Two For One-Divide and Conquer

This is how you solve an intractable problem by slicing the baby in two, so to speak. I literally cut this painting down the middle and treated the whole thing as two separate paintings, happy that I could do such a thing in the privacy of my own workshop with a jigsaw and a straightedge. I could pretend I meant to do this from the git go, but I must be truthful: it was done in desperation. As desperate acts go, this one worked nicely and no one was hurt.

The original painting was acrylic on 1/8″ masonite and done from Red-capped manakins drawn from life as they bounced and danced on their lek in the lowland forest of La Selva Research Station, Costa Rica. Manakins are frugiverous (fruit-eating), smallish but very energetic tropical birds found in the understory, usually. They have an amazing repetoire of behaviors and feather decorations (tropical frugivores have a lot of time on their hands) that they’ve evolved in the relentless pursuit of sex. So what else is new? One humid morning I sat on a plastic garbage bag on a muddy hillside and watched male manakins bop and boogie, back and forth, raising their butts high in the air to expose the bright yellow feathers on their thighs as they engaged in competitive moonwalking, making loud bugzapper sounds with their wings (either the modified primary feathers make this sound, or possibly it’s something to do with bone structure…research is still underway as far as I know). All of this to impress the plain green females who dropped in now and then to check out the resources, exciting the boys to unbelievable acts of rhumba. From my point of view this was pretty hilarious, but the gals were unimpressed and generally split for a fruiting tree after a moment or two.

So, anyway, I committed this scene to paint and got bogged down after a short interval, due to a grievious composition error which I couldn’t figure out. I put the piece away between a couple of other unfinishable paintings (there are a lot of these), and finally pulled it after about a year. The solution was obvious: I would have to cut the damn thing in half. This is what I did, and when I completed the right half, with the two males and the female in the shadows, I saw that it was good, and I was able to sleep again. I then began the left hand side, with the single male. And as hard as I tried, I could not make this one match the other one, not in color, feel, or even time of day. And yes, I stayed with the same color palette, and yet it would not mind, would not go the way I demanded. The painting had its way with me, and I am a better person for it. See for yourself. It isn’t finished, but it’s close. I will use it next week in a painting demo, where I’ll explain how a painting can have a mind of it’s own, and the artist is never really in control. And that’s the news from the Kaspari Ranch.

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