North by NorthWest

by Alden Cole on December 15, 2013 · 0 comments

NbyNWWPfrom the Inside, Looking Out series: oil on canvas, 22″ x 34″   $748

Summer Solstice 2013. Late last winter I cut up the last of some linen yardage acquired a year ago, enough to stretch four same-size canvases – 22″ x 34″ – on heavy duty stretchers. The ritual of transforming raw canvas into a surface suitable for painting has held a fascination for me from the very first time I stretched, glued, and primed linen onto a stretcher. It’s alchemy; part of the magic of making pictures for me. With the coming of spring, I mass prepared the four  canvases, though I had no clear idea as to what visuals would eventually grace them. Landscapes? Cityscapes? Realms of the Imagination or the Real World outside these windows to my soul? That would reveal itself in time.

Starting at the very beginning of the process, with the cutting of the linen yardage to a required size, there’s a wonderful sense of building something special, that continues through the processes of stretching the linen onto stretchers (I prefer the modern convenience of using a staple gun, to nailing with hammer and tacks), sizing the linen with rabbit skin glue (still my preference, despite advances with plastics) which transforms the slightly-slack stretched linen (no matter how good a job you do with the stretching) into a rigid surface that you can really bang on. In fact you have just created a virtual “drum,” rectangular in shape, whose sound is incredibly satisfying. Next, a light sanding to achieve the correct “hand” and then the priming. Whether you use white, which makes glazed color shimmer with light, or use a toned primer from which to extract your lights and lay in your darks, it’s the last stage before “show time.” Or perhaps I should say “performance” time – the getting down to actually painting, rather than just thinking about it.

Today’s cityscape – a view from my studio windows on the third floor looking toward Center City – is actually half of a second diptych, painted in tandem with yesterday’s diptych; all four painted in a two-week period centered on my 69th birthday. Each was base-painted in a day. Details had to wait until the surface was dry enough to rework without removing prior paint, and  consumed another day or more for each. The outcome was a celebration of a significant year!  North by NorthWest was one of my entries in Picturing Prose and Poetry, the DaVinci Art Alliance’s July member show. The painting’s partner, North by NorthEast, languishes unfinished. Not having a show lined up for presenting the two paintings, as I did with yesterday’s pair, I lost the impetus to finish the fourth and last painting. On this occasion, I am all too willing to put off the tedium of tight, close-up work necessary to add significant finishing details until I have  the assurance of  showing the painting, which will inspire me to add the finishing touches to the windows, which currently have a rather ghostly, blown-out, after-the-war, after-the-deluge, appearance. The painting hangs on the wall, next to its much more finished partner. I hung it there as a reminder that says “Finish ME.” My only question: Before or After? Now or Then?


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: