Finding The Way

Statements about the painting process of Joel Fletcher.


A man made of fire and woman made of water are united in a yin yang design.
Syzygy, 2017, 18 x 24 inches.

Duality is a prevalent theme in my artwork as it is a fascinating mystery of the world in which we live. This symbolic painting was created in 2017 with the core idea being "the union of opposites.” The imagery portrayed is a composite of metaphysical thought from both Eastern Taoism and Western alchemy. The seemingly opposite, yet complementary, masculine and feminine forces are presented as being interconnected and thereby attracted to each other.

The Black Flame

Woman seduced by the evil black flame.
The Black Flame, 2012, 16 x 20 inches.

My initial inspiration for this painting came from a song, the hauntingly beautiful 1974 piece entitled "Black Flame" by Renaissance. The lyrics, perfectly sung with conviction by Annie Haslam, concerned the inescapable evil within the soul. Visualizing that idea, I imagined a woman entranced by the black flame and holding it near and dear to her heart. I decided to make the design reminiscent of a Byzantine Icon painting, but as a dark counterpart to the sacred. With that image in my mind, I proceeded to bring it into reality.

One With Nature

painting of meditators in a psychedelic landscape

I painted this imaginative vision as a young man back in 1978. The title One With Nature aptly describes the concept of the piece; however, much more can be said about it. The intent was to portray the natural world through the mind's eye with vivid clarity, reflecting the experience of a meditative, altered state of consciousness. Inspiration for the piece came from some of my interests in fields such as metaphysics, natural science, ecology, and biology. Fortunately, by that time my personal artistic style had developed enough that I could bring such an idea into a painted reality.

Earth Mother

Pastel painting of Mother Earth by Joel Fletcher.
Earth Mother. Created with Rembrandt pastels on Mi-Teintes paper, 18 x 24 inches.

This piece from 1989 was my first serious attempt at using pastels. By then, my career as an animator and visual effects artist had taken off; accordingly, there was little time left to pursue my personal passion of painting. I was determined to get a new project going and I began work on Earth Mother using acrylic paints, my usual medium. The painting was well underway when I became dissatisfied with the way it was turning out using acrylics so I decided to completely start over with pastels, an entirely new approach.

Mysterium Mandala

Mandala image from the painting Mysterium by Joel Fletcher.
The final mandala image - detail from MYSTERIUM, 2014.

The subject matter of my painting, Mysterium, was a major challenge to envision. Creating a portrait of the human psyche, I used symbolic imagery to depict the duality of the mind's conscious and unconscious aspects. Of particular concern was how to best portray the obscure nature of the unconscious. From the painting's first conception, I imagined a mandala, an image based on concentric rings and long associated with the subconscious mind. Ideally, my mandala should be a dazzling sight that would evoke ecstatic, transcendental, and numinous feelings. That goal, of course, would be nearly impossible to achieve. Normally, I do not create "study" paintings; however, to avoid such a task would be to risk ruining a major work. Creating several mandala studies was imperative in order to proceed with confidence in preparing the final painting.

Painting RING OF FIRE with Open Acrylics

Detail of painting of female fire dancer by Joel Fletcher
A close up of the painting.

The art and mystery of painting is one of my greatest loves. However, I produced no paintings for a very long time due to focusing on my animation career and family matters. In 2010 I regained my motivation to pick up the brushes, but wanted to try a different method. Most of my earlier works were painted in acrylics, but I was disenchanted with the "plastic" look, and particularly their difficulty in blending as they dried almost as soon as the paint contacted the canvas. Conversely I found oil paints tended to get get over-blended, and the fumes and toxic solvents were a turn off. I really liked the look and ease of use of pastels, but found them to be a fragile, easily damaged medium. Fortunately, a new line of paints was introduced in 2008, Golden OPEN Acrylics, which bridge the gap between oil and acrylic. Intrigued by these slow-drying acrylics, I decided to try them out for my new artworks. Having completed several pieces with this medium now, I present this demonstration of the creation of my 2011 painting Ring of Fire, followed by a review and analysis of the Open Acrylics.

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