the genesis for this piece began a decade ago when I was searching
for new paths in abstraction. I wanted to experiment with more
free-form methods of application in my painting, however, I
had specific figurative imagery I wanted to explore. Along with
these pursuits, I also wanted the be able to make objects appear
to overlap and at the same time be transparent, so I could show
all of one object even though it was covered up by another object.
Using acrylic paint on canvas, I found that what went on inside
the silhouettes became independent of the meaning assigned to
the shapes themselves. The Big Roundup was an explosion of these
concepts. By the time I painted Pheromones (toward the end of
the series), my emphasis toward transparency gave way to a heightened
focus on making the textures inside the shapes more bold.
Midway through 2001, my interest in this abstract work was reawakened.
I began messing around with the idea of "flying silhouettes,"
in this early prototype. After my initial digital scribblings,
I decided to put down a foundation for a finished piece. I began
by blocking in a basic layout. I knew the final piece would
be fairly busy, so I wanted to start with some simple geometric
shapes to build upon. I chose three interlocking circles. Interlocking
circles have become a common motif in my work. Next, I began
to hang objects on them to see how they would interact. I was
looking for positive and negative space relationships and overall
flow - making the figures "dance" together.
The piece was about flight, so I decided that it needed a sky
background. However, it should be a synthetic digital sky. This
gave rise to the "cloud" tiles. Also, I used the
circle motif to color the sky. Using the primaries for the circles
and secondaries for the overlaps, I created a rainbow metaphor.
I brought in the first figure, and created two textures to use
inside the silhouette. I split the figure at edge of the circle.
I wasn't satisfied with one of the textures, so I ran
it through several filters and inverted it.
This figure and the next two are anchors for this piece. Even
though they are overlapped or underlapped, they are the prime
focus of the image. Knowing this, I put special emphasis on
the textures filling them. In this case, why I chose the shower
floor tiles and beetles is beyond me. Creepy huh.
I especially like this silhouette because it breaks the edge
of the red circle in several places. The purple pipe texture
is derivative of elements in Pheromones. I changed the purple
with the hue controls. You can see where I used the selection
of a subordinate figure to underlap the yellow figure's
midsection with blue.
I wanted the center figure to create a spiraling verigo effect.
I used the random line texture to fill the silhouette. However,
I sent the image through several filters and inverted it so
many times, the texture was lost except for the color. You can
also see hints of the biplane showing through.
I added two more figures. The figure on the right was fairly
straightforward. The figure on the left went through many layers
of changes including offsetting the left arm
For the plane silhouette, I only used one texture. However,
I duplicated this object into many layers, sandwiching them
over and under the figure layers. I then modulated their hue
and transparency before using the figure's inverted selections
to cut them out.
At this point I put in the eyeballs, spheres and bubbles. Their
purpose is twofold. First, they occupy dead areas in the picture
plane. Second, they form "triangulations of sight"
that keep the viewers' eyes moving. I learned this little trick
from some clever but dead guys from the Renaissance.
Okay, I had flying women, an airplane, balls, bubbles, birds÷..hmm
no birds. Gotta have birds. Also, I like hot wings. One flaming
After some reflection, I still felt that there was too much
background showing. I decided to go ahead and add the two large
bird shapes I had put in the original sketch. After much massaging,
adding textures, clearing textures, erasing and tweaking layer
transparencies, I had the piece just about finished.
One of the challenges in computer art is knowing when to quit.
With conventional materials, the painting will often tell you
when to you're over the line. In this piece, the question
arose, "Should I squeeze in one more flying naked lady."
Why not, you can never have too many of them.
Remember the circles I spoke of - the ones that were the geometric
bedrock of this piece. Yeah, well neither did I. So, I reinforced
them with a few strategically placed arcs. Finally, layer by
grueling layer I went back and tweaked the shadows÷and
that made all the difference.
Now it was time to take my file to a service bureau. I prefer
to make large transparencies out of my images and build light-boxes
to show them. I have seen many computer pieces reduced to color
prints. They always look kind of dead to me. What we are doing
is painting with light. Every stroke we make or function we
do emits a new and different quality of light on the screen.
Why, after working on an image for weeks or months, would you
drain the life out of it by turning it into an opaque print?