Genius at work?

Working Mothers
Working Mothers (detail in progress) Acrylic on canvas – Secondary underpainting.

I am about a third of the way through the third of four paintings in a series which I am calling “Madonna’s Among the Marchers” which honors the hopes and passions inspired by the Women’s March in January 2017.

My intention in referencing the Madonna, is in part to tell women’s stories that have been traditionally told by men, in the voice of a woman. The Madonna-like poses in my paintings are meant to be reminiscent of those ancient compositions. But the technical style, and placement of some of the most venerable feminine archetypes in the context of standing up for their rights, snatches the iconography away from the cold marble depictions of passive long-suffering faithfulness.

Leonardo da VinciDon’t get me wrong I still love those ancient works of art. They inspire me. I still feel like I can learn from their creators regardless of their gender. As a matter of fact, this week I have been listening to Walter Isaacson’s book Leonardo da Vinci. It is a terrific book particularly for painters and other creative types. Listening to the story of how Leonardo developed his great works, took me back to art school and helped me to be more aware of how those time honored skills I learned so long ago still held up in the techniques I use today. Crosshatching, chiaroscuro, and sfumato. These all still have a part in what I do now.

Isaacson finishes the book with ways we can be like Leonardo. It was validating to hear him reiterate several of the lessons on creativity which I wrote about in my book The Delmarva School of Art. There were some others which I did not write about, yet I found really helpful. One that really stood out for me was his recommendation to procrastinate more.

Leonardo often did not finish projects or took literally years to complete them. Isaacson says that Leonardo needed the freedom to procrastinate to sail from one great insight to another in pursuit of doing great work. He also said that the seemingly off topic lessons he learned while procrastinating often led to important break throughs that were worth waiting for.

What a revelation. I was infected by the “Puritan work ethic” at an early age. So, my proclivity for procrastination has been one of my great shames often leading me to periods of depression. Who knew I could have attributed my lazy behavior to evidence of a “genius” at work? Thank you, Walter Isaacson.