This painting, Working All the Angles, was inspired by a recent painting I completed entitled Reflections. I enjoyed the creative process so much on Reflections that with this painting I wanted to take some of the elements of style I used in Reflections and build on it. The question was how?
I was searching for Sanderlings, wet sand, and reflections when looking through my photos researching what to paint next. When I came across the triangular shape created by the three Sanderlings, I thought it would go nicely with the fractured reflections created in the wet sand. Could it be possible, I asked myself, to make the fractured reflections even more geometric in shape than what I painted in Reflections, and still develop a painting that looked somewhat realistic?
How would I paint the water and the birds if the wet sand was all geometric shapes? Could I possibly integrate natural shapes of nature with geometric shapes and create a painting that all comes together in the end?
So I set out on a painting journey, blocking in the birds and the reflections of the birds, filling the area around them with rectangles, triangles, squares, etc... All the while trying to maintain the reflections and create the illusion of wet sand. It was an exercise in pushing the boundaries of realism toward abstraction.
Before I went too far with the sand, I started painting in the birds and the water in an effort to get the bigger picture and work with tones. I had moments where I thought the mosaic sand might not work. Once I put in the natural curved shapes to indicate thin layers of water in the sand, it helped soften and break up the mosaic pattern and looked more natural from a distance.
Out of curiosity, I decided to do a little research about using geometric forms in painting, and combining them with natural shapes such as curves. Sure enough, I discovered I’m not reinventing the wheel. The National Gallery on their website writes about Henri Matisse applying this concept during a successful period of his work. They say, “He loved to explore the possibilities of mixing geometric shapes with biomorphic shapes”. Bingo! Then of course there is Picasso who used geometric shapes in works of nature to great success.
With this confirmation that I wasn’t doing something taboo, I went back to work with renewed vigor. Things started to fall into place. Color patterns developed and my vision of busy Sanderlings chasing the receding waves to probe at the uncovered horseshoe crab eggs and mollusks was developing.
The scene depicts three little birds busily eating before the next wave comes, “working all the angles” to dig up a circular treat!
It’s a frenetic moment, captured in a single frame. Reflections, refractions, lights, darks, movement, and life are created from both geometric and biomorphic forms.