Today I will tell you about this piece I am working on:
This is another one that started many years ago. I started painting a lady on a leftover piece of mat board. Somehow I am drawn to drawing and painting ladies. It’s the outfits that I enjoy so much, wanting to embellish them with jewels and finery.
I used to think “This is not art with the capital ‘A'”. This is just my fooling around. “Real” art is more serious. I try to escape this trap whenever I find myself thinking this way, when I start worrying about what others will think or whether a piece be “the” masterwork that makes me famous (overnight of course, without any legwork). I have come to the conclusion that this is a way of denying the “me”. This “me” needs to come out. So what If I am not a great artist. I am still the best Sharon V. Passmore on earth.
The first time I really saw the truth of this idea was years ago in life drawing class at Honolulu Community. We had a homework assignment to take a large sheet of paper, I forget how big, maybe 36 x 24, and fold it several times creating multiple sections, and do a drawing in each section. Well, it was due tomorrow and I had not started it. I thought to myself – “hell with it, I’ll just draw anything in there”. My brain turned to default setting and I started drawing ladies, line drawings of ladies, with their hair flowing one to the next in evenly spaced lines like furrows. People, you know what? I got the best response on that piece than anything I had done all semester. Wow what does that mean? It means that being overly concerned with other’s opinions and criteria is deadly to my art.
This is also one reason I shy away from planning too much, but that always comes around to bite me in the butt.
So there was the scrap of mat board and so I guess I approached it in a freer state of mind and started painting a lady. This is another piece where I let my son have at it. He was about 8 at the time maybe? I don’t remember. I think when he got hold of the paintbrush he intended to ruin it as a way of teasing me. He painted wildly, giggling the whole time. He and I played back and forth on the face and at some point I gave up trying to make a model beauty.
This part is the only bit of the old painting remaining today.
Last year sometime, I took it out and started contemplating it. I don’t always know what my work is about at first. I let my work tell me what it’s about. So, I was looking at this, and in the face I saw all kinds of pain. My mind was planning what I would do with it to make her beautiful again, what of my objects I would glue on, what types of paint, and should I use paint that is metallic and meant for craft projects because that’s not for “Real Art”, and I saw that I had to leave the face and the pain. I have come through with paint markers and neatened it up a bit, and glued on the rhinestones in the eyes but this is quite the same as it looked 16 years ago only cleaner.
As I started working, the painting was telling me that it was about the contrast between the superficial and the depths; the glamour and the hopeless; the desire for love and the belief that we are unlovable; what the world values and the value the world does not recognize. It seemed altogether appropriate that this is made with candy wrappers, Mardi Gras beads and glass pieces from a discarded Christmas garland among other things.
After a while the texture became an issue. I didn’t mind that the face still showed some texture from previous mess-arounds, but now I wanted the rest of the painting to contrast with the face and therefore I did not want the cloth of the gown to look messy in any way. It had to be fakey perfect to conform with the idea of superficiality. The problem was that the original layer of paint had raised dots on it. These dots did not relate to the form the dress was taking on now. So I went through with Elmers Glue adding more to make the pattern of raised dots more uniform.
Another problem is the Shoulders. To be consistent with the fake perfect idea, I wanted the flesh to be powder smooth. I started out with paint but it got a bit overworked. Then I got to thinking that mat board is pretty thick, so I took my Exacto knife and cut way the top layer. I was pleased with how cleanly the layers of paper separated, giving me a nice smooth new ground. Then I screwed it up again and *sigh* cut away another layer. (It was a royal pain cutting around all those strips of candy wrapper in her boa, let me tell you.)
Now I have a relatively deep recessed area. Then it occurred to me that I might flow some very liquid paint into the depression. My theory was that it would find it’s own level and dry perfectly smooth, perhaps even bulge a little from surface tension, creating a rounded shape. My first attempt didn’t work so well. As usual, I was using what I had on hand which was a mixture of pearlescent white, acrylic craft paint and paint from a beige tester of acrylic wall paint. Luckily it shrunk when it dried, leaving me some depth to play with so I will try some experiments first before I screw it up again. It needs to flow to fill the recess and I want a slight satin sheen to it to play off the matte of the gloves. (That area has been cut away too.) That’s what you get for doing things bass-ackwards. I think though, if I take the time to do the experiments and actually break down and buy some sharp blades for my Exacto, it may turn out alright. If all else fails, the next thing I will do is cut away that area entirely and put something behind it, maybe some fabric and stuff it, maybe something translucent. Translucency might have an interesting relationship to the carnival lights in the background. After resolving this shoulder area I will put down a few more strips of the red candy wrapper to make a nice edge between shoulders and boa.
The board itself needs to be squared up. Why didn’t I do that first? Hell if I know.
The worst bass-ackwards thing about this piece is the black background. The original black of the mat board had a bit of a dusty look. The texture was very apparent. I wanted it blacker. Of course, I didn’t address this before working on the foreground! Oh no! It was just some fooling around on a leftover scrap of mat board, remember? I have made the situation even worse by trying to get it blacker with a wax crayon. So now I need a solution that will adhere to wax crayon. I tried melting the crayon with a lighter but it’s hard to get in there and seriously melt things when there is all that tinder glued to the surface. I guess it’s time for some more experiments. I really need to get into the habit of experimenting first. Maybe there is some subconscious self-sabotage going on here. Maybe I can get in the habit of working directly and spontaneously but being prepared to step away to experiment when I need to. Maybe when the studio is organized my method will be more organized too.