Ascension, oil on panel, 40 x 32", 2008
In the previous blog post I talked about the just published Studio Visit magazine Volume 24 that features two of my major oils. It offered some background on my large oil Inland. The second oil featured, Ascension, has an intriguing back story as well.
In 1976 I made my first trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts and was floored by its long expanses of undulating dunes. The spaces seemed so open that I felt I was painting the whole of the world as I worked there. They called out for big horizontal compositions.
A few years back I had one of my big Cape Cod panoramas hanging in my dining room. A decorative mirror hung on a wall adjoining the long painting. It caught a reflection of the painting from an extremely oblique angle, causing it to appear squeezed into a vertical format. My wife Alice spied the image in the mirror. She loved how it looked and called me to see.
The Morning, oil on linen, 42 x 84"
The transformation of the painting was startling. A picture that had pushed your eyes back and forth, left and right now pulled your gaze up to the heavens. On the spot I resolved to do a painting about rising up. With it could come all sorts of feelings of transcendence, of letting go of worldly cares. I knew its title, Ascension, even before I had figured out what the composition would look like.
As I often do, I first worked my ideas out on a modest scale on a 20 x 16" panel. Satisfied with my composition, I stretched a 42 x 84" canvas and set to work, referring back to the smaller painting as a guide. I make a point to take all the time I need to get the forms and the color just right through painting and re-painting each passage several times. It can be a drawn out process. Inevitably the large painting takes on a life of its own. Certain areas depart from the original design, often becoming more inventive and evocative than the original oil.
Ascension II, oil on panel, 20 x 16"
Through playful experimenting, the large version's far distant line of sand dunes ended up far more volumetric and more intriguing as a two dimensional design. It made a stronger statement, so I returned to the original 20 x 16" oil and repainted all the background forms.
Sometime children outgrow their parents and teach their elders new things. So it was here. In light of this I re-titled the original Ascension oil to be Ascension II. Happily the painting was just acquired by a collector in Wilmington, Delaware.
Here's the spread in Studio Visit magazine, Volume 24.