A Trio of Sparks

"Snapshot Moment at the Touchy-Feely Festival"
Thank you so much for all the wonderfully supportive comments on my previous post regarding the doubts I'm having about my Sparks of Madness show! Seriously...I feel like I've gathered my second wind and I'm hoping that I can spend the next three weeks in a whirlwind of productive studio days so my show looks full of fresh material. I have plenty of prepped canvases to complete and even some new ideas emerging from my clearer, more confident head. (Interestingly, some of those brainstorms have nothing to do with monsters but with a new series of flora and fauna pieces. We'll see how much time I have to execute everything I want to do now.)

I'm actually feeling so much better about my monster paintings that I decided to post this piece, one that has been complete for months but which seemed so odd I was too embarrassed to show it. This canvas is actually the second piece I did in the Sparks series and when I finished it way back in February, I had to sit back and take a breath. I love it and yet it scares me a bit because it is big (18x24-inches) and it was the first really weird thing that I've committed to canvas. It certainly isn't a shy sketch that can be quietly shut away in a journal.

After I finished the initial layers of marks and color, I started looking for creatures hiding in the background and I was surprised to find three. I wasn't totally sure that I wanted to bring all three to life but not only did the size of the canvas demand it but the creatures all seemed to "need" each other. Each character seemed to fit in naturally with the others; I just defined and refined the details and the edges. I spent a lot of time working the contrasts in color and value inside and outside the creatures so each would stand out from the background while remaining detailed and vibrant themselves. 

However, I spent the most time - weeks in fact - trying to decide if the standing figure needed a mouth. I tried on a bunch of different mouths and absolutely nothing seemed to work. I finally came to the conclusion that any mouth I added pushed the image from oddly sweet to incredibly stupid-looking. I kept fighting myself, thinking "Well, she has to have a mouth!" Another part of me though (the small voice I ultimately listened to) could feel the gentle, motherly aspect of that character; even without the mouth, I thought I could feel her smiling. And the little owl she's holding and the strange fellow hugging her leg seem to sense it too. Someone who saw this piece said it looks as if the tall character is getting ready to eat the others; that person felt this piece was "ominous." I don't get that at all but maybe I'm too close to the work to be objective. What do you, dear readers, imagine is happening in this scene? I would love to hear your thoughts on possible narratives.

Perhaps you can imagine all the strange conversations I have with myself and these creatures as they come to life. The only other time I've felt that my creations are "alive" is when I'm sculpting characters. My found object robots and clay monsters all seem to gain self-awareness at some point in the process and I find myself guided towards their completion by voices that are not quite my own. (I've heard other doll-makers allude to this phenomenon so I know that this is actually quite normal...whew!) Anyway, this same process is happening as I create these canvas creatures. It makes for some very lively and surprising painting sessions.

Edit: Ultimately named this piece...
Snapshot Moment at the Touchy-Feely Festival


Emie58 said…
To me... the large creature seems to have a nurturing soul... Yes.. a motherly figure. I like these... the bold, bright colors make them perfect for a child's play room or bedroom... perfect for that spark of creativity and wonder we all would like children to have. I do believe there are several children's books with good natured "creatures" as the main characters.
I believe, as an artist, it's best to let what's inside you out... if not, it's going to continue nagging at you.
Leone said…
I felt the large creature (bear)was hugging the owland the little one was hugging the bears legs. It is a happy piece to me and makes me smile. It seems to me you have some very critical people looking at your work. I loved reading about your internal process while creating, sounds like you have lots of fun with your creatures. They are adorable.
Carin Winkelman said…
My first thought was "Hey, it's a monster sit-in!", haha. But now I mostly see a monster group hug, where the owl like creature has a bit of an attitude like an older child that gets hugged all the time by an overprotective mom and is thinking "yes, okay, I know you love me, so I'll just go with it and then I can go and play again", the little creature on the bottom is like a toddler who still loves to be hugged all the time and has no need to let go at all.

Ooh, I could get really deep with it and make it about the conflict between holding on to and letting go off something/someone you love. The loving nature of the big creature is quite endearing, I'm not sure why anyone would think it creepy.
carol said…
I immediately thought of it as a loving piece, even before reading. Looking further I see a "Mom" with a smart kid and a kid who loves back.
First, it's beautiful. I love it. Second, I think it means friendship, love, staying by your side type of thing. Beautiful. Working larger may be scary but your did an amazing job.
suzieq23 said…
Again, wow wow wow. My fave so far.....just beautiful and creative and professionally done. Don't ever ever question yourself again!
Unknown said…
First of all this is a happy Lil house of creatures, the owl is the papa, the lge bear the mama and the Lil wide eyed live wire on the bottom is the youngster. He has kept them awake for days, but finally is settling down as mama hums a tune (I thought that upside down u shape in pink below the nose, was a mouth in a humming shape) so mama hugs owl , cos she's grateful, because he says sleep mum, I'll keep an eye on the little one. But as she hums a soothing tune, owl is almost half asleep, and the little one finally calms down and hugs mama's leg. I really like this piece.
Susan Achter said…
I think your monster paintings are cheerful and wonderful. These would make a great children's book. I hope you just jump in with both feet and believe in yourself. Great art!