|"The Gathering" by Jim Carpenter, Acrylic on Crescent Board, 12" x 20"|
When Icons Aren't Enough
Some of these figures are beginning to feel like old friends. I've seen them before in my other paintings. Thus the title, "The Gathering."
When I began this painting I imagined the figures were long-buried icons being uncovered. I used various gel mediums, including crackle paste, to get the effects of ancient crumbling walls and plaster. This is the painting I started with - the one of the 30 that I said I was going to "finish" in this 30 day challenge.
So when I picked the painting up again I began to work on fleshing out the figures. I added combinations of metallic gold and bronze and quinacridone gold.
Eventually I found that having the figures on the wall as adornment simply wasn't enough to satisfy me. I wanted to put the figures into an environment in order to create narrative. I wondered if the original artist put them in an environment. I thought: "Well when the artist painted this on the ancient wall did he have them in a scene or were they just icons on a gilt wall?"
Yes, I know that sounds a bit crazy, but remember I was "a theatre person" for a good number of decades. Stanislavsky rules! Creating characters and back history and putting yourself in the situation of the character are second nature to theatre people. Still, sometimes it's important for me to remember that I really am the painter of my paintings! I'm the decider.
The Environment and NarrativeThe environment does not have to be literal. It can be figurative - simple - abstract space. Where the figures are placed in that space and how they are positioned is what creates story.
Although we don't have a lot of details, a story is there for the telling. You can imagine that the figure on the left is benevolent, judging by the tilt of the head, and by its being positioned on the left side of the paper. There seems to be a conversation of sorts going on between the two figures on the right. But it is the central figure who is the strongest - that is, the central figure takes the most focus. Although it would seem that all of the figures are engaged in their own activity, it is the figure who is closest to the viewer, closest to the center, and with his full back to us who catches our attention - because of where he is and how he is positioned in the space in relationship to the other figures. With his back to us he generates additional wonder and mystery.
PS. I had a few good laughs at myself while writing this blog post. I had not really thought about how I slip into theatrical modes of thinking when I paint. Stanislavsky would be proud of my liberal use of "what if."