Friday, January 05, 2007

Intensity


An artist, I once knew many years ago, was working on a series of paintings based on the idea of intensity. Her premise was that all intensity equals no intensity. At the time the idea seemed strange to me until I saw her paintings and understood what she meant. If everything is intense, if there is no contrast, if there is nothing to compare it to then intensity is a relative term. It is like the idea of “local color” which if it exists in a vacuum it applies otherwise it is relative to everything around it.

Okay, so why am I thinking about intensity? Well, the last 6 months of my life have been more intense than I would have liked them to be. At times I felt like I was wound up tighter than a cheap watch. I think that this has been reflected in my paintings, which seemed to portray all intensity all the time. This is just tiring. It is like when I cook spaghetti sauce, if I let the pot boil, soon everything will cook away. When I keep it at a simmer I can gently nurse it all day long letting the flavors gently weave together and not evaporate away. Yet, at any moment I can simply turn up the heat and bring it back to a boil if needed.

Well, it is a New Year and so time for new thoughts, ideas, goals, and directions. It is time for me to loosen my grip on those things that I cannot control. It sounds simple enough but with my OCD it becomes a major task. So, I have started to refocus on my meditation practices. Going back to meditation is like visiting an old friend that I haven’t seen in awhile. I enjoy the company and can’t figure out why I stayed away. It brings a calmness and relaxation that is a welcomed counter balance to the intensity. All intensity all the time is fun for a while but it is a sure recipe for burning out my life.

Our winter here has been very mild and most pleasant. This has enabled me to get the dogs out for a daily walk in a nearby nature preserve. The walks alone help to clear and calm my mind but I have a bad habit of getting caught up in some obscure thought that ends up taking on a life of its own. So, I have started using yoga breathing techniques to go with my walking. Focusing on my breath is like a mantra that empties my mind of irrelevant thoughts, concerns, and worries. I am able to let go of my death grip on all things intense and start to enjoy the more subtle things all around me. It is like a vacation, a well-needed vacation for my brain. Once again I am enjoying the wonderfully rich earth colors and the textures of the bare branches and vines as they twist and weave in the most intricate patterns. There is an incredible visual richness. It reminds me of some of the things that I wanted to achieve in my paintings before I got seduced by my own wandering thoughts. So it is time for me to refocus.


I am starting to play with some different materials and techniques to see where they will lead me. I am also going to dial back the intensity of my colors and explore some muted tones. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed them. It is time to try for a more balanced approach (considering how unbalanced I am this should be interesting).

Both of these pieces are done on prepared paper. The first one, NUDE IN A YELLOW CHAIR, measures 36” X 24” and is done with oil and oil pastel. The second one is an attempt to play with some new techniques. It measures about 10” x 14” and is done with oil washes and colored pencil. It is an attempt to somewhat dial back my colors. It is based on my recent walks.

5 Comments:

Blogger leslyf@gmail.com said...

Good, good, GOODIE .... you are posting and painting, Ed.

Now, you know I like your nudes and this one is lovely. So warm and bright .. makes me happy to look at her.

And your 'woods' one is really nice ... I love what you have done here. You can tell that you have distilled this from your actual walks somehow ...... so how did you manage that?

So good luck with your experimenting and I wish you a much less harrowing time this year than last.

Keep painting and posting, pretty please.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Martha Marshall said...

Ed, It was so nice to see a notice in my inbox that there was something new on your blog. Like I'd received a gift that I couldn't wait to open. And you never disappoint.

The paintings are beautiful, and this blog entry is right on target for me. It's a nice reminder of the many benefits of slowing down and getting into the moment.

Thanks so much for that!

I look forward to your new color explorations.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Thanks for the mirror mirror ref, Ed! As soon as I stroll around the blog-neighborhood, I'll be off to look and see!

Re: intensity. I love the luminance in the landscape-ish thing. That slight dialing back may open the way for a deepening of your visual poetry.

I guess I experience color almost as musical tones/volume, and the slightly less high-key play is very fine to my eye.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Crowell said...

Ed,
I love the intense colors you use but also very much appreciate your insight into using them selectively. In my own work I seem to swing close to overly muted color at times, then rediscover the impact that intense colors provide. The best paintings seem to have a tension between intense and neutral color. I think you described this so well. It is indeed what we often see in nature, especially in winter--I think of the way a red berry clinging to a dormant highbush cranberry plant in January looks.

I just finished a painting (it is posted on my blog) in which I was exploring this same color idea--there is a very quiet, cool white panel paired with an intense red. So it was a nice surprise to come across your entry voicing (from another perspective) similar concerns.

I'm glad to have found your blog and will check in often--!

9:38 AM  
Blogger amber said...

Your thoughts are wonderful to read i have a very short attention span and can rarely get hooked on reading anything, but your concepts of art and life molten are ART -truely

11:16 PM  

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