"Rooster" 44"x66", oil on canvas, 2011-2014
This piece was begun in 2011 when I was living in Columbus, OH. It traveled with me to Chicago, where I resumed work on it.
It began as an abstract piece with vine charcoal. I then painted over it with oil and worked through a number of variations before it became "Rooster". The abstract nature of the piece morphed into a landscape when oriented in portrait, when oriented in landscape it became an enormous eye. I had been tacitly working on the piece - just improving areas of the color - but had to admit that I had gotten stuck.
I had spent a lot of time looking at the piece, it having hung in my residences for quite a while. Rotating it, looking at it from different angles; none of these helped to get me to see how to resolve it.
This piece eventually sprung from a combination of suggested shapes and coincidences of edge. I was as surprised as anyone to see the outline of a rooster's face in the oil. All it really needed was a beak. It honestly didn't seem like a great idea to flesh out the figure. However, I was stuck seeing the shapes, and couldn't un-see it in favor of something else (though I had had the idea to paint it into Theon Greyjoy). In February of 2014 I turned the piece into "Rooster".
Initially the piece was not only very lean, but also smooth with minimal impasto. As I began to build up the layers, and add colors the figure took shape. It had a very tight crop with little background save for the right side of the canvas. Although this kind of framing kind of organizes itself, it did end up needing some organizational elements. Mostly I accomplished this through a mix of energy from brush strokes and contrast areas. There is also a play on yellow that helps balance the piece.
After the initial few commits of paint to the rooster composition, my mother had reached out about my paintings, and possibly buying one. Unfortunately, the one she was interested in no longer existed. She liked the abstract piece that I had just painted a rooster on top of. Some pieces are like that; they're not ready to go out into the world, then you start going in a direction only to be quickly asked about the previous version.
Unlike the paired piece, "Spectral Ligature", begun at the same time on the same size canvas and gessoed in the same sittings, "Rooster" wasn't the piece that I gorged with some torrent of discursive thought. It was always a straightforward piece. I think the final technique and presentation really push this through.