I began my residency at Transart with a very basic idea- How much of a self portrait is each portrait that an artist creates? I then spent three weeks with fellow students, advisors, guest speakers, and my conversations led me to expand on my research. What I plan to do this year with my research will also be a part of my creative practice, so the two paths will be intertwined.
I will be looking at the relationship of the model and artist and how that affects how the artist portrays the model. While researching the practices and relationships of other artists, like Picasso and his many muses, I will be cultivating my own model/artist relationships as well creating new connections. I will examine how artists painted models that sat for them repeatedly, what sort of relationships they had/developed, and if the evolution is evident in the artwork created. As I am writing, I will be painting as well. First, I plan to bring in a variety of models, for various lengths and numerous sittings, to see how much painting someone repeatedly can change their portrayal, and what the medium and duration do to the image. Second, I will be painting a stranger for 6-8 sittings. I will begin with a portrait similar to the piece Joanna, where the stranger will sit for a live drawing and photos, and they will give me a few symbolic items to include. Next, I will have them sit for multiple live sessions, and include time to talk. As the relationship develops, what does it do to the way I depict them? At the end of the sessions, I will paint them one more time as a large piece and compare the beginning and end pieces.
I am very interested to see how my blank-slate image and my final image will compare, and what I can see of myself in each of these paintings. I have found that when I am trying to push to much of myself onto a piece it will fight me. The painting will sometimes tell me where it needs to go, and sometimes I'm smart enough to listen. It was recently brought up to me that when Joanna showed a friend my work she commented that the piece painted of Jo didn't look anything like my self portraits. I told her it's because I listened to the painting and put less of myself on top and let her essence come through. My initial drawings and panel fought me because I was putting too much of how I wanted to see Jo, rather than how she is. I am curious to see how I deal with painting a stranger, and how I paint them as I get to know them- will the work fight me if I'm putting too much of myself into a piece? Will I notice that I'm even doing that?
What follows were my quickly typed thoughts, trying to grab them all before they left.
Here are some ramblings and thoughts, some questions and tangents on my ideas for my Research Project for my first year…
How much of a self portrait is every portrait that an artist creates?
How much of how the artist sees an individual tell us about who they are as an artist and a person? What does the perspective portrayed tell us about the both the subject and the artist?
What do portraits tell us about the artist? What does what they choose to represent in a self-portrait, and what they leave out, tell us about them? How dysmorphic is a self-portrait?
In my experience, when I am painting a portrait it is usually of someone I know on more than an acquaintance level.
In my large series I plan to work with individuals who have influenced my life, have shaped how I see aspects of the world, and who mean a great deal to me. I plan to include items, symbolic references to elements of who they are as a person, who I see them as, and the things most important to them. Because I am viewing the individuals through our interactions, my opinions, and our connections, there is a filter to how I portray them.
Does this filter reflect part of me in the work? A “Sarah Jane” filter… Which parts are reflections of the artist and which are purely the subject? Is there a way to make an unbiased, completely pure portrait? Would you want to create work where your image is completely absent? I don’t know, I don’t think I would, could.
I rarely work with strangers, but it may be interesting to explore how the images, the portrayals change over a series of sessions and getting to know someone. Does getting to know the individual, the subject, allow for a better portrait? Does the artist’s filter begin to seep into the final products? Does the rendition of the subject evolve along with the relationship?
Will this line of thinking influence my practice? Probably, now that I’ve mulled it over, I want to see if I can incorporate it into my two tracks of portraits for my creative practice…