Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What I'm Working On

I am burying myself in my studio for the month of June, and I don't plan to come out of it until July. I am using this brief month between Spring semester and Summer School to get as much work done as I can.
Below are some very rough sketches of what is under way now. Pardon the rough quality and the crash-test dummy look of some of the figures. Almost all of these projects are from Classical mythology.


This is the 3rd time I've tackled this subject. It could be some splendid dude on the beach giving guitar lessons. It could be the god of inspiration himself. I'm trying to make a picture that is everything that Apollo stands for. I set him among marginal characters in marginal settings because what he stands for is now marginalized.
This painting is well under way, though I'm in the process of making some major changes. This will not be finished for awhile, probably not this summer.

I'm working on a series of 4 paintings about Theseus. I have 2 very far underway already. I begin the series with his discovery of his father's sword under the stone. I show him with his mother Aethra after he's pushed the stone away that conceals to the sword. He examines the sword and realizes for the first time his true parentage, and that he's a bastard and a foreigner. He decides to go to Athens, not by the easy sea route, but by the dangerous land route.
This painting of the discovery of the sword is very far along. I might be able to finish it this summer.

Theseus Discovers His Father's Sword

Theseus battles and dispatches a series of monsters on the way to Athens. I show only one of those in the series.

Theseus and Procrustes

Procrustes was one of the monsters that Theseus slew on the way to Athens. Procrustes made victims lie down on his bed. If they were too long, he edited them with an axe. If they were too short, he stretched them on a rack. I decided to make Procrustes into a kind of mad scientist/ philosopher. He has Theseus trussed up on some kind of abstract diagram and is about to surgically adjust Theseus to fit the plan. Theseus just begins to free himself.
This painting is almost finished. I have to rework Theseus' right hand and arm, but it is almost done.

Theseus and the Minotaur

This painting is still in the planning stages. I have yet to stretch the canvas for it, and I may not even get it started this summer. It may have to wait until next year.
I want to show Theseus fighting both Procrustes and the Minotaur, but not yet prevailing over them. Most depictions of Theseus fighting the Minotaur show him at the moment of victory, or after. I want to show him really fighting for those victories against these formidable monsters. I want to show the battles still in doubt. Theseus has started to break free from Procrustes' shackles, but perhaps all Herr Doctor Procrustes needs to do is call the SS guards in and chain him back and beat the crap out of him for the operation to proceed. So far in the painting, I show Theseus as having clearly taken a beating. I think I'm the only artist to show Theseus with a black eye.
Yes, I am aware of the homoerotic quality of these compositions, and I've decided to give those who object something to really cry about. These are 2 monsters who see Theseus as a particularly tasty morsel.
I plan to have the encounter with the Minotaur clearly a mismatch. I plan to show them struggling in a dark claustrophobic labyrinth full of discarded bones, and the outcome of that fight still very much in doubt.

Theseus Founding Athens

I plan to conclude the series with a scene out of Plutarch's Life of Theseus. Theseus establishes the Athenian state by bringing together the fractious tribes of Attica. Plutarch credits Theseus with the establishment of the Athenian constitution, and founding its first democracy. I plan to show Theseus standing to the right on crutches, injured from his struggles, the dead Minotaur behind him. Though it does not appear in this sketch, I plan to make Theseus watching as a young woman soldier hands off a flag to a representative citizen under an ancient olive tree.

The Mockingbird's Song

The last painting, still in the planning stages, is not a Classical myth. I plan to set it in the Texas of my boyhood; the dry limestone hills and cedar breaks. I plan to show 2 unhappy and perhaps lost young vagabond musicians sitting and having a rest. One of them listens to a mockingbird's song and tries to mimic it on his guitar.
This was inspired by a painting by the German Romantic artist Phillip Otto Runge titled The Lesson of the Nightingale that he made for his wife as a token of his love. It was inspired by a poem by Friedrich Klopstock in which Psyche instructs Cupid to learn his music from the nightingale's song. I want to make an updated and personalized version, not of the subject, but of the sentiment of Runge's painting.


motheramelia said...

I love the reworking of the classical themes. Have an inspiring and productive month.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

They maybe sketches for now, but I like them!

June Butler said...

Oh my, Counterlight! What a wonderful account of your creative process. What a gift to be able to put your work into words like this. The whole process of a work of art coming to be is, no doubt, ineffable, but you've done a great job of opening a window for us to peek in.

john iliff said...

Doug, thank you (to echo Mimi) for sharing your creative process with us! Your work is not merely skillful, but your work continues to touch many of us deeply and on an intuitive level.

John I.

David G. said...

You draw very well.

I used to draw all the time, mostly house plans and gay erotica. What a st ~ e ~ tch, but those where my main interests at the time, and still are, ...though the subject matter may have matured ... or not ...lol.

But I'm supposing depression has altered those, ...since the only interests I still hold are the deep ones, like Music, Sex, and Electronic arts, since I have no time to draw it seems.

Counterlight said...

I'm all for house plans and gay erotica.
I love architecture, and I draw gay erotica myself, with great pleasure.

Perhaps the pleasure of drawing will come back some day. It will always be there waiting for you, and it's probably more useful to you in your other interests than you realize. All of our art students at the college want to be game designers. Only they can't draw their way out of a paper bag, and even in the age of computers, drawing remains a necessary skill. The computer can't do it for you.

David G. said...

Thank God!!

Some of the things I used to do with driftwood(Lake Michigan), waaay back in the eighties ...I miss it so,..but life goes on, changes, we learn, we make mistakes, He rescues us, ... or not.

JCF said...

Yes, I am aware of the homoerotic quality of these compositions

Well, as long as you KNOW that! (I tell ya, I didn't notice---in the Procrustes' bed one---Theseus's black eye. For some reason. :-0)

Happy painting!