The first several days on Monhegan the weather was foggy and warm, an unusual combination. Sitting still was not so bad, although the fog tended to bead up on my glasses making seeing a problem, but walking anywhere became a sauna-like proposition. We were renting a house near the top of the hill, and saw nothing much farther than the trees at the edge of the lawn for a couple days. Sometimes Manana would appear, only to vanish again when the fog came back.
I started the painting project in this foggy weather, and some things about it really spoke to me. I like the idea of veils showing and hiding things that are normally in view, and the shifting fog was very explicitly veiling the distances. I love how the fog intensifies the colors that are close, and mutes those in the distance.
My favorite painting of those first couple days started off as more of a tantrum. I was trying to get a glimpse of Manana, and fog kept shifting. Finally I added a wash of white paint thinned with medium every time I got exasperated, and in between fits of frustration I painted what I could see. The result makes laugh every time I look at it – because I remember the aggravation, but I see the shifting veils of mist and the spikes of pine trees and the skeleton of a dead tree at the edge of the property. I’ll see if I can take a decent photo of it, but you might just have to visit me to see it.
Originally the title was “more ruination” but really it is more experimentation or stitching or something a little more positive.
This was one big painting. Well, not that big – 9×12″ – but I lost interest in the lower left corner, and after staring at it for a while I realized it would be better as two smaller works, so in a fit of courage I cut it up, and finished the edges of two smaller pieces. One is 6×8″ the other 5×7″ and I still have some small pieces left over to practice techniques on.
Next up – take on the foggy pieces, which I like better and am having larger issues with stitching. But they deserve it as much as these did. So.
I might have mentioned that I took a handful of acrylic paint on vacation to my brother’s island (not that he owns it, but that he lives there year round, unlike the cascades of artists, birders and other tourists that arrive in summer) this past summer. It was a surprisingly intense learning experience. I made a point of painting every day, as much as I could before I felt I was missing something important. Learning new ways of seeing and representing things is exhausting. I’d work in the morning, come home for lunch and a nap, do some more work in the afternoon, and then sleep hard all night, frequently with dreams about paint or brushes or trying to paint with a sewing machine.
I brought these home and left them alone for a while.
When I experimentally added stitching to one of the pieces I was unsure about, something interesting happened. So I added thread to a few more of the small pieces, but I was “saving” these larger ones for something, until I decided I wasn’t. So now I am experimenting with adding thread to all the painting I did last summer. It is related to the work I’ve done before, but it also feels really different.
I can tell I have dozens of things I can experiment with. I could paint on softer fabric, more like the cotton I usually use for stitching. I could use fabric paint instead of acrylics for canvas. I can alternate paint and stitch and see what happens. My head is whirling with possibilities.
My hope is to learn something from stitching into all the paintings from the summer. They aren’t important enough to keep the way they are, and I am learning a lot while working on them. so they have become fodder for the next step, the next thing to learn.
If I leave them alone, they’re still not finished. If I can ruin a couple, I’ll have a better idea of what to do the next time
the pictures are misleading – the brown one is much larger than the other.
Eddyline is 20×48″ Silver River is 25×20″
Photos by Stephen Petegorsky