February 01, 2013

Migratory Painter

oil on canvas, 60” x 48”
Selected Preparatory Studies:
graphite on paper, 11" x 8"
Posted by Mark Roth at 12:22 AM

September 07, 2009

"Joan of Arc Riding My Little Pony"

oil on canvas, 60" x 48"

When she was little, my niece poured all her creativity into playing with the My Little Pony dolls. She play-acted the issues and dreams of her world and her understanding of it through them.

These ponies fulfilled the role of art in her life – as they have for at least a generation of young girls. The My Little Pony vehicle communicates so effectively that we fail to recognize it as talismanic. In this way the My Little Pony product-line represents art as it is actually consumed in our era in the same way that, say, a Titian image was unquestioningly, vitally relevant during the Italian Renaissance.


My niece is unhesitatingly loving, like most children. Once, at age four, she stared wistfully out the window lamenting from her car seat: “I wish there was no pollution.” She hassles her parents for drinking coffee because she learned the rainforest is being cut down to make way for coffee plantations.

All the while, she is lavishing her creative energy upon the My Little Pony world. It is the incubator of her imagination – the arena for constructing a strategy as to how she is going to take action in the larger world, correct its ills and express herself. Her free play rallies a charge into the future just like Joan of Arc leading her army to victory.

This process in which she is engaged – rejecting the world’s despoliation and dreaming of a better, more just, more sensible one – seems the very thing required to save us from ourselves. This painting pays tribute to Innocence as Power.

Process Video:

Selected Preparatory Studies:

digital compositions and graphite on paper, 11” x 8”; arranged chronologically – most recent at top.
Posted by Mark Roth at 03:33 AM | Comments (6)

March 28, 2007

Commission: "Canyon Ascent" (with dv)


oil on canvas, 52" x 40"

Managing the potentially disabling demands of focus and invention that confront every artist who stands before a boundless canvas is key. It’s been my experience that there is a deep desire on the part of the painter - maybe even a necessity - to arrive at some strategic armature or limiting structure within which to act. After all, as Georges Braque said of the sustained inspiration intrinsic to the demands of Fauvism, “You can’t remain forever in a state of paroxysm.”

Many of the liberating restrictions painters have come upon are formal - think Agnes Martin. During this Grand Canyon commission, the resolution of Burro Train delivered a formal armature. But the unspoken collaboration with the client who commissioned the project awoke me to a liberating restriction of another sort: service.

During the course of painting the first Grand Canyon canvas, I registered each moment of acute delight on the part of the client and realized this client was consistent and yet loved having preconceptions eclipsed.

Whether to the painting, a client or the ground beneath our feet, service proves to be self-serving.

Thus, this service to another’s vision laid the foundational “liberating restriction” to a new process and a second canvas in the commission, Canyon Ascent. This phantom restriction most tangibly manifests in an enhanced naturalistic depiction of depth. Maintaining its predecessor's assertive frontality in the advancing picture plane, Canyon Ascent incorporates the client’s desired depiction of depth. (So, its completed surface operates like a subtler version of the telescoping dolly zoom famously used by Hitchcock.)

To see the process, click the image above for the hi-res QT movie (1 min., 7.3Mb) or try the YouTube version.

When I first began this assignment - painting an “abstract” Grand Canyon - my initial foothold was the realization that I didn’t have to conceive or execute a vision so much as embody processes congruent to those which formed the Canyon, itself. Geomimicry as painting strategy: The accumulation of sediment (or paint) and the process of erosion that resurfaces that accumulation reveals its unique logic and corresponding beauty.

This created a particularly satisfying development of illusionistic depth and naturalistic proportions. In the same way that the Canyon represents a cleaving through geologic history, Canyon Ascent embodies a scraping through layers of art history.

Its fidelity to the abstractions of geomimicry and service make this painting read as representational. This resolution afforded me the rare experience of physically unearthing the academically observed substratum that undergirds America’s Abstract Expressionists: The Romantic Hudson River School painters - Cole, Kensett, Gifford, Bierstadt, Church.

For a "Special Features" insight into this post click for further commentary.

Posted by mark at 07:58 PM

March 15, 2007

Commission: "Burro Train" (with dv)


oil on canvas, 52" x 40"

Being incomprehensible to quotidian existence, the Grand Canyon presents an uncommonly great subject for a painting.

This sentiment did not originate with me - recently, it was re-introduced by a client who, enthused by the emergence of landscape in my Mountain Paintings, was curious to see what would be my abstract response to the Grand Canyon.

So began a two month encampment in Arizona where, under the sun, in unspoken collaboration with my client, I was an object of bemusement and intrigue to a gated-community in Scottsdale. In this atmosphere, I got my mind around the project while developing a vocabulary at breakneck speed.

Amazingly - and, perhaps, fortuitously - I’d embarked on the project with no previous firsthand experience of the Grand Canyon. Sedona - which one experiences as a landscape of protuberances, not a canyon - was the furthest north I’d ever travelled in Arizona. (Note: you can see the “before and after” transformation in the painting’s video where the canvas shifts from the Sonoran Valley of the Sun to take on the depth and breadth so aptly noted in the name, Grand Canyon).

To see the process: Click the image above for the hi-res QT movie (1 min., 6.6Mb) or try the YouTube version.

Upon arriving at the Canyon, I was guided to the rim with my eyes shut. My hosts positioned me so that my first glimpse would be unobstructed and immediate. Opening my eyes, my first impression was that the scene appeared flat - like a cinematic backdrop. The sense of scale was unintelligible. The shadows in the distance read as positive shapes - having more solidity than the rock. The drama was that of alternating intervals of sun and shadow dappling across the unfathomable expanse.

From the rim, especially in the bleaching midday sun, this grand panorama registers as an uncannily and solely retinal experience; Walking into it does not feel like an option.

All this, I wanted in the painting.

Plainly, though, I was going to have to get physically into the landscape. The South Kaibab Trail obliged. Upon going over the rim, the Canyon instantly becomes a participatory event - hiking, an act of sculpting - each step down raises the horizon up. This I wanted to get into the painting, too.

It is a fascinating irony that two-dimensional, pictorial depiction dictates a correspondence between moving down into the canyon and moving up the canvas. This became an experiential dynamic of the painting. As a point of reference, I remembered the Met’s Joachim Patinir painting, The Penitence of Saint Jerome, whose gallery wall label reads, in part:

“The true subject of the picture, however, is Patinir's splendid panoramic landscape, which the viewer is encouraged to travel through visually in the manner of a pilgrimage.”

Hence, the incorporation of the burro train whose members are (pun intended) burrowing their way ever deeper into the canyon while correspondingly ascending the canvas in a pilgrimage of step-by-step transcendence that's all in a day's work.

Burro Train is still available for purchase. Why, you might ask, if it was a commission? Well, the process and subject was so engaging that I immediately painted a follow-up, Canyon Ascent, which the client chose after considerable debate. I’ll post this second painting next.

Posted by mark at 10:04 PM | Comments (1)

October 28, 2005

"Goya Moment" Details

And so, with this post of details, “Goya Moment” week concludes at TINSQUO.

This painting is conceived to function across scales, implicitly positing that there is no privileged point of view other than the one you’re currently experiencing.

In the artblog entrance to the painter’s life, consider this post a virtual hoisting of a mug at a cyber Cedar Tavern. Thanks for lingering with me in this pause before attention turns to the next canvas.

For a recap, see the prior entry of states and the time-lapse DV of the painting’s creation (QT 8.5).

Posted by mark at 11:43 PM

October 24, 2005

Process Post: "Goya Moment" States

Here's a selection of some of the key states of "Goya Moment." For a while, I felt confident the painting was finished as it appears in the tenth state, above. But that was wishful thinking.

There are no shortcuts. The painting decides when it's done.

For all the intervening phases of development, see the time-lapse DV (QT 8.5 MB).

Posted by mark at 10:36 PM

October 21, 2005

"Goya Moment"

oil on canvas, 52" x 40"

This painting is the whole reason I dreamed up TINSQUO.com. A culmination of months of studio work, "Goya Moment" is a fulfillment of the vision behind this site. It brings the longterm processes at work within the artblog to a momentary resolution.

For elucidation on TINSQUO processes, see Narrative on the "about" page.


Process Video:

This Goya Moment process video is also viewable on the Tinsquo YouTube channel.


Posted by Mark Roth at 02:50 AM | Comments (2)