“Is Peace Black and White?”

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“Is Peace Black and White?” • oil • 60hx36w

This painting is another of my falling figure/ motion paintings. It was created during the Iraq War years. Its original title was a statement, “Peace is Black and White”, but I found not too many people questioned it. If they did, they quietly disagreed or dismissed the painting as idealistic. If it got anyone talking about peace, I would be happy. For now, let’s talk about creating the painting.

As I mentioned before, this painting is based on other studies of the rotating figure. I used drawings from a live model who happened to have a butterfly tattoo on his arm. I had the drawing at least eight years before I produced the painting. I knew I wanted to create this falling man with the butterfly tattoo, but just couldn’t decide what I really wanted to put down on canvas. Before I created the above painting, I created this study below. It was another experiment with model drawings, flesh tones, movement and integrating the subject with the background. It is called, “Falling Man, II”.

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“Falling Man II” • oil • 36hx24w

Several years after creating “Falling Man II”, I decided to tackle the idea of the falling man with the butterfly tattoo. First, I thought it would be interesting to change the size of the image. So I bought a bigger canvas. The multiple drawings were created directly on the canvas. The painting was going to be another falling man study, but things changed as I progressed.

The thought of producing a full color painting again almost seemed daunting. I really wanted the butterfly tattoo to show. This gave me the idea to create the man in black and white and leave the butterfly in color. On the model, the tattoo was a large blue winged one. Since I am from northern California, I substituted a monarch butterfly. They migrate here and I am more familiar with them. Then came the draping of the figure, which turned into a flag. My thoughts at the time were with the grief and frustration of our country at war. The olive branch, the idea of peace, is what I wanted to see and feel. So, it materialized into my composition.

Finally, I needed to incorporate the figure in the background. Grey clouds came to mind, which lead me to render the ultimate falling man, Icarus. In northern California, the sun is always breaking from the morning clouds, so in order to paint the background, I only needed to go outside and look up. The feathers on the right corner of the composition is a hint to the identity of the falling man. I created the black and grey colors using dioxazine purple, alizarin crimson, phthalo green, and prussian blue with white on the background. In his body I mixed the above colors into mars black.

Icarus travels UPS ground

Since I’ve painted “Peace” it has been shipped to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Dayton, Ohio. The Harrisburg Art Association had an assistant curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York judging the works. The Missing Peace Art Space in Dayton, Ohio displayed it in their exhibit, “The Art of Peace”. The painting was used as a prop in a short film called, “Still Lifes”, by Victoria Johnson.

Symbolism galore

Have fun with the symbolism in this painting. Is peace black and white (the olives), or is it conditional like shades of grey (the figure)? The flag, the arm reaching, falling, Icarus, the butterfly… don’t stop there… What happens if he grasps the olive branch? Does he save himself?

Wishing you a peaceful and thoughtful 4th of July.

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