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Have you ever had a painting that took another path than the one you had planned? That was the case with this one, for me.

My sister took a road trip to visit her daughter in Tucson and snapped some pictures along the way for me to use as reference material. This is from a photograph of a doorway to her room at a bed and breakfast in New Mexico.

I thought it would be a good subject for a quick sketch and it turned into a many-day venture. The more I worked on it, the creepier it became. The first big challenge was that huge sasquatch-looking plant next to the door. Honest! That is what it looked like! I’ve stared at it and stared at it. My sister couldn’t even figure out what it was.  The second thing that threw me off was the subdued light. Try as I might I could not find much of a way to cast light on things, here.  As a result, I subdued it too!  Two large strands of plants crossed over the walkway that made it look even more foreboding, even though the green plant in the foreground seemed to beckon and point one to the door.

My sister came to visit after I’d completed it. I was embarassed to show her my attempt. She knew just what it was and, amidst my apologies for the poorness of the rendition, turned and said, “Oh no. That is just how that doorway made me feel!”

Sometimes it is fun to take the journey of another in paint. 🙂

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50 Comments

  1. Wow Les. You have managed to capture the energy I often feel when I am near an old building in the southwest. Energy lives on and somehow you have mastered beyond the structure and into the invisable.

    Good for you!

    • Thank-you, thank-you for that because this piece almost ended up in the recycle bin! 🙂 There was some feeling around this doorway the more I painted. I blamed it on that form by the door.

  2. Isn’t this part of what the creative adventure is about? Ahhhh …. to take that leap into the unknown. Sometimes it leads us outside of ourselves. Sometimes it leads us into the dark passages of our own inner being. We have both passages of brilliant light and passages of utter darkness. It’s an adventure either way.

    • I totally agree with you, Chris. What is lurking here? I even took sandpaper to the thing and lifted the windows and re-painted. The more I did, the more eerie it became. 🙂

  3. Save the painting look at it at a later date.

    If you are still not happy with it then you can do as you wish.

    I love the use of colour and the plant on the right is nicely broken up by the light green plant in the foreground

    • Thank-you, Richard. You certainly have a point. I look at this one more than the ones I like wondering “Where did that come from.”. If for nothing else it talks. That blob has life in it. I swear it does. LOL!!!!

  4. hi leslie,

    i had this uncomfortable feeling when looking at the thing next to the door. what is that blue thing? it seems weird, as if a ghost standing beside the door.

    but i like the floor, beautiful marble slab. have a nice weekend.

    • Thanks Marvin. My sister doesn’t know what that was next to the door. It is some huge plant.

  5. hey Leslie what a story behind this piece and it is interesting how the painting seems to vibrate with that energy!

    i love doorways and windows and took a whole bunch of photos of these on my visit to France recently (check my facebook page)

    • Thank-you, Rahina. I like doors and windows, also. That is why I was sorry I had not rendered this beautiful and welcoming like I thought my sister would have liked.

  6. Technically I like the clean boundaries between the light green leaves and dark shape. This seems to be a painting about a dilemma – being driven towards two equally ominous options. The doorway (if you can get to it in time) or the dark figure.

    I turned it upside-down in MS Picture manager and it became a gateway to an interesting though subdued landscape.

    This is indeed rather creepy…

    • LOL 🙂 Thank-you for agreeing with me, Stephen about the creepy. That dark figure was totally ominous. Thanks for the clue about turning it upside down. Very weird!

  7. It sounds like the picture wanted to be taken in this direction.
    Its probably very glad you obliged. lol
    Its a cool result

    • Thanks, Richard. Yep. The picture, itself, demanded this. I have had this happen a couple times before. Have often wondered what my work would look like if it happened all the time. 🙂

  8. The painting has indeed a creepy feel to it Leslie. What lurks behind that door can be anything imagination wishes (or doesn’t). A dark painting for you Leslie – but glad you went there and brought us it! That dark plant near the door positively threatens to grab anyone who tries to enter!

    • Thank-you, Lynda. I know.I know. That plant’s having it’s moment of fame! Can you see it smiling?
      I just noticed I had not placed you in my Blogroll! Stupid me. 😦 You should have been there months ago! 🙂

  9. No matter how creepy it got for you. The doorway is excellent. Better said, your work is excellent. Love the color choices too.

    • Thank-you, Debbie. The colors did turn into something different than I usually use. I probably would not be able to come up with them a second time as I played in them so much, here. You have made my day!

  10. Yes it does have life in it. To me she’s facing the wall, wants to go in but she can’t, shamed, banished, nothing is the same? Its just what I feel and pick up from it. Whatever it is you’ve certainly picked it up in the painting. It has a mystery to it.
    That front plant is so beautiful. Like the rest of the painting.

    • Cool, Paintedbrush! Thank-you. I see it! ..and thank-you for the nice comment!

  11. Wow Leslie! You really paint great with watercolors. There really is life in your painting!

  12. Oh gosh, yes. This happens to me frequently. And then I struggle with what do to with the painting – keep it as it is, try to change it, or what. Usually I keep it and hide it away on my computer in a little-used folder, so that I will discover it later on, when I’m in a different mood, and maybe in a different phase of my life. Then, if it still strikes me as strange or disturbing or not quite right, and if I can’t do anything with it, I usually get rid of it. But I’ve a lot of paintings that I haven’t given up on that kind of call me to do something with them (have actually been trying to rework one today that I’ve tried to rework more times than I can remember!)

    I like the door in your painting, personally I’d concentrate on that. The great yeti-like tree or shrub to the left is a little out of keeping, but the thing that I find the most strange is that it feels more like an interior than an exterior. Don’t know if that makes any sense?

  13. Whoops, there goes my dyslexia. I mean the tree or shrub to the right of the door!!

    • That plant-like thing is a wonder…I do believe. I think the reason it looks like an interior was the late light in the piece. I understand this was an old artist colony. That area depicted in this painting is kind of like a small courtyard, everything overgrown and unkept. Perhaps the closeness, lack of light and overgrowth give it that appearance. Now that you mention it, it does remind me of when I enter the enclosed jungle area at our local zoo. Thanks, Val! 🙂

  14. When recalling your previous posts, I think this one expresses a bit of dreary eeriness from the darker color blends. Great story behind it.

    • Thanks, Adam. The color kept getting darker and darker……… 🙂

  15. amazing how we’re connected to deeper levels of truth in artistic expression. got a big grin on the face when reading of your sister’s response to the work. wonderful purples…

    • 🙂 It is funny how the positive opinion of someone we hold dear can lift our spirits in a dull moment, don’t you think? The purples? Whenever there is green, I reach for that diox violet. Can’t stop myself. Thank-you, JRuth!

  16. Leslie, have you seen the Japanese animated film ‘Spirited Away’ by Hayao Miyazaki? There are ghostly creatures in it that look exactly like the shadowy presence in your painting. Before I read anything I thought that’s where it came from!
    I don’t believe art always needs to be about feeling good. Life is complex and rich. We can all relate to the feelings in this painting, and I for one feel a camaraderie in sharing it with you. 🙂

    • Hi Kirsty! I haven’t seen that movie but I am a firm believer that this presence had to be in this picture. I have had too many chuckles over it. I don’t want to see it on a dark night, however, and if it rustled, I’d run the other way. Somehow, I think the thing that makes it frightening is because it resembles a person and it got me to thinking about that. Fearing people, I mean. Thank-you for a wonderful comment!

  17. I have to admit, Leslie, the first thought that came to mind when I saw this was Halloween. I thought your (quote) “huge sasquatch-looking plant” was a person in a Darth Vader costume. You did capture an eeriness, no matter how hard you tried to change the facts of the reference. I’d call that success! 🙂

    • Thank-you, Beth. You know how that happens and it is always a big surprise at first, isn’t it? Sometimes a painting has to talk me into liking it. This one did…..if only because it is so weird!

  18. Well you can send it to moi 🙂 The painting looks great to me if I could do anything remotely close i would be proud just goes to show you the level your at. Great post and keep them coming 🙂

    • Thank-you, so much, Alonso. If I could manipulate a caricature like you do, I may have been able to bring that blob into life some. 🙂

  19. It does look creepy, feels like some movie from stanly kubric.especially when your imagination run wild about the figure standing to the right. But other then that, it’s just a bright sunny day. Nice work Leslie.

    • Thanks, Francis! It is that figure that changed the whole atmosphere….. My Grand daughter said, when she looked at it, “That scares me.”. I just said, “Me too.”. 🙂

  20. Leslie, everything about it is a bit creepy, except of course for your beautiful use of color!

    The purple blob next to the door is scary, I keep thinking something is going to jump out and the leaves of the bush in the right side of the painting almost look like they are taunting someone to come out.

    You were successful by evoking fear! I like what you’ve done!

    • Thank-you, Carol. You know what is really funny about the whole thing is that if I had tried to make it creepy, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. Somehow, I just know that! I don’t think I’d want to stay here.

  21. Oh, the colors are fabulous. They harmonize so well together ! I absolutely LOVE this !

    • Thank-you, Isabelle! Maybe that’s my “muse” standing by the door. I hope she means me well! 🙂

  22. Leslie, I stumbled across your painting while looking for a friend’s photo of a doorway. I, too paint watercolors. What I find fascinating about your painting is that I looked at it and thought the purple plant was a fountain with water flowing in an impressionistic way. I painted a portrait of a friend last week and when I posted it on facebook on Saturday, she called me while I was posting it to say I had picked up on her sadness. Now I had not actually seen her in 33 years, only photos and memories allowed me to paint the portrait, but it begged for me to get it done and night after night I got up at 3 am or so to work on it until it was completed. So I could relate to your posts. Thanks for an excellent commentary and exchange. Sybil

    • Hi Sybil. Thank-you for visiting! Do you have a blog or website?
      In regards to your portrait, I can totally relate. You must be sensitive to those energies even across the years and miles.I have a friend that I share that with. Our letters cross in the mail and we often discuss the same things in our letters not even knowing what the other has written. There is something about that plant that just took over this whole piece.

  23. Very interesting painting, Leslie. It does have an eerie air about it, and I attribute it to the “blob” “being” “mass” to the right of the door, too. The plant in the foreground is definitely inviting, but the “being” behind it seems foreboding. What a wonderful experience to go through as a painter!

    • Thanks for the comment, Kate. The blob was like the creature from doom! I just hope he stays there and doesn’t move!

  24. aloha Leslie – (and a disclaimer: i havnt read the other comments – so i may be repeating something) – i find this door painting intriguing and mysterious more than creepy. i like doorways and windows because they offer the possibility of other worlds. i like the element of mystery in this that i can explore and ponder/wonder on as a departure point. for me everything i need to know is in the painting itself. i like that about this work.

    i find photos a useful tool – as resource/reference/inspiration – i rarely try to duplicate a photo (altho as an exercise i think that may have value). imo it’s okay to alter any and every thing in a photo(s) to suit my needs and the needs of the painting to my intent in the work. …or at least that’s the way i see it and what i try to do.

    i also like the sense of a human hand in this. cool. aloha – Wrick

    • Thanks Wrick! I like your referring to this as mysterious rather than creepy. I am assuming you are referring to the beckoning green plant in the foreground as reminding you of a hand beckoning one in. Your approach to art is refreshing and creative!

  25. yw Leslie – yes. doors are almost always mysterious. especially closed doors… your door has a mood and atmosphere around it which does intrigue me. it’s really the door tho that attracts me…

    ..clarifying my “human hand” reference. . .

    …there are times when mechanical aids are appropriate to use. however i think sometimes we use mechanical aids too often – when we dont really need them.

    a ruler or straight edge is a mechanical aid in that sense – it’s a guide – a thing we use to control our hand. as i see it, it’s a step or a thing between our hand and the brush/paper. it’s a mechanical thing between our self and the materials we are creating with – however we dont always need it to be there.

    when we fall back on mechanical aids too often i think we loose some of the human touch of a hand in our work.

    you chose to paint the window panes and door frame with care – by hand – rather than use a mechanical aid to help create the lines and edges of your door. i like that. it brings me closer to the human hand that created this work. it brings me closer to my own humanness and the humanness between us in that way too. you eliminated that mechanical aid step – which imo we dont need to use as often as we do sometimes.

    yes… sometimes mechanical aids are appropriate (and to be sure, i use them in many ways – and in my own work too). however there are times i think they are unnecessary and actually get in the way of our humanness – of us being human.

    drawings and paintings where the artist has chosen to create from their own hand rather than by mechanical means allows me to look at my own humanness more directly.

    human beings can paint/create with care and attention to detail and accuracy – by hand. i like seeing that happen in a work – even when there is a loose painterly quality in the work (which i also like).

    your painting explores the human touch or at least allows this human touch of the hand to be part of the work. i think that is one of the things you are doing in this work. i like that.

    aloha – Wrick

    • Cool! Thank-you for clarifying the comment about hand. Yep. I’m hopeless when it comes to using any straight edges or measurement devices other than my pencil to hold up and eyeball something. I thank you for noticing that.

      • bwahahahaha, aloha Leslie – yeah. when someone says to me that they cant draw a straight line… i usually say something along the lines of, “cool. you’re ahead of the curve, just keep going.” … i see that in your work. just keep going. you clearly have the skill. now just be you. …and of course, have fun. …that’s the way i see it. – aloha – Wrick


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