About a week ago, I created this small painting as part of my show preparation process: I practice theme and technique ideas small-scale before I commit to multiple and/or larger works. This project was actually the thing that launched me "backwards" to the Index-Card-a-Day challenge and in turn, it may be these ICAD experiments that propel my show work forward. Let me explain...
If you are constantly striving to reference and reinvent your own work (as opposed to always relying on outside inspiration,) you always have unique ideas at hand. Those ideas quietly inhabit your brain, shifting in and out of your direct attention. You spend some time exploring and then the idea goes into hibernation, waiting for the right time to reemerge. Each time you drag that idea back out into the world (consciously or unconsciously,) it has evolved a little bit. Coincidentally, this is how your own "style" develops as well.
I've been playing around with yearbook photos as a starting point for character creation on and off since 2013. Last week, that idea unexpectedly showed up again, this time on canvas and with a twist. I was intrigued so I looked back at some of the ways I've approached this technique in the past. I keep many, many detailed notes and sketches of my "brainstorms" so research was just a matter of pulling the right notebook off the shelf. I decided to practice drawing yearbook portraits again, this time in a medium I had not tried before. Inspired by this timely post by Danny Gregory, I also started looking at vintage mugshots as well. Once I'd done a few "normal" portraits as warm-up, I felt brave enough to play more with the idea that had popped up on that little canvas.
The result is this quartet of "monster" portraits. While I kind of love this idea, I'm still not sure about committing these to canvas and including them in the October show. Thematically, they would definitely be relevant to an art show concurrent with Halloween/Day of the Dead. Commercially, the market for such oddball works might be very small. I just need to settle that age old artist dilemma for myself: paint what I love or paint what sells. In a perfect world, those two options are one and the same. Thrilled and terrified by the possibilities, I showed my little painting to a couple of local artists. One is an impressionist/abstract expressionist and the other is best described as an "outsider" artist who draws, paints, and sculpts all sorts of strange and whimsical beasties. Both artists, despite their diverse viewpoints, told me to "f*ing go for it!" Last year, I experienced an incredible amount of anxiety about putting my monster paintings out into public, but the reception was overwhelmingly welcoming. This might be another occasion where I need to just make what I want to make. Trying to predict what will be popular with the public is a waste of time and if there is one thing I don't have enough of, it is time. In addition, I have found that the more I pursue what excites me - without thought to what other people want - the more authentic my work becomes and interestingly, the better it sells. I think it is just a matter of reminding myself of what I already know so I can do the work in spite of my nerves.