Making Snake, Shir Cohen. London

I’ve been weaving a lot lately, but so much that my hand is cramped and I have to let it rest for a few days. It’s been a stressful time, and without the ability to make something in the studio, I’ve been needlessly reading up on the riot at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Since I had already made a drawing of a winged snake in my studio before the riots, I thought it would be a good time to think about my painting process when I approach a canvas.

I got about three yards of cheap purple fabric from a discount scheme. I’ve been clamoring to make a softer painting lately, something that would be less violent and upsetting. I dyed the fabric to give the purple a pinker hue, and even in this image you can tell it has some subtle red splotching. The drawing is very loose and done with a marker- I chose a snake thinking about Nordic mythology, but following the softer mood, I wanted to avoid drawing the victims of a winged snake rising from the sea.
I feel like the Gadsden flag is a good reminder that an image doesn’t have to include every detail, or have a big punchline, in order to be effective. It’s a rattlesnake, and it doesn’t want you to tread on it. I’ve seen a lot of variations on it, mostly mocking, but also one, in Jerusalem, in pride colors.
I started putting down some basic colors- I’ve spent a lot of time trying to translate my drawing qualities into painting, which is why I’m careful not to overdo anything. My canvas isn’t heavily primed, which limits the way in which I can paint. Essentially, I dry-brush everything in order not to lose the lightness of the drawing gesture.
This is where I more or less had my colors and composition: keeping it soft, with a rock to ground the eye a bit. The wings and the environment stay ethereal, just enough to be there, but still make the snake look like it’s floating in a kind of pink cloud.
It was hard to take off the wall, and a bit of wall is still on the back of the painting. I always need to see the painting loose, in order to figure out it’s final form. This time it wrinkled a bit, which I enjoyed for giving the image some movement, but also made it harder to see. I added some light contrasts, for the look of a faded stage screen, rather than something completely anemic. The top will be sown with buttonholes for nails once the paint is dry.

I’m still listening to Schubert, and still not really able to take in a lot of drama. That’s why my current perfect recording is Die schöne Müllerin, arranged for guitar and tenor. It lets me feel all of the feelings I want, without inducing too much anxiety.

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