Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Did I Know of Love's Austere and Lonely Offices

This photograph for this painting was taken on my 30th birthday.  It was just over two weeks before my son was born.  I am seen here with my wife, at this point in our marriage we had only known each other for a year and a half (we met at the end of September and Got married at the beginning of June 8 months later, and got pregnant a month after that). This painting is meant to capture the heaviness of the situation and the conflicting feelings that I was experiencing at the time.  A new child was for me exciting and terrifying, it marked a new chapter in my life and in many ways spelled out an end to my freedom.  So I was filled with both eager anticipation and a sense of regret at the situation.  A bizarre dichotomy but one that is common to many soon to be parents, at least the one's that understand what parenthood entails.  Just to clarify, I love being a father, but I think the trepidation before becoming a parent is common and something that almost no one talks about.  The title of this piece was taken from this poem by Robert Hayden called Those Winter Sundays about a father's acts of thankless love.  This makes me reflect on my relationship with own father and think about what kind of father I want to be.

Sundays too my father got up early 
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, 
then with cracked hands that ached 
from labor in the weekday weather made 
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. 

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. 
When the rooms were warm, he’d call, 
and slowly I would rise and dress, 
fearing the chronic angers of that house, 

Speaking indifferently to him, 
who had driven out the cold 
and polished my good shoes as well. 
What did I know, what did I know 
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Though I've experimented with, and even taught classes in watercolor before, this is
the first time that I've actually created a fully realized painting using watercolor.  I've documented the process to show the evolution of the piece.  I began by painting all of the shadows on my body blue.  Much of this was covered up in the final image, but I was careful to leave much of it around my neck.

As a quick update, this painting was accepted into a nationally juried show at an art center in Golden Colorado.  It was exciting, however, when I turned in the framed piece (shown above) they said that the frame was unacceptable and if I wanted to piece in the show I would need to reframe it.  Though this was disappointing I opted to just retract the piece from the show, instead of paying a couple of hundred dollars to have it put into a frame that I didn't like. 

I only bring it up to highlight part of the stigma that surrounds watercolor as a medium. The reason that my frame was deemed unacceptable wasn't because it was unprofessional, it was because it didn't fit their ideas of what a frame should look like. Many practitioners are mired in the traditions that have kept the medium from being relevant.  I say this, because at the very same time that this frame was rejected I had a drawing on display that was framed identically in an Internationally Juried Drawing Exhibition at a more prestigious art center in Denver, which was by far the most impressive show that I've ever been involved with, and they had no issue with the professionalism of my frame.

I know it sounds like i'm complaining about not being in the show, and yes, I am doing that a little bit, but after that experience it really made me want to make more watercolors, to push the medium into the 21st century.  There are a lot of amazing contemporary artists working in watercolor, but they really don't get much recognition.  It's a beautiful medium and I hope that it becomes more prevalent in the landscape of contemporary painting.  

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