Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Come to the Garden Alone

Over the past two years I have grown more accustomed to sharing the stages of progress of my work. It remains somewhat difficult at times to let others see some of the more raw stages of certain pieces. There are times when the unfinished work simply doesn’t look that good. Still, I realize that for many non-artists a glimpse of how an artwork comes to be is quite interesting.

During the past few months I have slowly been working on a mural project for a Central Florida church. I have included a few images here of the early stages of the painting. There is also a short video that shows the preparation of the 6’ x 8’ panel on which I am creating the painting—quite a lengthy process itself. In Florida, it is far easier and more comfortable to produce a work of this size within air conditioning, out of the direct sunlight and humidity.

The church board asked me to consider producing this mural for a garden courtyard. There were not many parameters other than that. My concept for the image was inspired by the intended location of the work and the already established pictorial scheme of the church. There was previously no image of Christ in Gethsemane so this image fit quite well.

I also chose to paint over text, as I have been doing in my altarpiece series and several watercolor works. The text here, though much of it will be obscured, is taken from the Anglican Book of Prayer—the liturgy for the Eucharist. That communal event is foundational to the life of the Church. The image will be obvious from a distance, but the inquisitive viewer will also find nuances within the text when viewing it closely. The combination of word and image is also a direct reference to Jesus himself—the Word made flesh.

As with the oil on book pages works (the altarpieces), I have begun with an underpainting of dioxazine purple. That choice may seems strange to people. It is such a vibrant color. The purple does modify quite easily when subsequent layers of color glazes are placed over it. In these images there are passages where yellow has been applied over the purple. The complimentary nature of these colors changes the purple into a neutral brownish color, bringing out some of the more red hues the purple. On top of that, translucent white is slowly built to form the gowns. The text is more visible in certain areas than others. This begins to give an idea of how the painting will proceed.

While the imagery is somewhat different—more obviously narrative—from many other pieces that I typically produce, I have found the process of collaborating with a community of people an interesting challenge. I have to make the work pleasing to a group of people while keeping an artistic integrity for myself. This is my test for the success of the final piece. Keep checking back to see the progress.