We took off for the month of September 2011 and traveled to Spain. From Barcelona to Majorca, then Sevilla to Marbella, spending a week in each area. On my birthday we spent the day at the Alhambra in Grenada – it was beyond words. I can only express in paint how stimulated my senses and emotions were by everything I saw. Since then I have been working like a fiend on paintings from my photos, sketchbooks, and journals.
I think it has been the most inspiring journey and series of my life. I have felt my style change and come into focus in a way that has been evolving for many years. While not dramatically different, it is as if the last pieces of the jigsaw have fallen into place and the picture is fully in focus – the meanings, expressions and reasons are in sync with the colors, composition and textures.
One of the first landmark moments was in Barcelona at the Miro museum. I was drawn to his titles, meanings and way of working in a new way. The second landmark was also in Barcelona at the Picasso museum. His series of the balcony window looking out at the Mediterranean sea was tremendously inspiring. I loved the black outlining in a way I had not realized before. And I liked the idea of working on a continued series of the same scene, reworked and drawn as inspiration for each successive piece. I determined to do this with a series when I got home.
I found the perfect balcony scene in Majorca, and did a series of line drawings in my journal to work from. I used these sketches as the basis for Bee Eaters, Paint of View and View for Sail. From those three I used the same idea of the dark outline, only allowing it to show more and more on each new piece.
The colors from Spain were much warmer than my usual palette, more oranges and reds, and golden yellow. As the Spanish series progressed I layered the colors for a rhythmic pulse that I mirrored in the composition and brush stroke movement. I wanted the movement to swirl and sway through the canvas like Spanish guitar music.
The ideas of Monet’s that I have always used, such as activating the whole composition, continuing a color from area to another to link that area to the next, and the pairing of colors to invigorate the eye, took on new meaning and purpose. The ideas of Hans Hoffman I have also used, such as push/pull to create a solid space, the color theories of using warm colors against cools, lights against darks and brilliant against neutral colors to intensify movement and spacial depth, also seemed to open up to me in a new way.
Each painting seemed to suggest the next, and I felt I was at once on a whole new ground and also in a place of purposeful comfort with what I was doing. I felt like I knew what was happening and directing the process, but that I was also being led by each idea to the next. Like in a dance where you effortlessly switch off with your partner from leading to following, I was always in the flow of the visual music.
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