of "Before the Storm". I've been working on the foreground and the irrigation ditch leading into the middle ground. The creative challenge has been to find a visual language and appropriate color palette to render the stray wheat growing in the foreground and the crumbling wall of the ditch. The wheat has full fuzzy heads of ripe grain, and the wall of the irrigation ditch has both soft soil and jagged protruding stones. Problem: lots of soft and hard edges at a time of the day, the gloam, when everything is dissolving.

I've tried to use direct and energetic brushwork to echo the mulberry tree foliage. This is done with several sizes of filbert brushes loaded with paint mixed with drying medium to a syrupy consistency. The medium I use allows the oils to set up quickly. Once the colors are almost dry to the touch, but still slightly tacky, I go back in with a large dry filbert and delicately "caress" the surface to unify the brushwork. This method avoids muddying the colors, marries the different surface areas, yet allows the basic energy of the original stokes to come through.

My palette relies heavily on the relationship between green and violet. It also takes into consideration the complimentary of violet, which is yellow. In the background a full pale yellow moon is rising in a cloudless softly muted purple sky. To keep things natural and at the same time capture the elegiac mood of the gloam, I've mixed a touch of burnt umber and cobat violet dark into almost all my color mixures. At this wonderful time of the day, which photos can rarely capture, objects take on an inner glow; I've focused on the stones tumbling out and into the deteriorating ditch, the wheat heads and the hands of the sitting Marine to communicate this evocative effect.

I hope everyone had a fun Fourth of July with kith and kin, burgers and buns, and plenty of fireworks. I saw where some folks in Santa Cruz, Kalifornia celebrated by burning American flags on the beach. Why? Just because they could. What could I possibly say that all of you haven't already thought about this yourselves? Nothing. I, like you can only shake my head. As I tell my daughter, democracy allows us to be as stupid as we want to be.

My gonzo documentarian friend Pat Dollard made it on to Fox's Hannity and Combes Wednesday night. He did a good job of holding his own, made some nice jabs a Michael Moore and looked strangely healthy.


Beth* A. said...

It drew my eye when you first showed it to us, but I couldn't say just why, in particular.
Now, thanks to what you've written I have some small idea.

The gloaming. The colors. And the perspective.

I'm sure there are more 'whys'. And I'm equally certain that I'll be back to look again and again and yet again, to discover them.

Thank you, Mike Fay.

Bag Blog said...

I am not sure which I like better - your art work or your writing. I scrolled back and forth reading and then looking at the painting. I had to get up and go to the other room for a Dr. Pepper - not because I was so thirsty, but because I did not want rush through the post. I didn't want to miss anything. My daughter came in, and I read her a paragraph describing your brush strokes. I finished with, "Isn't his writing great?" Her comment, "It is art in itself."

Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

Janet said...

You are an incredibly multi-facetted and talented person and I enjoy both the incredibly writing and your artistric renderings. I am so glad to have the opportunity to enjoy this blog. Thank-you NYT Frontlines.

katje said...

This is my first time on your site, so I've been looking through some of your past posts. Good stuff, and I really like that you post pix of your progress on your painting. I am an artist as well, but work mainly with ink and colour pencil, and find your explanations and descriptions of your work very interesting indeed. When my husband was in Afghanistan, one of the things he said about it, was that it could sometimes be one of the most ethereally beautiful places he'd ever seen (esp. the sunsets), but he was understandably less keen on it after the mortar attack that caused him a broken ankle. I wish you the best of luck in the RWOBC, and look forward to seeing your completed work.