“You made me beautiful” she said upon seeing the finished piece.
It was, but I just painted what I saw. With all my portraiture I go for a sort of raw reportage. If I see it, it appears in the piece. I never airbrush out (so to speak) any imperfections nor do i exaggerate any by way of settling scores. To me, all truth is beauty.
I always want people to be able to return to a piece and see new things. This is why traditional beauty has always bored me. The little quirks and imperfections make it real, make it interesting. The organics of a piece is often helped by only using people I know as subject matter. The trust allows for natural body language and facial expressions. There are some great yet unknown painters out there whose work’s power is diminished by coming across as overly academic or all the cheesy glam poses. I don’t worry about the beauty aspect, but rather the realness.
This piece is 11×14 inches. Watercolor on brown paper.
I have specific pens, pencils etc that I use. Of course I constantly challenge myself by using lesser quality equipment, it makes using preferred stuff feel easy. As far as travel kits, i am forever tweaking that, the cases and holders all my equipment goes into. I always have three kits; the one for just bopping around the city. This is the smallest and its just a refillable pocket pad, retractable pencil and in the pocket sleeve of the pad a blender or two. This is used as I sit in cafe or bar locally, just doing quick guerilla sketching. As a side note, this is always within reach of my hand and has been around the world with me. I realized that because of the pandemic, it saw zero action for a year plus! It has sat in drawer of one of my tabourets awaiting its chance to see some action. My other kit is for short trips four days or less of being away from home. This is pocket pad, 5×8 pad few traditional pencils of different degrees of hardness and two types mechanical pencil & blenders. It’s still fairly compact, easily carried in book bag. Short trips, I do not bother bringing any painting accoutrements. My last kit is for longer trips week or more and this includes paints etc. The long trip kit is the one i tweak the most often as it’s important for me to work but very quickly space within a suitcase can be taken up.
I discovered during the pandemic a small company that made cases geared towards road warrior artists. The case was very flat and it came loaded with “free” pencils, erasers and all kinds of other sketching swag. Obviously I have not had chance try it out on road. I did try the pencils and sharpeners. All of it was of such low quality it got thrown out. It contained a small cellophane pouch inside of which was three short, pudgy graphite sticks. It reminded me almost of tailors chalk. I had never used it before, so decided try for hell of it. I enjoyed challenge of it and was actually pleased with pieces i did. My way of thinking was that if I could make something happen with low quality version, then using some made by a quality company would be even better. I started doing some research. One thing i found was that the Lyra graphite sticks were said to be basically the same thing, with benefit of being able to sharpen to a point where as the sticks were basically short rectangles.
I had bought one along with a sharpener ages ago but had not used it. I started messing around with it and found i really liked it, the pieces I did were loose and had a painterly effect. Lyra also makes water solvable ones. I bought one to try. It is a game changer for me. It fits in my pocket and all i need is that and one brush and I can do monochromatic watercolors. This will allow me to paint on short trips and not have to up the equipment i take. The actual process is quicker than my normal painting and best of all, I do not need sunlight and can actually do these at night. Two things not possible with my regular painting.
here are my first tries with it. I am sure that the more I do this, the better i will get but I am already pleased with results.
For me, truth will always be equated to beauty. It is the imperfections of someone you find yourself caring for (or desiring) that your mind calls forth when thinking of them. That crooked smile, a small scar on the chin from scratching too much during bout of childhood chickenpox. Traditional beauty, the yardstick many use in their aesthetic aspirations becomes generic and boring very quickly.
When the more casual art fan is given a bit of art history, almost always a shorthand is used. The impressionists are reduced down to a bunch of guys with beards who used seductive colors in a lush, hazy sort of way. This was one aspect of it. They were the first (building off of their immediate predecessors Courbet 1819-77, Millet 1814-75) to be showing people as they were. There was no idealization of the denizens of the boulevards and theaters. The paintings are stunning but one encounters broken capillary noses, clothes that need laundering, eyes with lids heavy from lack of sleep. It was the real, every day life as they encountered it, caught on canvas.
Since then, every single painter did not stick to this direction. The impressionists freed up art and from aspects of what they did has sprung a multitude of genres, sub genres. But, there will always be a section of painters out there capturing real life with their brushes and pencils. A favorite painter of mine, Wayne Thiebaud is often lumped in as a “Pop Artist-Painter” because of his subject matter, cakes & candies (his portraits are among some of modern paintings best and he should be better known for these). What makes pop art is not what is portrayed but rather an ironic coolness. Thiebaud is not aiming for this but in the tradition of the impressionist portraying his life and what is in front of him.
One of my first times going to the Musée d’Orsay, a painting which held me before it, showed a man in red pajamas not looking very well as he lay covers pulled up almost to his chest. His skin was very pale but with waxy yellow undertones and little suggestions of green. You know things most likely are not going to end well for him and the painting itself is unpleasant to look at but also beautiful in its execution.
One of my greatest pleasures in life is portraying flesh in my painting. I never want to lapse into mannerisms though and so constantly challenge myself. I portray flesh in all its varieties, hot from a blush, pale from sickness, bruised from some mishap. One of the best self portraits I have done and which is frequently used as my author’s photos shows me with a black eye I got. There is no program or symbolism in any of this for me. For this piece, although one could look at it as encompassing all of 2020, it was just meant as a challenge to myself to show one person’s very bad day, the truth being beautiful in its honesty and execution. Terrible beauty.
Traditional ideas of beauty bore me. They blur together into a generic oh-la-la which is not remembered five minutes after it is no longer present. For me, the true, the real, will always be beautiful.
The real serves to facilitate emotion which will not appear prop-like nor freeze dried. When i first started delving into the world of social media I was at great pains to explain that with my pieces which showed real bodies as we all have or encounter, I was not mocking nor satirizing. I do not feel this need any longer and I suspect that what each viewers reaction to these bodies is, says something about them.
Times are still tough for us all. Art & culture serve to offer a way of reminding us of what we all have in common. It also is a place mark for what waits once we do not need to devote the lion’s share of our time to the bad. I do not look forward to returning to “normal” or “how it was” as those times were not great for everyone. I look forward to the time when we can give attention towards helping each other be the best versions of ourselves. In the meantime, I offer up my beauty for all.
All the mediums which I work in are of equal importance to me. I get as much pay off putting pencil nubbin to scrap paper as an accomplished portrait. One of my biggest joys of which I never tire is portraying flesh via paint.
I never think in terms of “beauty” in the traditional sense of the word. Western idealized beauty very quickly becomes boring (same old-same old). I would rather an emotion which is real because truth is always beautiful. It is for this reason I largely prefer to work with people in my life as there is a trust there and they feel free to let their emotions be real in front of me.
For my painting I only ever use natural sunlight. I noticed at the start of this work that where the sun is when is starting to change. It appears the summer has snuck away.