Seated Figure w/Knife & Moth Shadow
oil on canvas
36 x 48 in.
The heart of my painting process is what I call the “seed”. As I paint both figure and background, I watch for the seed to happen or appear. By seed, I mean a formal metaphor that happens accidentally or unconsciously. It suggests to me, in formal ideas, what the painting will say conceptually. This usually occurs at a level just below consciousness. I am often not aware of this seed until the painting is finished.
As I blocked in the figure and background, a moth shape appeared to me in my hurried brush marks in the upper right corner of this painting. Using a visual reference, I painted a flying moth over those initial strokes. As I continued to paint the figure, I was led by the idea of a moth emerging from, or unraveling out of her cocoon. The painted figure also took on the qualities of the flying moth with her arms outstretched. I put a scissors in her hand- a visual rhyme for the moth’s antennae.
However, the moth began to crowd the figure; I painted it out and added a moth resting on her thigh. I replaced this moth by yet another one flying under the table, which was also painted out. Finally, I began to see a large moth shape on the table. I refined it into a vague, yet ominous shadow of a large, unseen moth flying overhead. Now the painting seemed balanced. The moth was my seed; it led me in the painting process and defined the figure as both unraveling in tentative flight and in need of a weapon for her defense. Long gone, the seed remains transformed into a ghostly shadow.
© Peggy Dee