Materials & Materiality

by | Mar 28, 2020 | The Hungry Eye

I’ve been thinking about materials and how they change the feel of a picture. A watercolor, ideally, has a lightness, an implication of ephemerality in its thereness. Ink can be both vaporous and definitive and often, at its best, leaves a lot for the paper to say. Oil, although talented at all sorts of illusions, usually has a weight of substance, of paintness.

I then had to look up materiality: the quality or character of being material or composed of matter
But what was really interesting were the antonyms: fantasy, fiction, illusion….. because very often, maybe always, my pictures are illusions, often fantasies, and usually some sort of fiction. Except if they are successful their illusions, etc. have a materiality, a realness.

It is an interesting little journey from ink & watercolor to oil:


For the Birds

Then there is the question of material versus the other, call it spirit, the unseen, the mind, the intangible or the abstract. A picture without that is not much except some jazzy eye entertainment. Not that I have anything against such, it just is not enough for me. I want the full monty of illusion & substance, material & spirit, eye sex & palm-to-the-heart.
So we are in this strange geography of contradictions hacking our way through the over-named forest. What a joy just to pick up a pen, a brush and banish thought for a straight run through the wilderness. It’s a mess, it’s delicious. Sometimes it works, sometimes you don’t even know that it worked. Sometimes the lighter medium is dense in content. This is an image made because of a dream. In it I was trying to call my friend, Robert Morales, who has been gone for quite a few years. He lived a great part of his social life on the telephone:


               Sometimes the denser medium can be quite light:


And looking back through the decades we come to the first oil self portrait I did.  That’s an actual Post headline: 

Full Moon Event

Often the particular qualities of a material dictate the image or how the image is made. The lightness of birds is easily compatible with watercolor:

4 Birds

Recently I did a little series of birds in oil — they’re light but you feel their wings in a different way:

Purple Haze

Blue in the Pink

Shade of Pale



So that’s it for now —- there are a lot of other sideroads this thought pattern could wander down. I’ll be musing over it. Let me know what you’d like to see!