What inspires a painting?
In my case it is usually an old bit of antiquity. A pretty bottle that reflects the light, a hand made piece of 19th century lace or in the case of my newest painting an absolutely gorgeous 1800's copy of "Paradise Lost".
This small leather bound beauty started the entire ball rolling and it was uncanny how items in this still life just fell in my lap. These are the paintings I most enjoy working on. Some compositions are just really hard to put together and some just seem to build themselves. After finding this book I found another beautiful, and while a more vague title, equally as powerful a read "Encyclopedia of Facts" by Edwin Paxton Hood printed in 1846. This amazing study of Philosophy and Christianity in regards to attainable world peace absolutely fell at my feet a day after I found Paradise Lost. It was a sign to me and since I am a very passionate political activist in a world that seems at times to have gone astray, it was a message I wanted to say in my newest work.
I felt it necessary to re-read again Paradise Lost as well as discover for the first time Edwin Hood's book so that their expressions would somehow make an impression on this work. Paradise lost is a classic and always has been one of my favorite epic poems. From this tiny book came a marble copy of Michelangelo's "Eve, Creation Night" another love of mine as well as old tapestries and a 19th century tea towel. I just had it in my mind that I would use Dahlias in this painting which I later found out were sometimes called in antiquity "Les Etoiles de Diable" (Stars of the Devil) I had to order them special from our local florist. All came about in a matter of a week and as this painting built itself I also had photos sitting on my computer of a recent visitor to my barn who posed for me reluctantly as I shooed him gently into the woods. The dangerous Copperhead Snake is seldom a welcome sight here but he was so beautiful I had to use him in this painting. He was perfect. So in the end I just felt like this composition created itself and I was merely the person behind the brush. As a miniature artist an 18" by 24" is a giant sea of a canvas but it really was an easy paint for me. It took about 230 hours to complete and I never got bored of it once. Paintings that come together like this rarely happen so it was very enjoyable for me. It has a few layers of meaning, some obvious and others much more subtle.
I believe a message in a painting can hide behind an obvious. Obviously this work narrates the fall of Eden. The choice made to walk away from paradise. But what about the choices today? The sacrifices we have made as a country and personally yet we still walk away from Eden. Do we not still make bad choices repeatedly, over and over and over again. Bad choices in governance, bad choices personally, bad choices for our environment. Even with the weight of guilt we just can not seem to grasp those good choices, accept the truths of the world. We prefer to wrap our world in material beauty, weighing us down, and hiding behind a good story to defer blame to one who originally made that bad decision, too weak to take responsibility for it ourselves.
I can't wait to start the next painting as a beautiful 100 year old copy of Utopia fell into my lap today :)