Well, it hasn’t been the most productive month… I’m flying to California this weekend for my father’s memorial service. I spent a huge chunk of the past month grieving, hiding in my bedroom, and trying to muster up energy to get simple things done. But I did manage to get a bit of work done in my studio, and I have a schedule now set up with my long term model, Anna. She’s agreed to be a part of my research, sitting for me each Monday for the next two months.
Anna and I had never met before this past Monday. She was referred to my by a mutual friend so we were complete strangers until she walked in to the studio. I had her fill out some papers, including my model questionnaire and a release form, and we chatted as I got everything set up. We discovered we have a fair bit in common and I’m looking forward to working with her again. I laid out my proposition, explained a bit of what my questions are regarding my research, and shot some photos to use for a “big” painting of her before she sat for a live session.
I should clarify what I mean when I say ”big” painting- My paintings with a live model tend to be smaller in size than the works I do with topographic light. They also tend to have a more detailed background, and more time is spent on those works, so I refer to them as big. When I had a Skype meeting with Mark and Michael, my advisers, they gave me the idea that I may try soon- painting on a very large panel while working with a live model. I tend to work smaller with live models, around 18”x24” or smaller, because it’s easier to complete a piece in one or two sittings that way. They recommended stepping out of that comfort zone and switching the scale of the pieces I work on with Anna next. So I ordered some new panels (hooray for sales, coupons, and free shipping) to try it out.
I also ordered panels to finish up my self portrait series on grief. It seems a little ironic that I’m finishing a series inspired by the death of my husband as I struggle with the grief I feel over my father. Some days I feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train and others I just feel numb. I’m doing as okay as I can, and I have an incredible support system helping me. I am hoping that completing this series will help me process some of what I’m feeling concerning my dad’s passing; I always seem to know my self better after I complete a piece.
So, on to what I’ve been working on…
I painted Anna on Monday. I got tired quickly, so I snapped a few photos and cleaned up the painting the next day from those- but it’s still in progress. I haven’t added in her shirt or jacket yet.
As I sit back and look at the components that combine to create this image, I see a lot of myself projecting on to the portrayal of Anna. I defaulted to my favorite color palette, greens. I love painting in greens. I did a quick sketch in green, then slowly started to add in teal and yellows, then cream, white, and even a deep Jenkins green. Her brilliant orange hair (it’s fabulous in real life, a perfect pumpkin orange) tapered down from darker roots, and I realized that it needed to be as bright and colorful as her, so it became orange and purple. I had originally planned on this being more monochromatic, but I needed to show off the color of Anna. As I kept painting, we had a great conversation, and her eyes sparkled when she would laugh. I realize I made them a bit big for her face, I think because they were so expressive. She kept a slight smile through the whole sitting, like she was in on a secret.
I think my love for vibrant color is pretty obvious here, but it remains to be seen if Anna shares my predilection to color straight from the tube. I have asked her for a list of colors, symbols, or objects that have significance to her for the larger piece. I’ll continue to work on this and the larger piece, as well as start my final two grief series pieces when I get back from California.
This past month I also finished reading “A Giacometti Portrait,” by James Lord- it’s a great look at the artist/model relationship from the perspective of the model. There were some quotes that stood out to me, regarding my research: at one point, the painting is not going well, Giacometti was lamenting his failure and James Lord felt helpless, “…to be involved but removed…” from the act of painting. I wonder if my models will ever feel responsible for the way a work turns out? As if they could alter the work by the power of their sitting? I don’t know. A separate time Lord remarked that, “The painting seemed at times to exist both physically and imaginatively between us a a bond and a barrier at once.” I like the idea of the connection, but that the roles they are both filling also create a barrier in the relationship, and I wonder if the barrier is lessened when the painting is complete?
I was fascinated by how much Giacometti doubted his own work. I constantly feel like an impostor and it made me feel a bit better, oddly enough, that an artist I admire didn’t have a raging flow of self assurance.
These following images went up in my last blog, but I wanted to include them for the Crit Group blog.