“No Hat #310″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) December 8, 2017. $100 USD plus shipping.
After I posted “No Hat #310” on my FaceBook page yesterday, former Bitch Media culture reviewer Jim Burlingame commented, “Awesome! I’d love to read a breakdown of your artistic choices, with each stage of a painting like this.”
So, I replied.
Whenever I take a break from painting, which is usually only a few days, it always feels like a significantly new time or phase is about to begin. I feel a lot of pressure to do something good so that there isn’t a kind of comparative downward sense. I knew I wanted to use a different subject and move away from the women I’d been painting, but I didn’t have anything in mind, until I saw a screengrab I saved from footage around the same era as the Rolling Stones paintings I did.
It was a very blurry black and white image, very low contrast where the features were mostly obscured – very different from what I’ve been doing which is all very brightly lit faces. I wanted to use something other than black for the darkest areas – which I painted first, before the lighter areas of the forehead, nose, upper lip and cheeks. To a certain extent, I usually paint eyes, nose and mouth to look like those things, but with this one, I’m painting light into the dark to give the sense of mass and contour, so I went back and forth cutting in with the warm skin colors, then back into it with what turned out to be black and not some slightly warmer color. Overall, it became more about looking at all the components together at the same time to see how believable it was in terms of what would be in shadow and what would be catching the light with a singular light source from above.
I frequently use blue in the background because it recedes, so it can help a painting like this, which is about what pushes forward out into the light. I did a bit of what John Singer Sargent did and made the right side of the head (his left) – the hair – a hard line and the other side softer. To make it softer I painted a thin layer of the background color over the dark , but I want to indicate that the light wasn’t simply cutting into the dark there, that the light picked up another color around the hair and that was the warmer color – a purple because the hair was made of black with red in it and the blue of the background with red makes purple. As soon as I had that purple in I knew I wanted bright yellow for the clothing percentage of the surface because purple and yellow are complementary. I couldn’t wait to get the yellow on the panel, but then I muted where the purple was so it wasn’t reaching out and working with the yellow, but more as a hint under the blue, after that I adjusted the darkness on the face and it went too dark and became like a stylized silhouette, I’ll call it for lack of a better term, whereas I wanted it to look like it was someone in a certain light, not a stylized image, so I needed to alter the intensity of the black coverage – but not by changing the color or cutting into the black with the skin color. At this point I knew I was going to take it to the sink and use a scrub brush. I kind of checked in with my confidence level and quickly noticed no apprehension (a way to describe a sense of assessing that I’m not about to do something reckless for some other underlying reason). I also knew I needed the paint to be a certain amount drier before I got it wet or it would just run off out of control, so I got the hairdryer on it and recognized how much this part is based in experience, having gotten to know the paint and how paint of various thicknesses and wetnesses will behave when I get them under the tap. I knew which areas were set and which were vulnerable to the water. I was thinking about other disciplines – like cooking and baking – during which various consistencies have to be achieved during complicated processes.
I used to do a lot more at the sink, removing a lot of the paint in frustration and experimentation, but water from the tap has become much more of a tool as I’ve become more experienced. Sometimes I do it just to loosen everything, as a final step in what might have been headed towards over-painting.
I ran it under the tap quickly and pulled the scrub brush (a nail brush, actually) over it once and got the lines I wanted. I walked back to the board allowing the water to run off the surface, watching to see what was happening on all areas. I mopped up some of the water carefully with paper towel and got the hair dryer on it again, and felt very good about being able to add the final gradation, the alternating values of light and dark, around the eyes and under the nose. Oh, and the swipe of paper towel moving the paint horizontally off the left is a compositional addition.