Tag Archives: a life sized mixed media self portrait

A Piece of Me #05, oil on panel over cotton. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #05, oils

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #05.

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #05.

A Piece of Me #05, oil on panel over cotton. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #05, oil on panel over cotton. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

I can’t believe it, but this panel marks the end of the line. It’s the final oil panel as well as the final panel in the whole project of sixty-four. Soon begins the work of mounting and assembling. And from there, tweaking decisions. I am expecting and welcoming a certain amount of visual dissonance but I also know that (just like in American politics) too much dissonance can destroy the unitive vibration of the whole. So there may be some changes to make? We’ll see. But for now there’s cause to celebrate! The champagne is in the fridge. It’s been almost two years.

So again, this was the last panel. One quarter of my face. For those of you who have been following this project you will remember that in any particular medium I tend to leave the more important/challenging panels for the last. I begin with the abstract compositions, then proceed to the body parts compositions, then the complex figurative groupings, leaving my face (which was cut up into four sections) for the last.

To render this panel I began with the underdrawing in pen and ink over a yellow imprimatura. See above, right. Then I covered the face area with an underpainting of terra verte (green) and let it dry. After a few days I laid in a  clear glaze and set to work, moving from background to foreground. There was: the back wall, two heads of hair and one face. After three hours of work I had achieved what I was looking for – a rendering of the forms with spontaneity and freshness. I’ll leave it to dry and see if anything else begs for my attention. But I’m pleased with what I have so far. If I make further changes they will be small ones.

A Piece of Me #25, oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #25, oils

A Piece of Me #25, underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #25, underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #25, oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #25, oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

The challenge on this panel was simply dimensionality. The man’s pants and sweater were both quite dark, so it was difficult to read where the fabric folds and shadows were. Of course, I could guess a bit, given its placement relative to the whole image, but in any case, I wanted to create interest and motion there. So I introduced that in the underdrawing. See the image to the right.

Thus on the oil level I had three basic shapes to render: the ledge, the pants and the sweater. I rendered the pants in dark gray and reserved black only for the creases and deepest shadow accents. Same with the sweater, two tints of dark green accentuated by dark gray and/or black for the deepest creases/shadows. As it turns out, the buttons on his pants piqued the interest, interrupting an otherwise monovalumatic field of grey (hey, I just created a word!). BTW: those buttons were created by removing paint so as to expose the substrate rather than adding white back in on top (which I avoid whenever possible). It’s one of my pet-painting-peeves.

A Piece of Me #40, oil over collage on panel. 21 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #40, oils

A Piece of Me #40, underdrawing over collage.

A Piece of Me #40, underdrawing over collage.

A Piece of Me #40, oil over collage on panel. 21 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #40, oil over collage on panel. 21 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This panel had some particular challenges to it, both of which were my own creation. The first problem came from the lack of alignment of my collaged panel (created more than one year ago during the preparation phase) to my black and white transposed design. Although (I thought) I had used the same transfer process, my alignment was off by a few millimetres. Well, OK, I’ll live with that, knowing the texture of oil paint can mask things to a certain degree and also that I’m open to whatever happens in this multimedia process of creation. The only real accidents are lack of adhesion or longevity.

The second problem occurred with the absorbency of the black paint tinted underdrawing. Even after three or four days, it’s adhesion to the ground appeared to be insufficient. Parts of it came off when I used my kneaded eraser to erase the charcoal transfer lines (it was too heavily diluted). Since it’s an underdrawing this too is not a fatal error. Nevertheless I did go into this one with some caution, not sure I would be able to salvage it.

The photograph of the completed panel above left is side lit, so the textural pentementi of the misaligned collage are visible. Those (misaligned) highlights are visually fugitive so they don’t really bother me. Additionally, the lighter-than-I would-wish-for underdrawing did not pose a huge threat, either. I compensated by drawing in the white grouting lines for the blue tiles with white lead paint as an underpainting and let it dry. After a few days I was good to go. Thus, in this piece (and the whole project) I am not out to create perfection, but rather, a visually and tactilely attractive assemblage that ultimately will invite the viewer to unify for themselves. And hopefully experience aesthetic pleasure in doing so!

A Piece of Me #44, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #44, acrylics

A Piece of Me #44, underdrawing in ink wash.

A Piece of Me #44, underdrawing in ink wash.

A Piece of Me #44, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #44, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A foreground composition from the whole assemblage. It happened very quickly, but that was because I had already done so much preparatory work.

At the substrate stage I had glued in a collage to reflect the movements and folds of my pants leg. That was a lot of fun and ended up being one of my favourite collages. Then at the underdrawing stage I laid in some black and white washes to reflect the strong value contrasts of the composition, see top right. I covered the whole panel with a coat of yellow ochre imprimatura  and set to work.

I mixed up three tints of gray in addition to the titanium white and began filling in the chiaroscuroed pants. I mixed up raw umber with a touch of ultramarine blue for the deep shadow, then laid it in with a brush and a small celled sponge. I increased the value-intensity-depth of the shadowed side pock-marks to enhance visual interest. After about a half hour I had what I was looking for.

Amazing what a little suggestion can do. Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.

A Piece of Me #19, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #19, acrylics

A Piece of Me #19, the underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #19, the underdrawing in pen and ink.

A Piece of Me #19, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #19, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Beginning to plunge into the compositions that contain figurative elements. In this case, a part of my linen jacket in the foreground, a plastered wall, tips of hands and shoes in the middle ground and tiles receding into the distance.

Primarily because acrylics are so siccative, brush strokes can be hard to mask, that is, if you don’t want them – and generally, I don’t. So you have to revert to other methods. Like the previous panel, I used the painting knife and a small sponge to achieve textures that were not dependent upon or dictated by a paint brush. For example, after freely brushing in the chiaroscuro of the linen jacket (and letting it dry), I used some raw umber on the sponge to darken but soften it all up. The same with the receding tiles. After laying them in somewhat graphically, I used the sponge to lighten and mottle them up.

Additionally, because this whole project is conceived of as an experiment in substrates, the texture of the substrate also needs to be accounted for. In this case I was painting upon a panel prepared with a coat of linen glued to it before the gesso coating. Fabric/linen is perhaps the most favourable substrate for acrylic. The linen easily absorbs the paint as well as its tooth catches the stroke in its weave. This is also true for oils.

In contrast, it’s a remarkably different feel to paint upon a wooden panel with no intervening cloth, just gesso. The stroke is what it is – and receives no additional assistance from the texture of the substrate. For egg tempera this is exactly what you want. Because the egg tempera is so fine and graphical the coarse texture of a fabric’s weave can interfere. Also, if you paint on panels with oils, there is the additional difficulty of actually getting the stroke to actually stick to the slick surface (at the beginning of a painting session a light coat of varnish that is immediately wiped back off before drying helps with that). Anyway, the choice of substrate does indeed play a role in the touchy-feely way that paint performs.

Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.

 

A Piece of Me #39, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #39, acrylics

The muted tonalities and textures of a pattern of floor tiles. Located somewhere in the middle ground of the overall composition.

A Piece of Me #39, underdrawing in pen and ink

A Piece of Me #39, underdrawing in pen and ink

A Piece of Me #39, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #39, acrylic over linen on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of creating this panel was the extent to which I did not use the brush. The lighter sections above and below were done with a highly flexible painting knife, while the dark grey and blue tiles were created though the sequential dabbings of a small celled sponge. It was only the grouting lines (and small touch ups) that necessitated the use of a brush.

So, open textures broken by linear graphical shapes, while neutral grey forms a pretty steady through line. From a purely chromatic point of view some people might feel that grey element to be a bit too somber for their tastes. I get it, but as a tonalist, I feel it creates a peaceful serenity – so I really like it.

Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.

A Piece of Me #54, acrylic over acrylic modelling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #54, acrylics

A Piece of Me #54, pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #54, pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #54, acrylic over acrylic modelling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #54, acrylic over acrylic modelling paste on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

With this panel I began moving into some of the more figurative elements of the foreground in the overall composition. The preparation called for some pre-painting sculpting, so I used acrylic modelling gel. I sculpted the surface according to the elements of the composition: the tiles with their grouted grooves receding into the background on the right, on the left, the chipped plaster wall in front of which you see the undulating tip of my pants leg. Thus, fabric, plaster, stone.

I began painting with the yellow plaster wall. It had already been sculpted but I decided to increase it’s texture by using the painting knife. Then I dug out all the chipped grooves and lay in some gray paint. I painted in a good coat of white on my pants leg and let it all dry. It was already taking shape but the big fun began with the sponge. After blocking off the left side I daubed out tones of gray, raw umber and ultramarine blue into the tile design on the right. Results came quickly. Of course I had to move quickly to reclaim the grouting lines. But instead of leaving the grooves as a tint of the exposed substrate, I came back in with a neutral grout-gray to clean it all up. Pop!

After everything dried I used raw umber to apply some stains onto the plaster wall and to put some volumetric washes onto my pant leg. I’m really happy with the way this one turned out.

It’s very haptic. I could eat it for breakfast.

Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.

A Piece of Me #64, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #64, acrylics

Fifth in the acrylic series. An abstract composition of floor tiles. The painting was executed over a collage that already reflected the design of the panel.

A Piece of Me #64 pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #64 pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #64, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #64, acrylic over collage on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

My palette consisted of titanium white, medium grey, yellow ochre, burnt sienna and raw umber. I used lots of extra tools to assist in creating texture: a coarse sponge (large and small chunks of it), the painting knife and a piece of paper towel (to soak large areas of wash off the lighter tiles).

One of the most enjoyable aspects of doing these panels is that because they are bite-size (basically the size of an A5 or half of 8 1/2 by 11 U.S. letter), each one can be an open experiment in terms of execution. I can create a small unity using a variety of means. This would not be possible if the panel was, say 8 feet by 10 feet. If that were so I would have had to devise special brushes or sponges on wheels and pulleys. The scale then makes this freedom possible. The question then is how the final assemblage will function (also as a unity). But since I’ve done this before I’m not really worried – just curious.

Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.

A Piece of Me #59, acrylic on linen over panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #59, acrylics

Fourth in the series. Muted earth tones of yellow plaster and tile, gray mottled or a light umber.

A Piece of Me #59, pen and ink underdrawing

A Piece of Me #59, pen and ink underdrawing

A Piece of Me #59, acrylic on linen over panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #59, acrylic on linen over panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

At this point I think it’s important to say something about palette. I think a reduced palette creates an aesthetically satisfying painting (whatever the subject matter, or no subject matter at all). In this case I restricted myself to yellow ochre, titanium white, neutral gray and raw umber. I had used the same pigments for the last panel (#49) too. OK, so the composition in either case was not very complex, nevertheless you still want to think about how to create  a unity from the contrasts of hue and value while using a minimum of means.

From a texture point of view, I used the painting knife once again for the light plaster wall. Then I picked up a small piece of sponge to create the mottled gray tile work below it. The first pass was in neutral gray and the second pass was in white. Immediately I had a touchy-feely texture that just needed a little subduing and integration. The darker value of the raw umber gave me a solid horizontal line across the wall/floor crease. I used the same pigment as an echo in the broken line of the front diagonal. Of course, the underdrawing and the imprimatur work to provide a solid foundation, adding interest and depth, kinda like the bass line in a popular song.

Nice. Done.

Description of the overall project here. Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.

A Piece of Me #49. acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #49, acrylics

A Piece of Me #49, pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #49, pen and ink underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #49. acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #49. acrylic on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Third in the series. Still concentrating on background abstract compositions. This one, a plastered wall in the foreground of the overall composition. It’s heavily chipped providing a nice contrast between the yellowish plaster and the gray stonework beneath it.

I began, as I do with most panels in this series, with an imprimatur wash of yellow ochre. Then after mixing up a much lighter tint I used the painting knife to pretend I was a plasterer laying on plaster. I avoided the gray areas as indicated by the underdrawing. Then I lay in the gray cement. The whole design took shape rather quickly: some might have called it done. I set it aside to dry.

The next day I added some white highlight to the plaster edge, giving it dimensionality. Then I added some lighter gray areas to add interest to the concrete. The final touch was light washes of raw umber to reflect the weathering stains on the wall.

Amazing how something so simple can be so satisfying. Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.