Monday, August 12, 2019
The last update that I provided on this painting occurred just as my family was moving out of our previous house. The great thing about my previous house was the amount of space that I was able to use as a studio, and it was a bit of a shock to move into a space that was less than half the size. Working on a painting of this size presents some particular difficulties in a smaller space. Thus, progress has been slow but steady. Recently I have been trying wake up a few hours before everyone else in the house does to work on individual sections before I go to work. Some weeks I am more successful at this than others. I never thought that I would be able to wake up and work in this fashion, but I went to a few 6 AM Jiu Jitsu classes and had the realization that if I can wake up early to exercise then I can wake up early to paint. I am trying to finish this painting up within the next few months. I'm including a selection of different images throughout the evolution of the painting in the new space.
Thursday, August 8, 2019
I have been interested in making a work of art with blood for a long time. Marc Quinn's blood portraits were extremely striking to me as a young artist. I saw the work of Jordan Eagles in 2007 which was beef blood poured over white plexiglass and they had beautifully rich red tones. I met the artist Allen Hampton a year later and saw some of his blood drawings which demonstrated to me that it was possible to control it as a drawing medium. The problem has always been acquiring the blood to work with, which always seemed like more of a hassle than it would be worth to me. Additionally, working with blood is such an extreme medium, I believed that it required a particular subject matter that would work in concert with the material. I serendipitously acquired both the concept for the drawing and a supply for the drawing material around the same time.
This concept for the image arose from a session of joking around with my advanced oil painting students, when I thought of myself gleefully, lovingly even, looking back a skeleton as I give it a piggy back ride. I thought that this would be an interesting approach to creating a momento mori, which are typically much more meditative and somber images that invite the viewer to consider their own mortality. In this piece I have greeted death as a friend, and lovingly carry them along with me.
To create this piece I used cow's blood. I did what I could to try to separate the water from the hemoglobin, essentially I was trying to saturate the red pigmentation of the blood. I tried a few things, but nothing really worked. I suspect that I might be able to increase the red quality of the blood if I am able to obtain extremely fresh blood, however to do this I would be required to perform certain actions that I am not prepared to do at present. So in the meantime, I used a watery solution that was difficult to control and darken. The only way to darken the solution is to build up multiple layers, however it is not a material that lends itself to layering. You can also see how the color of the blood changed over time, initially appearing as having the orangish glow of transparent iron oxide. But as the iron in the blood continued to oxidized it took on a colder greenish brown tone, similar to a raw umber.
After I finished the initial drawing in blood, I felt that it didn't quite capture what I wanted to with either face. So I layered some color pencil over both figures. The color pencil creates a sense of reality, but the flatness of the drawing is emphasized by the simplistic approach to the rest of the figures. As the figures move towards the bottom of the paper, the color pencil fades away. All in all, I have to say, this piece.... it means something.