Sleeping Shepherd 1986
36" x 22" oil on canvas
In this painting the planes of the foreground have been raised to an almost vertical position, creating a force or pressure on the viewer. The tree, the distant landscape and the figure of the sleeping shepherd have also been tilted up and flattened. This is the language of the force of planes.
A small side note; this composition arose out of listening to a Bach fugue with its mathematical tension, harmony, and emotion. I then re-expressed those dynamic energies in paint as these forms on canvas. Anything can inspire creative vision, and what arises ascends out of a pool of limitless possibilities.
An OBJECT and ITS FORCE
Have you ever noticed when you were particularly moved by a landscape’s sense of scale and grandness and you took a photograph of it, how the image fell short in capturing the landscape's sense of power as you originally felt it? The way to address this deficiency in painting is by adjusting and modifying the planes, mainly by tilting them up and enlarging them until they resonate with the same force.
To feel the force of an object, once again one has to be alert and still. Here one has to use the body as an organ of cognition. You have experienced the force of objects and you are almost continuously doing so, but most likely you have not been conscious of it. For example, when you approach a wall or you stand before a rock cliff or a towering building, you feel a sense of its monumentality. This feeling arises from its force which is literally pressing on you, stimulating responses within the body.
This language of the force of objects is not complicated. Simply put, when a plane or surface is angled or tilted away its force or pressure is diminished. When it is more vertical and facing the viewer, the sensation of its force increases. The following exercises will help to make this clearer.
Drawing of “Flat Rock” 2004
9" x 12" charcoal & pencil
In this drawing, all the proportions of the different forms are drawn accurately, yet it lacks the actual feeling and power of the land. Just the faintest hints of the force coming from the different forms and their interactions with each other are captured in this literal depiction relying only on sight.
Flat Rock Sketch-Force 2004
10.5" x 14" watercolor & color pencil
This exploratory sketch was done in preparation for the final painted version below and was done in the exact location as the "Drawing of Flat Rock" above. In this study, certain planes of surfaces have been altered, enlarged, and tilted up to capture the forces of the different shapes in the landscape. When one begins to alter the size of forms there are invariable compromises one has to make: a bush is left out or the distance between objects is altered due to the tilting up or enlarging of planes. For example, the sizes of the rocks were enlarged to capture their force as well as express their relationships to each other at the cost of the volume of the space between them. However, since the space did not lose the integrity or feeling of its basic quality, and force is the main subject here, it was an acceptable compromise.
Flat Rock - Final Version 2004
11" x 14" oil on panel
This painting incorporates the altering of planes to recreate the dynamic sensations of the forms.
Exercise 1 Step 1: Take an object like a book or small board and lay it flat on a table in front of you. As you slowly begin to tilt it up towards you notice how there is a sensation of it "pressing" on you. This is what I call the force of an object. Observe how the force grows in power, until it reaches its maximum point when the books becomes perpendicular to your line of sight. Notice where this pressure plays in your body.
Step 2: Next, pick a wall and stand directly in front of it. Feel the force of it pressing on you. Move different distances from the wall, noticing the corresponding changes of force or pressure. Next, stand at an angle to the wall, being cognizant of any shift and lessening of its force. See how you are using your body as an organ of cognition.
Paul Cézanne, who has been called “the Father of Modern Art,” used the modification of planes in his paintings, whether he was painting a face, a mountain, or a spoon. He would tilt up the planes of the surfaces and enlarge them. He would also pivot planes, making them more parallel to the viewer, creating the illusion of flattening and thus increasing its sense of pressure. He would also combine modified planes with improvised color along with the intentional use of brush strokes to capture the force of objects. All this would recreate more closely the power of the objects he was painting. I have applied some of the same principles to my adjacent painting.
Someone once said of a Cezanne landscape painting that it did not look like the place but it felt like it. If you also look at the sense of volume and mass achieved in some of the figures in Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, you will see he was also flattening and enlarging the planes of the body.
The Jazz Muze 1987
44" x 25" oil on canvas
Again, in this painting planes have been raised to an almost vertical position, creating a force or pressure on the viewer.
Madonna & Christ Child of the Pueblo 2012
16" x 12" Mixed media on panel
Here again, planes have been modified and flattened to create a pressure on the viewer.