African Dance 48"x24"x1.5"
African Dance was born out of a very profound learning experience for me in regards to painting. I had been doing some research on artists and their styles when I came upon Mel McCuddin, a fantastic figurative expressionist. I think I have literally watched his video on YouTube a hundred times. In all my years painting - well over 30 - I have never found an artist so close in theory and style. When I hear him speak it's as if my own words are coming out of his mouth. So this painting was my first experience with following his process. The undercoating begins with a full range of color, splashed and blended in a very random and full of energy manner. It's truly my favorite part. The painting is then set to the side for a couple of days to just be "looked at". This was a test for me. I have a tendency to get very excited and impatient by what I see - eager to create that which is speaking to me. But this time I didn't. I actually managed to wait. Eventually I began seeing this wonderful picture of a very awkward women laying on a beach, gently reclining on some sort of chair without legs. I just could not get that picture from my mind. Every time I walked by the painting I saw her.
This is where I blow it.
The thing that makes Mel McCuddin such a fantastic artist is that he keeps the mystery going. He never finds the picture and then sticks to it. The picture morphs out of a continual progression, constantly changing until that moment when it is done. I, on the other hand, get very attached to my minds eye. So I took a white pastel and began to sketch what I saw. For the most part, I thought I was following his process. I was "finding the picture" in the paint. So I just kept sketching. The picture was fantastic. The drawing unusual and intriguing. But something did not feel right. Unlike my usual behavior of diving right into the paints, I waited again. It must have been a week that I sat with that chalk girl looking at me. And then it hit me. Once again I was getting bogged down in the details - tied to the picture. No more mystery!
It was hard, but I got a damp cloth and wiped her away. I opened up what colors I thought would best go with the colors that were showing through the dark cover of the underpainting and just began to wildly splash paint on.
I followed my heart.
What emerged was African Dance. I knew just when to stop. It was so clear to me. More clear than any painting I have ever done. It was as if the painting itself spoke to me. Finished.
I love this painting. There is something very feminine about it to me. Old and wise. Celebratory. I truly hope that it finds the right space.