This morning I put the finishing touches on my Orpheus “tapestry”, a large, unbound canvas that I started during my summer stint at PAFA. It is my largest studio painting yet, when I was a decorative painter my work could easily exceed thirty feet or so ( and many stories off the ground) but my studio work thus far has been restricted by the parameters of my work space. PAFA offered me four empty walls, seemingly endless possibilities .
acrylic on unbound canvas
59 by 93″
Due to the size of the painting (and my own ineptness) I cannot seem to adequately capture the entire image without some sheen and loss of detail, so I will post detail shots:
(my homage to Redon and Fred Stonehouse)
Merman, I like this fellow, he is rather sexy.
This fellow, actually his eye, was the only element of this painting that was considered redeemable by the faculty critique at PAFA. Apparently I am still nursing wounds. Since leaving the program I have had quite a bit of existential angst , have I any right (or abilty) to declare myself an artist. My consolation has been to just work as honestly as I can, and see what happens.
I listen to far too many podcasts while I work; for those who have enjoyed the podcast Welcome to NightVale , they might recognize the winged character watching over Orpheus.
I like this fellow-frankly I like them all; hence the somewhat dizzying composition. They become family, I can no sooner eliminate them then I would flesh and blood friends.
My only formal training is that from a Russian iconographer , that is abundantly clear by this character, who has become sort of a personal avatar.
These two are inspired by Greenmen , the universal bond of man and the natural world . That bond is the basic inspiration for the painting, a favorite theme, one that has been explored many times over, Orpheus’ playing upon the lyre and so moving the natural world, that all manner of flora and fauna gather at his feet. Trees uproot themselves and mountains roll towards him, all weeping at the bitter sweetness of his song. This Roman mosaic captures that moment beautifully .
This large painting was first a simple watercolor of faun, but it provided unexpected inspiration when I found myself in Philadelphia without my usual “crutches”, namely my large resource library. A library that is often a boon and sometimes a curse.
While in Philadelphia I would often visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, passing by the monumental 17th c. tapestries designed by Rubens. The scale and the color palette provided much inspiration. I particularly admired how the waves were translated in the weaving.
All in all I am satisfied with this painting, I’m rarely (ever?) completely satisfied but when I feel I have gone as far as I can with a painting then I consider it finished…for the time being. I will go back to oils, but I was happy that I persevered with acrylics for this painting. With the weather here in LA now not so wretchedly hot I was better able to manipulate the medium. When I left Philadelphia I could barely look at this painting (or the others I had started), but now I feel I absorbed what I could from the experience and feel I expressed myself as authentically as possible . The final image is of the painting before I shipped it to LA.
August 12th 2015
For those in the States I close with an amazingly appropriate Thanksgiving image. I feel as if I could have painted it. It is courtesy of the great artist Judith Schaechter and her ever-amusing Facebook feed. It is particularly appropriate to end with her in mind because she offered me such support and insight while at PAFA. A great inspiration and an incredible artist.
2 thoughts on “Orpheus’ Lament”
I’m so pleased I caught this post before I switch off and go to bed as it’s a perfect painting to explore before I go to sleep and enter the world of dreams! Just great to see it completed in such superb style. You’ve absolutely nailed Orpheus for me, and as another Nightvale fan I’m delighted to see it find its way here too. It was good to read that you grow to love your characters and beings so much, that they become friends and family. I can why, each one has a unique personality, I love them too. The colour palette is rich and seductive, and the composition works a treat, I just love it Leonard.
I’m so pleased you like it. I like it as well and I am happy to consider it finished . I’m ready to focus on other paintings but this has been a symbolic painting for me, emblematic of my time at the Academy.
Be well friend .