I’ve been challenging myself with a commitment to my sketchbook, random images, most from source material that has delighted me. In no particular order, a few follow…
a silly musing, I think this is what I do best, in the natural sense
Leonard Greco's somewhat consistent, often bumbling studio journal
My latest painting, a large one (40 by 56″) , large at least for my studio, is at last finished!
It has not been an easy birth, unbelievably having been started February of 2014.
Between other paintings, my time in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and my own uncertainty , the painting often languished . And when I thought it near complete, and to my satisfaction, my last critique group, left me once again in the grip of uncertainty. After nearly four weeks of being unable to paint (hence a stream of drawings) I at last regained my faith in this painting, finished it up, and now consider it one of my best.
oil on canvas
40 by 56″
The painting is undeniably complicated, visually and in its narrative; I think that is why my critique might have had some issue with it. But my interest in paintings often includes complicated compositions; I might be hubristic but my intention with this painting was to emulate in my modest way the elaborate tableaux paintings of Poussin. I studied them carefully, which is pleasurable work as he is one of my idols. I captured what I love about his paintings: the ability to stare at this painting and discover ever unfolding details. Bosch of course, another idol, also gives us that generous gift. But I think for many viewers, particularly those with the 6-second attention span, this painting will not please. I perhaps, to satisfy contemporary tastes should have left the painting in its initial planning stages; something several folks, had hoped for. I might have saved myself headaches and angst, but I would have been very unhappy. This painting ,in its finished state,makes me happy.
(Initial stage of the painting, I do like it, I like the ghostly images; but I am not that sort of painter. I love a lapidary finish.)
The story behind this painting is complex and personal. It began after discovering the Gnostics, with the concept of the Demiurge, a false god posing as a true god. Misleading the faithful down a path of sanctimonious righteousness . My demiurge, the bronze figure in the center is a sarcastic depiction of Christ the Church. If I were to change anything it would be this element . It is more cynical than I now feel , with our new pope, the blessed Francis, my relationship with the Church has become warmer, more loving . I know longer harbor the estranged hurt and anger I felt when I began this painting. But instead of erasing him, I felt it good to keep a record of my discontent.
The Demiurge, center flanked by details of the earth goddess Coatlicue, one of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and the Axis Mundi.
Going counterclockwise , from upper left around, I will attempt to offer clues to the figures:
My initial conceit for this painting was to utilize “bad” gods, unfortunate figures, maligned archetypes, to do battle with the smug and sanctimonious , be it the Church herself, the pompous evangelist down the street, ISIS, or that homophobic second grade teacher who shamed you for playing with the girls. That said, the upper left figures are depiction of the denizens of Xiblaba, the underworld of the Popol vuh. Next, descending in a very theatrically baroque manner is the savior Quetzalcoatl . Below, stands the accursed Judas ( noose still dangling) and the blessed Magdalene, clad only in her long hair, as per the archetype. Next to her, stands the familiar companion of the Other, the Scapegoat.
The Scapegoat .
In the next quarter, the Mesoamerican rain god Tlaloc sheds tears for humankind, he is attended by a companion vaguely reminiscent of the figures found in Teotihuacan, possessing triangular heads. Further back, the Mother of the Gods, the Aztec earth mother, She of the Serpent Skirt,Coatlicue, she hurries her son, the Great War god Huitzililopochtli into toppling their nemesis, the Demiurge, embodied by the Church that silenced them.
Next to them is a gaggle of squawking birds, sure of themselves, confident in their noise, essentially those who I politically and religiously disagree. Next to them, well I guess that is me.
In the third quarter, I placed a Boschian figure of no particular meaning, just an odd blue figure with a piscine phallic nose. Next , again, just vague figures, a Fire-god aflame with passion; a herm to signify the supremacy of the fertile earth; another Quetzalcoatl, or perhaps a passive Ares, I don’t know. Basically he was hot and looked Poussin-ist. Central to this quarter are the Hero Twins from the Popol vuh, archetypes so dear to my heart. Although they are brothers, I have in a personal way , embraced them as emblems of same sex affection. They are fiercely loyal to one another, acting as one; Hunahpu (on the left) going so far as to sacrifice himself, hence the blood and unearthly pallor. His brother Xbalanque helps to resurrect his fallen brother. I have returned to the Twins time and again, in paintings, puppets and prints. I predict they will be with me until I pass into the Underworld myself. A quick click in the side panel,on the tab “Hero Twins” will lead you to other examples.
Floating above on a very smart cloud is my favorite figure of this painting, the dashing floral-tatted Herakles. Herakles is every sissy boy’s hero, and I just could not resist including him. He surely would fight the fight of the just.
Herakles, plus a preliminary rendering.
Rounding out the painting in the last quarter I have various moon gods, non specific, just pre Christian. Next to them stands an Earth Father figure. A softer kinder answer to the excesses of patriarchy. He is horned in his affiliation with old truths, old gods, old ways. He also reflects my evolving reintroduction to the Church, with the pope reminding me of Christ’s magnificent message. This figure is a tribute to that compassionate god. He may also be an incarnation of the great Maize-god, sacrificed father of the Hero Twins and of humankind , Hun-Hunahpu. It is through his death, we are born. Sound familiar ?
Moon-gods, for you can never have too many!
The Christo-hun-Hunahpu figure.
If I had any residual uncertainty concerning this painting, it was silenced by this painting being accepted into an upcoming show ( along with my jumping jack figures from a recent post). I’m thrilled the well regarded juror Peter Mays included this painting.
The positive aspect of being unable to emotionally (post-critique) to paint for a few weeks was drawing. I’ve been drawing like mad, I’m sure I am boring social media with my progress, but I feel I am gaining confidence and ready to begin a series of small panel. I think of them as Illuminations, intimate, needing to be contemplated. I am discovering, at heart,that I am a religious painter. Unorthodox , unclear and ambiguous in my own faith, but I am compelled to make “icons”, depictions of universal archetypes. One of the new paintings will be of Jonah, this preliminary sketch, shows my intention.
That’s it for now, I will post this little painting, only 8 by 10″ when I am finished. Until them, be well.
I spent part of yesterday and today sketching out a new painting. As I work I find myself wanting to be more and more deliberate in my (graven) image making. Trying to be more fully aware of the composition , the drawing out my ideas provides an excellent roadmap. That and it is a hell of a lot of fun.
The Presentation at the Temple
graphite and colored pencil on paper
I am returning to a theme I explored in 2014, another painting also called The Presentation at the Temple but one in which I pursued the composition less deliberately . The painting hangs in my studio and I have never been happy with it, yet I am not the sort of painter to rework a painting. Generally I allow the painting to be less than satisfying and make an another attempt; drawing upon what I felt was working and abandoning the rest. Such is the case with this new painting.
The Presentation at the Temple
oil on canvas
30 by 40″
When I look at this painting on my screen I like it,yet some things drive me nuts, I feel the female figure Coatlicue is undeveloped for example; but mostly, the painting feels to large. I feel my play upon the biblical presentation scene should be more intimate , more jewel like, more of an illumination. So this version will for starters feature a more composed earth mother Coatlicue , presenting her son, the war god Huitzilopochtli (also of virgin birth) will bepainted on a 12 by 16″ panel. I think it will work out well, plus frankly, there isn’t any more room in the studio for large paintings, I’m maxed out.
The theme draws upon multiple references, traditional images of the Presentation, such as this wall mural from an Orthodox church (The Brotherhood of the Holy Cross, which I believe is in upstate NY):
But also popular culture such as the usually cute, yet in this image,completely crazed wrestler Conner McGregor:
Part of my studio discipline has been devoting a portion of the day, usually before lunch, to making at least one decent rendering a day. I’ve made this challenge part of my Instagram feed ( leonardgrecoart). What I’m rediscovering is just how much I love drawing, particularly graphite on toned paper with chalk highlights. I am finding myself improving each day. This image, of Christ Enthroned, I felt to be successful.
Well for now that is all, be well.
Getting around to photographing my self portrait doll, plus Jumping Tlaloc who has been hanging idly upon my studio wall. Poor fellow is itching for some action.
Self Portrait of the Artist as a Paper Doll
watercolor,acrylic and graphite on paper, brads, strings
approximately 40 by 25″
acrylic on cardboard, brads and string
approximately 42 by 30″
My life drawing course with the excellent Jim Morphesis (link to his work: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-seed/jim-morphesis-the-wounds_b_7014096.html )
sadly ended Tuesday. I will miss the experience of having an actual body, in the flesh, in front of me. I benefit keenly, even if the results aren’t immediately apparent, from a live model and consistent and structured practice.
That said, in the stacks of drawings made in this class , very few were worth much more than parakeet liner. And from the rest, only bits and pieces satisfy me.
But one of the issues I am working on is abandoning this mad quest for perfection, I fail miserably each and every time. So relinquishing the claims of my ego, I post some of the drawings from Art 12A ; some from extended poses, some gesture drawings (gestural drawings drive me bonkers).
So now with class ended I will join other forums and study groups…plus I always have myself!
I’ve just finished this self portrait paper doll, I was eager to see it in action and it is indeed a gangly silly fellow. Tomorrow he travels to school for our final life drawing project which was initially called Tempus fugit (but that apparently proved too difficult a concept for the millennials in my class so it became simply one concerning movement and speed). I knew instantly what I wanted to capture, my ever present, frantic desire to make up for lost time as an artist, fighting frantically against time (and ultimately, death). I also knew I wanted it to actually move.
Hence a play upon the Victorian jumping jacks, a passion since boyhood. Playing upon the jumping jacks also allowed me to actively engage the comments made at my last critique that the figures in my paintings looked like paper dolls.
So what if they did! I love paper dolls , I have always loved them and in some way, conscious or not, they have emerged.
So I plan on intentionally embracing this notion, exploring my own self loathing, my internalized homophobia, my weird body issues, issue after issue, and a self portrait paper doll seemed an excellent place to start . I have inserted commedia figures into my work before as personal avatars but now that I have an actually maquette and I can draw upon it for aid in compositions ( more gratitude to Clive Hicks-Jenkins for introducing me to maquette making).
Now that class is over I can concentrate on paintings that I have in process and paintings that I have in my head. Better jump to it, Tempus fugit!
Tempus fugit or Self Portrait of the Artist as
watercolor on paper, graphite, acrylic, brads approximately
26 by 40″