Tag Archives: meaning of painting

Dancing Paint

A painting may begin with just an idea or a stroke of the brush, but as Bill Barrell will tell you…. 

Dancing Paint
Dancing Paint, oil on canvas painting, 2009

– Paintings often spring out of nowhere. Working on a blank canvas for me is great.  I am not a format painter, so I am left free to look at things and feel things in a different way. Here in this work, I started out wanting to just deal with squares, or square-like shapes. The square shapes worked well alone, but I had a nagging feeling something could be added to make it work even better. It’s a bit of a gamble as one can take a perfectly good work and mess it up! At the same time – once the idea of adding to a painting takes hold, there is no going back.

Often this approach backfires and one can end up with an awful mess. However, when it works, it gives a great feeling of confidence. When it doesn’t work it means taking the mess you have made and heading in a totally different direction. I can never give up on a painting. I wrestle with it until it works.

One time in frustration at what was showing up on the canvas, I tore it into one inch bands and then braided the canvas back together. It worked well as it totally destroyed the image I was wrestling with and it resurfaced into a beautiful object that I could hang on the wall like a quilt.

This painting ended up quite well. The circle shapes did what I wanted them to do by bringing the square shapes to life. It’s as if all the shapes have dancing partners – they give each other motion. The surface becomes vibrant without being eye popping. I named this painting, “Dancing Paint.” –

What Do We Have Here – the studio visitation


What exactly do we have here? Probably a question asked by many when viewing figurative expressionist art. Bill Barrell talks a little about what he sees in his painting “The Studio Visitation” as well as his thoughts on models and muses.

Studio Visitation
The Studio Visitation, oil on canvas painting

– Picasso and Matisse seemed to have no end of models, but I suspect that they often used old memories when they painted. Especially Picasso, who would paint late into the night when most of his models or wives would be tucked safely into their beds.  I have never been in a financial situation that allows me the privilege to hire models. When a painting begins to lead me into what is starting to look like a figure, I allow it to carry me off in that direction. The female figure divine, as it was called at one time, is an enchanting and mysterious image. Male painters are fortunate to have this vision, their muse as a woman.  (I cannot speak for women as I can’t see the male form in the same way as they do.) The female comes in a variety of shapes and forms, old and young, but always intriguing.  They are the ones who create us. They are the ones who we bonded with first and they are the ones who have nurtured us. As men, all we can do is help in a small way to make the situation come about.

Well, one of the beauties of painting is that the painting will always retain its true and secret meaning. Not even the artist can know the true meaning as the painting often comes together at a moment when the artist is not aware of what has happened. When looking at paintings it is best to absorb the feeling of the work rather than what it means. Take the Mona Lisa for instance. What is going on in her mind? I can hazard some guesses. Did she and Leonardo make love? Has she just laid a fart and is thinking, no one will ever know? Perhaps a thought has just crossed her mind of how she wished she were nude in front of Leonardo. Perhaps Leonardo has just winked at her. It could be something totally benign like, did I leave the laundry out again. The thing is – we will never know and if we did, where would lie the interest in Mona Lisa?

Now, in my painting, The Studio Visitation, what do we have? He looks somewhat surprised, but is he really? Is she dressing or undressing?  It looks like her breasts have arrived ahead of her. She is giving him a penetrating look as if to say, “you know why I am here.” She is looking a little angry. Has he forgotten something? She is also showing a goodly amount of thigh. Could the breasts and the inner thigh be a tempation? Or is it just his imagination undressing her? Whatever is about to happen will have witnesses who are lurking in the background. An eavesdropper and a young woman – his daughter perhaps? It is definitely all taking place in his studio as he does not look too disturbed. Perhaps this is a model from his imagination that he would like to hire. Perhaps he forgot to pick the kid up from school.

We will never know. It is a moment in time – caught in an emotional way and frozen forever. Leaving us with the painting and eternal question to return to – what do we have here? –