I've been creating a slew of self portraits lately. Mostly very quick studies with Logwood Iron Gall Ink I made with a conservator friend. A couple paintings as well. The one on the easel I continue to work on. It may end up being a dud of a painting, but because of its shortcomings, there is a draw to fix it and heal its wounds. It is more modeled than seen in the picture now and I'm running into a wall as to how to proceed past a certain stage of visual information. The approach has to change. The difficulty of a moving object is adding to the troubles. One of the things to be said for continued investigation is that I'm noticing the design and linear elements are picking up. Think of the way a Bronzino or an Ingres pulls the eye through the forms, into the outer contours and back in, giving a sense of volume and how heads and bodies create circles and ellipses. It is a weird mixture of observation and a subconscious desire for these symmetrical forms. My portrait is far from either of these masters, but there is something happening in the shaping of the head, hat, hair, collar, that gives me insight into how those painters gravitated to that mode of visualization.
The thicker painting below, was a curiosity about playing with the body of paint. I tend to paint thinly, but am always aware of the way paint behaves with viscosity or with medium. I've never been drawn to flashy brush strokes but there are painters that use thickness in a way that intrigues me. Rembrandt, Ribera, Vermeer (strangely enough), and more recently, Auerbach. There are the contemporary painters like Ann Gale, Alex Kanevsky, and Catherine Kehoe that in some way are mentally present for me in the way that the flat color construction or the application can bring the awareness of painting as marks more directly into the experience of looking. My painting looks terribly over worked for me, in that so many areas of texture are not serving a purpose, but there are anomalies that are exciting as well- the stroke on the forehead that breaks the line of shadow from the hat, the stroke line of the glasses on the left side, the randomness of the marks in the background below the ear. I think you have to pay your dues to gain some experience on how to work with something, so failure is a necessary companion.
I used to have an olivetti typewriter from the 60's that i stupidly got rid of. I was looking on ebay to get another one, but realized I had a royal companion typewriter from the 40's in the basement. I can't remember how or where I got it. The typewriter makes it feel like what you are writing is important, because you actually have to work to put it down. Snail Mail is a great thing as well. To know that the actual piece of paper is traveling from your space to its recipients space and was in planes and mail trucks to get there is pretty cool. The letter with the self portrait sketch is to Fred Dalkey, an ex-professor and friend, that I will have a show with in April in Rhode Island. Fred sent me a self portrait of his a couple years ago, and I need to return the favor. The letter was on rice paper. The furriness of it allowed the ability for the brush to ride on the surface to get a half tone.
Here is an updated version of the painting on the easel as it stands today.