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My Painting Process “The Fear of Bees”

February 4, 2017

Photo on 8-18-14 at 8.38 AM #2

Step One entomophobia: draw idea

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 8.18.40 AMStep Two melissophobia: transfer drawings to black and white painting

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 5.47.58 PM

Step Three apiphobia: develop the outlines in two tones (black and white)

Photo on 4-15-15 at 8.00 PM

Photo on 4-17-15 at 9.59 AM #2


Step Four spheksophobia: develop the forms & shapes in three tones (black, gray, white)

I am still at that step, by the way. It is the long and winding road known as grisaille–a painting process of laying many transparent glazes of color over a monochromatic underpainting, monochromatic as in grey or gris in French, hence gris-aille.

What you see above is my underpainting in oil paint (Titanium White, Lamp Black, Ivory Black, with hints of Prussian Blue & Alizarian Crimson). Once I am satisfied with it I shall move on to explore the luminescent effects of laying various layers of bright yellow onto a very stark under painting–made up only of darks and lights and one or two midtones.

My aim: to recreate a superstitious fear in both nature and color theory. Both equate the contiguity of bright yellow and deep black as a form of chromatic warning–an alarm. Caution tape and taxis, coral snakes and yellowjackets, sunflowers and buntings ring the siren well.

I approached this prohibition of color from the perspective of a mixed-race person and perhaps that is why the artist’s as well as the sting-weary traveler’s caution for the fraternization of these supposedly opposing colors made me want to make a painting about it… with Klansmen firing off shotguns near school buses, trying–in their words, I’m sure–only to detain and question the swarm, not to put it down but to bring it to heel (or, in this case, to its tarsal claws), or only to look in its pockets and trunks and then maybe to stop it, if we have to, out of fear and in the name of all that is right and good (a crucial part of the ideology of any sacrificial logic)…which brings us to those nuns in habits who appear in the drawing above waving censers, their habits designed to reflect the love they have for the yellow and the black–a downright love for the pairing, a weird but no less planet-sustaining love even for living things that sting, slithery or abuzz.

Step Five cnidophobia: glaze in color


Read more about a version of this painting published as a comic narrative here.

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