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Creative Process

This blog will follow the process of my current project: a series of three 5' x 9' figure paintings called "The Feast of Venus". I'll be posting the preliminary drawings and oil sketches as I complete them, and possibly add some commentary along the way. I have just begun this project and am working on the first painting in the series which has the working title "Stirring the Pot". All images on this blog are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

In The Beginning...The Feast of Venus

When people ask where I get my ideas the answer I generally give is that they just come. Some ideas arrive all at once; others seem to push slowly -yet relentlessly - into my awareness. This idea was one of the latter.

For a long time I have wanted to do a painting that captured the poetry of cooking. Cooking for me is an activity that makes me simultaneously alert and relaxed. To use a hackneyed term -“centered” I'm surprised not to see “cooking meditation” listed with “sitting meditation” and “walking meditation” on websites offering spiritual guidance.

As an artist I find cooking loaded with metaphor and poetically resonant moments. Sprinkling salt into a large kettle of boiling water, for example. The gesture feels like the performance of an ancient blessing - steam rising like a prayer.

Many acts of cooking have poetic force: to carve architectural shapes out of raw vegetable matter is to make art out of life. When I dice carrots or slice celery into a series of translucent arches I always think of Vermeer’s “Lace-maker"and how, under the guise a simple domestic scene, he reveals a mystical geometry.

And then there is cutting meat and sharpening knives: violence and change and blood.

And baking, well, there is a lot to say about that; baking is the subject of the second painting in this series, so more on that later. For the curious, the third painting in the series will be the feast itself.

But cooking and its metaphors are only one of the motivations for this piece, or series of pieces. I like to update mythological themes so I thought I would do a modern Feast of Venus which would be a celebration of women, women of all kinds, shapes, and ages, doing what women love to do, which is to talk to each other. And I also wanted it to be about women and food; I imagined how women would eat if they were free of all their inhibitions and restrictions and obsessions with food: what would genuine enjoyment look like?

Eventually I put the two ideas together and decided that before the feast there must be cooking; with that the idea came to be about how women create themselves: a “history painting” about women’s history and also about creativity itself.

The sketches on this post were the first ones I did when I began on the idea. This stage of a painting is quite difficult: it is as if you can hear music playing very faintly and far in the distance. You want to transcribe it and strain every muscle to listen; at first you can only catch fragments of phrases.


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