STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 5, Completion: In the Belly

Richard Bledsoe “In the Belly” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 40″ 

I have completed my latest large scale piece-large for me being in this case 30″ x 40″. In my first post, I showed the first crude underpainting. In the second post, I started making additional drawing decisions. In the third post, I started bringing out suggestions of the original vision-the whale not just as an animal, but as a gilded cage of chaos. In the fourth post, I shared how the processes of an intuitive artist can go awry.

But now the painting is complete. It’s often said a painting is never really done, and that’s true. There’s no end to the possibilities and potentials in the magical worlds we create by the means of a liquid medium smeared onto a flat surface. But the trick is recognizing when the art has become what it needs to be, and respecting it for what it is.

My wife, artist Michele Bledsoe, and I have a method for comprehending completion. In a work in progress, our eyes are drawn to fragments of the image, the parts that need fixing. It’s hard to see the painting as a whole while there are omissions or shortcomings still to address.

As errors are refined, other bits with flaws and weaknesses are exposed. The adjustments go on, until finally, as we near the end, we start to see the whole image again, intact.

In my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization,  I describe integrity as one of the elements of looking at art with 5 Eyes (or “I”s):

The Physical: Integrity

In the physical sense, integrity means being complete. The art
is independently expressive in and of itself, all of its elements
working together to create a unified whole. When a work
achieves the level of art, it radiates a visceral presence that
can be felt by anyone, no explanation or education required.

It was a joy to work on this vision, and bring it into a form which can be shared. The story of Jonah describes a man who tried to dodge his responsibilities, and wound up being swallowed by a great fish-temporarily. How often have I lived this pattern! I put my experience into this painting.

I have already begun my next large scale painting project. Watch this space for future updates!

Previous articles:

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 1: In the Belly

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 2: In the Belly

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 3: In the Belly

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 4: In the Belly (Not All Accidents Are Happy Ones)

 

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting. Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

STUDIO: Scenes from the Studio, Part 1

My Better Half

Michele Bledsoe’s Studio Set Up 

 

In my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I include a description of our current artistic working conditions:

 

Michele and I now share a studio in our home. We’ve spent countless hours together making art. We work back to back, with the stereo in the middle to play the music which inspires us.

She sits at her easel. I pace around in front of mine.

Michele uses tiny, soft brushes. I use big house-painting brushes for much of my work.

She discovers her imagery through stream of consciousness dreaming. I am replicating the vision I was assigned.

She likes to focus on one work at a time, and linger over it. I have multiple pieces going at once, at different stages of completion, and I compulsively push them towards resolution.

Michele doesn’t know what she is going to paint when she begins, but she applies her masterful technique to it. I know the image I need to present, but I don’t know how I’m going to paint it out.

We are both wholly committed to our art, and we show it in our own different ways. Remodernism encourages dedication to individual expression, and the pursuit of excellence.  

 

I’d written before about our shared art space. Back in 2015, i did a blog post on “The Mystique of the Artist Studio:”

There is nothing like having the dedicated space just for art. There is great pleasure in not having to pack up and move all materials at the end of a session, to have the needed tools within reach when an idea strikes. The magic in artists’ studios is in the sense of purpose, a Zen-like meditation on process.

It is an exotic environment. Many strange devices and substances are used there. Simple everyday needs like lighting and storage take on whole new urgency. And in the studio there is the artist, a person who puts appearances onto ideas. Might seem like an anachronism in these technological times, but the artist fulfills a deep human need.

It occurred to me that our studio spaces are full of wonderful moments, where our tools and inspirations blend together into intriguing vignettes. Why not share the excitement that is happening there, even we we are not working?

Michele Bledsoe has created a whole magical world to surround herself while she paints. In her blog post post “Art and the Proximity of Curious Objects,” she wrote:

My husband is always telling me to take a picture of the weird collection of items I have on the tray of my easel.

I’m not exactly sure what the actual purpose is for this little shelf-like area..

but it is where I keep all my favorite stuff.

Polished rocks, glass marbles and rusty keys.

Floppy-limbed Micronauts, the metal license tabs from Gunther’s collar

and my father’s college ring.

My art studio is filled with strange little objects that have captured my attention..

but you can tell how much I like something by how close it gets to my easel.

Here are some other special moments from Michele’s half of the studio. I will show mine in a future post.

 

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PAINTINGS: “LIFELINE FROM A FRIEND,” A New Collaboration by Michele and Richard Bledsoe

Michele Bledsoe and Richard Bledsoe 

“Lifeline from a Friend” Acrylic on Canvas 12″ x 6″ 

Michele Bledsoe and I have completed the fourth piece in our ongoing collaborative series.

I started this one, and it was a mess. This time we decided to divide the surface diagonally, from top to bottom. Usually I begin a painting with an image in mind. On this canvas, I tried to improvise, and it didn’t work out. I handed it over to Michele to start her section, with my half consisting of basically nothing but orange and brown smears. I told her I needed her to give me some kind of clue on what this painting was about.

Michele was not deterred. She began her natural method of stream of consciousness composition.

 

Michele Begins 

 

Soon her half was sketched in, and I was given a powerful departure point to work with.

Michele created the front end of a caterpillar in her drawing. Since I love animals and don’t want them harmed even in art, I knew I had to show the rest of the body. My own half of the image took off from that element.

Michele threw me a lifeline-in this case, the hind end of a caterpillar. It worked!

 

Richard Got Inspired 

Michele and I both created our own painting in our own unique style, but allowed a dialogue to form by the interaction of our individual efforts.

Michele compared it to having an intimate conversation.

The process of working on a piece together was so enjoyable that we will continue to collaborate. We hope to someday have a show of just our shared pieces. Watch this space for future updates.

 

Previous Collaborations:

Tusk

Blind Mugwump Johnson 

Do the Work 

PAINTINGS: “Do the Work,” a New Collaboration by Michele and Richard

Michele Bledsoe and Richard Bledsoe “Do the Work”

acrylic on canvas 12″ x 6″

 

Michele Bledsoe and I have completed the third piece in our ongoing collaborative series.

As we develop our art and our lives together, we have found inspiration in a book by Steven Pressfield:

Do the Work.

“A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. Don’t think. Act.”

-Steven Pressfield

Michele and I both created our own painting in our own unique style, but allowed a dialogue to form by the interaction of our individual efforts.

Michele compared it to having an intimate conversation.

The process of working on a piece together was so enjoyable that we will continue to collaborate. We hope to someday have a show of just our shared pieces. Watch this space for future updates.

 

Previous Collaborations:

Tusk

Blind Mugwump Johnson 

ARTICLE: Michele Bledsoe in “The Labyrinth Beyond Time”

michelebledsoe

Creatures Great and Small: Michele Bledsoe with her painting “Under the Pillow”

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I’ve written a number of times on the amazing creativity of my wife, artist Michele Bledsoe. 

Michele was recently the featured artist in an article in The Foothills Focus, a weekly newspaper focused on life in north Phoenix and its environs.

Read the article at this link: “The Labyrinth Beyond Time,” by Shea Stanfield.

The writer does a great job summing up the spirit of Michele’s painting by referencing a quote from Marcel Duchamp: “To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.” Stanfield goes on to relay significant details about Michele’s experiences and attitudes towards art:

“She filled tablets with sketches and ideas that bound through her imagination. Creatures great and small would eventually be rendered in paintings as she taught herself the techniques. By all accounts, Michele has been successful on all fronts. Today, she paints in her home studio in Central Phoenix, her canvases supported on an easel her father gave her for Christmas 25 years ago. His passing a few months later added an extra portion of meaning to his gift and confidence in her, as well as Michele’s inspiration.”

The art of Michele Bledsoe does indeed navigate a special vision, her own enchanting world apart. It was a pleasure to read this article’s commentary acknowledging her achievements.

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Forever (2)

From the article:

“Michele, over the last 20 years, has exhibited in various art galleries and venues.  Recently, she was invited to participate in an art show, at Skolkovo Art Gallery, in Moscow, Russia. The exhibit featured a number of international artists involved in the Remodernism Movement. As Michele would put it, ‘Who would have believed my painting “Forever,” a painting of a snail, is the one piece, out of all my work, that has ironically traveled furthest!’”

PAINTINGS: The Moon in the Daytime

The Moon in the Daytime

Richard Bledsoe “The Moon in the Daytime” acrylic on canvas 18″ x 24″

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I spent a part of my day off from work for Independence Day completing a painting I have been working on for several weeks.

This piece had an unusual twist for me. Instead of working from a perceived vision,  or discovering the image in the process of painting, in this case I started with a title only.

“The Moon in the Daytime.” Even though the moon is always associated with the night, it’s a common occurrence for it to be visible while the sun is out too. It’s so common I’ve determined there isn’t even a special name for the phenomenon. You just call it the moon.

Somehow it’s always been special to me, to see that faint white shape in the bright sky. As I climbed into my van one morning I saw the moon above me, and the phrase started to ricochet around in my mind all day: The Moon in the Daytime. It reverberated with a kind of poetic, mysterious atmosphere I’m in the mood for in my art right now.

The problem was, I had no clear idea what such a painting would look like.

My wife Michele Bledsoe came to my rescue. After puzzling over it for a few days, I shared my haunting phrase with her while we were painting in our studio. She started to describe what the phrase suggested to her. Something she immediately thought of was the moon personified as a woman. This was something that hadn’t crossed my mind, and it was the missing piece. Soon enough the vision appeared, and I was able to get to work on it. It’s an ambiguous, lyrical image, incorporating a sensibility I can just see opening the way to so many new painting ideas.

It’s wonderful when two artists inspire each other so much.

EXPLOITS: The Fine Art of Childhood

Watsonandtheshark-original

John Singleton Copley “Watson and the Shark” 1778

When my wife Michele Bledsoe and I co-authored “The Secret Kingdom” together, I was pleased to know it was intended for children. What we did for the book was write poetry inspired by Michele’s existing body of paintings.

The art came first, and was not created specifically for kids. These are just the paintings Michele makes naturally, her visions made visible. The works just have such a mysterious fairy tale atmosphere about them which makes them accessible to all ages.

SalvationAndDesire2

Michele Bledsoe “Salvation and Desire” acrylic on canvas 18″ x 24″

I love the idea of presenting such wonderful works to kids. Art is for everyone, even children. We are doing a real disservice to youth today by assuming that doodles and cartoons are good enough illustrations for children’s books.

Why not give the kids something intense, beautiful and mysterious? Why not present them with real art?

I speak as someone who grew up with some pretty serious fine art reproductions decorating my room and our house. I’m sure having them around at an early age fed into the artist I’ve become as an adult.

I’ve already written about my dinosaur fascination and its connection to my art. I also gained inspiration from some more traditional masterpieces.

I grew up outside of Washington DC. I must have been in second or third grade when we made a school trip to the National Gallery of Art. I came away with some souvenirs-some beautiful art prints I picked out myself. My mother hung them up in my bedroom; for many years afterwards, as I grew up, I contemplated these images.

I had the taste of a little boy. The lurid “Watson and the Shark” was one of the pictures. There was also a Raphael painting of St. George and the Dragon, and a spooky dungeon scene by Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

I don’t know what ever happened to the actual prints I used to have, but thanks to the magic of the internet, it was easy to find the images.

Saint_george_raphael

Raphael “Saint George”

Piranesi_carceri XIV

Giovanni Battista Piranesi “Carceri XIV”

My parents also had a nice framed reproduction which hung over the fireplace in the family room: “The Haywain” by John Constable. As I spent countless hours in that room watching TV, I also would stare at the picture over the mantle.

the-hay-wain-1821

John Constable “The Haywain” 1821

Being exposed to truly great works from a young age enriched my life, and gave me the sense of the action and beauty art is capable of. I see echos of these images I grew up with in the art I make to this day.