Deep Time: Painting is an Out-of-Body Experience

Here's what I've been working on for the past couple of weeks:

I'd been doing a few scenes that act as a prelude to this moment--very peaceful and picturesque. This vision of nature falls to pieces with this one painting, which represents my little hero watching one of his siblings being eaten by a little proto-rodent called a cynodont while his mother fights off the rest of the little predators. His father swoops to the rescue from above.


When I think about my paintings before I paint them--when I conceive the scene as a mental image--I almost always imagine (or hope) it will look something like this painting by Vanessa Foley:

The lighting has a Baroque tenebrism about it that reminds me of Frans Snyder's eagle in a painting he did with Rubens:

Instead my paintings remind me of cool 1970s cartoons, specifically Watership Down (1978):


I might be painting Jurassic Chinese dinosaurs (and mammaliforms) but I'm always in the end doing a kind of self portrait. Whenever I finish a painting I always feel a sense of the uncanny about it--like I'm looking at a reflection of myself that I simultaneously know is me and is yet completely unfamiliar and somehow surprising. It's the feeling you get when you have an out-of-body experience and see your own body from outside itself [happened to me]. I see things in my style that are inexplicable--because they are so at odds with all the preconceived notions I have of what I'm about, what I'm supposed to do. In the end all the mental preconceptions I can muster mean nothing to the hand that wields the brush and makes its own decisions based on some mysterious quintessence that defines my visuality. The sketchiness of it startles me, as do the lurid colors and the line-driven elements that mitigate against any hope of photo-realism. I don't know why I paint like this. It's unconscious. Maybe that's what's driving the cartoonish elements that seem to echo from the deep past of my childhood. What's running the show is what's deep down below. I see it here in this painting, like all of them, through a glass darkly--not what I thought would be there but what is there--undeniable, primal, mysterious me.







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