BLOB #8 – A Behind the Scenes Adventure Down the Rabbit Hole
“BOXER” (from the”POLKA-POOKA” rabbit series) Oil painting on trapezoid shaped canvas, 60″h x 48″w (@ widest point), ©Karen & Tony Barone
“BOXER” is the 1st “POLKA-POOKA” rabbit painting to be completed by Karen and I in the new year. It crossed the finish line at midnight on Dec. 31st. It was signed by the two of us during a champagne toast at 12:01AM, one minute into the New Year.
“PISA” ©MMXVII, (from the”POLKA-POOKA” rabbit series) Oil painting on trapezoid shaped canvas, 48″h x 40″w ©Karen & Tony Barone
Soon after “BOXER” we completed “PISA”, the 2nd “POLKA-POOKA” rabbit painting to be completed by us in the new year. Because of our unique painting style, It is not unusual for us to occasionally have paintings completed almost back-to-back or out of order of commencement. In actuality, “BOXER” had a gestation period of three months. On the other hand, “PISA” took nine months to be completed. Well! That answers the question we are most frequently asked: “How long did it take you to make that painting (or sculpture)?”
In 2015 the giant “POLKA-POOKA” Rabbits, which we had been creating in brightly painted aluminum sculpture in heights that reached 8′-6″, began appearing in our paintings. In the paintings, the “POLKA-POOKA” rabbit itself settled into one color – chartreuse! Its large slanted blank oval eyes and inside ear lining became and remained bright yellow, except when workplace safety conditions required goggles.
Generally there is no intellectual or logical connection between the “POLKA-POOKA” protagonist in the painting and the objects floating around in the benign background of the painting. We refer to these illogically placed objects as “ready-mades” – a wink and a nod to the French born American surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp. ln the early 20th century, Duchamp introduced industrially fabricated mass produced items into New York exhibitions and claimed them to be ART – he changed art forever
Portrait of Marcel Duchamp ©Karen & Tony Barone
We have our “stretcher bars”, the wood that holds our canvas, mitered to form our stretched canvases into trapezoidal shapes. We do this to direct the viewer’s eye and to reinforce the composition. The unorthodox shape draws in and more quickly engages the viewer as well. It also adds a 3D, or sculptural, element to our paintings.
We primarily paint in layers – “wet-over-dry” – using one milkshake blender mixed color from a baby food jar at a time. Before going “back in” the oil paint colors previously applied must be dry. We often prefer a sharp hard edge on one side of the newly applied paint and a soft feathered edge on the other. We refer to a feathered edge technique as “rub and scrub”. Many of those viewing our paintings ask “is it airbrush?” – it is not. For a hard-edge conclusion, we often utilize masking techniques. Pulling 5 different width masking tapes from 5 heavy dispensers atop a high custom designed rolling stand which moves around from painting to painting. Only I mask. Karen doesn’t mask. She has a steadier hand and more patience when “pushing paint” (a term used by artist Julian Schnabel). My masking tape technique was pushed along by James Rosenquist – a long time Pop favorite, whose work we collected. We were able to spend time with James on several occasions.
Portrait of James Rosenquist ©Karen & Tony Barone
In “the Rabbit Hole” (the name we’ve given our room we paint in). Everything is on wheels, including our individual painting stands.One of two easel walls in “Down The Rabbit Hole” painting studio. (L2R) “RED HERRING” and “TAHITI” both are “works-in-progress” paintings. ©Karen & Tony Barone
The Rabbit Hole consists of a large room which is completely open at each end and has a pair of parallel walls which serve as floor to ceiling easels in which large canvases are free to move up and down for placement at the most advantageous height for which of us is at work. This easel system has seen us accomplish paintings as tall as 7 feet and as wide as 10 feet. The creative dance Karen and I perform while we are down the Rabbit Hole is one of complete collaboration.
(L to R) “Pearls”, “Feet First”, “Head First” ©Karen & Tony Barone
One end of the Rabbit Hole is open to “the Studio”. In the Studio, we each have large white drawing tables jutting off a wall and positioned parallel to each other in a manner reminiscent of Ferranti and Teicher and their twin pianos. If the Rabbit Hole is where we dance, then the Studio is where creative jam sessions and the art of business takes place.