Three works are back from the scanner: “Sea Monster With Ninja,” “Lady With Accordion” and “Motet.” A digital file of “Sea Monster” went to local drummer Joe Nelson for possible use as a CD cover for a new release by his surf band, Hypnotide. The guys were reportedly enthusiastic so maybe this will come to pass.
The other two works went to a Cultural Arts Center call for entry into a show entitled “The Sight of Music.” The theme is loosely built around synesthesia, a cross wiring of the brain which allows people to see colors and forms via any of the five senses. One of the jurors is Christopher Purdy, a WOSU classical music host and musicologist who might actually know about motets, so I’m hoping I have a shot. I’ve been rejected by every juried show I’ve entered for the past year, but a losing streak can’t last forever.
Here’s the final version of “Motet.”
The board presents a dizzying collection of imagery. Human nature always wants to make a story out of what it sees so those who have never heard of a motet will probably come up with some doozies. Most of the panels can stand on their own too.
Here they are.
Krishna and Radha is one of the more esoteric efforts and is modeled on an old Hindu image I found in a book. What’s not to like about two lovers floating on an ocean of love dressed only in lotus blossoms? I fussed over whether or not to add a full moon to the upper left-hand corner but decided against it. It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole when it comes to design.
I nixed adding more frame detail to baby Krishna too, thinking it would squeeze the image toward the center too much. The red oval now blooms out like a flower in a more relaxed way.
The kissing lovers are based on some stock clip art I found on the internet and only needed a little cleaning up. I could have added more detail but decided to keep things simple.
One of the difficulties with this piece was all the paint drops and smudges which appeared on the surface after I’d moved on to other parts of the piece. I should have masked off the stuff that was already done, but didn’t learn until late in the process.
I’m happy with this little angel, especially the wings which were drawn using French curves. I’m happiest when adding obsessive-compulsive details like the feathers on the wings. Only those who step up close will see them.
The singing monks were some of the hardest things to do on the whole board. So much shading and outlining and plain old hard work! I’m pleased on the whole but wish I’d had a steadier hand on the music stand. Will anyone ever look carefully enough to see the “Ave Maris Stella Dei Mater”(Hail Star of the Sea) inexpertly painted on the music manuscript? Probably not.
Of all the images, this is my least favorite. I should have added another layer of landscape behind the lace curtain or maybe chosen a different type of curtain altogether. I was short of time so I let a few mistakes stand. It’s hard to discern when a new strategy is an improvement or just a different kind of bad.
“Pin Up” is not as good as I’d hoped. I fussed endlessly over the eyes but finally gave up. The end product often doesn’t live up to ego requirements, but if art is anything, it’s a willingness to expose yourself as you really are.
The cowboy is one of the sweetest images on the board. Early on in the process hubby Joel noted that almost all the figures were women so I added a man. Some of the vocal lines in medieval motets were directly lifted from the secular French troubadour tradition, so a serenading cowboy isn’t all that far from the overall theme of the work.
The tree with snakes was an unfortunate recipient of the countless accidents and smudges which occurred over the six weeks it took to paint this thing. Hubby judges this panel as the weakest of them all but I disagree. Part of the charm of medieval motets was the sophisticated sympathic vibrations which could arise between the interweaving lines of bi-lingual lyrics. Snakes often appear in the iconography of the Virgin Mary, to which this image gives sly reference. There’s also a bit of the garden of Eden’s tree of life here which pleases me no end.
I adore black gospel music and had a lot of fun with this. Great care was taken to give all the ladies different hairdo’s and make them as beautiful as possible. The ribbon trimming their green vestments is taken from the colors in kente cloth. No one will notice this, but it’s nice to have something in a painting which is just for me.
Some panels came together quickly while others required an agonizing amount of effort. This one came somewhere in between. The robe-like background was relatively easy but the hands took a lot of thinking. The most successful element, the addition of a thin, luminescent pink line at the top of the hands, was accidental. Sometimes you just get lucky. The design of the hands is based on a traditional hand position which spells out the Greek word for Christ. I rotated one of hands 90 degrees to the left, copied and flipped it, then pasted the two together. The results are nonsensical and strange, but it was a welcome surprise to see the labial-like folds which spontaneously appeared in the center. The pinpoint of white light in the middle of this triangle is the most important spot in the whole piece for me.
You never know what a juror will think about the suitability of an image for a public space, but if anything causes me trouble it’ll probably be this panel. I knew what I was doing when I included it, but couldn’t bear to leave it out.
The center panel might offend some religious sensibilities but I like the saucy Ziegfeld girls hiding their naughty bits behind those black fans. Isn’t Divine Nature always hiding in plain sight?
I “hit the wall” toward the end. I’d given myself a week to complete the lattice-work framing around all the images, but when Monday rolled around exhaustion and doubt arose in equal measure. How could I possibly do it? And even if I did, wasn’t the whole thing a fool’s errand, a monumental waste of time and an outright embarrassment? I only persevered because there was so much time already invested, it seemed too late to turn back. Without much joy or enthusiasm, I masked off the images and completed the necessary drudge work. Chrome yellow pigment offers very little coverage and must be over-painted repeatedly even in the best of times. Since I’d drawn everything out on a grid using pencil, I had to first carefully paint everything with white primer before I could even begin laying down color. Thankfully, the primer did the trick and I got away with one coat. After that came decisions about what level of detail I could accomplish in the little time I had left. I was so disturbed by this problem I literally dreamed of various designs and rejected them all. I wanted the elements to be stitched together and form one piece, like a quilt. Equality between the panels is necessary because of the equality of the vocals in a motet: sacred and profane interweaving, even morphing into one another, back and forth like a dance and everything also happening at the same time. What a delightfully wacky artform. Maybe we should bring it back!
It’s up to the fates whether I’ll be accepted into the “Sight of Music” show but I’m satisfied that what I’ve accomplished is worthwhile. With great effort comes great release. I’m content.