Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Glazing Over

I've been spending much time reading about what others think these days so I thought I'd put in a few cents of my own. Actually, the time I've spent on others thoughts has been scattered in short increments, because for the last couple of months, I've been in intensive study of portraiture. Whew! What a process! It's been a struggle both personal and creatively, learning new techniques but mostly banishing old bad habits. ("Out, out damned spots!," she cried as the nasty bad habits clung to the hem of her psyche.) Currently though, things are going good, connections are being made and old memories of knowledge being mixed with new understanding.

We are dealing with glazes now as we add color to the layers of grisaille. It is magic. I was lost for a while watching the magic, then I remembered a painting class I had back in college, back in the day as they say... The teacher was Frank Hobbes, a local painter and he was only there for a semester or a year, I believe. Too bad they didn't keep him because I would have taken any class I could have gotten from him and learned perhaps a bit more of what I am now learning years later. He had me paint a copy of a Rembrandt, a self-portrait (one among many). With that portrait I learned about...glazing! And with that memory comes back the knowledge that I can apply today. It's a case of adding a glaze of color to push back the painting into the shadow, and then adding more light, then when that's dry doing it again, and again, till it becomes clear and full of layers of light and color. It never ceases to amaze me how it works, pushing it back, then pulling it back out again into the light.

Pondering this miracle, I was thinking it's not unlike the process we go through in life. We have these moments where the light gets in, then times when it is pushed back down, then we must look for the light again and pull it out of the shadows. This happens in layers upon layers all our lives. It's so easy to stay in the shadows, feeling our way but never coming clear. So difficult to know where to look for the light, to pull it out of the murky darkness. But there it is, and when the light is revealed we become more three dimensional, more whole.

Some of those things that were in the shadows can remain. They don't need illumination, and actually lend to the beauty of the light. They have their own colors that will be reflected in the light to give it life. Without those shadows, there would be no light, only flat color. So now, as I paint my glazes, or perhaps in quiet moments of reflection such as this, I am observing the shadows, their colors, how sometimes I was in the deep shadow but reached for the light, no matter how feeble. I can feel my skin vibrate with the interplay of the two and their own nuances as I watch the portrait of my life develop and become whole. When it is done it will look just like me.

P.S. Thank you, Frank Hobbes, for believing in me. You once said I had the guts to be an artist and those are words I still cherish.