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A time of fair weather

Sitting in the garden

Of course, I blame Matisse. I have never been able to get out of my mind his Fauve picture of his wife in a big hat with a green stripe down her nose. How did he come up with that? So this painting which took me fifteen days with a lot of staring and thinking, is a kind of exorcism, or some would call it a “homage”, omitting the h so it sounds French. Usually when this is said, the work is a poor crib, so I prefer to call this an exorcism. It does not refer back to a specific summer nor is it a yearning for the summer to come but exists in pictorial time, if there is such a place. There is now, it is that eternal now in which every painting defines its space as well.

As in several of my recent paintings there is a strong diagonal emphasis establishing the woman's pose, which I have deliberately offset from the top of the canvas to lessen the obvious geometry. It goes from top right to bottom left, probably because I am left handed and this is a natural flow of a line for me. A second offset diagonal parallels this as the main axis of the secondary compositional element, the table.

My interest was in the face so all other elements are subsidiary and I freely pillaged the real world to include the garden chair, the little teak table and the olive tree. I knew I wanted the picture to close out at the top in an acid green but was not sure if a simple stripe would suffice. It was not until I had those elements fixed that I introduced some more dark green plant shapes at the top of the picture.

The hat is mine. I wanted the colours to separate dramatically as if in strong light and I repeated them in the hair, so the colours descend sideways left to right across the head.

The model did not sit for the picture but was conjured up from memory. The face is divided along the line of the nose and this division is repeated in the hat above. The figure is angled from right to left. The right hand just rests on the right knee and I decided to make it hold a glass so as to break up the diagonal. To simplify the body shapes I propped the head on one fist, figuring that maybe she would put her fingers in her hair. I started with the green shadows and made one eye the same colour. The green suggested that the flesh tones should be an unmodified pink. As I developed the face I introduced a second greenish shadow and that gave me the colour for the other eye. I added this green to discrete shadow points on the arms and legs.

The cat introduced himself. To make that clear I treated him as a collage element, neither resting on the table or putting his paws on the model’s arms, yet throwing shadows on both. Oh, and I gave him a cerulean blue outline. No, he is not blind but showing his pupils I thought would have been too referential.

Finally, I turned to the paving. I dry brushed in some colour over the base pink which I had derived from the flesh tint to suggest random square paving and put violet shadows under the table to contrast with the pinks and the ochreous table.

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