Saturday, April 7, 2012

Firefly squid, pulp horror and surreal landscapes

I can't promise a cohesive theme, but I thought I would collect three of my most recent paintings here with a little bit of explanation, since they come from very different places.

"Sunset in the Valley of Shapes" is a little something I painted the other night with perhaps too vague a title, because when I painted this I was thinking of an alien planet populated by the strange and colorful remains of oddly biomorphic monuments.

Maybe it is robot gravemarkers on a psychedelic future landscape. I just knew that I wanted every color to be represented, and I like the idea of these inhuman forms poised among rolling hills with just a touch of biological shapeliness. They teeter and totter like discarded children's toys but give the impression of something scattered along a quiet landscape. This is a 6 x 8 painting. I used to do much larger "alien landscape" paintings -- that was probably most of what I painted in the '90s, come to think of it.

"Night of the Firefly Squid" is another 6 x 8 that I had to sit down and paint immediately after seeing some pictures of the little bioluminescent critters recently. Glow in the dark animals (and plants, and rocks, and anything) have always been close to my heart since a childhood spend watching and catching fireflies. There is nothing quite as amazing as the variety of life in the ocean, and these bizarre alien lifeforms truly seem to come from another universe. I can't do anything but marvel at them. I realize that it all serves a purpose -- attracting food or as part of a mating ritual -- but it's a lot better than anything humans have come up with.

Finally in this week's grouping, "The Dark Procession" is another painting (8 x 10 this time) born of my omnipresent interest in pulp horror -- whether it's the covers of magazines like Weird Tales, or B-movie posters, I love the garish colors, and the grimaces of horror. I recently read "Phantom Perfumes," the Ash-Tree Press collection of stories from the Ghost Stories magazines of 1926-1930, which has a lot of covers of things like this.

It all links back to the gothic novels of the late 1700s through the early 1800s that I love so much. This painting is inspired in equal parts by books like Matthew Lewis' "The Monk," Ann Radcliffe's "The Italian; or the Confessional of the Black Penitents," and by Weird Tales style magazine covers; as well as my beloved 1960s and 1970s movie posters and images. Any time I put in a movie and it starts with a bunch of guys in hooded robes or capes carrying torches, candles or lanterns, I'm pretty much there.

So that's where I've been lately. Alien worlds, the deep ocean and gothic castles, as usual. Still working on some other topics too, some outer space, a couple of witchy storybook repaints, and perhaps some more nature-inspired art.

I also have six new 8 x 10 prints to list very soon, made from previously sold paintings or things I kept in my personal collection.

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