PAINTING FACES

Posted: October 1, 2013 in 2013, Step-by-Step in the Studio
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Facescollage header

September 24, 2013

PAINTING FACES


I’ve always loved drawing and painting faces, and I seem to have a facility for it. It’s always been the easiest thing for me to draw. Maybe that’s why I resisted it for so long.

I’ve always pushed myself to be more balanced than that. I mean I didn’t want to just be able to draw faces, so I stretch myself by drawing all kinds of things. Buildings are the hardest! But I’ve gotten better, over the years, at landscapes, still lifes, etc. And of course my ability to draw the male figure has really flourished. But I always keep coming back to faces.

(Read a related blog entry from 2012: Four Faces.)

And I’m finally at a point in my career where I feel I can focus on just one thing, at least for a bit. So I’ve decided to focus on FACES. And guess what. I’m having a terrific time and I love the art that’s happening!

It’s now late September 2013, and I started this new focus in late July. So I’ve been doing this painting-faces-the-way-I-want-to thing for 2 months now (with some time off for moving—more on that later). It started with July 26, the day I did an amazing FOUR PAINTINGS IN ONE DAY!

That day unfolded like a fever dream. I barely even remember doing those paintings, which isn’t surprising. When a painting really takes off I lose myself in it so totally that when it’s done, I stand back in a kind of daze, saying “What happened?” That happened over and over again that day. It was like a dam breaking.

The 4 paintings I did that day are: Straight Shooter, Jonny’s Dilemma, Deep Down, and Still Waters.

Firstfour 4up

I painted all 4 of these faces in one day.

When I came out of my trance at the end of the day and looked at what I had done, I knew this was the start of something exciting.

1638

This one is entitled Likes to Party.

The next day I kind of rested from that incredible outpouring. Which is to say, I only did one painting, Likes to Party, an Asian-looking kid with kind of a punk haircut.

1639

This is Killer Joe.

The following day, I did another face painting, Killer Joe.

With Killer Joe things started to get clearer to me. That was the first painting where I was kind of able to stay conscious while I was doing it, and get a sense of what was happening here. This is a tricky balance: you want to shape the painting somewhat consciously, but you don’t want to stop the flow that’s coming from a wordless, semi-conscious part of yourself with which you really have no direct contact except painting.

I began posting the art on my website and on many of the other sites where I exhibit my work: Fine Art America, Society6, SaatchiOnline, Artfinder, Etsy, etc. The response was immediate: People loved the faces and were really responding to them.

I don’t paint just to please others, but it’s nice when it happens! And for me it’s really unpredictable. Some of my favorites never seem to click with most people, while works I think are just okay sometimes turn out to be wildly popular. With Killer Joe, I kind of understood it, because he has a real presence and the colors are great…but that doesn’t totally explain it.

Nor does it need to be explained. The point is, I was making paintings I really enjoyed and seemed to come from somewhere deep and real (without being heavy or dark), and people were feeling something from them, and responding. So my excitement about this new direction, or maybe I should say new focus, kept growing.

(Side note here: In the last year-plus I’ve made it a practice to exhibit my work much more widely online in order to maximize exposure. An unexpected fringe benefit has been the immediate feedback I’m now getting. I didn’t have this when I just showed my work on my own website. As I said, I don’t paint just to please others, but when I’m getting this kind of feedback an energy happens, it feeds on itself, it grows, and my painting energy expands like crazy.)

1640 1641 2up

I did 2 paintings over the next 2 days: Marco with Gold Chain, and Just Turned 19.

On July 29 I did Marco with Gold Chain. The next day, July 30, I did Just Turned 19.

Louie 2up

I call this one Louie After His Shower (pencil study on left came first).

Next I did Louie After His Shower, and this one was the most finished one yet. I spent two days on it. Like Killer Joe, this one seemed to resonate with people. I tend to think that’s because the colors are great and the lighting is dramatic and interesting—but really, I don’t know. People just like Louie. The important thing for me was that with every painting I did I was having more fun and getting more confident. And I was surprising myself, which is vital to my process!

Some of my faces paintings were done from pencil sketches and some weren’t. As you can see above, Louie did, and the next painting, Channing, also came from a sketch.

Channing 2up

The Picassoesque Channing also started as a pencil sketch.

Channing was a bit more Picassoesque and fractured than some of the others so far. More discovery, more surprises. By now it was August 2 and I was one week into this process. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

Rocco 2up

Rocco went from rough to kind of smooth in the transition from sketch to finished painting.

After more pencil sketches, trying out more faces ideas, Rocco happened on August 6. In this one the roughness of the sketch (which I kinda liked) got a bit smoothed-out in the final painting. Which is all right, but generally these days I like to keep the brushwork looser and more interesting than this.

Backtobrasil 2up

Back to Brasil happened on August 7. This is my favorite of the faces paintings so far.

Then on August 7, I did Back to Brasil. This one was (and is) my favorite faces painting so far. I love everything about it: the lines, the forms, especially the colors. And I like the personality of the guy. He’s handsome and strong and interesting. One of the things I enjoy most about the process of painting faces is the often-unexpected personalities that come into being on the canvas in front of me. Anyway, I LOVE everything about this painting!

And guess what: response has been ho-hum. (But this is the way it works. I get to have my favorites, but once I’m done with the painting and out of the ‘trance’, my judgment of the work is totally subjective and I become just another viewer of the work and not an authority on what’s great and what’s not. Which begs the question, who or what is the final arbiter here? How do we know what’s great and what’s not? I guess time, or history, is about as close as we can get to answering that question. But watch how different artists go in and out of favor over the centuries and you’ll see that even that is changeable and subjective. The moral here: enjoy what you enjoy and don’t fool yourself into thinking you have the authoritative opinion.)

1646

This is called Comes From a Small Town.

On August 10, I did Comes from a Small Town, another experiment with lines and colors, and some interesting dynamics. Haven’t decided yet what I think of this one. There are things about it I like, and things I don’t like. But it’s finished, for better or worse. (I’m pretty good at resisting the urge to go back in and screw around with a painting I’ve already called finished.)

At this point my momentum slowed a bit. Other matters became pressing. I began making preparations for a big move. I was moving out of the duplex I had been renting for a little over a year, and dividing my stuff between two locations: a single room in my sister’s house, and a painting studio I was renting in the Haymarket Square section of downtown Lincoln. This was a good move and an exciting one, but would definitely disrupt my workflow for a few weeks.

Babypizza 2up

Something different in the Faces series: a portrait of my 2-year-old niece Elisabeth called Baby with Pizza.

Still, I was able to keep painting, and my next work was a bit of a departure. On August 16 I completed Baby with Pizza. I consider it one of the faces paintings, but there’s more going on in this one, and the subject is not a handsome young male but a little two-year-old girl, my niece Elisabeth—eating a slice of pizza in her highchair. I used the same basic technical and stylistic approach I used with the other faces paintings, but this one has more context, more background. It’s not just a head and shoulders on a colored background; there’s more going on. I was really pleased that this painting, although not really intended as a portrait, captured Elisabeth’s very interesting personality and way of being in the world.

Dj baller 2up

On the left, DJ. On the right, Baller.

During the period of August 21-25, and in the midst of moving preparations, I was able to complete two more face paintings: DJ and Baller. Both have a lot of oomph and presence, and I’m very happy with both. As the series continues I notice they’re getting a more polished, finished look. I Iike this, but I miss the roughness of some of the early ones. This is something I’ll be addressing as the faces series continues.

Colorfulface jerome 2up

Two of the first paintings I did in my new studio space: Colorful Face, and Jerome Has a Good Thought.

At this point my art production slowed and halted while I dealt with the realities of moving my entire home and studio to two new locations. I’m writing this in late September, and I have just finished setting up my new studio and have produced my first works there, two paintings called Colorful Face and Jerome Has a Good Thought. They’re both interesting in different ways Jerome, especially, surprised me with its unusual color palette and unexpected emotional notes. I’ll follow up in the next few days with an entry on the move, the new studio, and what’s happening as I start producing more paintings in my new situation!

Comments
  1. Pam Chambers says:

    I LOVE “Baby with Pizza”!

  2. Yes, “Baby with pizza” captures her personality and “way of being in the world” even better than the photo. Great series on faces!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s