In these days of rage

Days of rage, watercolor by William Eaton, June 2020

Days of rage, watercolor by William Eaton, June 2020I like to say that drawing/painting is a dialogue with the model, and not only with her or him (or with a still life or landscape), but also with the lighting, the materials at one’s disposal, feelings pulsing in the artist’s and the model’s subconscious, the weather and politics outside, etc. The whole gestalt. (And may I underscore in these days of doctors and of fury, that the hard part about dialogue is not the talking; it’s the listening.)

These are the sorts of thing I like to say! But how often do I even come close to such ideals? Never mind in talking with a sort of partner the other evening, but . . . How often is my art work rather a series of haphazard events piled one on top of another, so that, for example, a bunch of red paint catches my eye, and then there’s a splotch on the paper I have to work around, and the coffee pot is whistling from the kitchen, a certain marker is near at hand, the paper gets too wet and tears, tears, and . . . good things (or bad) end up happening.

However, this watercolor (or perhaps gouache) of a red woman might be said to be what I’m after. The wonderful and creative model for the painting, Dominique, can indeed arch her back quite dramatically, but the buttocks and breasts here are from another realm, and the head here is headed toward a non-human one. But! Her pose (and perhaps her mood? I don’t know), and the dish of red paint that called out to me, and the politics of the previous weeks—the murder of George Floyd by the police, the video of the murder, and the subsequent (understandably!) angry protests . . . they came together on my piece of paper. What I like especially, besides all the red, is the way some Dominique doppelganger, and especially her left fist, seems trapped or encased within the black lines.

Another thing I like, and keep coming back to, is the French expression “bête comme un peintre”: dumb as a painter. It is pejorative, except I embrace it, in the sense that, unlike in writing, one can paint without thinking, and in this way say loudly what you have to say!

Initially, “cleverly,” I titled the piece in my trilingual way “Color, calor, colère”: Color, heat, anger. But then I realized the better title was “Days of rage.”

— Text and image/painting by William Eaton

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