Cocoon Studio

Cocoon (detail)


oil on canvas

12 x 12 inches

Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.

Theodore Roethke, poet


The job of the artist is to deepen the mystery.

Francis Bacon, artist

A sense of mystery makes a work of art enduring.

Claude Marks, art historian

There was a time when my studio felt exposed to outside eyes. Anybody pulling into our driveway could look in and see not only my paintings, but also me working on them. Especially at night, when it was dark outside and light inside, my studio was visible to the world. I felt a pressing need for privacy so, for a period of time, I completely closed my studio to everyone, including my family. I even covered up the skylights and windows.


My skylights started leaking during heavy fall rains, so I covered the peak of the roof and all six skylights with a large sheet of plastic. I had expected the plastic to be transparent, but it turned out to be translucent white (like the look of waxed paper). At first I was dismayed, not wanting to shut out any light, and I worried that I would miss the ever-changing views of clouds and sky above. But then I came to appreciate how the translucent covering softened the light, since sometimes it is bothersome to have direct sunlight bouncing around inside a painting studio. 

The softened light reminded me of something I once heard about Leonardo da Vinci--that he posed his models in a courtyard that was draped overhead with a gauzy cloth to diffuse the light and soften the shadows. This gave rise to his famous painting technique, sfumato, in which he used many layers of transparent and translucent paint to subtly blend colors and tones. Leonardo described sfumato as "without lines and borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane."  Now, with my skylights similarly covered, I saw my studio as being like Leonardo's courtyard. 

I wondered what it would be like to totally enclose the studio by also covering the windows. To match the look of the translucent white plastic covering the skylights, I made shades out of tracing paper for all of the small windows. For the big ceiling-to-floor north windows, I put up gauzy curtains. Now the studio felt totally private, protected and a cocoon. Being inside my Cocoon Studio, I felt energized. The boundary I had created between my studio and the outside world brought on a flood of ideas for paintings unlike any I had ever before conceived. This was when I painted the Tree Self-Portraits, May All Bee-ings Feel Happily and Safe, and Persephone's Fruit. 



oil on canvas

12 x 12 inches