After recently starting a new painting, I thought this would be an ideal piece to share my process and story telling behind each layer as I go.
This 30″x30″ commissioned painting will be a gift to a generous man and mentor who challenges people to think differently, inspires people to be better, more creative and makes people really think. The piece itself is helping me as an artist think differently about my approach and for that I feel like this is a gift to me as much as it is to Mr. X.
For this first phase, the layers begin with the story of Mr. X’s love of racing and art. Not something you would think would go together right away. What Mr. X has done is create artwork using the athlete’s tools (car and tires) as the paintbrush on a creatively receptive canvas which are then signed by the athlete and auctioned off which support various charities. Symbolically, I have chosen this to be the texture and background pattern for the piece. Let the story and texture begin…
The fun begins by adding dimension and color to the tire tracks with layers 4-6.
Here is the color palette that you will start to see develop in layers 7-11. These are some of Mr. X’s favorite colors that will give the piece a feeling of passion with a rustic edge:
Something unexpected always happens as the pieces take shape. The tire tracks not only are the primary texture to the piece, it also provides me with the framework for the color layout that I didn’t plan but I am thrilled to uncover. Another idea occurred to me – the shapes of the tread remind me of the rings on the inside of a tree. As the tree grows, it gets more rings. It kind of parallels our lives – the more experiences we have, the richer and mor meaningful our lives become.
Here is where the story and personalization of the piece rich in memories past and future begin. Starting with Mr. X’s Aunt Emma Lou, she was a big influence in his life early on. She helped give him the drive for his adventurous side and how women can do anything. In the 1960’s, she made trips to Baja by herself and so his love of Mexico and off-road sports began, brought out in layers 12-17:
Layers 18-25 begin the element about shadows. You could say Mr. X’s shadow is his forever friend. To him, it is his ‘constant companion.’ He often takes photos of his shadow with other important parts of his life. Do you see him and can you tell what he took a picture of with him?
It was his dog, Belle who has since passed on.
Shadows have even more meaning to Mr. X. They speak to thinking creatively – that to have a shadow there has to be light or brilliance. To show brilliance, you have to have a shadow. This element of the piece; ‘brilliance’ and ‘illumination’ will not be easily seen when it is finished. These words will only be visible in certain light or illumination.
Remember Aunt Emma Lou? She is now coming into focus in Mr. X’s life. Her influence on being adventurous is called out by her.
Layers 26-44 start to show a path across time. In this corner of the piece is a pair of shoes. But these are no ordinary shoes, they are ruby slippers. Symbolic of an extremely painful time in Mr. X’s family, they represent when his youngest daughter Em was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 5, just before Halloween. His oldest daughter Lo dressed up as Dorothy and asked for her sister to go home because “there’s no place like home.” Lo was forever changed and her career was burned into her soul from this point on. I don’t mean to be overly mysterious, I just think that the details are best left for when the painting is finished and the story can completely be seen and described in full.
This next image that shows ‘Free…’ shows how I chose to illustrate the story with the illusion of movement, indicated by the drag marks to the left of the words – in line with the tire tread.
Layers 45-52 have to do with Mr. X’s “happy place.” If you scroll up to layers 12-17 you’ll see an image of a map with Baja, Mexico. Mr. X has a deep love of Baja tied to off-road racing and time spent with close friends, family, business partners and athletes who continue to fill the place of passion in his heart like Paul Newman.
Tequila, especially this brand, is a part of the fun – brought to the tradition by the gal who commissioned this piece for Mr. X. I asked her to bring me the most recent bottle they finished off, plus some dirt and sand from Baja to make the painting that much more authentic for him.
Ever try to take a label off a bottle of wine? Not an easy task. I had to enlist the help of my husband to peel it off (wth a razor blade, water and a sponge). If it were left to me, it would be in shreds and I’d use a printed photo. Thanks to him, it’s the actual label. Crisp and dry out of the oven. See how I made Baja show through the label and the paint?
Layers 53-66 are where I am adding and removing paint to deepen the richness of the color and enhance the rustic quality of the piece.
Notice how Bella and Mr. X. have faded into the background? I’m really liking how the angles of their shadow fit perfectly in the pattern of the tire tracks, illuminated in an almost dusk light.
Did you catch all the writing? Those aren’t random phrases. They all have specific meaning. Some are direct quotes from some of the special women in Mr. X’s life – Aunt Emma Lou, his daughters and the gal who commissioned me to do this piece. They tie directly into the images on the painting.
Layers 67-82 complete the painting – that’s right, it is complete! All the details and personal story telling needed a cohesive string, something in common, the common thread of Mr. X. if you will. I achieved that with elements of color like the aqua ‘patina’ on the tire tracks and the primary scripted thought in gold that ties the theme together.
What’s next? A new blog post with professional photography so that I can give you a guided tour of the completed piece from the perspective from afar to the details up close. From far away, it will be like looking at the cover of a book and having a first impression on what the story is about. As you get closer and ‘turn more pages,’ the story will be revealed giving you not just the ending you hope for, but giving you a sense of what the next book in the series will be about with anticipation.