Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Working on a new piece

I'm starting work on a new piece now.  It's a large one - 66"x44".  I tried to make it smaller by cropping part of it and by shrinking the size, but when Chris made me the canvas, I knew right away I'd made a mistake and that it had to be larger.  I don't have a formula for figuring out the size the canvases should be.  I simply look at the photo and visualize how big the final picture should be.  I hold out my hands to the final size then measure my hand span with a measuring tape then determine the second proportion using a calculator. 

The piece I'm beginning is a painting of Valley Haggard.  She and I are collaborating on a show which will be at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, VA in February, 2011.  There will be three other sets of collaborators since the show is about collaboration.

About 6 weeks ago Valley came over to model for me.  We took some time before I photographed her to talk about the process and how she was feeling.  This photo session was a bit different than others I've done because I knew she would be an integral part of the entire process.  She had already decided I'd be able to use her face in the paintings, so it was extremely important to me to make sure the photos were ones that would work as portraits as well as body shots.  I felt different thinking in those terms.  Usually I just take pictures thinking about the composition of the body within the frame.  With Valley, I thought about her entire being since the paintings might become portraits. 

Valley had been nervous about our session and had written about it before coming over.  Her thoughts, feelings, and writings will become part of the exhibition.  We may encorporate them into a book, or into posters to display along with the paintings.  That part of the exhibit is still in flux.

After our session, Valley and I looked through the photos to see which ones appealed to each of us.  I found myself very protective of Valley and wanting to find photographs which showed her beauty as well as possible.  Some of the photos were interesting but more challenging to be with (i.e. showed parts of her which weren't, perhaps, as traditionally beautiful because of how I'd photographed them).  I've chosen not to paint those.  Knowing that Valley will be there during the exhibit and that her face will be showing in some of the pieces makes me want to make them especially beautiful and comfortable for her to be with.

With other models, I'm aware that my focus is on finding the most compelling,  interesting piece.  If their face isn't involved then I don't worry about whether the image is conventionally beautiful because no one will associate it with the person herself.  I think the images do tend to be beautiful because that is part of what makes them compelling to me, but my process at arriving at those choices has been different. 

This new piece shows Valley sitting in my red chair with a book beside her.  Her face is tilted up and she is looking at some far away place.  Her toes are on the floor, pushing away from it.   She looks very young.  Chris finds it archetypal.

Today I worked on painting the chair.  I'm getting the background finished in before I start on the figure so I can play off the colors in the chair and on the wall within the figure.  I love painting that red chair with its knobbly texture and contrasting lights and darks as the sunlight strikes it.

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