Sunday, August 20, 2017

Only a Matter of Time

If you've been following along over the last four years with my ongoing series inspired by vintage yearbook photos, you probably knew it was only a matter of time before those characters leapt from the sketchbook to the wall. I could feel it too. Mesmerized & enchanted, I keep returning to these greyscale faces, reading their descriptions, examining their clothes, looking into their eyes after their gaze toward the future was frozen on film. I've rendered those visages of yesteryear in many ways and I have yet to grow tired of their inspiration. As time passed, I began to wonder about elevating my efforts from playful doodles to more formalized paintings that I could show.

A little over a year ago, I made my first foray into bringing these portraits to canvas. At that time, I thought maybe I would also use vintage mug shots as reference. Combining portraiture with my enduring love of monsters resulted in this first attempt. While I personally love this painting (and others encouraged me to forge ahead,) ultimately I let fear still my brush. At the time, I was preparing for my 2016 show and I needed to build an inventory of work suitable for sale. I didn't think this particular idea would have much market value. That, by the way, is a terrible reason for giving up on an idea. Art doesn't have to match the couch or always be pretty and/or suitable for mass consumption. I confess, though, to occasionally forgetting this rule-of-thumb when time and courage grow short. However, all in all, it is always best to create for yourself first and the walls of others second.

I didn't return to canvas until this past April when I experimented with Dura-Lar Wet Media Film attached to canvas. While I had previous used and loved this technique on index card-sized portraits, I wasn't as enamored with it on a larger scale. So again, I set aside the notion of canvas portraits.

Fast forward to the present: My annual show is  due to hang the first week in October. Up to this point, every canvas I've completed features some sort of animal. A couple weeks ago, it seemed obvious that the show would, in fact, center around animals. I tend to be very rigid about my shows: all the pieces are rendered with the same technique on the same type of substrate and have a unifying palette and subject matter. I've always done it this way even though I actually love shows with a diverse - even eclectic - variety of pieces.

And then, a lightning bolt of inspiration struck. I looked at these small, 5x7-inch oval canvases I had bought - once destined for small animal portraits - and knew exactly what they needed to become instead. I made one and there was no going back.

Behold my new series "The Class of '25":

I have zero idea how they will mesh with everything else I've already painted and even less idea about how they will be received at the show. This time around, I don't care. I am making them because I love them. Others might love them as well. I hope they love them enough to purchase one or two. However, if the entire Class of '25 comes back home with me at the end of October, it will be fine as they already have a lasting place in my heart.

NOTE: To see my previous yearbook portrait work, simply type "yearbook series" in the "Search" box in my blog sidebar (Look for "Find Buried Treasure!" right above my photo and "About Me" link.)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

This One's For You, Peggy Jo

Back in April, when I debuted my series "Alley Cats & Junkyard Dogs" for my October show, dear reader Peggy Jo emailed to say she'd like to send me pictures of her beloved dog Tuff as painting inspiration. I, of course, said "Yes, please!" and soon, the sweetest photos of Peggy Jo & her companion popped into my inbox. I held on to those pictures and in recent weeks, finally got to use Tuff as my model for an 8x8-inch canvas. Now, bear in mind that Tuff is not bright orange; in real life he is all sorts of shades of lovely gray and he is also much more congenial-looking...not a snaggletooth or irritable glare in sight. However, Peggy's photos were an incredible reference for painting a truly hairy dog, something I had not attempted up to this point. And I will always carry with me the story behind this piece. Thank you Peggy for reaching out and sharing your devoted companion!

UPDATE: Apparently Tuff does have a snaggletooth! So funny that I couldn't see one in his photos but just assumed he needed one. It is also important to note that Tuff was paid in Greenies for his modeling gig. Fair pay for a fair day's work I always say!

(Note: In this photo, I was still working on detailing the hair so he's almost but quite complete here.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Elephant and the Songbird

Here's the final version of the latest Lost Aesop painting I previewed last post: "The Elephant and the Songbird." This was a fun one to paint and I am in love with this color scheme.

The original Aesops' fables were mini morality plays starring all sorts of animals, birds, and even insects. At the end of each story, a summarizing, one-sentence moral was provided (in case the lesson wasn't already clear.) For all of these paintings, I have a moral in mind but I am keeping that secret; I want each viewer to find his/her own moral in the painting. I'm curious...what moral do you see here? (Just for fun, try to encapsulate your moral in a single sentence.)

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Mad Scramble

Now is the time when a return to work, prep for the October show, and continued healing from surgery come crashing together with a great flurry of activity inside the studio and out. As summer winds down, I scramble madly to utilize the uninterrupted free time available to me. I am woefully behind (can't actually remember when I was ever ahead) and sometimes I feel the pressure and stress like a smothering weight upon my chest. I juggle lesson planning, sample & step-out making, painting, doctors' appointments, and physical therapy, all while trying to fit in some down time before school resumes.

The show goes up the first week in October and I know that when I go back to teaching, I'll only be able to manage small pieces so I have been working on a few larger canvases since the beginning of August. After moving rather happily and briskly through the first two works in my "Lost Aesops" series, I stalled on completing the third with the intervention of surgery recovery into my daily life. Once I was able to sit with my foot down for more than 15 minutes at a time, I got back to painting. I finished that third canvas (which I'll share in the next couple of days) and surprised myself by launching into the fourth canvas I had visualized in my sketchbook. Titled "The Elephant and the Songbird," it has a bit of exotic flair with lots of rich teals, warm quinacridones, and golden yellows. As my Parkinson's tremor is progressing, I painted much of this sitting on my left hand to minimize the impact of its constant shaking on my right/dominant side. It is getting harder and harder to manage this type of high detail work and I think perhaps in a year or so, I might not be able to do it at all. However, no sense in mourning that which I haven't yet lost so I continue to plunge onward through life, flinging paint and wielding pencils. My days are often hectic, sometimes frustrating but always rewarding in some way.
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