Friday, August 25, 2006

out of darkness

I'm a working artist, primarily gifted in portraiture. I love the human face and form, and to me it is the best vehicle of expressing the things I want to in my work. I have come to understand that no commission or original work is "just a job". Most people expect, and rightly so, when ordering work done, that the portrait looks like the individual they are paying to have represented. Likeness is primary. But, within the parameters of likeness comes a wide range of nuance of expression. The type of lines or strokes used change this. The color of the paper, bright, dark, neutral, all affects the outcome and mood of a piece. I remember seeing various portraits of George Washington in an art instruction book, and while the features of all were familiar, the projected inner person varied so widely by how those features were presented.

The main issue here in how a likeness is achieved is usually not only the personality of the individual, but the personality of the artist as well. I am having a show in a few weeks, and I sent out flyers as invitations. A very dear friend of mine, my biggest fan probably, called me and asked what in the world was wrong with me. She received the flyer, which was a black and white copy of a piece I had done, and asked me if I was turning to the dark side. (Those were not her exact words, but what she said was on the face so comical I don't want to embarrass her by repeating it). I laughed into the phone and assured her I'm absolutely fine. I had no idea my work had projected such a mood, and others that had received these flyers simply told me they were excited to come and see the show.

But what my friend said stayed with me because I trust her judgment-she sees below the surface of things. So I started another piece of work, a figure, something I wanted to do just for myself. The drawing is almost done, and it's very striking, very well done-clearly a representation of my style, but there was something else about it. The whole body, the lines, the face, the complete picture, was a picture of total disillusion. I drew all day yesterday, and then carried the picture downstairs and put it in the kitchen under the brightest lights in our house, and saw it. The figure was sinking back into the paper as though falling backward. I don't plan perspective-I use my eye because I trust in my own judgment more at this place in my experience as an artist. I don't understand the mystery of the craft, where my very heart pours itself onto the paper no matter what I'm drawing or painting. But my figure is telling me something, like a mirror reflecting my soul. I need to let some light in.


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