I’m Flying Like an Airplane 2020. Oil on canvas 100×110 cm.
אני טס כמטוס 2020
I worked and reworked this canvas for years. It began with a plan to create a painting entirely in shades of white. Soon a tree entered. Followed by yellows and my beloved weird greenish “dark yellows” joined. (They are￼created by adding a drop of black into various￼ lemons and flame colors￼.
A small secret: I gave a color challenge to a new student, to create a colorful painting using just black and three different yellow. The goals were to explore the oxymoron of ”dark yellow”, and how so very much, can be expressed with so few resources.
I always begin teaching with that yellow challenge.then I did it myself. And made a very colorful , pretty work that did not satisfy me at all.
The day after the massacre in Pittsburg, I sat in my studio, struggling to focus on work.
Towards the end of the day, I pulled out this painting. In a fit of urgency, I painted myself over the pattern, first by scrubbing dirty water, then paint. First by memory, then with a mirror.
As always, my selfies contain some brutal honesty. We all need brutal introspection, as individuals, as collectives and as ideological camps.
But what I also discovered, was a way to combine seemingly conflicting art languages that appeal to me: Ornament and Expressionism.
כי האדם עץ השדה? דברים כ:יט
For is the tree of the field a man? Deuteronomy 20:19.
Using trees to portray human soul and destiny, is as old as art and psychology itself.
I choose particular species and shapes to symbolize my state of mind or big life questions. Trees may be steady or rebellious, wise or impetuous. mature or potential, spiritual or carnal, and Hebrew or universal.
Why this particular childlike tree shape?
Its fluffy, cloud like foliage sits top-heavy, upon the slender trunk with its graceful Gothic slouch. Well, that upper part obviously is about my/our air filled thoughts:
Head in the clouds. Spirituality for the masses. Fuzzy thinking.
All of that air sits upon a delicate, flexible trunk of decisiveness and actions.
I completed the painting while listening to online lectures about the psychological symbolism of Genesis. Symbols like The Creator carving meaning out of the primordial chaos and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – teach us so much about creating sense in our personal life path.
Those green serpentines of confusion and attention deficiency, were painted before listening to the lectures. After completion, visitors to my studio shouted, “Ah! That’s the serpent tempting Eve to eat from the fruit of self knowledge.”
Thirty Triangles. Gouache, 46 x 61 cm. (18″ x 24″)
שלושים משולשים, 2017. גואש 46 * 61
Inspired by the “Crazy Quilts” traditionally made by African American women.
The composition, with its two, not quite balanced halves and with arrows pointing all over, defies all logic. But it works.
Gouache over mixed media, on a koalin coated panel. 41 x 66 cm.
ברושים בשדות סוף הקיץ 2015
גואש מעל מדיות מעורבות, על לוחות המצופות בחימר לבן. 46 5* 66 ס”מ
Yellow is a tricky color. It is easy to paint monochromatic works in all greens, blues or reds. One simply mixes in small amounts of other colors to gain a wide pallet, of varying depths and intensities and pureness. There are also many and so very different pigments in those families to start from. Yet, after all of that messing and punching and kneading, these colors easily remain what we consider to be the families of greens, blues and reds.
Yellows are so much more sensitive! How do we create a “dark yellow”? After adding what miniscule amount of another color, does the “yellow” stop being yellow? Very little!
So, how much must I stray away from that Crayola crayon definition of Yellow, to create a vibrant painting, with sufficient contrasts?
Those of us living with our bone dry summers are familiar with this pallet. The wild grass turns to dusty yellow. The red roofs and dark cypresses are coated with fine yellow gray loess soil, carried in from the Sahara and Syrian Desert.
Yet our summer is not merely sun burnt. Delicacy can be found in the dried thistles. The rhythmic curvatures of the rolling hills and terraces reveal themselves. The sun casts yellow, and shadows in the hills reveal a lavender hue.
I pulled this out of my drawing cabinet, to show various brush and layering techniques to the students in my Diving into Color workshop. And then decided that it merits scanning. Not bad, huh?
On the very first day of each 6 meeting workshop, we discover the joys of unexpected color combinations, and the hidden beauty of ‘ugly” colors, when used in tandem with just the right neighbors. Muds can be such an elixir of life or fascination. Here, muds and grays add to the strangeness of the olive grove, and raise visual questions for the viewer.
By the second lesson, we are already investigated working in layers. What happens when color upon color are built up, leaving little glimpses to the shade partly hidden below?
Aah. I would love to teach a week long workshop in a vacation setting. Maybe in some old European farm. I get as much pleasure from seeing students eyes light up and think, “I CREATED THAT???!!!” as I get from painting myself.
8 Persian Flasks, Feb 2015. Gouache and ink on paper, 46 x 61 cm
שמונה בקבוקים פרסיים, פברואר 2015ץ גואש ודיו על נייר 46 * 61 ס”מ
One more in the series, this one being particularly challenging.
I often tell my students that simplicity is important: When challenging the viewer with something confusing, they must limit additional stimuli.
The way that Braque and Picasso used restricted, neutral palettes for their Cubist still lives.
And as in cooking: Best not to use every spice in the kitchen, in each dish. Choose your direction, and emphasize it alone.
Good advice that I chose not to follow.
I did not to practice what I preach, in order to stretch my abilities to a new limit. I wanted to see how much chaos can still be contained in a viable composition and in a pretty, pleasant painting.