Have you ever listened to an accomplished Jazz or rock guitar player, strum upward then downward, each time slashing the 6 strings, sounding a different singular chord-note, together crafting a recognizable tune? A brushy, painterly, pleasantly inexact way to evoke the melody. This approach exists in contrast to the conventional guitar technique; one hand plucking out the melody on a sequence of individual strings, while the other hand depresses a corresponding location on the string along the fret board….all very precise.
In applying the manganese blue paint over the limbs and torso of “Rapunzel”, I chose a 6-inch wide wall painters brush, pre-stiffened slightly with dried gum Arabic (not supple and soft as normal). The brush hairs gathered in small separate clumps. More like a rake than a brush. My intent; engage the hairs on the brush as if strumming the guitar. I liquefied the oil paint and dipped the brush in blue, not fully saturating the hairs, better for allowing each pointed clump to inscribe a separate line. When dragging it across the canvas surface, it trailed a wide pattern of lines, as if scratched imprecisely but intentionally in place.
Although eager, before leaping in with wetted brush, I calculated … planning the course of each brush stroke, seeing the result in my minds eye beforehand, each long stroke intended to describe the cylindrical roundness and length of the limb (or other anatomical parts). Segway them seamlessly to one another and prickle the nervous system with the single delicious color and texture simultaneously. I wanted to keep the brushstrokes slightly autonomous from each other, careful not muddle them, each a considered part of an overall visual design at a glance. A woman’s shape slowly emerging, like the guitarist gradually assembling the notes a love song for our ears, allowing it to arise unhurriedly...For this approach to succeed it would need the color to snap, glimpsing the violet compliment underneath and through the wide light blue brush-strokes, between the lines left by stiff hairs of the brushy effect. The flat violet was painted under the manganese blue, as its ground.
Painting a body in a single color is not unlike playing or “covering” a recognizable tune on a single musical instrument. We all know the pose, we know what shapes the human body can assume, there are few surprises. Same as we know the old tune being played. The thrill is in how the archetype is delivered differently…one more time, with new poetics. Every element in the picture needs to support the blue, thus the “Rapunzel” metaphor. The rocks and crevices in background where Rapunzel clings,can be understood as abstract shapes, variations of raw and burnt umber light & dark, blended with enough ultramarine into them, to visually function as neutral.
And…this is not the first time a picture of mine has been rescued by the infinite possibilities allowed by a woman’s hair color, length or style. In “Rapunzel” her yellow hair flows through picture like a river of gold, as much an abstract component as a real one. Justifiably dominant, the downward cascading stream of yellow defines the legendary ladder to Rapunzel’s suitor and her imprimatur in the lore of love.