Night Drawings: James Feehan

James Feehan’s “night drawings” exist in a dreamlike world where anything is possible, inhabited by a certain cast of characters: saints, circus performers, a new version of the commedia dell’arte, or people who have stepped bodily out of old photographs. We find shadowy towns or cities and mysterious people in the background, with strange and delightful structures throughout. The images teem with a pattern of iconography; saintly or angelic garb, halos, attitude, gesture, expression. But these slightly saintly folk are ordinary people, on some level. Eccentric, maybe, but not all that unlike the rest of us. The characters and symbols are familiar like people we meet in recurring dreams. And as one does with a recurring dream, we find ourselves wanting to understand the symbolism, to decode motifs that run throughout the images and the mythologies that connect the works.

Words and Images by James Feehan

I usually draw from my imagination and night time seems to work best. Daylight I need for color and description. Evenings provide the opportunity to be more impulsive with line. Basically I expose something that excites me in the sketch, and the tone quickly records the change and can help construct the feel of the piece. The drawings are very relaxed affairs and subjects may be eclectic. So the graphic result may yet inform a painting directly or not. I get a great deal of enjoyment from this exercise. The act itself is compelling, sometimes even good.

I fell under the spell of early Italian renaissance art and have occasionally incorporated some of the conceits I am familiar with. The lollipop topiary, the architectural approach to composition and their wonderful palettes. Often in my painting, devices such as this helps me push the emotional quality of the painting. 

I have entertained the idea of matter becoming spirit in my work, at least that is my meditation. My paintings often stumble toward the subject of transition, and are born of mystery.

Perhaps I do work from a Commedia Del’arte scene. My favorite characters are innocents, certainly guileless and intense yet as observers. All the characters I work with are projections with a certain sleepers awake quality. 

Choreographed, the figures evolve from the efforts they make to define the precipice of engagement. The rhythms of awareness can lead to celebration or exploration. Both of which I choose to populate my paintings with. I think salvation comes to these characters as the painting evolves from efforts they make to define the precipice of engagement. These drawings/under paintings offer a setting, that will possibly tease out some resolution. The ingredients of each work must be explored to allow the narrative to develop. This is a process open to change. I will develop the characters in relationship to their surroundings. The surroundings are often littered with useful symbols that elaborate on the emotional information, a painting may require for completion. The ingredients of a painting are negotiable, possibly to achieve an outcome that entertains, the satisfaction that results from a painting’s energy and conclusion is the mystery each contains.

As for the Saints, yes they occur as people as seen with a degree of expectation. The subjects pursue awe, while astride a white rabbit.

James Feehan applies his interpretations of realism and fantasy with paint. With his wife Susan Roseman, he owns Rose Moon Studios, where Susan and James explore ideas and draw upon one another’s experience and perspective. Their creative collaborations are expressed in their design business, the studio classroom and the programs they take out into the community. Art truly is their lives. See more of James Feehan’s work on Instagram at James.feehan.

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