I recently chanced upon the workshop of the blacksmith Jim Ellis (Barnstable Village) and was struck by the play of light on the many metal surfaces scattered about — an anvil, harmers, pliers, clamps, all a subtle melding of cold blue hues, greys and blacks, juxtaposed against the dull orange glow of a slow burning blacksmith’s furnace. I could not resist starting work on this small study, a close-up view of a student (jewelry maker, Norah Bourbon) shaping metal. My interest is really in the interplay of light on the wall behind her, the variations of color inside the furnace, and the relationship between the orange glow of the tip of the metal rod in her hand and the cold surfaces of the anvil and harmer with which she shapes it. My greatest interest in painting is subtleties of color and shape wrapped in a muted space. This place excites me.
The Ellis blacksmith workshop is a fortuitous find as it fits well with my interest in producing canvases of people who work with their hands, people who make things by shaping other things, like the glass blower canvas I am yet to complete.
I have borrowed a number of tools from Mr. Ellis to study subtleties in color as I conceive a larger and more encompassing composition of his workshop.