Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Inspiration Equation or Ideas Percolate Like Mr. Coffee

Today I wanted to write about The Inspiration Equation or How Ideas Percolate.

X+Y = the Final Product - W Magazine uses this kind of equation to explain their fashion photo shoots and it makes sense to me. Sometimes there is a linear progression of thought for a piece. 

Mr. Coffee - In truth it's really much more complicated than that because there's no way to factor in years of life experience and emotions for example. Sometimes an artist doesn't know why they make the connections they do, it's more like percolating water flowing over ground up coffee beans and picking up a little something along its way into the pot.
"The Certainty of Youth and the Complexity of Wisdom", Diptych frame size 43x49,
each panel 29x18, oil on panel

So this is how all the following ideas added up to my painting.

Common Saying - "seeing things in black and white or in shades of gray". I think that is true and the older I get, the more I understand about certain situations, the less clear cut the issue is.
 Billy Joel - A few years ago I heard his song Shades of Grey, for the umpteenth time and it dawned on me that there was truth to what he'd written. I frequently find wisdom in the lyrics of singer-song writers, they are indeed the poets of our day. (lyrics to the song are at the bottom of this post) 
Make it so #1 - I sent my mind out looking for ways to visually present this very intangible idea. It literally took a couple of years for something to bubble to the top.
Rocks? - I'm not sure when the rocks occurred to me so that will have to be a blank in the equation. 
Awesome Models - A young model and a mature model to capture the idea that wisdom comes with age (hopefully). Both models are fellow Birmingham, AL artists. I decided that they should be depicted separately to allow for the possibility that it could be the same man at a different ages, for that reason they couldn't exist in the same pictorial space, hence the diptych. 
Costumes - I wanted the younger model to be wearing a crisp white shirt and my mature model to be wearing a more relaxed shirt. Turns out my younger model didn't own a dress shirt, so he bought one on the way to my studio. When we took it out of the package it still had the fold creases, PERFECT, I thought for the black and white character. My older model is a sculptor so he lives in denim shirts anyway. This is an example of how models contribute to the painting in important ways besides how they look.
Renaissance Altarpieces and Portraits - These things say "This is of import" and I couldn't resist having an elaborate frame, like the one below, built to house my diptych.
Piero dell Francesca, Diptych Portrait: Battista Sforza & Federico da Montefeltro, 1472-3
my painting
Maybe that gives some insight into the creative process, it was a fun exercise for me anyway...

Here's another post about The Certainty of Youth and the Complexity of Wisdom that has many close-ups and other paintings that feature these models.

Lyrics to Shades Of Grey: by Billy Joel
Some things were perfectly clear, seen with the vision of youth
No doubts and nothing to fear, I claimed the corner on truth
These days it's harder to say I know what I'm fighting for
My faith is falling away
I'm not that sure anymore

Shades of grey wherever I go
The more I find out the less that I know
Black and white is how it should be
But shades of grey are the colors I see

Once there were trenches and walls and one point of every view
Fight 'til the other man falls
Kill him before he kills you
These days the edges are blurred, I'm old and tired of war
I hear the other man's words
I'm not that sure anymore

Shades of grey are all that I find
When I come to the enemy line
Black and white was so easy for me
But shades of grey are the colors I see

Now with the wisdom of years I try to reason things out
And the only people I fear are those who never have doubts
Save us all from arrogant men, and all the causes they're for
I won't be righteous again
I'm not that sure anymore

Shades of grey wherever I go
The more I find out the less that I know
Ain't no rainbows shining on me
Shades of grey are the colors I see


  1. Men speak of thinking outside The Box.
    But that's what boxes are for! And there is MORE THAN ONE and the largest one is infinite! Each larger box is only a measurement of your ability to perceive.

    Hope I haven't blown your box.

    Mary Ann



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