“The Engagement Dinner” contemporary figurative painting
When I first conceived this scene, it was to be about the warmth of the restaurant interior glowing out of a large window into streets that were much darker. It evolved in a slightly different direction, as paintings sometimes seem to do for me.
I will soon be painting some still lifes and landscapes to learn fundamental techniques about capturing the “color of light” and harmonizing tones to portray a scene more naturally. However, I have to admit that it has been interesting learning to paint by painting subjects of emotional importance from memory. Often I am pleasantly surprised by how the compositions evolve since they aren’t constrained by a hard image that is being portrayed. I often recall Einstein’s quote about imagination being more important than information, and think this may be applicable in some way. At any rate, after two engineering degrees, approaching art from a methodical or analytical route didn’t seem that appealing to me, not as a starting point.
I’m starting to read more and more about Chagall, and different aspects of his life and development as an artist seem to resonate with me. I think he definitely had a strong emotional attachment to his subject matter, and consequently his canvases overflow with a warmth and humanity that seems to me to be lacking in most of Picasso’s paintings. Significantly, Chagall was initially dismissed by some people as a mere folk artist or naive artist because of the narrative aspects of his work, and the fact that he focused so much on the themes of his ethnicity and locale. Needless to say, the doubters soon realized that any folk or literary import the artist had was merely the starting point of his genius.
Grossly over-simplified, I think I understand the differences between Chagall and Picasso and why they disliked each other. I think Picasso was able to invent himself as a stylistic genius because he was detached from his subject matter on a human level, arguably fascinated by the grotesque, and this coolness left him free to explore pure style. Chagall on the other hand was ultimately creating art for reasons best described as magical-emotional-religious, like the Neolithic cave paintings or the ceilings of a cathedral. This ancient impulse is certainly the reason for my art.
The question I ask myself: How can someone of reasonable intelligence be painting constantly and not learn whatever technical skills they need by mere trial and error? The fact that there was anyone who could look at Chagall’s early work and not see what was coming amazes me.
I spend the day managing the art supply business and then stay up all night painting. I try to work quickly (meaning finish a painting within 12 or 18 hours) and work by instinct. I am constantly painting or thinking about painting. I dream about it in my sleep.