As the crow flies II

I have procrastinated long enough over this, and although I managed to spend a morning putting paintings away, tidying my office and taking care of some administrative stuff, then sharing a good lunch with my colleague Terry Spehar Fahey, who’s a fabulous painter, by the way, I had no excuses left.

Yesterday I spent an hour or two in Photoshop figuring out the arrangement of the crows, who will be spiralling out of  a box on the bottom edge of the panel between the feet of a man meditating, seated in the Western style. I decided that this is a self portrait, so I posed for working photos of the figure by setting my Canon XTi on the timer function. I shot ten pictures or so until I was satisfied that I had what I needed, then settled in to paint, beginning with the birds, the Pixies “Trompe Le Monde” cranked up. 



I began by painting the base layer for the bigger birds on the top of the canvas, which is so tall that I painted them upside down, making it a lot easier to do.  (Standing on a ladder for hours is a painful process). Moving the canvas around is not the easiest task, eight feet by six being about the biggest I can manage by myself, but it’s far easier to flip the panel and paint upside down than to paint standing on a ladder.

The birds look disproportionally large at the moment, because these are the crows that are closest to the viewer as they flock out of the box. I decided to make the base black, although there’s a lot of blue in these birds a glaze of blue that blends slightly into the gold leaf will read as the light passing through the edges of the feathers, and the deeper blues in the bodies will come by a little grey work to define the features, with a glaze over the top. My old standby French Ultramarine will do it perfectly. I love that blue. I completely understand the stories of Vincent Van Gogh eating his yellow(?) paint. If it wasn’t lethal, I’d probably do the same with the ultra blue.

I feel the need to mention again the allegory of inner purification described so eloquently by Adam McLean in his essay that I quoted from a couple of days ago. The black birds represent the process of expelling the impurities of the soul as one begins the spiritual journey of alchemical work.

I think this is going to be quite dramatic. I didn’t get much done, but I’m back in the studio again. Better get a move on! One week to go until I have to install the show.

About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
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