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Thursday, March 18, 2010


the starting sketch

Happy sunny day. The temperature went above 60 for a few hours. Sun out most of the day. Fluffy clouds gray on the bottom, white on top. I imagine them seen from above in a plane. First time I flew above the clouds, I thought, Heaven is no more here than anywhere else. So much for that old cosmology. Flying above the clouds has driven Heaven out into outer space, ultimately beyond the universe. It's not there either. In church, when I was a kid, it never made sense to me the adults all thought Heaven was out there someplace, someplace where we're not. The night sky is the heavens.
I thought it was perfectly clear when Jesus said Heaven is within. I've never understood, nor really wanted to, how the traditional belief arose that Heaven is out there when we're told it's in the heart by the one who knows. I hear people say all the time, "hell's right here on earth." Seems like if hell is on earth, heaven would be too. Heaven and earth, the polar opposites we waver between going about our days as we stand upright on the earth with our heads in the atmosphere.

Painted a good bit today on Howard Joines's forehead, touches here and there all over his face, another coat on the fiddle. The fiddle is moving in the right direction. The colors are coming together to suggest wood. It has 5 coats of different colors from red to a golden yellow and burnt sienna and raw umber. It will probably get 5 more coats, though the next ones will be moving toward completion, more subtle shadings from dark to light. The sense that it is wood is coming along too. Whether or not it makes a terrifically good rendering of a fiddle, I do want its color to suggest wood and nothing else. Not even paint.

His face is almost there. Touches here, touches there. Every time I do anything to the face, I go over the whole face, leaving previous layers to come through. At this moment, the eyebrows are too dark. That's easy to fix. I'll put in the bow when the fiddle reaches satisfaction. A long narrow almost straight dark line. It will have to be light enough to show up against the dark wood of the fiddle, dark enough to stand out from the white shirt, and light enough to show up on the dark background. Then a straight line of white. It's the kind of thing I put off until everything else is done. No room for correction. No room for doing it twice. It's a one time thing, like zen archery. One arrow. One shot at it. Every bow I've painted, I've done this way. I study it and dread it, go on studying it until the time feels right. When I'm ready, it takes a very few minutes and it's just right or close enough. It's not something I can take for granted. I see it something like when a fiddler is making a particular note feel what he wants it to feel by willing it.

The eyes gave me a little bit of a fit for awhile. Then they appeared. I paint around them now. When the eyes get right, I don't mess with them. By right I mean, look like they can see. When the fiddle is right you'll hear it in your mind's ear when you see it. Whether or not it gets there I can't yet say, but that's the goal, the guiding light. I don't know if it really favors Howard, as I've never seen him to know it was Howard Joines, if I ever saw him. His face is familiar in pictures of him I've looked at, but only like somebody I might have seen at the bank or the post office or gas station. All I have to go by is his head is shaped like Stephen Joines, Howard's nephew, or great nephew. In the beginning, I was laying down the shadows and lights of the face and up came Stephen. See above.

I've had him favoring Richard, his son. Going by that, he at least looks like he could be a Joines. I'm in the right family, anyway. That's all I have to go by. But I think it's enough. Jr was his nephew. I see they had the same noses, so I know Howard's nose by Jr's. Stephen has that nose and so did Jr's mother, Howard's sister. If it doesn't favor him enough, I'll just call it a mountain fiddler. Mr Joines. But I believe I'll get it at least close enough to be able to call it a portrait of him. By knowing several Joineses, I have some idea of Howard's character, real character. I already know he was an honorable and respectable man. I already know he was an extra good fiddler, too.

Painting Alleghany fiddlers the rest of my life, or the rest of the time I'm able, will be a good purpose to live for. See how many I can get done. My ideal is that they all stay in the county. I will price them so they can. Will probably do 2 or 3 more of Jr. Must do one of Fred Roupe. I want to do one of the Rise & Shine Band that plays at the Jubilee. Will do a Ralph Stanley & Clinch Mtn Boys soon. It's taking place in my mind. I'm about at a place where I'll select the canvas and start sketching it on with pencil and oil crayon so when this one is done, the next one will be ready to start applying colors.

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