Safe Abstract

Icky feelings

I might be getting a cold. I felt crummy during the night and had some bad dreams. I don’t remember them exactly, just the not-so-good feelings that remain when the substance of a dream is gone.  However, my mood may be related to the painting I posted yesterday. I painted it at the tail end of a series, where I was trying to boil down hand gestures to their concentrated form: icons.  For convenience, I replicate yesterday’s picture here:

Mike's Hand in Motion with Jack's Hand in the Picture

Mike’s Hand in Motion with Jack’s Hand in the Picture
5″x7″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

There is not a lot of abstraction here. Certainly not a distillation to icons.

A note to those who have not visited my blog before: The above painting refers to an episode of self harm frequently exhibited by my older brother who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal.

Where to go from here?

I really don’t know how to proceed from here. The original idea of creating my own set of icons came from looking at the work of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. I’m re-thinking the role icons should play in my efforts to express my feelings visually. I think gestures can have a universal meaning and,  in that sense an icon that captures the essence of a gesture will convey that meaning; meaning not feeling. It can symbolize a feeling, the way a frowny-face icon symbolizes sadness, but I don’t think anyone seeing this icon would feel sadness.  If icons only symbolize emotions, probably their best use in service to a narrative.

This is a little daunting. Must I portray exaggerated facial expressions, grotesque images to directly convey strong emotions? The use of ‘cool’ or ‘hot’ colors to convey the corresponding mood; rough, choppy brush strokes for agitation; smooth brush strokes for more soothing feelings, are some techniques that may be used to evoke feelings in abstract paintings. That seems a bit indirect to me. Indirect, yet safe.

Speaking of safe

The study below is my work for today. It is geometric, the colors are bright, the two halves of the picture contrast with each other. I’m not sure if it evokes any feelings, but it fits in with other paintings of my ‘Barrier’ series, where I use the metaphor of an absolute barrier between my brother and me (Back to Abstract?VariationMy NicheSketchingBarrier #5 CompletedBarrier Series with GesturesNarrative or Portrayal of Feelings? Icons in Practice).

Abstract expressionist watercolor study: circle and square

Safe Abstract
7″x10″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

The plan

I was thinking of revisiting more of my photos of my brother to see if I can abstract the important emotional content. I will not be looking to codify them in terms of icons, but rather to try finding the best way to portray what I feel as I see the photo again and if I can overlay reminiscences of what I felt at the time.

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