Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Only You

Twelve days ago, I began work on a large oil painting of people watching a movie in a theater. It will be titled for an imaginary film of my invention: Only You.

Below is a photo of the next-to-final drawing. The composition has been pretty well worked out and the final drawing is the same, but enlarged to 45" x 75" for transferring the image to canvas. Since it will take me several months to complete this picture, I will be posting 'in progress' photos to this blog.

Only You, next to final drawing
24" x 40"     pencil on paper     2014

I'm very glad to finally have this composition on the easel; have wanted to paint the subject for a long time. 

Over the years, I've made numerous paintings on the movie theme, but they've always been set around ticket booths or theater lobbies or concession stands - never within the theater itself with a film being shown. I've done numerous sketches, but two problems always held me back: first, if the view of the screen is frontal, then the audience would be seen from behind, or barely in profile, and second, movie audiences are shadowy figures seated in darkness. These two problems seemed an unsolvable conundrum because I wanted to show the faces of the audience and I didn't want to fill 80% of a large canvas with dark and gloomy tones.

An early Renaissance artist that I greatly admire, Duccio di Buoninsegna, came to my rescue. One evening a few months ago, I was looking at a book about his work, and not thinking about the movie painting at all. The book was filled with photos of the Maestà, his major altarpiece, and the beautiful panels from the back - all now separated from the altarpiece and scattered in museums. While I was looking at several panels where Christ and Pilate are together with a group of onlookers to one side, I realized that I should just go ahead and paint my composition as I wanted, with luminous light and color - that I didn't need to have the faces of the audience lined up in correct perspective and in dark shadows to make the picture work. The conundrum was solved, at least for me.

Christ Accused by the Pharisees
Duccio di Buoninsegna
Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo


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"There is more power in telling little than in telling all."
- Mark Rothko

“The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meanings are unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.”
- Magritte

"Now, the idea is to get everything right -- it's not just color or form or space or line -- it's everything all at once."
- Richard Diebenkorn

“What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious,
the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.”
- Amedeo Modigliani