I don’t know why I didn’t share Chihuahua Legs earlier .Doubt? Procrastination? It’s already been seen in public. Is it done? I don’t know. I think so. Mostly. Ok, so while I was editing I added just a smidge more paint. A new old painting.
After the Fact
…But mostly I have been reluctant to post my thoughts. I’ve tweaked and tweaked but something was still not right—until I admitted that all these ideas about the painting were formed into words—after— the painting—was finished. I wasn’t thinking in these terms as I made the painting, and I do not want to give the wrong impression about my process.
Play and inspiration
The painting came about from a few hours spent joyfully observing my raucous Chihuahuas-in-law. Chihuahua Legs is one of several paintings that were conceived from that research and photo session.
It was regenerative watching the dogs romp; it’s always a delightful and invigorating distraction. I find hanging out with dogs is a great way to restore equilibrium (if temporarily). (Thank you Jerry and Kim!)
And, bonus, I was rewarded with a cuddle !
Composition, or, balancing on the diagonal
My main problems with writing this post came with my analysis and interpretation of the painting. It is not that the statements below are false. No. But that they might lead you to believe that all of these elements-of-design were intentional, or that I anticipated all of the effects of any decisions.
This painting has a curious pairing of stillness and action. (Or maybe, more like, the combination implies impending action, the calm before the storm.)
Composed of static straight leg poses, but with dynamic diagonal lines and asymmetrical balance, Chihuahua Legs conveys a sense of suspended animation.
Asymmetrical balance sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Yet it’s a design standard for creating dynamic art, and the natural outcome when life and art require improvised maneuvers and counter actions.
In reality, the composition came from instinct, from a seemingly subconscious choice of source photo which I picked from many that I had shot and then edited. The sense of suspended animation comes from the fact that the photo actually caught and stopped, a moment of action.
Yes, I chose and edited the photo, but I wasn’t thinking of asymmetry or diagonals. My focus was elsewhere.
What I was seeing and enjoying (without words) were the postures and the organic shapes of the dog silhouettes, which in retrospect enforce the pictorial feel of static yet activated. After reviewing the painting I see the forms, made of gentle curves punctuated by an occasional sharp point, echo the rhythm of dogs at play. One dog’s stocky stance resisting against the sinewy advance of the other.
I chose to place the dogs on a rudimentary dark void because it focuses attention on the pale and expressive canine limbs. This background infused with black and devoid of most detail, furthers the ambiance of suspended time, but the atmospheric effect was an unanticipated added bonus.
Here is a painting where Legs, reaching diagonally, smoosh an assault on a face and beg for a reaction. While the asymmetrical composition seems to assure the movement will continue after an instant.
The painting depicts a moment of stasis in the tumble of play, a breath of composure in the midst of a taunt. It begs the question – What will happen next?
But when I began the painting all of my choices were aesthetic ones made on instinct, none of these notions about meaning or the connection between structure and content had words. And when I continued, way past when I thought I was done, the painting began to elicit an unsettled, but pleasurable, sense of anticipation.
But that’s just me. And I think my reaction is with the act of painting not the painted thing. I know sometimes analysis and interpretation is really an individual’s subjective projection.
I’m too close to the painting—what do you get from it? (I’d love to read your thoughts in the comment section below.)
Read and see more of the Chihuahua Series.