The Great Sky Crucifixion

The Great Sky Crucifixion

I will never be accused of being a landscape painter.  However, it is important in my work that my images have a frame of reference, that even though they are site "unspecific" they are not "nowhere" backgrounds.  At their best, they heighten the visual impact of the main theme of all my pieces - the figure.  This quality is of the utmost importance in this work, where I try to call up an almost cosmic feeling akin to the works that loosely inspired it, pieces by Albrecht Altdorfer and Pieter Bruegel. Though the figure resides low and small in the composition it is no way diminished, rather the tragic and heroic, that which we call human is emphasized. 

watercolor

artist designed frame

Image Size 49 x 32 - Frame Size

 

 

 

 

 

Resurrected Christ

Resurrected Christ

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Watercolor

Crucifix

Crucifix

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To my mind, the two most perfect compositions and subjects to which I return repeatedly are the Crucifixion and the Pieta.  For my style and aesthetic sensibilities both subjects offer an inexhaustible source of poses and tensions, pathos and feeling.  My approach to the body is such that I seek out the descriptive and emotional potential through the arabesque and rhythmic nature of a Florentine type of line.  Using this technique on this painting and by forcing the figure to the very limit of the frontal plane by focusing on the torso, the viewer is almost immediately engaged.  As for the pose, the original idea when working with the model was to have the head upturned in a longing way, however the image never quite seemed right.  The resolution came with the exhausted dropping of the head; the emotion read nicely and it proved to be the perfect contrasting movement to the upward lift of the arms. 

Watercolor and gold leaf
17.5 x 14.75

The Rose Pieta

The Rose Pieta

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From the very beginning this picture was to have a Florentine richness about it, but it was to maintain the pathos inherent in the subject.  The Florentine quality begins with the tight construction of the Madonna and Christ.  It is emotional and highly stylized. She could no doubt hold Her Son like this, yet everything is planar, pushed to the front and emphasizing the flowing contours of the line.  The composition is locked in place by the series of verticals and horizontals that run through the picture.  The strong vertical element of the Honor Cloth adds drama and metaphorical power to the piece, particularly in the way that the flower and decorative elements compliment the subject both visually as well as in the iconography.  Color plays an important role in establishing the feel of the piece as it serves a symbolic more than a descriptive purpose.  The numerous reds that hint at blood as well as the bruised looking sky seem ominous and yet they enhance the vivid quality of the nude and add to the overall richness of the work, especially when combined with the gold elements.  The paint is allowed to move across the surface and the broken patches lend it a feeling very much like a small precious tapestry.

 

Watercolor and gold leaf
28 x 20.5

The Moon Pieta

The Moon Pieta

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The Pieta, where Mary cradles the dead body of Her Son, is, as I have stated, one of my favorite subjects.  However, this interpretation is different in a couple of ways.  Firstly, most of my pieces are worked on for great lengths of time, labored, and explored; whereas this painting absorbed me from the beginning, and from conception to completion it was the only piece on which I worked.  Secondly, my other interpretations tend to focus on the linear rhythms and pathos of Christ's nude figure, while this one concentrates on the tenderness and protective nature with which The Virgin envelopes Her Son in the monumental drapery.  The moon in the piece is both symbolic and compositional, an emblem of the great darkness of the land at Jesus' death, and also a soft contrast to the hard edged cloth as well as a compliment to the halo that encircles the nearness of the two players. 

 

Watercolor and Gold Leaf
25.25 x 19.75

Archangel Michael

Archangel Michael

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It is hard to know where to start with this particular piece.  I knew I wanted to portray Michael, but I wanted the work to be vastly different from traditional representations of Him vanquishing Satan and so forth.  I gravitated quickly to the unique tendency in Mannerist practice of combining a simplified, natural quality with a hierarchical, almost Gothic formality of composition.  This gives the picture a power and grace that is then multiplied by the huge wings that almost pinion the figure to the center and very front of the picture plane. This novel approach to the treatment of the wings, including the use of four large wings rather than two tiny ones, emphasizes the true power of the Angel, the symbol of the Church militant and judge of souls, the latter role indicated by the scale half hidden by the figure's weight bearing hip.  To say weight bearing is misleading, it is just another compositional device to add strength to the figure, anchored yet rising triumphantly against the sky.  To prevent a stifling severity the figure is given a subtle grace and a half-feminine/half-leonine head.

I designed the frame especially for this piece.  It was built by Charles Mayfield Woodworking in Denton, Texas.  Some of the inspiration comes from the Laurentian Complex designs by Michelangelo.  The suspending corbels and attached pilasters without capitals have a Mannerist feel which compliments the image. 
 

Watercolor and gold leaf
40 x 28

Charity

Charity

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The subject of Charity may be considered an allegorical image, though its origin is specifically from the three theological virtues of the church.  These include faith, hope and charity, the last being chief.  Charity has been a popular subject throughout the ages, although the present form of a woman nursing and protecting three infants was devised and became the predominant version around the 16th century.  The visual representation of Charity is a unification of the image of the Virgo Lactans with the central concepts of love for God as exemplified in love for one’s neighbor.  In my conception all of these aspects are present: the woman, giving herself wholly to the infants (commonly understood as born of another woman), thus taking care of their earthly, physical needs shall be rewarded in Heaven as alluded to in the shimmering gold leaf background.  A quick note on the gold leaf – the grid like pattern makes a nice backdrop against the organic shapes of the tree and figures.  Instead of using a single type of leaf I employed three different grades, all of a slightly different karat and color thus adding to the subtlety of the piece.  I will also say that there is significance in the dead appearance of the tree as well as the single broken branch, the only one with any leaves at all and totaling seven, and held by the second infant.  Though these elements have a particular meaning for me, they can and should mean different things to everyone, as we all have our own experiences and ideas - there in lays the greatness of art.

Watercolor with 22, 22.5 and 23 karat gold leaf
Hand distressed with gold leaf and acid color washes.  Linen fabric wrapped mat.  Italian frame by Roma.  Conservation mounted.

Image size 25” x 18.5”    

Frame size  42” x 35.5”

 

Pieta

Pieta

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It is apparent how much I like this composition from the fact that I have treated it in oil, watercolor, and several drawings.  I do love this design, but I often work a piece in several different mediums. When I do this it does not detract from the other pieces, one does not become more important than another.  I have always felt that it is a great treat to be able to work and rework a successful design and see the different feelings and qualities you can achieve.  The oil version of this composition makes extensive use of shading and line play to create a sense of quiet monumentality.  The color compliments that association.  In the watercolor the sense of movement is enhanced and the vibrant color is central to the drama: the same starting point but two very different feelings. 

Although the watercolor heightens the feeling of movement none of the power of the pose is lost.  Unlike traditional representations of Pietas in which the protagonists are dispersed horizontally this design takes a cue from Michelangelo's Rondadini and Palestrina Pietas.  The figures are shown vertically and to emphasize the spiritual closeness of Mother and Son I have turned them face-to-face as the bodies almost float, suspended against a tumultuous sky.  Pieta actually means Pity, and although the composition is easily recognizable in the western tradition of religious art I have intentionally left out obvious symbols.  The true meaning lies in the universal truths of love, devotion, sacrifice, loss, and hope. 

 

Watercolor
25.25 x 17.25

Irene Discovering Saint Sebastian

Irene Discovering Saint Sebastian

Legend has it that after the Romans made their first attempt at martyring Sebastian, he was discovered and nursed back to health by Irene.  Quite often Irene is referred to as a Saint, however she was never actually canonized.  Nevertheless, the subject has been portrayed numerous times by artists throughout history. 
This interpretation is, for me, rather classic in the sense that the composition is closely related to many Renaissance and Baroque forerunners.  However, it begins to deviate in the actual aesthetic treatment and the posture of the Saint.  Firstly, the technical treatment is to some extent experimental.  The very dark foreground isolates the figure against the very lightly applied background.  This generates an almost backlighting affect, but more importantly it intensifies the main preoccupation of my work, namely the play of line, whether it be line by itself or as a type of contour silhouette.  The very dark manner that I return to again and again is not, like a true tenebrist, a mode to generate deep shadowy recessions but for me a means to exaggerate the patterns and rhythm created by the line.  The figure of Sebastian is truly mannerist, a pulsating knot of tension rising out of his foreground space yet constricted within the planar constructs of the composition.  The strong vertical elements of Irene and the trees help to intensify the tension created by the Saint's pose. 


Watercolor
28.5 x 23.5

Latin Crucifixion

Latin Crucifixion

In many ways art is an experiment.  One picks colors, juggles shapes, and accepts or rejects ideas according to their success. So it is with this picture in particular.  I had success with other works utilizing very dark areas, with the indistinct yet subjectively moving "backgrounds," and using gold leaf.  However, in this picture the dark area is not used as a background shadow but as a rhythmic pattern unto itself, somewhat merging figure and cross into one.  This form is then cast against an increasingly abstract, or more accurately an unspecific background; a tendency I have always had and which seems to be growing stronger in conviction as I search for ways to push my figures further into the foreground.  Finally, the choice of silver leaf rather than gold was aesthetic as well as an experiment in appropriateness - somehow silver evokes light and purity, an ideal contrast to the somber upright of the cross. 

 

Watercolor and silver leaf

Hand distressed Italian frame with black linen wrapped mat
Conservation mounted

Image size 25.5” x 17”
Frame size 39.5” x 31”