The Unbearable Heaviness of Being

Body Language is the the generic and universal version of Berlitz.

untitled2Untitled 10×12 oil on linen panel

Untitled because we could all read something into her position which I can’t really describe as a pose. She’s in a position. And who hasn’t been?

I started this in the workshop I took two weeks ago and finished it in the studio. Funny how being away from the easel causes you to lose your brush muscles and painting confidence. Workshop paintings are started quickly and best moved along without too much anguish or you lose the feeling.

I used too much turp and the final piece, when I got it home, seemed flat and lifeless, well, almost like this subject. Fellow blogger, writer, and prolifically wonderful artist, Jala Pfaff offerred some great and generous advice. Describing it as ” oiling out “, which was to wait until it was no longer tacky to the touch and gently wiping a soft cloth with cold pressed linseed oil over the painting.

It came to life, alas, unlike the figure, who really had a bad day.

I used the same limited palette I’d been using during the workshop:




Yellow Ochre

Cad Yellow Lt


It makes for much less confusion and eliminates the ” Las Vegas All You Can Eat Buffet ” syndrome that ensues when you open every color tube like the days of Crayolas first box of 72. Whos’ skin color was that Flesh, anyway?

Here’s a gal who has no troubles with the heaviness of being……….


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34 Responses to “The Unbearable Heaviness of Being”

  1. judith wolfe Says:

    When I first looked at this beautiful piece I thought you had taken a photo of ME as I looked – just yesterday. Brava.

  2. Donald Diddams Says:

    It’s a beautiful painting Bonnie. No question how that woman feels. Her placement in the frame just adds to the feeling.

    Now, where did you find that heavy chick at the end??

  3. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Judy- I’m sure you’re looking perkier today after your brisket.
    Or maybe now you’re unable to move.

    Don- Thank you- I’m happy with the way she turned out.
    The big gal was from Ag Fair- in the same area with the livestock and Animal Shelter display.
    A charmer, isn’t she!

  4. Marian Fortunati Says:

    Tell me, Bonnie… Would YOU wear a skirt like that?????

    Not that you have that heavy spirit OR flesh… but… seems a bit… I don’t know …. skimpy??? … and are those ballet slippers???? Yeaoooo!!

    Whatever your gal looked like when you brought her home from the workshop, you sure have given her life and feeling in the studio. That’s actually how I often look and feel when I know that the “ugly stage” of a painting is never going to go away!!!!!
    Glad to see you back to the blogosphere!!!

  5. Carol King Says:

    hey, Judy stole my comment! I was gonna say that’s how I look every morning before I have to go to work.

    I LOVE this painting. I can feel her despair. And the weight of the world is certainly weighing on her.

    Speaking of weighing, Matt and I probably weigh a lot more after that Brisket. IT WAS SPECTACULAR.

    Glad you’re back in communicado. We don’t like in when you’re incommunicado.

    Great painting. xoxox Carol

  6. w1kkp Says:


    I don’t believe you’ve ever posted a painting quite like this before. Your postures of island women and men are so self contained and worlds unto themselves. I don’t believe I could have read such immediate emotion in the postures of those figures who’ve been posted before, except perhaps the recent musician.

    Maybe I am not remembering all of them correctly…But, this woman?…..Well…from the moment she loaded into my browser, I was a bit shocked…as if I’d come into a restaurant expecting to meet someone I knew for a few drinks and found them laid out on the bar unconscious.

    Wow. That’s all I’m saying in my weird way.

  7. Joanne Says:

    The posture says it all, doesn’t it? One small detail which adds so much to the atmosphere of this painting is not her leaning against a wall, nor her hand to her face, but the angle of her left knee pulling in toward the other knee… odd, I know, but it completes the entire feeling of “over the top bad day”. You have a really fine ability to express so much within the limited palette and with few brush strokes. Just beautiful!

  8. Jala Pfaff Says:

    Ha, great post! Beautiful painting. So glad the oil revived the gorgeousness of it! And remember, NO turps for you while painting anymore! Or I’ll have to come to St. Croix and take it away from you personally.
    What is that stuffed skirt, shoes thing??
    By the way, I never did find out what that STUFF was that you posted a photo of once, that someone else labeled “Roomba vomit.” What WAS that?

  9. Jala Pfaff Says:

    P.S. I love that stripe of light on her thigh.

  10. Bonnie Luria Says:

    In reverse order ( somewhat ):

    Jala- and Marian- that ” big Gal ” is, I suppose a Caribbean version of a scarecrow. She was fashioned for our recent Ag Fair in February and yes, Marian, those ARE ballet shoes. I loved that palm leaf skirt although for my own personal preference, I’d go for better coverage.

    PS- Jala- that ” Roomba Vomit: was actually the sum of one days’ sweepings of dog hairs, under furniture dust blobs, Sahara dust ( yes, it comes across oceans and lands on my floor ) and other organic material that I can’t identify without benefit of CSI crime labs. That’s just one day! So it’s BEFORE the Roomba can even vomit anything up!!
    Ahhh, the outdoors life.

    Carollaaaa- the tiredest person in the world! I really thought of you as I posted this one. A kindred spirit. Does it help to know you have lots of company or does that make you MORE tired?

    Pat- that Gulp was very flattering. I can’t imagine any comment being more descriptive than how you’ve expressed your thoughts. Maybe you should add ” art reviewer ” to your CV. ( I dislike the word art “Critic “- it’s a very negative term that already indicates ” criticism ” and who likes or needs that?)
    I laughed out loud at the vision of you finding a friend laid out unconscious on the bar!

    Joanne- thanks , really , for your very thoughtfully phrased paragraph. It means so much to me that someone who paints as well as you do could see what you’ve expressed here. Glad you checked in again as your visits and comments make my day.

    Jala again- thank you, thank you.

  11. wrjones Says:

    I really like this piece Bonnie. Your character work is always so strong. I would never guess this is a pose from a workshop. I wonder if this is how she feels after looking at all the paintings?

  12. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Bill- very glad you like it. Even though I try for landscapes and still life, I find my best work is figurative. I’m a people painter, I guess.

    We all brought a photo to work from at the workshop on one particular day. I liked this image and envisioned a painting as soon as I uploaded it. Did the roughing in on site but really think I got it where I wanted it back in the studio.

  13. Sharon Crute Says:

    This painting could be me as hubby stands in doorway to studio suggesting new pricing policies, changing business strategies and implementing tactics to attract new clients within evolving sales climates.

    Amazing in every way and it made me clutch at my stomach while drawing in a deep breath. Powerful.

  14. Eldon Says:

    Oiling out huh? I’ve got a painting I just finished that could use a little something. I think you’ve solved my problem.
    Nice piece of work too. I study the heck out of every painting you put up. I’m learning as I go. Thank Ya!!

  15. Jala Pfaff Says:

    Perhaps a good title for a future painting, “Roomba Vomit.” šŸ™‚ Perhaps for a really bad abstract.

    So glad the no-turps thing is working for you. Remember, not even oiling out can always save you if you keep using spirits during painting. Of course, you can keep doing it and then I’ll have the excuse to come take them away personally. šŸ™‚

    Have you seen the YouTube videos of kitties riding on Roombas? I laughed SO hard at those…

  16. Paz Says:

    You’ve captured that woman in your painting perfectly. I know how she feels (unfortunately).

    Love the photo. šŸ˜‰

    Happy painting,

  17. planetross Says:

    Just dropping by to say “hi”.
    10 by 12 inch: that’s a pretty small painting. I always think these painting are a lot bigger for some reason. (i think I’m setting myself up for rude comments).

    What’s the women in the photo stuffed with?

  18. razzbuffnik Says:

    Yep it’s pretty easy to read the mood of the person in the painting alright.

    Years ago (1974) when I was in Laos I met a local mute woman who used to hang around the places that the foreigners would frequent. She was very animated and was able to easily communicate very clearly. I had quite a few long “conversations” with her in the week that I stayed in her town.

    Sometimes, spoken language just gets in the way.

  19. rgarriott Says:

    Marvelous painting. Good idea on Jala’s part. She’s a smart one, she is…!

  20. nathaliewithanh Says:

    That looks like one hell of a hangover! Not that I would know what that’s like…

    Ah… Let’s shed a collective tear for all the sad and unhappy people of St. Croix who live under the sun and palm trees when they could be so much cheerier waiting for the bus under the rain and breathing our polluted air.

    Sorry. I am feeling bitter this morning. It’s raining. šŸ˜¦

    “for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”
    Milan Kundera

  21. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Sharon-she got to me as I know this woman. Her posture is about grief. If you think it’s powerful, I guess I caught something here.
    Thank you as always for the comments you leave.

    Eldon- that’s really something, given that I do the same with your work too! So first I thank you, and then lob the compliment right back.

    Jala- as the fine abstractionist, feel free to glom this title and run to the studio to give us your impression of Roomba Vomit.
    Funny- shortly after we got the robot, I went looking for videos and they are sure out there. Kitties ON the Roomba, kitties running from the Roomba, camera on the Roomba chasing kitties.
    Look- if I slip back into” turpitude “, you may have to come here and yank those spirits away from me.

    Paz- there’s an expression here that says ” who feels it knows it “. That says it all.

    PR- nice to see you here again. Small, but they FEEL big. Nice- I like that.
    So’s the Mona Lisa.
    The big gal is stuffed with hay bales.

    Razz-I know what you mean about language. I was thrown into a two week stay at an Italian textile mill in a previous job, having to produce a finished line of fabric in a language I didn’t know, as they barely knew English. We managed and did a lot of smiling and gesturing.
    How refreshing, actually……..

    rgarriott- hi and welcome. I had a look at your wonderful blog, with photoshop tips ( pay attention, other commentors….) and your stunning paintings that handle whites with so many variations. Glad you stopped by.

    Nathalie- I think she wishes it was only a hangover. it was far more serious. Kunderas’ words say well how helpless we feel when we can’t help someone. Except to listen.

  22. wrjones Says:

    Put a little landscape up for me to look at please.

  23. Nava Says:

    Bonnie, this piece is incredible! The composition, the color scheme, the style – they all work towards the mood you were after. Good idea to not title it. I agree a title can sometimes lead viewers in one direction and block their own interpretations and projection.

    And what’s even more interesting – I haven’t visited blogs for 3 weeks or so, and now I visit yours and I see a very similar pose to the one I’ve just posted. So, a double WOW.

  24. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Nava- glad to see you back in the fold. I just went to see your new post and really was gripped by the new piece you put up.
    It is so similar in feeling to mine, I really had to look again.

    There is something so readily understood in these pieces. Places we’ve all been or will be.

  25. Dar Says:

    This is so powerful, using your great strengths of gesture, brushwork, and composition. Like all your figures, this reads with real weight and volume. Contra-jour heightens a sense of anguish, but caressed by light, she is not without hope. I want so much to touch her shoulder.

  26. Bill Sharp Says:

    Great painting, Bonnie. Even though it’s broadly painted, it’s full of subtleties. Someone mentioned before, the angle of the knee, the interesting colors in the background and subtle plane changes. I really like that brilliant red stroke in her hair too.

  27. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Dar- thanks for dropping by. I enhanced that strip of light that shows on her pants as it represented a glimmer of hope. Just as you described.

    Bill- Your compliment means a lot to me. Thank you.
    Sometimes, and not often, a painting takes shape right away and gives you no trouble. Like having dozens of kids, I guess.
    Some are knowing and right from the beginning.
    As she was.
    Others, well, they belong in detention centers…!

  28. wrjones Says:

    Oh, Bonnie – time to move on……

  29. solvay Says:

    Yep. Body language – that’s what you do so well!!!

    (love the lawn scupture, too………..oh to be that settled and unmovable with one’s identity! teehee)

    Also, I skipped over, by accident, My Favourite Things – one comment on the painting: Paul Gaugin. : ) You got the body language of the landscape, that’s for SURE!

  30. Faye Says:

    This is a very contemplative, moody piece, Bonnie. I like the hit of light- well done!
    and thanks for the information about oiling over–I have never tried that.

  31. kathryn law Says:

    Bonnie, I haven’t been around to see your work for a long time, and you have really grown as a painter! This piece in particular is just amazing. The gesture of that figure speaks volumes. Your landscapes are looking great too!

  32. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Hi Kathryn- What a wonderful surprise to know that you still check in here!
    Thanks so much for your great comment- as I’ve been a big fan of your work since the first time I viewed your blog.

    I really appreciate that you took the time to drop a note and I’ve left one for you on your blog as well.
    I can understand the crossroads of your art. Some days or even weeks and longer, I feel so out of the rhythm that I wonder if I’ll ever pick up again. Maybe that’s our time to recharge.

    It’s hard to fight it and even harder to fake it.

  33. jean mclain Says:

    I love this piece of work. It makes me remember how it felt right before I quit drinking and drugging. (32 years ago)
    I am not an artist at all but love art that makes me feel.

    • Bonnie Luria Says:

      Hi Jean and thanks for leaving such a personal note here. This piece had gone untitled for a while until it hit me that a local expression here on St Croix would be appropriate: Who Feels It, Knows It.
      Pretty much covers it.
      I’m touched that my work moved you to write something and your good work continues- 32 years and counting. Congratulations to you.

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