Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: The Studio Evolution Of A Live Painting

30 October 2009

The Studio Evolution Of A Live Painting

> Imagery

In honor of live art's transparency of process, this time I'm not going to just throw a finished piece out there and call it a day. For my latest painting, I want to give some exposition and a before-and-after, because the photograph of the finished piece verges on not communicating what is actually going on. First, the after:

2009 08 07 & 10 28 Dancin In The Streets Festival & Studio
(Darkstar Orchestra, Chicago Afrobeat Project, Billy Kreutzmann and Papa Mali, Nailhouse)

18"x24" - opaque pens, acrylic, & spraypaint on masonite
original available for purchase - signed 11"x17" prints available for $15

Once upon a time, I started by brushing on a uniform background in black, then gold acrylic paint...then I took the board to Dancin' In The Streets Festival back in August and tried my hand at the kind of colorful plaques I see coming out of Indonesia and Tibet – you know, lots of gold, intricate central design, kind of a pointy floral thing going on:

And then this painting spent nearly three months in a stack while I made disappointed faces at it. What happened to my grand vision of layering? The gold isn't really integrated; it's just sitting in the background doing nothing. All the right angles really kill the flow, and in spite of the clutter of colors and angles, it didn't give me any feeling of depth. So I decided I'd wait until the painting was least suspecting it, then pounce with gold spraypaint and turn the whole thing into Layer One.

It worked out pretty well. Boulder got hit by 23 inches of snow the other day, giving me the perfect opportunity to hole up with my friend and wire-wrapper extraordinaire Dan Donohue and devote our day to the muses. First I applied a coat of noxious spraypaint. (For those unfamiliar with illegal street art or home renovation, there's a special touch that will get the spray paint canister to spit out fat drops instead of a fine mist, leaving semi-transparent galaxies instead of a uniform blanket.) Then I followed the original implied octagons with the good old Breath of the Compassionate, an Islamic tiling pattern that signifies the infinite expanse of divine creation and destruction. Throw a snowflake in there for good measure, ignore the inner nagging voice about how the six-fold and eight-fold geometries don't quite line up, and call it a day.

The end result is one of my subtlest and deepest pieces – really hard to get a feel for from just the above photo. Here are some details that demonstrate how the spraypaint alternately hides and reveals the red underlayer, depending on the light: