The First of the Watchers

Woods Watcher, 24 x 36 in., oil on canvas
Woods Watcher, 24 x 36 in., oil on canvas

I still haven’t figured out how to show a progressing project with alerts to my followers, so I’m continuing to post progressives on my professional Facebook page. But here’s the whole progression (below) of the first of my “Watchers” series. I’m pretty happy with the way it’s turned out, and I’ve submitted it for the Arnot Regional.

So, what is a Watcher? It’s a concept I picked up somewhere in my youthful reading — Watchers were pagan religious symbols, or figurines, or minor deities, ensconced or trapped in tree trunks along hidden paths. The idea took root in my mind, and when in middle age I lived in the back hills of northern Pennsylvania, there were a couple of standing tree stumps along the road that I mentally christened “the Watchers” — they seemed alert, attentive. Statuary sometimes strikes me that way, especially in incongruous or unexpected settings. And then I ran across a mannequin head in an Etsy shop that triggered the “Watcher” alert in me. With permission from the generous shop owner, I’ve commenced a series of paintings based on her mannequin (this one), as well as more statuary, mannequins, and other humanoid objects as they dispassionately observe the impending disasters of our world. There is something in them that is positive — not hopeful, not despairing — but also not clinging, and open to whatever comes.

I don’t normally explain my work and motivation like this, but this piece comes from deep within me. And that I can’t explain. I can only let whatever is in me manifest itself in my work, with little or no conscious input from me. As I tell my painting students, don’t put any effort into expressing yourself or your emotions — that will happen despite your best efforts, and it’ll be more genuine if you just let it happen while you’re concentrating on other things. After so many years as a rational planner and designer of publications, I myself find this a hard lesson.

Click in any of the tiled photos below, to switch to a slide show of progressives. To exit the slide show, click the small X in the upper left corner.

“Entry Hall” progress, and two new landscapes

Unlikely Dance: Entry Hall no. 11
Unlikely Dance: Entry Hall no. 11 (unfinished) – 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

I’ve realized, in looking at my schedule for the summer, that because of the Unlikely Dance series I have very few new small pieces to show. And getting so mentally tangled up in Unlikely Dance is not really good for either the work or me. So I’ve started two small (20 x 16 in.) landscapes, and am working them in around Entry Hall. It’s proven great for the large piece — taking a couple of days’ break from it gave me a new outlook, and I made a lot of progress when I got back into it. And I’ve found a new model reference for face #1 (L-R), which just wasn’t working. I’m just waiting for the overpainting to dry. I think two or three more work sessions should see it finished.

River Willows 03, unfinished, 20 x 16 in., oils on canvas
River Willows no. 03, unfinished, 20 x 16 in., oils on canvas
During drying times I’ve gotten both small landscapes underpainted, and am nearly finished blocking in first colors on the first one, River Willows. It’s referenced from a series of photos I took last spring, along the Susquehanna River around Endicott, NY.

I also have a new taboret and palette! My husband is doing a complete renovation of our kitchen (his wonderful food and cooking blog is Dinner at Leo’s), and he no longer needs either the small pantry drawer unit or the wire kitchen cart so I’ve taken them over, and added a 12 x 18 in. cheap metal picture frame on the top for a palette. The glass in the frame makes the easily-cleaned palette, and I put light grey paper under the glass for a neutral colored mixing surface. The wheeled cart is so much easier than the previous small shelf unit to move from one painting to another. Very pleased!

My new taboret and palette
My new taboret and palette: the diagonal rod across the drawer unit is the leg of my folding easel.

The “Unlikely Dance” project was made possible by a grant from the Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York

To follow my progress in Unlikely Dance, just click on the “Unlikely Dance” link under TOPICS, on the left of any page in this blog.