whats-behind-the-artwork

Layers of color until it’s just right.  The thought process of making “A Gathered Strength” 

maëry lanahan

The idea for this painting started as a feeling of wanting to have a space inside that would attract strength in my life.  I have always admired people’s resilience and fortitude. Some people have to go through a lot in their life and the struggles are very real, yet they don’t get drawn down into the spiral of chaos and trauma.  They are so resilient that it almost brings tears to your eyes.  Wedding tears, of course.  Like you are just so much in awe of them.  I haven’t had trials like some of the people I’ve known, but as a witness I can see that the more intense a persons trials are, the more beautiful their resilience is. 

They have to have some way of gathering strength, and what does that look like? This painting is an illustration of what that gathering place might look like. I wanted to explore that concept in the form of a painting. 

As I blocked in the color, I started boldly, knowing that I would layer the colors and mute them down.  I surrounded naphthol red in Hansa Yellow so it would have an inner glow at the end. I also knew I wanted this piece to resemble a flower but not exactly be a flower.

The layers evolved as I progressed. First the extra petal in a cream, then layered with a transparent glaze of pthalo green, and defining the curved shapes with a dark tone and a flower pistil-like line for the middle. I was really happy to see the lower left corner reddish brown recede in space while the dark angular tones became the subject.  I always get really excited when I can use color and form challenge what we're seeing, like does this go back in space, or come forward?

The next set of layers refined the shapes even more, and I was able to take the line in the middle of the red and turn it into a twisted middle that is developing into the focal point. When I picture something coiled up, or knotted, this is the shape I picture, and with the darkness refining it, it is coming along to what I'm getting at.  The real epicenter to where the strength and resilience would be gathered into.  

After reflecting on the piece at this stage, I decided to add extra details in the form of flower petal-like shapes and even some lines with seed-like shapes at the end, like you see in the center of lilies.  I also followed my nose to incorporate some weaving of forms so that they would look overlapped or twisted together.  At this stage of the piece I was starting to feel the motion, or the pull of energies into that central coiled hole.

Here's a detail of that coiled hole area and some of the transparencies developing around it .  I was careful to keep the colors very warm and inviting and pulling a person in to settle down and get comfortable. This is what I imaging that strength would need to be attracted into a person.

Then I added more layers and detail to really make it into something that looks like you can hold it, like a flower...but not a flower....but inspired by the form.Here's a later detail of that same spot.

So then I finished it out by adding more transparent layers that help give the feeling of motion and ethereal energy to counter the earthy feel of the flower-like form.

 


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