Style, Technique, Methodology and Meaning in My Paradise Lost Illustrations
By Terrance Lindall
My style has been variously described by others as Surreal, surreal/visionary, or even visionary/fantasy art. I call it Hermeneutical Surrealism Interpreting the meaning of [John Milton’s Paradise Lost] through illustration by an amalgam of intuitional surrealist methodology and conscious operational philosophical analysis.
Other, not unique, terms used to describe my work have been:
Neo- Narrative Surrealism
Visionary Narrative Illustration
Hermeneutical Surrealism might be the best "term" because I have a pressing need to continually derive fresh new hermeneutical understandings of the meaning of this particularly rich and engaging poem, helping me to approach the unreachable subject matter - the numinous – as is revealed by great thought and art. This hermeneutical drive, the aesthetic response, merges philosophy with art and sustains a consciousness-molding activity.
Methodology Technique and Materials
I use oil paint on gessoed linen canvas. Oil paint has a translucence that gives a richness to a painting that acrylics and tempera do not have because light penetrates oil and refracts. I never draw on the canvas before I apply the paint. I apply the paint directly from the tube and then scrape over the paints to flatten the gobs over the entire surface of the canvas. The colors blend in interesting ways. What happens then is that I see forms and ideas in the paint just as Leonardo would see forms and ideas in stains on the wall - this is the surrealism in that one is allowing one's subconscious to "find" forms and ideas, like a Rorschach ink blot test. You might say that I am “inspired” to see what the forms suggest. The intuitive subconscious is what forms dreams wherein “impossible” associations are made. This is the creative act in all the arts. It is also the way of scientific creativity wherein one makes and tests propositions that might not conform to or might even be contrary to accepted theory. So the surreal urge is important to waking life in finding solutions to problems in science and industry by free association of ideas until a solution is found…or in art when one is finding pleasing associations of color or form. In other words, the practice of art is also finding “solutions” to “problems.” The “problem” of making a good or great work of art out of plastic materials is done by making associations of forms and colors that become “satisfying” to the artist.
After application, I let the paint dry for day so it is more tactile. When I am illustrating specific concepts as with Paradise Lost, I outline in paint, for example, the general image of Satan conceiving of Sin and then eliminate the unnecessary elements and bring out and embellish the forms of Satan, Sin etc. thus slowly bringing forth the finished product. Sometimes the initial product does not seem to be moving in a satisfying direction and I try other formulations.
I use very fine brushes (#000) to create fine lines and dots and sometimes scrumble (I have larger stiff scrumbling brushes) to create effect or use “layers” or “glazing,”what the old masters used to create sfumato. To generate excitement to the eye, which also excites the emotions on a subliminal level I sometimes juxtapoze contrasting colors, but not everywhere, because I want to create pools of activity. The rest is using light and dark to create depth and atmosphere, lines and dots to lead the eye to focal points in the picture, etc. No area of a painting is unimportant.
As with the perfect Word of God, in a perfect painting nothing can be added or taken away. Thus I paint until I am satisfied that nothing more can be done (added or taken away), or else cannot figure out what more to do and that I have done all I can do to approach the unreachable subject matter - the numinous – as it is revealed by great thought and art.
WHY AM I FASCINATED WITH PARADISE LOST:
I love well told tales that take us out of the realms of the ordinary (although every day in this ordinary every day world is extraordinary to me). Of all the great works I have read, Marlowe, Goethe, Shakespeare, and thousands more, no writer has put great enduring philosophical questions (good vs evil, free will vs determinism, duty, honor, truth, ontology, etc.) so well, all entwined with remarkable, compelling and colorful superhuman characters whose thoughts and actions move inexorably to their necessary destinies because of the very truth of the concepts they and their actions represent. All of this is done by Milton with the greatest poetic art, use of language in it's highest form.
In my having "cathected" Milton's Paradise Lost in an unending fascination and love affair, I have never fully realized in my art and philosophical commentary an end or a completion. There are always more ideas to explore. It draws me on like a Siren. There are always more ways to render the happenings in the epic and more artistically visionary ways to put them down on canvas. Thus no one artist can ever be said to be the final word in illustrating Milton’s Paradise Lost. The opportunities for future generations who want to explore great enduring philosophical thoughts presented in one of the most exciting and colorful stories are there, and I have no doubt that artists will come forth over future generations to add to the glory of Milton’s enduring legacy.