Tuesday, June 14, 2016

ICAD 2016: Revisiting a Favorite Technique

Given how hectic my teaching year has been, I told myself that I should ease up a bit during summer vacation: Nope, no Index-Card-a-Day for me this year. Since I have a ton of painting to do in the next two months, I told myself that I couldn't possibly squeeze in one more project. No way I could do ICAD 2016. Logistically impractical. Emotionally impossible....nope, no way, no how could I even consider joining in...

Well, I lasted all of 12 days before I decided to jump into the annual creativity fun fest that is ICAD, the brainchild of the irrepressible Tammy of Daisy Yellow. I did, however, make a few allowances for myself: I probably won't make all 61 cards and that's totally OK. I'm not the least bit concerned with "catching up." Some days, I might make five cards and then again, I may go five days without making a single card. I may not post about all the cards I make and that's OK too.  I'm just going to dip my toes into the challenge whenever I feel the water's fine and when it's too chilly or I'm too busy for a swim, I'm going to let it go.

All that said, I have very specific plans for how to approach ICAD 2016. My cards this year are completely conjoined with my preparations for my October show (two birds with one stone and all that.) I'm not entirely sure yet where my show is going visually and thematically but I do have one wee wild idea to explore and experiments are needed. Enter my first set of index cards for this year. I'm working on some ancient (and consequently extremely sturdy) index card dividers that I found at my local recycling center. I brush on some grey acrylic paint and then, using vintage, black & white yearbook photos as reference, I draw characters with permanent black pen and color the portraits with pencil. 

I've worked with yearbook photos many times and it still tickles my fancy. During ICAD 2013, I used gouache in monochromatic tones to create the portraits. In the summer of 2014, while convalescing from foot surgery, I created "Postal People" with yearbook photos as reference. In the fall of 2015, I began a portrait series in watercolor in which I improvise the colorization once I get the basic shapes drawn.

Sometimes the portrait is highly flawed: a square chin becomes enormous, a cute nose blossoms into an unrecognizable monstrosity, a forehead becomes desperately unflattering, wide open eyes suddenly squint. I often make myself laugh at my efforts, sometimes in joy and sometimes in despair. I keep moving forward though, always working in pen without any pre-drawing. This is how I learn to ignore the shrill panic of my inner critic. And most importantly, one of the ways I create, develop, and refine my "style" is by constantly returning to and reinventing old ideas. This week's set of index cards is just the next step in my progression. Like an Escher drawing that chases its own graphite imagery, I will keep twisting, folding, and bending this idea into new forms and formats. More is coming...

4 comments:

Pia said...

These are fabulous, much more interesting than an accurate copy would be.

Özge Başağaç said...

I loved your yearbook portraits since the first time i saw them. But now i realize i loved them even more than the actual reference photos themselves. The reason is i feel like while the photos look static your portraits make me feel as if the people are about to step out of the card, full of life, each one representing a unique quality of the person's soul.Whatever this is, it is your discovery. I guess i prefer an interpreted portrait more than a photorealistic rendition.Happy creating Michelle :)ICAD is enticing :)

iHanna said...

They are absolutely irresistible! So glad you're doing ICAD too this year. I couldn't resist joining either, because Tammy is just everywhere with this and it I'd feel left out if I wasn't doing it too! :-)

Happy Summer!

Julie Steed said...

What a brilliant exercise. I love the idea of using old yearbooks as a starting point.

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