26 July 2015

Deconstructing "Made New" - From Doodle To Painting In 30 Hours...

...30 hours, plus a handful thrown in for additional drying time of the final protective clear coat layers, that is.

"Made New", then as yet untitled - but for several scribbled notes of potential theme names - began in full, here, in this single doodle drawn in my sketchbook at about a literal thumbprint size rectangle:

An early version, thumbnail sketch, 1" at most, 2015.
I always create the initial rough sketches on a tiny scale, as I learned from my favorite, prolific and wise mentors; the reason, in part, is to remove the distracting tendencies that larger scale rough sketching trap us in, which is to get caught up in the little details of an idea, an idea - concept - that is more in need of broad strokes compositional decision making than in fussing over tangential notions. It's easy to get infatuated with the first stages and running with it, but if you limit your size, you focus better on basic shapes and how they work together within your dimensions to flow into harmony.

Granted, I tend towards delicate pencil work, and I tend towards a combination of visual notes with written notes - it's just the way I think - so some of my conceptualizing is actually represented by words, not marks. I take these written notes into consideration with my visual overlay, and evolve both forms of note-taking from there. As you can see if you're reading my thumbnail, almost all of the written note components were scrapped. (They were scrapped later on, during a critical, pivotal point in the underpainting process, but I'm getting ahead of myself)... 

I'm sure it's weird, but writing has always been a key component to my creative thinking process, so I go with it - Indulge me.

Once I know where I want the shapes in the composition to go, how the figure needs to align within the negative space, I work from my sketches into the next stage - photo reference.

I often shoot myself - humorous pun inherent there - simply because it is too unavoidably convenient. I'm an artist and an artists' model, and I fit the general aesthetic for what I want to work from, and at no cost, other than the occasional contortion, to myself, so why not? Though there are times when mixing it up for the benefit of the art and for my own prevention against boredom is necessary, and I will ask a friend or work in a combination of imagination and reference.

"Made New" is a self-portrait though, so it had to be me! Here are some shots I took of myself:

Self portrait photo reference shoot, Sample reference option, 2015

This is not a good photo reference to choose for the final piece. Here's why:

     1. My hands are doing some weird, quirky finger things. Stepping back, examining it objectively, you don't want your figure in a piece to ever have any off-looking anatomical quirks, however factual they may be; the fingers on my left hand, by my mouth, are obviously capable of doing that, but in art, recreating something odd, however accurately, doesn't read well to the eye, and it break's the viewer's willing suspension of disbelief. They can't be taken along for the ride because they are looking at the fingers thinking, 'those don't look right, maybe it's a mistake'. It would be, if you chose to use them for your final.

     2. As a self portrait, a visage of the artist, a 3/4 face turned away, looking askance, gestures and secondary elements such as the hands aligned oddly, all reads as removed, unfocused, unimportant, without direction or attention. For my goals, this shot misses the point because it doesn't have the priority of the central features of the face to center on, and I want the en face presence to directly meet the viewer, because other elements coming into the composition later need to juxtapose with that. (I'm referring to the open third eye of the hawk, in the palm of the symbolic hand over my forehead). For this piece, the direct, centralized study of the face, framed with symbolic elements, is the goal.

I took many reference shots to play with angles, gesture variations, direction of main light source, and facial expression, but I chose this portrait shot in the end:

Self portrait photo reference shoot, Selected reference, 2015
In short, the hands are doing what I need them to do for the concept, but they are also looking believable, normal, not quirky. They express the gestural mood correctly. The face is full center, but still has the mood to it that I want, readable, able to be studied, but still as if in the motion of turning, looking away, inwards, and therefore redirecting attention to the 'secondary' elements of the upper hand and open third eye, and way the lower hand touches the face. I'm also in a good reference position to get rid of the attaching arm of the upper hand in the final drawing.

So I start drawing. And with this piece, due to limited time and the intended applications of the final painting, I do the final drawing directly onto the surface of the soon-to-be painting.

Final Drawing Stage, Values of the portrait and contour marking for the surrounding.
Toning the ground with cadmium red for the underpainting and beneath the gold leaf areas.
Notice how the values of the en grisaille portrait change when the surrounding space goes from white paper to toned red. I have to keep this effect of developing tone in mind as I build the rest of the painting layers and evaluate how the final impression of the portrait evolves.

Underpainting layers of watercolor and acrylic, "Made New", Studio, 2015.

Painting Progress, Ready for laying down the gold leaf over it's red ground.
After layers of watercolor, acrylic, prismacolor pencil, and fixative and matt medium, accordingly, I'm ready to address the gold leaf placement over it's red ground.

For my gold leaf approach on this piece, I did want to have the effect of the ground tone showing through. I wanted the gold to have an atmospheric quality that worked with the other elements, instead of just covering up, so having the painting underneath meant I could choose how I painted on the adhesive for the gold leaf, and know that the areas I did not deliberately paint the adhesive, the red would remain.
Notice how the gold leaf immediately cools down the piece, knocking down much of that glaring red.

With the steps of adhesive size, gold leaf application, metal-specific sealant over top, and drying time out of the way, I went back in with acrylic to the areas that needed it, tidying up and fine-tuning the details.
I also went back in and deepened the values and details of the face.

Signature, and a final sealing few coats, and the painting is ready for framing!

"Made New" - Self Portrait - 8 1/2x11 1/4", Mixed Media Painting, 2015
Large Detail - Hawk Eye Third Eye Symbolic Palm

Recently, I received the very exciting news that "Made New" has been accepted into a group exhibit this September entitled 'Self Made', a Lancaster county artist's self-portrait show sponsored by the benevolent FigLancaster and hosted by the Sunshine Art+Design gallery right here in the heart of town.

So, if you're in the area this September and would like to see the original work up close and personal, stop by the Sunshine gallery on King St - I'll be there for opening reception, along with my fellow exhibitors, many of whom are local friends, so we'd love if you said hello!

"Made New" is also showing this coming month of August for the exhibit 'Mirror, Mirror' at the HIVE Artspace in York, PA, for those in the area at that time!

Contact me directly here for any inquiries on the availability of "Made New", or for archival art prints of the work for purchase

In the meantime,

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