35th Entry - "The String Quartet Series of 2011"

This series was directly inspired by the work of Philadelphia based Composer Jeffery Cotton and his body of work. His artistry is a combination of surprise and harmony which is ultimately quite literally haunting. It leaves a deep and unforgettable impression that lingers - an impression that one memorizes in its intrinsic folds - like a person can recall the smell of coconut from memory or the taste of a very tart lemon but a layered small eternity more intense, what better a source of inspiration to an impressionist painter. You can see him and sample listen to some of his work here http://www.jefferycotton.net/info.asp?pb=26&pg=1

The more I worked on the pieces the scope of the project changed. I chose to create a string quartet series for a few reasons - a person can be uncomplicated and still be complex. Though I don't believe I am one of those people (yet) I still know they exist, that said I believe we are all equally made up of four basic parts - the mind, the body, the soul and the being as a whole (the sum of its parts which form a piece indicative of its own nature separate from yet intimately if sometimes unconsciously attached to each of its composition).

In a string quartet there are traditionally four instruments and a quartet piece is played in four movements so that symbolically twice applied brought a depth to the artwork. Also, each of the instruments used in a traditional string quartet were created in the 16th century which of course is four times four - the end result is four or four references to the value in kinds of 'four' in the each piece within the series - anyway I digress, it seemed to fit perfectly. Using this as a foundation to the inspiration of Composer Jeffery Cotton's music I was able to carry the influence throughout four individual pieces.

I have an affinity for string instruments. They are a symbol of fire signs astrologically and being a fire sign I'm naturally drawn to their sound. Anyway, for this set of work I wanted to break into something different that was unique to the series, as the composer's work is unique. I knew that Jeff Cotton uses geometrical shapes which manifest in his compositions lyrically and I wanted it different and special while still being identifiably mine. In short, I had been experimenting with artwork similar to that found in graphic novels so adding that as a spin I began to create.

"The First Violin"
(you can click the image for dimensions, details and availability)

The Violin as it was developed in the 16th century were hand made from cruder string instruments. During that time period they were regarded as the instrument for lower classes, being used mostly in folk and family gatherings. It would be about a century later that more composers would use them in their work. Within the melodic creature called the string quartet it is traditionally the lead, it sets the tone of the piece playing the melody. As performed by the Cypress String Quartet in Jefferey Cotton's String Quartet #1:Overture, he is easy to see (click to hear a snip) http://bit.ly/mg7fmp a leader, his notes a statement the movement deliberate and focused though intense near to wildly passionate.

The color red mentally tells people on a subconscious level to pay attention or note detail. On that same level it draws a halting attention in a capacity that draws them to see what is next. The color was chosen for this reason. This hue of red was acquired through the use of raspberry extract combined with rose essence and cinnamon (with a few other things) in an oil resin. Once the cotton canvas was treated to take the color it went on in two layer resulting in a thickness of tint and hues. Striations within the canvas were managed by the use of feather tips from one of the many robins that live in the area. The opening movement is traditionally swift and energetic which reminded me of these birds and I wanted to somehow incorporate that in this piece.

Using the feather tips to carry each line into its geometrical shape allowed me to do that, the technique is very easy and there are several resources on the Internet which can teach you. The trick is not to saturate the feather and simply use the very outside lip of the tips. Going beyond that or allowing the feather to soak up too much of the coloring tincture will create blobs and smudges. If this begins to happen simply use a fresh feather. In an area like the northeastern part of New York I am in there are several just lying around outdoors but they are also for sale at most dollar stores.

The applications of geometrical shapes in the background are deliberate - a literal to the composer Cotton's own inspirations. Also being a symbol for the mind I needed to add the element of logice - if this then that, as an undertone to make the piece more well rounded. This ended up being my personal favorite from the series. As for the shapes, they too are layered like each instrument's place within a harmony but together they form 16 types of hidden images that I will not iterate. I hide images in each of my pieces as a way to reward those who are willing to look at them. This is consistent throughout the entire series.

"The Second Violin"
(click for painting details, dimensions and availability)

The second procession of music within each quartet is traditionally a bit slower. In lieu with the color symbols I used this concept in the piece. Green is the "what's next" a symbol of 'go'. It inspires activity and motion on a subconscious level to the viewer. The background is loose and free floating though also with its own hidden images that extend into the face of the piece. She is a violin as well, once a lower class instrument placed by wit and creativity into finer more intimate settings, refined composed but still as intense.

The second violin in a musical quartet serves as an accompaniment to the first violin, sharing in the melody, yes, but adding fine detail creating depth through harmonies and soft complexities woven into the movements of that musical dance. I did not intend for her to be a woman but the piece painted itself - as sometimes they do (creative types will be able to identify with this), and so here she is. Clever and complimentary, both in the back and foreground just a touch mysterious. Intuitive to the movement of the first violin and iterating each expression with deeper meaning. Like the body will most times do what the mind suggests and at others wont listen at all lol. I believe as a mate she went well as the body symbol.

"The Cello"
(you can click this image to see details on the piece, its dimensions and availability)

The Cello, also developed in the 16th century came about in Italy as an attempt to reach the lower notes that a violin could not do. Its intent within the quartet is to support the other instruments and allow them to shine while he himself is the phonetic foundation (not to be confused with the melody).

I wanted to use the color blue, which inspires imagination and creativity within the subconscious. Staying with the idea, like a tired parent supporting their playing children, that the Cello supports the lot. The soul is enduring, it can be weary but stong at the same time. I used a slightly resting position to the head, not bowing because that would be inattentive, but lax and eyes that wear low on the brow but still show an acute awareness. I suppressed the background latticework by using pastel and talcum which was hydrated with olive oil, this made it malleable providing a lulling effect in texture and hues. I wanted to depict a quiet strength, which would insinuate a longer limb and taller stature to add to the overall impression. Keeping in tune with the rest of the series this piece also has its own set of hidden images buried in lines and tints that span the painting.

"The Viola"
(you can click the image to see details on the painting including pricing, dimensions and availability)

The fourth and last procession of the quartet's performance is classically the climax. The image on the canvas has turned direction and is closer to the frame as if almost to exit the stage save a glance over at the participant, its viewer It incorporates all three colors within it's works - red, green and blue and in being of its own nature has one of it's own. It is the expression of all three combined to create a complete and separate being.

Here the architecture as seen in the others has moved into the background and wider, broader strokes of pitch and charcoal for looser associations of braided squares, triangles, circles and helices. The viola meets a range between that of the violin and the cello, it is the missing piece and the joining part. Sometimes it will use melodic counter points to the first violin creating deeper tones and a richer experience. All four instruments allow the listener to experience a richer melody and any one could accomplish alone. Though without each part the composition would not be whole. The number four appears in this piece several times to kind of allow for a visual disclosure to what else might be there.

Well, there it is. I really appreciate your reading and am grateful for your interest so thank you to all of my loyal darlings. I honestly do hope you like them because I had so much fun creating them to be enjoyed. I am equally as grateful for the brilliant talent of Composer Jefferey Cotton and his amazing body of work which provided the inspiration of this labor of love. I find it amazing how creativity, in any medium or 'language' if you will, seems to connect in ways across the senses. I person can almost hear the color blue in a musical composition or smell the color red in a perfectly cooked fine meal. It never ceases to amaze me and that's why I love my life of art.

More later,



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