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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pill Study

The series I'm working on is about the things that frustrate me.  It has been pointed out to me that for the last couple of years I've been having 'happiness' issues (as in, 'lack of'.)  I've started painting after a long hiatus to try and at least try and creatively articulate my problems.

I used to paint in the 1980s fairly extensively and showed at minor galleries, restaurants, etc.  My dreams of Art School had been shattered in the mid 80's when the warehouse I was living in was broken into and my portfolio of work (including photos and negatives of work,) was ripped up and urinated on by vandal/thieves.  Everyone's a critic.  I was also just breaking into the Austin music scene (having moved here from Tallahassee where I'd been happily playing in bands for years,) and they stole my bass and amp.  Nevertheless, I'd forged on up until 1988 when I had 8 canvases (that I really loved) hanging in a bistro near campus that closed in the dark of night with the owners disappearing with all the furnishings, including my canvases.  At that point I decided to take a good hard look at my painting.   I came to the conclusion that I frankly didn't know how to draw.  I was using a lot of media tricks to hide a basic weakness in figurative drawing (I'm a decent draftsman.)  About this time I entered the tech industry and re-focused all my creative energies on sculptural robotics.

Decades pass.  I age.  My occasional back problems become constant back problems.  My constant back problems start needing surgery.  I end up in the second decade of the new century with a neck full of titanium and a ten year relationship with my pain management doctor.  Essentially this means vicodin punctuated with steroid epidurals and the occasional surgery.  I'm functional, but I don't like needing the meds.

Last year I decided that I needed to really make an effort to develop some outlets that I could do as my functionality waned.  I'd been doing Akido, Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu, Cha-Yon-Ryu and other martial arts to keep focused, but my last fusion surgery but an end to that.  I picked up Andrew Loomis's Figure Drawing for All It's Wroth  and Jack Hamm's Drawing the Head and Figure and committed to at least 45 minutes of pencil drawing every day.  I decided to disallow color and paint for at least 6 months.

I made it 4 months until I started painting.  The previous post was my first canvas, this is my second.  In my set of frustrations, meds figure fairly highly.  I tried a bunch of different ideas in pencil and watercolor before deciding that it's all about the moment of popping the pill.   There's a degree of relief as soon as you know you've put it in your mouth.  Completely psychological, but that's the interesting part!

I started by taking an arm's length picture of a fresh pill in my mouth.  I took a dozen or so, this is the one I liked best:


I like to compose and play with palettes on the computer (hey, I'm a software architect for a living, I'm good on computers.)  I worked out the part of the image I liked and gridded it to get a handle on the relationships.
I amped up the saturation on the colors and played with the contrast.  From this I did a freehand sketch onto the canvas:
and worked it until it had the layout and detail I wanted:
I then started laying in the shadows and blacks.  I'm an acrylic painter and wanted to try working in glazes for this picture.
Next I had to get the tongue working right.  I used a combination of glazes and pointilist dots to get a 'dithered' feel:
I used a gold metallic acrylic to paint the many many gold teeth I have.  (I love my gold crowns.)  After this, I painted a base skin tone across the rest of the canvas and then added different shades of red glaze to do the lips and cheek skin.  The mustache and beard were quick lines of black, brown, white and grey since my actual facial hair seems to come in every shade of hair known.

I ended up with this, a 16"x20" acrylic on canvas portrayal of me and my meds:
The Flickr page for this painting.

Cheers,
--Tim

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