Creative Process: Taking a Deeper Look…

by Alden Cole on January 11, 2015 · 0 comments

“Self-love is the greatest of all flatterers.” – François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)

AcediaLuxuriaSuperbiaWPAcedia, Luxuria, Superbia • central panel of The Seven Deadly Sins • oil on canvas, 50″ x 46″.

January 2010: Five years ago this month I started this larger-than-life painting for a show of art inspired by Shakespeare’s play Henry IV Part I, sponsored by the DaVinci Art Alliance in collaboration with Philadelphia’s Lantern Theater Company. As a DaVinci member I had gotten used to participating in shows based on particular themes. My enjoyment of this challenge to creativity had originated during my days in NYC working as an illustrator, doing both fashion and editorial work. At that time during the ’70s, I was usually attempting to give form to some art director’s vision, all of course subject to the client’s approval. This time however, there were no art directors or clients to impress or win the approval of. Whatever I created for this show would hang on the black-painted walls of the Lantern Theater’s rehearsal space in the basement at St. Stephen’s – that cavernous space that doubled as our gallery during our annual collaborative efforts – a space referred to as The Box. The big plus was there were no size restrictions on our work, due to the spaciousness of the room, compared to the usual restriction of 36″ x 36″ maximum for shows at the DaVinci home gallery.

AcediaLuxuriaSuperbiaWPAfter reading the play in early January, I asked myself what I could possibly paint that was based on this classic history play by the bard which struck me as a ‘guys play’ in the same way that there are guy-flicks (movies). I was clueless about what to make during the early part of Janurary, but by mid-month I had come up with a plan to use the largest of three stretched-and-primed blank canvases that Sharon Bailey had given to me when she left Philadelphia for Florida well over a decade before. Building on the knowledge that the theme of the summer show at DaVinci was Seven, i started thinking about actually attempting a painting, or two or three, dealing with The Seven Deadly Sins. Drawn to the theme since I was first exposed to reproductions of the master-work by Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516), the great Walloon painter of the late medieval/early Renaissance period, my interest was piqued even more by the series of paintings by a favorite 20th century artist Paul Cadmus (1904-1999), who added an eighth deadly sin – Jealousy. My contemporary Jamie Wyeth, only two years my junior, has also contributed a consummate examination using seagulls as the signs/symbols through which to explore the emotions.

AcediaLuxuriaSuperbia2WPSo this became the first painting of 2010, just one year after my parents had died, within a month of each other – January 5 & February 6 2009. It was rather a startling departure from my usual style of painting, approached through trial and error, once I’d decided the subject matter was going to focus on three of the seven deadly sins, as exemplified by the three main protagonists in Shakespeare’s play – Prince Hal, the future Henry IV, just killing time while he waits for his turn on the throne; Falstaff his wayward drinking buddy; and Hotspur, the Scottish rebel prince who challenges Prince Hal’s claims. Ultimately, it’s a coming-of-age story, replete with transformative regeneration as Prince Hal accepts his responsibilities as coming king. I decided to focus on Prince Hal’s initial slothfulness, his corrupting buddy Falstaff’s luxurious habits, and the consuming pride of his rival, Hotspur. Working with a ball-point pen, I started with a series of 3 quick sketches describing the feeling I hoped to convey through cartoonish portraiture; next I looked into a mirror and tried a quick set of self-portraits. Setting up a tripod and taking a series of camera self-portraits was the next stage; after which I selected my favorites, which were then developed into a layered comp in Photoshop, as seen below.

PhotoCompWPNext installment will deal with the creation of the other four sins – Anger, Envy, Avarice, Gluttony – on a pair of same-sized canvases.

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