First, in this new year of great possibilities, I want to thank everyone at West End Gallery for their energy and efforts, and I hope my fellow “West-Enders” do the same. If any of you have attempted gallery representation in other regions, perhaps you have learned that not all galleries are the same (Google “predatory gallery” and learn from my mistakes). I, for one, value the direct communication, the inventories that jibe, that I am not treated like a “second-class citizen”, and for not having to beg (for months and months and months!) for my fair share of a sale.
So, as I patiently seek honest West End-esque gallery representation in my immediate neighborhood, I have distracted myself with an interesting portrait series that has evolved over the previous year.
I would think most artists are intrigued with faces and capturing a variety of looks and moods. As early as 1991 it turns out, I was experimenting with “portrait combinations,” although the “Stele” was done more under the influence of Nam June Paik than Warhol’s “Marilyn Diptych.” There is a power in portrait multiples that I have enjoyed exploring.
I often do little 5×7 or 6×8 scenes and portraits and last year I was also working on some possible entries for the Torrit Grey Competition. I started using those canvas scraps you end up with after stretching the bigger pieces – scraps too big to just throw away and so I developed a system for prepping 6×8” scraps. (Eventually, I would make “scraps” on purpose just to continue this project.)
As the year progressed, and I had a dozen or so 6×8” portraits, I had spread them out next to each other trying to figure out which were “the best ones.” While some stood out, it struck me that even the “less successful ones” contributed to the group as a whole. It was like the difference between a soloist and a full orchestra – with the charm of an old family photo where there’s always one person off in their own little world.
Eventually this process evolved into a collection of interesting faces from the internet as well as surreptitious shots while out “people watching.” I prep a face in Photoshop: crop, tweak etc, and then each painting day, I pull up an image on the monitor and start in… like a cyber life drawing class.
Each face offers a chance to experiment with color and technique; once I even used a palette knife, which I rarely do! Each panel can take as little as five or ten minutes, or I can work on one all morning.
This series also challenges me over defining when a piece is done. As individual pieces, I’m happy with what I set out to capture that particular session, but when grouped together, there often needs to be a little more work that ties the pieces together.
It’s good to move in new directions sometimes and I look forward to what might result as I “face” this new year.