Fire & Ice

Fire & Ice

This 3-piece painting, “Fire & Ice”, was commissioned by a married couple who said, “Give us something abstract, something cool and something with color.”  Different from my pet portraits because there would be no set composition, no cats or dogs, and I was given free reign to play with color.

I remember staring at the 3, very white and blank canvases, thinking “Where do I start?  I have no picture of a dog with irresistibly sweet eyes to use as reference for this painting.”  So, I thought about who I was creating the painting for.  Mike is an air traffic controller in the greater Chicago Area.  He plays ice hockey and has been putting on a Fourth of July backyard fireworks show since he was practically able to walk.  I was lucky enough to see one of his displays in person this summer while visiting family in Indiana.  Yes, in Indiana, where billboards for firework shops line the roads and tollways year-round!  Jackie is a dental hygienist, loves to watch ice hockey, and is equally obsessed about fireworks.  Together, they are a great couple, loving, awesome parents, and big fans of the Chicago Blackhawks.

I also had a chance to visit with them in their home before starting the painting and was able to see the space that would hold the finished work.  Ultimately, the painting would hang on a peppercorn-colored wall with 20 foot ceilings.  It would sit above the fireplace, flanked by two windows, with a large panel of windows above.  Their sofa is gray and the throw pillows are reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting with splatters of yellow, gray, black, and white everywhere. Very cool!

So, I had free reign…  Excited, ready and set, now all I had to do was PAINT!

What you see as the final layers of this painting are FAR from where it began.  I started out with yellows, blacks, reds and white, in the form of an ice hockey rink which evolved into a backyard fireworks show, and then to the atmospheres of Earth and beyond, to a map of the Great Lakes and the surrounding states, to the Chicago Blackhawks, to an erupting volcano, to flight patterns, to a landscape of exploding suns and melting glaciers, and just for Jackie, layers upon layers of paint built up –  just like plaque on teeth!!

There are probably five to 10 completely different paintings that lie beneath “Fire & Ice”.  I worked on it over many sessions and took pictures along the way…nearly 100 snapshots document the evolution.  I may share a few of them at some point.  Or, perhaps you could see them with an x-ray, like the Mona Lisa!

But for now, here is Fire & Ice, painted entirely with a palette knife.  Do you see the Great Lakes? Michigan’s mitten?  The hustle and bustle of flights in and out of Chicago?  Do you see a sunrise and a sunset? Do you see mountains and a lake, or perhaps a volcano and melting glaciers?  What about a butterfly, do you see it?  How many faces do you see?  Do you see the silhouettes of Mike, his son Luke and Jackie’s Dad as they set off a spectacular backyard fireworks show?  Can you find the Chicago Blackhawks feathers?  The trails of skates on the rink?

Look closely….. what do you see?


Fire & Ice | 30×60″ in 3 separate panels | oil on canvas | 2016 | Private Collection