Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trying to break through old patterns using patterns

Geez!  I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted anything - a flurry of posts then nothing!  I've been busy in the studio despite that.

Last Friday we took my youngest to college for his Freshman year.  Since then each day i've been checking my email frequently, hoping for a missive from him, telling about the good times he's having.  I've received a total of 20 lines, 2 of which regarded money.  Yes, well.  I guess I'd better get used to it!

In the meantime, I've been walking with my friend Lynn, a 65-year-old woman who runs marathons and is planning an ascent of Mount Kilamanjaro for February 2011.  I am so blessed to have her in my life.  She's helping me get in shape, but she also inspires me like crazy because of how she lives her life.  I love spending time with her!

The way I got to know her was through her modeling for me.  She saw my 12 Naked Men show in Petersburg and told me she'd like to model for me.  Unfortunately I couldn't read her email address accurately so couldn't get in touch with her that time around, but luckily she found me again at Crossroads when I was showing The Dancer at 89.  She was adamant that she wanted to model for me so we set up a time right then and there.

Bling Lady was the first piece I did of her from that session.  I have several other pieces I'd like to do from then, but haven't gotten around to them yet. 

A couple of months after I first photographed her, she told me her sister and neice were going to be in town and she'd like to bring them over to see the painting.  I told her that would be fine and if they wanted to model while they were here, that would be great too (just kidding!).  Lynn took me seriously and told them that's what they were going to do. 

We had a great time in the studio that day!  Her sister and neice were wonderful models.  The three of them were so at ease with themselves and each other.  I got some fabulous shots and have painted a picture of them already.  I'm not at liberty to show it because, though they're comfortable with my painting their faces with their body, they prefer me not to show them on the internet.  Totally fine.

One of the props we used that day was a fake fur coat Chris had just gotten me for my birthday.  I turned 50 and his gift to me was to take me shopping for a winter coat because mine was getting worn out after 8 years of constant use.  I was looking for another practical piece to replace it, but then Isaw these crazy floor length fur coats.  I tried on a white one with a huge hood just for kicks.  I actually LOVED it!  I felt like a fairy princess snow queen.  Not the look I usually aim for, but I loved it!  I tried on more and more of the coats and told Chris that I was actually going to get one of them!  In the end I bought two - a short one I wear almost daily and a floor length one that looks like a racoon coat from the 50's or whenever it was the guys wore those in college.  I love it!  I haven't actually worn it out of the house yet because I don't quite have the gall to show up with it on anywhere - I don't really go anywhere that calls for a fur coat - but I'm working on it!  Maybe by this winter I'll have come up with someplace - maybe I'll wear it at my opening in October despite the heat in the building with 100's of people crowding around.  Or not.

At any rate, I brought it out to show to Lynn and her sister and neice.  They loved them and started clowning around in them.  Of course I snapped pictures while they were playing.  They're very fun!

That's the back story.

A couple of weeks ago when Lynn and I were walking, she was telling me what she thought of the paintings I'd done during Tom's workshop.  She LOVED the Jenny Saville one.  She said that's how she feels!  Like that paint, those colors, that energy!  She wanted to know why I didn't paint her that way.  She said she liked the piece I did of her, but it was so calm and restrained - why didn't I do this with her?

Well!  I'd been wanting to try such unrestrained painting ever since the workshop, but I'd built up in my mind that my models might be bothered by it (is that true, models???) - that they might find such outrageous energy shameful or ugly or excessive - can you tell what my judgments are?  Yet that was exactly what I wanted to do. 

And here Lynn was giving me permission and asking me to do it with her painting!  That evening I went out to the studio and started playing with Adobe and modifying some of the photos I have of Lynn.  The one on the left is the one I played with the most.  She loved it!  I don't know that I'll paint it like this, but it could give me a good start for getting wilder with the colors and the energy.

The thing that is difficult for me is to recognize that crazy colors and wildly energetic looking doesn't mean random, wild strokes with equal intensity to the mark making.  Those strokes have to be every bit as careful as the way I normally work.  So really, the painting isn't different except in the colors I would use.  At some level I'm looking to be more expressive with the strokes too.  It's the process I'm in, I guess.

As an intermediate step, I decided to work on a piece of Lynn in the fur coat.  I really love her expression and her pose and figured I could have some fun with it.

The first picture was the beginning.  I decided to put a very bold color down for the background colors and to play with the colors in the coat.  I regret the colors in the coat.  I don't like how greenish the yellow is.  Lynn's coloring is pinker than that, so I find it jarring, but I'm not done yet!

I decided to paint her body completely realistically and make it as beautifully rendered as I could manage then play with the coat and background, sort of like Gustav Klimt did his women.  As you can see in this image, the face and hands are painted very realistically (except for his color choice perhaps - she's a bit too blue and pale to look completely realistic), then the rest of it is full of incredible patterns.  The piece is a portrait, but clearly it's more about the patterns.  I haven't decided if I want to go that far or not.  I love drawing patterns.  It's how I doodle.  I would love to figure out how to combine both things - patterns and portraits - but so far I haven't been able to see how to do it.  I could take that chance in this painting, but, frankly, I've gotten attached to the outcome and want to make it pretty.  I'm afraid to screw it up.

Writing that makes me know it's the only choice I really have.  I have to let myself play.  Otherwise why should I even bother doing art?  If I don't take a chance, I should just close up shop and go home.

Yikes!  Here are some of the patterns I've done before.  OK.  I'm ready!  They're gonna be in the painting!  Wish me luck!

1 comment:

  1. SUSAN! By all means, allow yourself to loosen up! You've got great models and amazing technical ability. There's clearly a yearning to explore the possibilities inherent in some degree of abstraction; enhancing (or representing) the psyche, the emotion and energy that you share with your models. I love the idea! Love the beginnings of Lynn in Adobe. It's a tough transition, I am sure... but you can do it and your models and fans will eat it up when you figure out how to go there, and make it your own. Go for it girl!!!