Thursday, January 30, 2014

So, what about the Mixed Media portfolio?

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The Mixed Media Portfolio
The Mixed Media work has been a bit neglected in this blog, so I thought I'd write a post about a couple of the paintings in it. The following is an elaboration on my Artist's Statement as it applies to one or two paintings.

 The Wedding Portrait

The mixed media pieces are about the ephemerality of life; the nebulousness of memory and of dreams. Their starting point is always the figure or, in the case of the paintings I am going to discuss here, a number of figures. To begin with, I gather, or invent, evidence of a life: drawings, photographs, letters, snippets from newspapers, lists from the phone book, maps, etc. The process of making the artwork is a process of losing, reclaiming and, again, losing the evidence and, in so doing, a fleetingness occurs and, perhaps, new meanings too. I try to hold on to details as you would on waking from a dream that is dissolving even as you try to grasp it and hold on to it. Yet even as the meaning of the dream recedes beyond reach, it leaves a residue: the ghost of a feeling; a mood; an atmosphere. The Wedding Portrait above (+ detail below) is an imagined painting of my grandmotherI never knew my grandparents or saw their wedding photographs, so they are mysterious to me. The figures in the background are based on an old family photograph,
a copy of which is also embedded in the painting. This photograph includes an aunt and uncle who both died young and so also are out of my ken. Also included are many more recent photographs and other objects, materials etc, in the fabric of the painting that hint at the posterity that will result from this wedding day. 

The Wedding Portrait - detail

Besides the bride, the only figure who is clearly defined, there are other painted figures: wedding guests, aunts and uncles, perhaps the groom. All of these are shadowytheir features are lost in the mists of time as those on the periphery of our lives tend to be. The flowers were taken from a magazine of flower arrangements for Valentine's Day, but they are faded and have a funeral aspect to them; they are both her wedding bouquet and her memorial bouquet as the painting is a wedding and a memorial portrait.

This same experience of trying to grasp onto receding memories often also applies to those who are no longer alive.
Over time, slippage occurs in that their corporeality, their very aliveness, diminishes in our memories and becomes increasingly difficult to grasp; a consequence of letting go, and perhaps a blessing. But losing hold can also be a source of distress and bring about feelings of betrayal to the lost loved one 

Lost Time

The basis of the painting, above, entitled Lost Time was a photograph of a lot of children on the back of a donkey
these were my siblings and cousins. I once showed this photograph to a friend while describing the story of the photo which was that, immediately after the photo was taken, my uncle poked the donkey which then bucked and we all tumbled off. I described in detail the fear, the grabbing onto the child in front, the falling, the crying, etc. But when she asked which child was I, I saw that I was not on the donkey at all, but on the ground next to it. The photograph completely contradicted my memory of the event - a memory so strong that, despite having looked at the physical photograph many times over the years, I had failed to see the evidence before my eyes that, although a witness, the memory of the experience was not mine, perhaps it was my sister's who was among the kids on the donkey. This painting is actually about this sister. She died in 1999, just missing the millennium. The painting includes many items from her life including her passport, letters, maps, a contact sheet of "selfie" images she made, etc. Proof that she existed.

Lost Time - detail

These are common experiences to all of us, we all dream, have memories real and imaginedsome are other people's stories that we have incorporated into our cache, as I clearly did with the donkey story. Eventually, who can tell what is real, dreamed, or stolen? The memory selects what to keep and what not to keep, and its choices can be quite selective and arbitrary; the memory is a novelist—if it comes across a good story or anecdote, it will appropriate it. These are the ideas I am exploring as I work on these paintings.

Once again thank you, dear Phantom reader, for your time and patience. And remember to

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Code Caamp

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Code Ca(a)mp

Being relatively new to the faculty at the Woodstock School of Art (WSA) and having discovered that other instructors have "codes," I thought I'd better invent one ASAP. I am happy to report that I came up with an acronym in double quick time and one which describes accurately, and in the right order, the methodology I encourage my students to use and is easy to remember. The acronym is CAAMP - it is designed with figure drawing in mind, and the head in particular as that is what my course at the Woodstock School of Art is about - and works as follows:

C - Composition - plan your image on the page.
A - Angles - check the angles of the pose to position the head correctly.
A - Anchor - choose one; something to act as a frame of reference, might be an eye or an ear.
M - Measure - referring to your anchor to find:
P  - Proportion.

Ta da!

All of the above aid in practicing "O" for Observation - drawing from life is first and foremost an exercise in acute and deliberate observation.

The above acronym is, I admit, the second effort. The first had a double P as well as a double A for:
"CAAMPP." The second P is for "Planes" (of the face - which I also bang on about a good deal), but I worried that this was overkill - one doubling up was enough perhaps. In truth, I was skeptical of the double "A" too but, in addition to deciding that the two were indispensable, I feel it works because of the sheepish aspect of my name - as a teenager I had to endure a lot of people (i.e: boys) bleating at me as I walked by - Baa Baaa, etc. So when you say CAAMP, you must bleat the "As" so as never to forget who invented this acronym. That's all for tonight folks - by folks I mean you, dear Phan, my Phanton fan reader... Next time, I will write a little about my Mixed Media work.  Now:                    

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Year - 2014

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Planes of the Head via the "Asaro" model

Belated Happy New Year 2014. I have been preoccupied with preparing and planning my new portrait drawing & painting course at the WSA (Woodstock School of Art) and am happy to report that it is going well - we have had two classes so far, first one on the "planes of the head" with a diagrammatic model  (as above), and last week the emphasis was on proportion - this time with a live model. I am very pleased with the students and their progress so far, and they seem to be pleased with me so that's all good. I will document their progress and post a few examples here anon.

Also all painting sessions are back in full swing - those are the independent painting group on Wednesday mornings and the Open Studio (both at WSA) on Thursday mornings - the sketch below is from the latter.

One-minute warm-up sketches

Phillis Kelly aka The Reggae Singer, 24x24", 2014 - Right: photo of Phillis - note, the photo was only used at the very end stage of the painting when Phillis was no longer available.

And I completed my painting of Phillis - the above photo is actually one or two steps before the finalization of the painting  - edges have been softened and the dress color pushed back. And the colors in the painting higher key that reality. Plus the color in the photo is off compared to the colors in the studio. The portrait was painted 90% from life but I had to complete it from photos which was a drag as photographs flatten so much - the cheekbone are not at all prominent in the photo, but I decided to stick with what I saw with my own eye-balls in the studio and not modify it according to the photo. I very much hope I can make a stop-motion video of the making of this painting - it has been the most challenging so far. Well, that's enough for now - goodnight Phan.