A Year in the Life
So as I explained in the previous post, I am currently working on a series of portraits that began as one idea but have morphed into another. In the start, the plan was to paint one portrait a month and each painting would be titled as the month it was worked on. The first one, seen here, is my friend Emily Long, a NYC collage artist who posed for me in my Harlem apt (this was actually the second time I had painted her in this apt!) The month was September 2016, and Emily sat for me twice in the week I was there, and then I finished the portrait in my Maryland studio with the aid of a photo reference. I try to use a photogrpah as little as possible, and then only for general ideas like shapes and forms, but I have found that the balance between the live model and the photo seems to work well with me. Sometimes what I'm looking for can only be founbd with the person right there in front of me, and other times I need the privacy and solitude of my studio to get it right.....
So anyways, Emily's portrait was titled "Sweet September", it was September 2016 when I started and October by the time I finished. So then I moved on to my October model, my friend and fellow painter Tim Hoyt, as seen here:
We started working on this in mid October, as the November election was really heating up and getting closer and closer to it's outcome and the air in the city was palpable with anxiety. Because of the news, and because I was genuinely surprised to find myself having the pleasure of painting Tim (he was a fairly new friend at the time and I was very excited to get to have the whole experience of painting, posing, talking, etc with Tim, and it was as great as I could have hoped for) I decided to title the piece "October Surprise". Like Emily, Tim sat for me twice and the rest I finished in my Maryland studio. I made up the pattern of his shirt after seeing this lovely painting by Vuillard, one of my all time favorite artists. His work leaves me speechless, and always thirsty to paint patterns pattern patterns.....I love to be inspired by the work of others and generously take ideas from any art I see that gets my mind thinking. I suppose some people can debate over this, but I believe that is the whole point of creating, to pass the desire and spirit along so it holds up over time.
Well, by the time I had finished "October Surprise" we were well into November. I had even started the November portrait, however, Tim's face was proving to be very challenging and I must have made almost a dozen attempts with no success and was getting very frustrated. Then I went to Omaha in mid November to visit my Nephew and his family and his wife took me to the beautiful Joslyn Art Museum with it's incdredible permanant collection and I came across this painting by the amazing Robert Henri:
Henri was an astounding portrait painter with his loose application and richness of color. His work is realistic but the application is abstract. Thick, loose marks of paint come together to produce an image, it's just incredible...and as i stiood in front of this piece and looked at the face, especially the eyes, I felt something click insode of my head and I KNEW I had Tim's face finished, all I had to do was get to my studio, Which I did as soon as I came back home and that very day the painting came together. Something about the looseness of Henri answered the problem I was having in my mind and that was that. I love the way Tim's face came together, I love the somewhat vapid look in his eyes, which captures Tim's easy, young, artist nature. Actually, this piece is currently in a group show at the Circle Gallery in Annapolis and one of the guests at the reception commented on how Tim's face resembled the face of an Arabian prince - lol.
So it was at this moment, as I was finishing Tim and starting on November, and the news of the day with the win of Donald Trump was so overwhelming, that I realized I was painting portraits that would co-incide with the first year of his presidency, starting with the few months prior, and ending in his 7th month. It seemed necessary to apply this into my art, and the way to do it was coming to me easily, it was not feeling too contrived (a little but yes because it will always be contrived if there is a pre-existing idea involved) and I had to contemplate on this. It's a tough dilemma because you want your work to be relevant, to make people think, to make a statement that refelcts who you are and what your beliefs may be, but at the same time it's such a fine line because it can easily become too obvious, too contrived, too much about the iidea and not the work itself, which is somnething I am NOT a big fan of. I had to consider and make sure that putting the idea behind each portrait would not in any way make the portrait suffer and be a weaker piece, as that would be severely damaging to the series and just not worth it.
Well, I will end this post at this time, but I will continue again soon to go through the process of intertwining a specific idea into an idea that originally was more general.