Acrylic on canvas, 48”x48”
With this large canvas, I wanted to do something different from my usual, bright, high-energy, swoopy paintings. I wanted to paint something that would be more at home in a stark, modern room, yet still be distinctly TR. After painting a commission piece for my friend two months ago that featured a lot of dark symbolism, I began working alchemical symbols, Haitian Vodou veves, as well as my own made up symbols into my live paintings. I started obsessing over some of these serif-rich glyphs. Much of the alchemy signs seem like lost letters from an old style, serif alphabet, and I’ve always had an interest in serif based typefaces. All of this culminated in wanting to create a large, symbol-only, light-toned painting. I slowly began working on this massive canvas.
Looking back, It’s interesting to note that underneath all the sharp, straight, symmetrical layers, I still needed to feel out the canvas with loose, swoopy lines on the first layer. The next layer is what I’m referring to when I mention my own, made up, alchemy-inspired symbols.
Two layers later.
I painted a column-esque layer that I had featured early on in the previously mentioned commissioned piece. Looking at more Didone style typefaces which feature greater contrast between stressed and unstressed letter parts, I painted these back to back k’s and half m’s in the corners. At this point I started realizing that if I wanted the very light palette I was going for, I was going to need to start lightening up each layer with much more pastel colors. This was very much an exercise in paint mixing. I ended up using a few tubes of titanium white paint, by the time the piece was finished.
By this point in the painting, the layers were coming very slowly, at most one or two every few days. I was still working to have the final appearance be very light in value, so each layer had to cover different parts of the composition and slowly lighten the overall value of the piece. Having a small studio with a piece this large meant a lot of time where I’d walk by the studio and see this piece beckoning me to look in at it and therefore spend a lot of time thinking about it. The piece began making it’s way into other creative outputs, such as a series of double exposure portraits (see more here).
The view looking into my studio as I walked past it many times a day (I don’t surf, that board is on top of a pile of canvases to be painted one day).
The painting finally started to begin to resemble how I imagined it looking. These next two layers feature letters from the serif-heavy Greek alphabet, an omega (Ω) and then two deltas (∆), one inverted on top of the other. The color palette started becoming quite challenging as everyone pointed out that the colors looked like Easter or a beach house. I knew I needed to work to make the piece not give that impression.
A few color wheel studies later, I figured out what the painting needed to balance out the palette; yellows and oranges. I also knew I needed to mostly cover up the magenta first layer. One made up symbol layer, followed by the alchemical symbol for amalgamate. I had been thinking that the second to last layer would be really cool if I painted a few smaller glyph-stacks in copper. That would achieve the orange the piece needed and give it a nice reflective, bling-y aspect. It also follows with the alchemy theme; the process of turning base metals (or base colors) into pure gold or other noble metals (the final layers of copper and pure white).
From the beginning I knew I wanted the final symbol to be the alchemical symbol for essence. The more I read about essence, the more I felt like it applied to this painting (and the rest of my body of work). The set of attributes (layers) that make an entity what it fundamentally is, without which it loses it’s identity (Wikipedia). From there I found the title of the work, Haecceity, which translates as “thisness”. Giving my paintings a title proved to be difficult as I haven’t titled many of my pieces in years because I usually just title my live paintings after the event where I painted them, as that is really what the pieces are, reflections of the night where they were created. Haecceity is sometimes used as a synonym of essence, but it has it’s own use and is a very old, mostly forgotten word. These qualities are what brought me to use it as the title of the piece, being as the painting relied heavily on very old alphabets, typefaces and glyphs and couldn’t be what it is without a combination of it’s parts.
So, after over a month of work, I present Haecceity.
Here’s some close ups:
For purchasing options see my etsy store.
And as always, check out www.traaaart.com for more!