PAINTINGS: Climb, Climb

Richard Bledsoe “Climb, Climb” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

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Another 2017 painting. This one was begun long ago; the vision that produced this one was triggered by the lyrics of a Meat Puppets song, “Climbing.”

Climb, climb, I always climb
Out of bed in the morning on a mountain made of sand
And I know this doesn’t rhyme
But the clutter on the table has been getting out of hand

The image is not a literal illustration of the lyrics, but I appreciated the sentiment.

Back when I started the drawing came quick. However, piece then joined the works in progress stack of paintings stuck in the corner of the studio, where it lingered.

One of my mantras is there is nothing more inspirational than a deadline. When I was asked to be the featured artist for the exhibit “The Journey” at Desert Springs Community Church’s Call To Art, I knew this painting had to be part of it. Thinking about my own journeys in life got me very excited about finishing this piece.

I often describe painting as a series of interlocking contrasts: light and dark, abrupt passages and gradual passages, color against color. Another element I like to contrast is the naturalistic and the stylized. Here I put a very exaggerated figure into a rather subtle and realistic appearing landscape. Of course it is a green mountainside, which is not expected, but that was the vision I had. At my best I’m just taking dictation.

EXPLOITS: The 2017 48 Hour Create-A-Thon – Two Gardens

Richard Bledsoe “Two Gardens” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

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It was that time again. For the last three years I’ve taken part in Camelback Bible Church‘s 48 Hour Create-A-Thon. Starting on Friday night February 24, a group of artists gathered at the church, where we were presented with our inspirational theme. By 4pm on Sunday February 26, we needed to have a completed artwork created on site, ready to share at a reception. Throughout the weekend, the public was invited to visit with us to see the artistic process unfold.

This year I had a different experience than how the 2016 Create-a-Thon started. For 2017 we had two juxtaposing inspirational passages: Genesis 2:8-17, the description of the Garden of Eden, and Matthew 26:36-46, the story of Jesus’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane,  where He prayed to escape his destiny if possible, but put himself in God’s hands.

This year, as soon as I heard the subject matter, the vision came. I saw the image in my mind; now I just had to bring it out so everyone else could see it.

I immediately laid in broad planes of textured colors. I don’t like working straight off a white canvas. In this shot I’ve actually flipped the canvas over to get better access to the blue area; in the completed work, it’s the upper right corner. I stayed until about 9 pm that night, just getting the under painting laid in.

A fast start

I was there around 9am the next morning, and stayed until almost 5pm, a good solid working day. I didn’t even take a break for lunch, as the church provided us lots of good snacks, and cup after cup of coffee.

No time to lose, had to get the drawing in right away

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The first thing I did Saturday was crudely block in my two essential elements: Christ and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then, with wide swoops from the shoulder, I dragged loops of white paint over the blue, and gray over the yellow. These were the faint beginnings of Eden’s hazy atmosphere and Gethsemane’s tangled branches. The rest of my time spent on this painting was spent revising and refining these loose beginnings.

An action shot from the 48 Hour Create-A-Thon

My wife Michele Bledsoe was there for support. She wrote her own blog post about the experience, “Marathon Painting and the Art of Sitting on the Sidelines.” She spent her time drawing and taking pictures and videos. Michele spends a lot of time on her art. She jokes if there is ever a 480 Hour Create-A-Thon, she might take part.

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Finishing touches

By the time I came back Sunday morning, I was well positioned on the painting, and I spent time on all those little details and touches that can make or break a painting. One of my ongoing quotes about this stage is “That’s why painters go mad.” Anyone who has ever seriously engaged in painting has probably had that experience when the most minuscule adjustment or mark can make a work spring to life-or crush it into a mess. As an intuitive painter, I never know in advance what mark that may be. I have to discover it.

To see my art is to see me, performing my role as a conduit for something else 

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So the question for me becomes, if the Create-A-Thon shows I can complete a resolved and meaningful painting in really less than 48 hours, why do I normally work on them for months?

In that environment, in that experience, the Spirit really moved me, I suppose.

The Remodernist’s job is to bring God back into art but not as God was before. Remodernism is not a religion, but we uphold that it is essential to regain enthusiasm (from the Greek, en theos to be possessed by God).

-The Remodernism Manifesto

EXPLOITS: The 48-Hour Create-A-Thon

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The clock is ticking: making a painting in one weekend

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I recently took a weekend off from my own home studio and moved my easel, paints and brushes to another location for a very special event. I had signed up for the 48-Hour Create-A-Thon, hosted by Camelback Bible Church. I had taken part last year; it was such a positive experience I was excited when it was announced again.

I would have two days to create an original artwork right there at the church, based on a theme that would not be revealed to us until the event began.

As a Remodernist artist, I love this concept. All too often these days art lives in a kind of imposed exile from everyday life. Art is separated from normal existence in the isolation of the studio, the gallery, and the museum, constrained to meet the expectations of culture industry technocrats. To break out of those expected venues and to create in a house of worship was uplifting. I trusted that in such a supportive environment that inspiration would come quickly, even though it normally takes me weeks to make a painting. And I was correct.

On 6pm on Friday night, the participants gathered and listened to a reading of our guiding theme: the story of Lazarus, as told in John … After that, is was time to start making some art.

I painted until 9 pm that evening, and was back again by 9:30 am on Saturday, and painted with only minor breaks for the next 6 hours, and for about another 6 hours on Sunday. So altogether I worked around 15 hours out of the 48.

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Saturday morning: underway

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Saturday afternoon

The first year the event had around a dozen artists take part. This time practically all of us were back, with a whole new group as well, almost doubling the turnout. During the weekend, 22 artists worked together in a communal space, creating in a whole range of mediums: painting, drawing, metal sculpture, assemblage, digital art; even music was represented, as one participant was composing with a keyboard and headphones.

The public was also invited in throughout the day to watch us work. They got to see how our pieces were progressing, and to speak to us about our art and the creative process. The spiritual sharing, communication and connection evoked by such interactions is a key principle of the Remodernist understanding of art’s purpose:

Why do we need a new spirituality in art? Because connecting in a meaningful way is what makes people happy. Being understood and understanding each other makes life enjoyable and worth living.”  – Billy Childish and Charles Thomson

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Sunday afternoon: finishing touches

By Sunday I was mostly adding details and small elements of color, as the major elements of the composition were resolved. Because of the time constraints and the need to depict a specific subject, I could not follow my normal model of painting visions I’ve had. Instead, I let myself have an image suggested to me by the brush strokes I was putting down on Friday night.

When I saw the hint of a hunched figure clutching his legs in the field of light blue I had scumbled onto the canvas, the rest of the picture suddenly clicked into place for me, like another time Inspiration struck.

Lazarus waited four days for his resurrection. He already knew Jesus, so he would have known he was going to rise, but he had no way of knowing whether it would take 4 days… or over 2,000 years. Time isn’t a concern for God eternal. Lazarus patiently waits for the walls and the laws to dissolve into the light of love, in the cosmic cathedral of God’s presence.

An even better thought is asking when will our walls fall, so we can join the light? Larazus was raised from the dead, but when will we ourselves begin to live?

I can write words about this all day, but ultimately in art, words fall short. I can’t tell you, I have to show you.

The beauty of art is a reminder of the source of all beauty and truth. I was honored to take part in this event, which cultivated art as a form of communion.

Been Four Days

“Been Four Days” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

The completed painting