Friday, February 10, 2012

Preparation - hunting & gathering

What have I been up to the past few days since the successful launching of my campaign? On the one hand, tending to other important matters re. life in general and this project in particular - some of that has included what I am coming to share today.

Jim is an inveterate lover of wood. All sorts of wooden objects already exist in our lives - a lot of them interesting shapes not appropriate for the project, but yes useful for one of his projects, homily sticks & ponder panels.

Nevertheless, we have found many panels and other wood objects amid our own stash of 'treasures'. We have also gone on walks through the Ivy River trail and the Laurel River in search of great canvases - we're pretty sure we have enough raw materials to begin our process.

However (as can be seen here) finding wood is only part of the battle!

What remains is the need to
  1. clean and de-bug them (yes, nature at work!)

  2. cut them down to size

  3. sand the actual wood itself

  4. gesso them - a process involving gesso, waiting for it to dry, gessoing again, sanding down what's been gessoed, then applying a new layer

  5. Amid discussions with the parties involved, we have decided to prepare 'canvases' on a weekly schedule. My associate for the project thinks he can get 6 of them to me before the beginning of the week, which would allow me to grab them and get to work.

    An additional interesting tidbit comes re. the choices for sizes. When I first conceived of this project (and came up with the three prototypes) I was planning on making all of these on small pieces of wood - not much more than 6in x 12in in size. However, as I study the images on the book, I have come to see some of them as requiring a bigger canvas - some of them because they originally were in huge canvases, others because the level of detail demands a bigger surface and, paradoxically, some of them prove so simple and impressionistic that I fear that any artistic merit would be lost in a smallish display.

    This image, from around 1840 titled "Sun Setting Over a Lake", shows some of the trademarks of his later work - a translucent use of light and the Impressionistic consciousness that no doubt influenced or informed the work of later Impressionists in France and elsewhere. It measures 35in x 48in, thus is essentially a large piece - but more importantly to me, how to reproduce it on wood without completely losing any pictorial or artistic merit? This is a difficult style to replicate - even more so than the earlier pieces where the pictorial nature of boats and oceans and whatnot carry the piece through.

    I feel like a larger canvas would at least lend greater meaning to this piece, as well as a purposefully textured piece of wood - i would gesso and sand it lightly so that some of the shapes would shine through.

    This is a fundamental reason for undertaking this project, though... to ask myself these questions from a painterly and historical perspective, to remain faithful to what the artist sought to produce, as well as to find a way to make the pieces compelling in their own right. By asking and answering these questions, through a long-term unrelenting process, I have faith I will find a new relationship with painting in general and this artist (and his many guises) in particular.

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