Tag Archives: deconstructed realism in portraiture

Anna, Back. Multimedia on panel. 44.5 x 63.5cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

Anna, Back – a Mixed Media Project, March 2021

Anna, Back. Multimedia on panel. 44.5 x 63.5cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

Anna, Back. Multimedia on panel. 44.5 x 63.5cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

I recently completed the back side to this double sided portrait painting. See left and above. The front had been completed in 2011, however for many (mostly technical) reasons, I had not been able to fully realise my original vision until now.

Anna Front. A mixed media painting on panels. 44.5 x 63.5 cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

Anna Front. A mixed media painting on panels. 44.5 x 63.5 cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

The front side consisted of 25 independent individual blocks, which were painted separately. See linked image on the right. However, I had always wanted the back side to present an etherial yet unified mirrored image of the front. That is, an image of the inherent witnessing consciousness of a human being. However due to the piecemeal nature of the substrate, the whole had lacked any structural unity for realising such a vision. So I had to create it. See glueing and framing Anna on my companion blog site atelierartisanal.com.

Original egg tempera underpainting for Anna - Back. 2011

Original underpainting in egg tempera for Anna – Back. 2011

As for the painting of the back, my idea was simple enough. Create a chromatic underpainting in egg tempera as a mirror image of the front, yet lighter in value, say, 50%. See left. Allow that egg tempera to cure long enough – which turned out to be 10 years! (certainly not my original intention). Then add in some white (oil) scumbles (to lighten and unify) followed by a transparent blue glaze (with clouds) to send her skywards. But since ten years of storage had elapsed – as well as the intervening necessity of glueing the substrate together – I had some additional preparatory work to do before realising these plans. You can read about that here.

In addition, texture has always been part of my vision. So, because some of the front panels were textured, their mirror image on the back was, too. That meant that besides the grid, there would be a variety of panel textures. These elements would influence the global glazing in a way that was not under my control(!). Nevertheless, after letting my white scumbles dry, I took a deep breath, lay in a transparent blue glaze and threw in some energetic white clouds for accent. After forty years (of leaving the unpainted blocks to languish in storage), ten years (of curing one level of completion), two months (of repairing) and forty five minutes of actual painting I was finally done. Whew!

I don’t think I’ll try something like this again. Ever. 😉

Two birds, inseparable companions, perch on the same tree,
one eats the fruit, the other looks on. The first bird is our
individual self feeding on the pleasures and pains of this world;
The other is the universal Self, silently witnessing all.
From the Mandukya Upanishad 3.1.1

Anna Front. A mixed media painting on panels. 44.5 x 63.5 cm or 17.5 x 25 in.

Anna, Front – a Mixed Media Project, May 2011

Anna #09. Encaustic on wood panel. 9 x 12.7 cm or 3 1/2 x 5 inches.

Anna #09. Encaustic on wood panel. 9 x 12.7 cm or 3 1/2 x 5 inches.

Back in the 1970’s, I did a series of “tiled paintings” (what I now refer to as Deconstructed Realism). Principally the idea is to break up a found image through exploring the different media that have traditionally been used to create art. I did three such projects at the time, and was preparing to do a fourth, when my direction in art and in life changed.

However I had already asked a local carpenter to cut twenty five identically sized hardwood blocks for this new project. I had envisioned it as a double sided painting so I asked him to drill a hole exactly down the centre of each panel. I pictured five rows of five panels each that could swirl interactively, front to back, somewhat like an abacus. Well, that was my idea back in the day. Still, I set it all aside, packed up my little blocks and moved out west to explore a new chapter in my life.

Anna, #16. The mixed technique over pretextured relief on wood panel. 9 x 12.7 cm or 3 1/2 x 5 inches.

Anna, #16. The mixed technique over pretextured relief on wood panel. 9 x 12.7 cm or 3 1/2 x 5 inches.

Fast forward about thirty years and I finally decided to pull those little blocks out of storage. I still wanted to use them to create a double sided painting and decided that portraiture would be the best genre for such a project. But I had not decided upon any particular subject until a friend of mine (Anna) became seriously and unexpectedly ill. My choice then became clear. I located a photograph of her that I liked, secured the copyright and set to work.

Anna #08. Egg tempera over a presculpted relief on wood panel. 9 x 12.7 cm or 3 1/2 x 5 inches.

Anna #08. Egg tempera over a presculpted relief on wood panel. 9 x 12.7 cm or 3 1/2 x 5 inches.

For the front panels I used the mixed technique (a hybrid of oil  and egg tempera), Dorlan’s cold wax tempered with oil, encaustic (hot wax), and egg tempera. Some were pre-treated with collage elements while others were textured with a light relief. Still others were left untreated ( before the application of the chalk gesso ground). They all were painted in a full chromatic range as well as a full value range of values. See the detail images included here above, left and right. This front side was completed in 2011.

The back side has now been completed. You can see it here.

The assembled piece measures 44.5 x 63.5 cm or 17 1/2 x 25 inches. When framed it measures 50 x 70 cm or 19.6 x 27.5 in.