Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Probing the familiar

There is a certain thrill that comes from painting outside. I understand the thrill. The quest for the perfect subject matter to inspire and motivate, the ever-changing light and atmosphere, and let’s not forget the bugs. I remember my own personal journey. My feeble attempts to match the colors I perceived, to be the noble scribe recording nature exactly as it presented itself. But, I also clearly remember the first time I was able to use an on site scene or photograph as only a means of departure, the freedom I felt when I realized I could compose and move things about for reasons beyond imitation and representation. The day when I had mastered color enough to actually create atmosphere and light of my own desire, no longer a slave to the scene before me, I was now moving forms through space by the shift of a value or temperature.

I am pondering this transition today, because I just had a show of my newest work. I am well aware that there are people who do not understand what I am doing these days, those who miss my interpreted illustrations of familiar scenes. Why the preoccupation with these houses? Over and over, I reinvent their planes, colors and shapes. I am no longer poring through photographs and running to one new site after another searching for subject matter. Some may think I’ve just given up, settled on some familiar motif for the purpose of sales -- far from it. I have discovered that the deeper I am willing to prod the familiar, the more it reveals to me. It is difficult to push beyond the surface appearance of things to create something new. It is easier to divert by finding some new subject. But now, I have discovered that I keep finding new revelations in manipulating familiar shapes into new patterns. I witness the way the sun crosses the sky and causes a different shadow pattern I never noticed before and suddenly I have a whole new series to work on. It has become more about relationships, the relationship between the interior shapes of the structures and the exterior shape of the picture format. It is the subtle shift from one hue as it confronts another; it is the distillation of all that subject matter into simplicity of form. Less is more. How far can I take it? One color changes and all the rest must be altered. What if the sky is yellow-green this time? I have become the creator, and this is so much more thrilling than the role of imitator!

As an aside, I once thought that Milton Avery couldn’t draw. Pretty colors, interesting shapes, but obviously he couldn’t do anything else or surely he would. I mean, they are so simplistic…or are they? I discovered an academic drawing he did of a standing nude. Believe me, the man can render as well as DaVinci. The search for simplicity was intentional, and the more I learn about color, the more I realize his choices are not simple at all. So my new mantra is to not dismiss something simply because I do not currently understand it.

To view my recent show, please visit and click on the link to Mary L. Moquin.
The painting above is titled "Harmonic Intervals" 11 3/4 x 12 Painting resembles music in many ways; there is a structure and a rhythm. Finding the perfect balance between shape, color and atmosphere creates pictorial harmony. This painting is orchestrated in a way that every note plays an integral part in the harmony of the painting, similar to a small ensemble of voices each holding their part of the whole.