July 28, 2011

Last night I performed lived painting for the conclusion of the 25th season of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra. I performed to the music of Copland's "Appalachian Spring". This music is problematic from my perspective because it carries with it its own images of a time and a place. I knew when I took this commission that I could not effectively portray anything close to what the music does. After struggling for a while with various possibilities, I settled on an image that seemed to carry some of the right themes, had a theatrical sense to it, and used colors in a big way.

I started the performance with an image of a piper in the lower left corner of the eight foot wide silk panel. Appalachian Spring starts out quietly with mostly woodwinds. After the piper was defined in color, I jumped to the opposite side of the panel and created the black and white shapes of close-up irises flowing into daffodils. I then hit the images with exploding purple and exploding yellow followed by bright spring greens.

At about the ten minute point, I created a woman, dancing with out stretched arms reaching out over the irises. She was placed high in the frame, just off-center to the right. I made her dress a brilliant red. After she was complete, I moved back to the left side of the panel and created the branches of a tree that arched out above the piper. Under the tree, I made a dancing fiddler who was leaning out toward the woman. With most of the characters set, I put in a far shoreline, added leaves to the tree, and brushed in the sky.

At this point in the performance, I had two men playing instruments, a woman dancing, surrounded by a tree, lake shore, sky and flowers. I added one more character to the mix. At about the 21 minute mark, I added a little girl, reaching out to the woman and dancing in a circle. She was placed just off-center to the left. Her addition changed the whole character of the image. Before there was a sense of a hedonistic dance in the woods composed primarily of adults. The addition of the child gave the overall image a feeling of family, a sense of community. It also brought balance to the structure by completing a sense of motion in arcs through the scene.

At the very end, as the music calms, I layered in the surface of the lake and added some green stems and leaves where they were needed.

This painting is eight feet wide and four and a half feet tall