Chess Art at the Bangor Public Library

02.28.14 Fred Irons is a man of many talents. A chess player and coach, university professor, musician, writer and artist are just a few of the possible titles one could attribute to this fine gentleman. Some of Fred's chess-themed art was recently on display at the Bangor Art Society's annual Members Show at the Bangor Public Library.

Artwork from the Bangor Art Society's annual Members Show hangs in the Lecture Hall of the Bangor Public Library.

Artworks were displayed in the Lecture Hall on the second floor of the Bangor Public Library.

Art and music are two (of many) of Fred's passions.

This piece is entitled "Checkmate Shock".

This piece, "Last Chance" (previously "The Last Game"), features the kings in opposition while the other pieces lay in chaos.

Fred comments about his two artworks displayed at the Members Show:

December, 2013. Chess Endings
11x14 Bristol Board Acrylic [Both paintings]

Two presentable pictures remain to present to round out the year 2013. They are based upon chess, the great game. In ART110, the professor selected a photo of a box of chess pieces to be a 'good' scene for me to paint for my final critique. After some considerable effort, I had to decide that I could not do the necessary renderings in time for the final and so opted for that World Tractor painting shown earlier. It proved to be satisfactory, for the course final, but still I was left mentally with the challenge to do a chess scene. The idea would not go away.

The original photo was of a standard Black and White set in a wooden box sitting on an unfolded chessboard. It proved to be difficult, time consuming, due to the large number, and variety, of shadows that were present everywhere: in the box, around on and under the pieces, and even outside the box. It was hard for me to know how to mix and apply the paints to get all that shadowy effect. So, prior to 'giving up' on the suggested drawing, I composed this scene, from my wooden set on its matching plastic board, and offerred it as a substitute for the original B/W composition. The instructor agreed that this one was even better. By that time, however, time was short and so I bailed out and did the easier, less shadowy, world-tractor scene. That was, after all, a unique composition of my own doing.

After the successful completion of ART110, I started, with enthusiasm, to do this painting but gave up about halfway as it being still too difficult for me to do. My shadows kept 'messing up' whatever else I did. So it seemed.

A thought occurred that possibly I needed to do a simpler chess scene, with fewer pieces, and then the idea came through to make a filtered color scene to symbolize the realization that you have been checkmated by your opponent's last move. So I set up a mate position, against the player of the Black pieces, and then photographed it and ran it through Photoshop to get the result shown here [below]. This is another unique composition that I really do like as I dreamed it up myself. The original, local, colors were filtered by removing all color below digital code 80 and all color above digital code 170 [on a 255-element color code palette]. The result is this plasma looking picture where the shadows have complimentary colors to the pieces and nothing is in its original color. The board and pieces in this second painting are from the same set as in the first painting so you can see the filter had a great effect upon the rendered colors, especially the chessboard and the White pieces.

Aside from being persistently stubborn about doing this exercise, I did learn something useful from the process. One thing was that I was glad I did not throw away my first half rendering of the first picture when I decided to quit on it. I just put it away in my portfolio with a vague thought that maybe I would come back to it some time in my uncertain future. In the past, I have just thrown my failures away and forgot about them. Not so with this challenge. It was 'talking' to me, as writers are wont to say about their characters in their novels. These pictures wanted to be done.

The big thing I learned was that I could 'paint out' mistakes by using white paint and then repaint the area again---with more care. This can be done a couple times but after that the paper builds up and it is harder to do. I learned that you don't paint wrong, you just paint different. That was a big step for me as I get frustrated with mistakes and want to put the mess in the trash barrel. Being able to do that, correct mistakes, and go on, was an epiphany of sorts for me in regard to making both of these paintings. Don't give up on the painting if you like its ideas.

And what are the ideas involved here? I am glad you asked!

The first one is entitled: The Last Game. There are several ideas, maybe metaphors, in it depending upon how much you know about chess. I was thinking about it in terms of having to give up the game, in 2008, and having to draw something to depict that last game. It represents a Draw because I wanted to draw it. At the end of a chess game most of the soldiers are gone, lying dead on the battlefield, hence the pile of pieces at the feet of the two Kings which are still standing and in Oppostion---a chess strategy. In addition, two Rooks are still standing so the game ended as a Rook versus Rook ending which is usually a Draw---hence end of game.

The second painting is entitled: Check Mate Shock. It shows that Black is checkmated with the White Bishop's last move which put the Black King in check. Each side was in the end game with nominally equal strength: Bishop versus Knight and each side with a passed Pawn. Normally this would be a Draw as well but the White pieces are better placed and Black is too late bringing his Knight into capture White's bothersome Pawn. The King's are in Oppostion and so, with one extra move, Black could capture that Pawn with his Knight but White delivers the knockout punch before that happens. Black goes into shock at the realization and so colors get distorted.

As the ART110 professor likes to say: "Each picture tells a story." That is the idea behind these paintings---they tell stories.

You can take a closer look at Fred's works and musings here.

To read a interview with Fred Irons please click here.


Fred....I've been sitting here for some time and wondering what to write about your art.....I looked at it for quite a long time...for me it's goes beyond nice....very very creative and exceptionally well done indeed.....thanks for sharing...roger morin

Wow! I love your wonderful paintings. It was very interesting to read about the thought process and techniques that went into them.

Congratulations Fred, Nicely done, fascinating stories, cool art. I may have to take a trip to Bangor to see it all in person.

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