Stop-time: The Fish Creek Blues

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Stop-time: The Fish Creek Blues – 2011 – Hybrid on Canvas – 40″H x 56″W

For a 2011 exhibition connected with Louis Armstrong Day in Saratoga Springs, I created a work  based on “stop-time” — a musical format used by Armstrong in which the other instruments define a percussive measure and pull back, allowing space for the solo. It was difficult and exciting for me to abandon my usual “all-over” compositional approach and create an image with a dominant section.  After driving around for quite a while, photographing and sketching certain possibilities, I stumbled upon the perfect motif. Under the sharp rhythms of a bridge over Fish Creek, a vertical piece of wood measuring the flood level interrupted the very flat surface of the water and created a dramatic set of swirls in an ever-broadening pattern.

650 IMG_9165 bridge used

Work began on location with two small paintings and several drawings (seen below) and I then worked in photoshop with combinations and manipulations of the artwork and photographs. I looked at Matisse’s Jazz cutouts and thought about simplifying the shapes with sharp edges, but the more I listed to Armstrong, the more I wanted a complex, free flowing style to represent the shifting complexities and sensuality of the music. The photographic detail within a short section of the bridge establishes “visual fact” as the percussive rhythm that fades out to the expressive interpretation. After having the digital file printed on canvas, I continued to paint, concentrating mainly on the energy and coloration of the swirls. As with a solo in music, the challenge was to create a structure within which the solo makes perfect sense, has time to flourish and then reconnects to the rest of the piece.

Painting/drawing on site — Shimmering Patterns  2011acrylic and pencil on wood, 8×10″

small study pencil

Below is the painting done on site and used for a base layer in Photoshop: Fish Creek Overflow 2011, acrylic on canvas,18×24″.  The base layer was a photo of this painting about half way through the painting process, allowing more open areas.

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After adding some areas of photographic detail, mainly to the bridge, this image was printed:

stoptime 650 to print

I then painted on that print, mainly in the area of the swirls, intensifying the blues and reworking the curves of the turbulence:

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A related work on paper with a gray background and most details in monochrome,  keeping the “solo” as the main color. ( approx 11×16″) (Private collection)

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