Thursday, February 26, 2009

Portrait of an alter ego

After last night's snowfall and freeze, my car is covered in snow and icicles and I'm unable to open the car door - as a result I had to cancel this morning's appointment. Being the sideways and upside down thinker I am, I took this to be a clear sign from the heavens above that I am meant to take this time to update my blog ...

I've been intending to create a series of portraits for a number of years, but was keenly aware that my usual painting style simplifies everything down to the basic elements to the point of faces being homogeneous - definitely not what's required for recognizable portraits. After finishing Tree of Life, I decided to continue in that style and start on the first portrait, in between working on the eagle.

The model is a budding novelist with a penchant for unicorns and all things Irish. When I began washing in the first layers of colour, the young lady asked me to keep the hair blonde (although she is not), because she visualizes the heroine in her stories as a blonde version of herself.

A portrait of an alter ego - a delightful and interesting idea that opens up all sorts of fantastical possibilities.

With glee, I changed my original concept and have begun including objects to reflect the interests and personality of the model's alter ego. The fun has just begun!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Don't touch the face!

OK, so right after I completed my last post, I went into the studio to turn the canvas against the wall for a week ... but something caught my eye that needed to be fixed (AGAIN!) so ... some time later, after restructuring her cheek bones, subtly adjusting the shape of the upper lip and right eye ... I will now promise (cross my heart and swear to die, etc.) that I shall not touch the face again - unless I absolutely have to ...

I'll let the piece sit over the weekend while I contemplate whether or not to continue with my ideas for the background around the head, or to leave it as is.

Have a lovely weekend!

Tree of Life

I'm having ambivalent feelings towards this piece - I usually work on a painting steadily over several days or a couple of weeks from start to finish. This piece has dragged on for months for a variety of reasons, mostly beyond my control, but one of the reasons is that I've allowed the image to become overly precious to me and I've fussed and redone parts of it repeatedly, trying to perfect it. This is a problem I was warned about early on during my art training. My instructors in college helped students overcome this by having us quickly create a work in clay (for sculpture class and ceramics), then destroy it, make another, destroy it, make another, destroy it, etc. Through this process we could see that no matter how fond we were of the original piece, subsequent pieces usually improved upon the original and the final piece was significantly better than the first. No amount of fussing with the original would yield as good a result as starting over, more than once or twice if necessary.

As for the painting - I've changed various parts of the face repeatedly, especially the eyes and skin tone, and recently had the thought that what I was feeling was probably similar to what Michael Jackson was feeling when he realized that rather than enhancing his appearance, all those plastic surgeries were destroying his looks to the point of him becoming irreversibly freakish.

I'm setting the work aside for a few weeks and will re-evaluate then. In the meantime, I'll hoist a fresh canvas onto the easel and see where that leads me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Recovering from dermabrasion

Here she is after her dermabrasion treatment, enjoying a nice gesso facial mask. Even though she's been neglected lately due to my working on the eagle, she's continued to smile subtly at me every time I see her - not pouting in the least. Strong well-centered women are great that way.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Back to the Tree of Life

I'm having a problem with my right arm so decided to take the Tree of Life into my kitchen where I could lie the work down on the table and try a different painting position (usually I stand in front of the easel with the painting resting in a near vertical position). This didn't work very well for my aching arm, however it did wonders for my inspection of the painting. Seeing the piece in natural daylight, away from the bright halogen lights in my studio, I was able to see ridges and bumps on the work that weren't evident in the studio - textural flaws that detracted from the imagery. The lighting in my studio was such that it flattened these flaws to the point where I couldn't see them, even with my reading glasses on. I toted the painting back to the studio and attacked it with fine sandpaper - the result is that I shall have to repaint the face, except for the eyes and lips.

This is a source of great frustration for me because I had just completed the face to my satisfaction, after a several weeks of much pondering and making slight alterations in shapes of features and colouration. The positive side is this will save me no small amount of embarrassment should the painting be juried into a show and put on exhibition in lighting that reveals the flaws.

Here's the work as it appeared before my lady had her extreme dermabrasion treatment:

She's not feeling or looking very well just now. Perhaps she let me post her picture after she's recovered.


Monday, February 02, 2009

With Sturdy Shoes: Community Volunteer updated

This painting, begun in 2006, has lain first in my studio and then in my daughter's bedroom for about two and a half years. My daughter claimed it as her own (as she often likes to do or attempt to do with various of my works) and said she loved it just the way it was - unfinished. Ever since I've been cringing every time I see it and muttering that when I have some extra time I really should finish it.

Motivated by the fact my daughter is in the process of moving away from home and plans to take the painting to her new home this week, I secretly hauled the painting into the studio and up onto my easel on the weekend while she was many times over loading boxes of her many many possessions into her car and delivering them to the new place (think books, books, books, purses, purses, purses, and shoes, shoes, shoes - I must admit she's something of a "chip off the old block", except for her penchant for collecting teeny-weeny cutesy objects).

I just couldn't let Community Volunteer go out into the world in its piteous (to me) unfinished state. So I set aside the eagle and Tree of Life to get to work on completing this painting.

I feel much better letting the work out of my sight now and hope my daughter likes it as much or more than before!