One thing I enjoyed about this image or photo I shot while staying at T.C. Steele Boyhood home in Waveland Indiana with my wife Robyn, was the novel angles on this old staircase that rose to the upstairs. Then I began to think about how to enhance this view by darkening everything and have this light source coming from the bottom of the stairs by the open door as well as subtle lighting at the top of the staircase. I wanted some very dark shadows, that had this murky charcoal look, wood very beat up by its’ occupants and aged by use. A very rustic drawing seemed right to me to enhance this. I am using M. Graham Oil Paints, made with Walnut Oil, that I allowed to be very juicy, so the painting would have these spider vein drips I enjoy. It was like the painting was painting itself as the veins appeared. Some may be painted out and some left in as the painting dictated.
The idea of stairs, going someplace, either up or down fascinates me. I remember the song, “Stairway to Heaven”, always loved that song. Then having a figure seems to add something real to any painting, otherwise, it can be just things. The figure gives a painting an immediate focus. There is life in a figure or figure representation that the viewer needs to make some kind of restitution with. It helps the viewer to look at himself or herself possibly a little more objectively.
One thing I fight within a painting is that it is dark enough to show the brightness of the lights. I get my values off, I think I am dark enough and I am not, so I need to make definite decisions from the get-go of the painting. To grow and improve, and avoid pitfalls as a painter, I must be honest with myself. Know what areas of my knowledge is lacking and what I should put mental energy towards developing. The value study as a base is a very good move for me personally with this painting. Helping to define lights, darks, mid-tones etcetera. Figuring out where my hard and soft edges, lost edges in the painting will be. Going back and forth through the painting till it has the overall correct balance within the painting.
Each painting has a different plan of attack. I do think there is just one way to go about a painting, nor would I want or enjoy a painting that I had to do the same thing repeatedly hoping for different results. Is that not Edison’s definition of insanity? Maddening, that would be horrible. There are different criteria in every painting. I need to have fun and explore with each new painting I begin.
My idea going forward is that this foreground wood post and railing will be a very strongest focus, be the most dramatic, depicting the hand-worn aging over time. The strength of this post that has lasted years of young boys racing down a staircase, holding tightly as they swung around the corner. Secondly will be where the figure is coming through this door. Though the figure will need to be softer to contrast the sharpness of the post, creating great visual space between them both.
When you do a rough drawing like I did with this painting, it allows you to be freer with where you lay your paint or color. It is not like cutting a piece of wood where you decide to follow the line or cut to leave the line or cut the line away. You instead make your mark where you determine at that point in time is the best point to make it as the painting evolves. One thing I try to avoid is doing things I hate, and coloring inside of the line is one of those limiting things. Coloring books frustrated and annoyed me as a first grader at Catholic School. Maybe that is why my mother moved me out in second grade. Not sure. She told me it was because they complained about how bad my letters were, though the next school praised my neat letters. Today rougher seems to suit me better than smooth and tight. I guess I want the observer to see that a human being that breathed air, felt pain, had a real life was there before the painting at one point in time painting, moving his hand over the painting making marks. If they can feel that, I won.
In this painting, I wanted to make the mark making very evident. At every point I wanted each mark to be different as possible, but together like a great orchestra all pull together to make its’ statement. Some paint was laid in with a knife, a brush, scraped, sanded and many other tools. Some scumbled, dry brushed, glazed, drawn whatever suite the painting that craved it. Color was used sometimes minimally and other times like the orange right side, very boldly. Warm and cool colors were considered to help define a push and pull of space, while the sanding scratches unified the painting while building a thick veil of air inside the arising staircase.
I am thinking about calling this painting the presence. I have stayed at a few painters homes or studios were they once lived, now gone from this visual dimension hopefuly to the next. It is like some part of them has been left behind. Or maybe the things in the home or studio are the things that most impressed them and showed up in their painting. Maybe T. C. Steele’s mother, that you do not hear much about. Even the Israelites brought back Joseph’s bones from Egypt to the promised land because there was a significance to them, or it was part of him, maybe residue power? There is much we do not understand. It is okay to say, we do not understand, or not as of yet, I do not. Then seek to figure it out.
I enjoy learning and want to continue in a state of learning as long as the God’s breath resides in my spirit.