Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hay Consuelo! (Painting)

Hay Consuelo! (2009)

I'm sitting here in my office with Willie Nelson Stardust ("Blue Skies" specifically) on the turntable. It's the first thing I listened to on it, buying the LP during the holiday so I'd have something to listen to (and with my order of Snares Sabbath Dubs and Ricardo Villalobos Sini Es Drum on back order through Forced Exposure) and I always liked this album. We'd listen to it in my Mom's old Chevette, the red one with the vinyl seats that were sticky hot and where the metal buckles would burn your legs if it sat out in the sun too long. But the music I painted the above to (mostly) was Pier Bucci's Familia album. I did that first, well, because I think it's a stellar little microhouse/techhouse/minimal techno album. But also because the source image I found was from Chile.


I'm not that original. Often whatever the hell I'm listening too becomes the title. In this painting, the title fit. The look the young woman is giving is what caught me originally. Yes, I prefer the voyeuristic image for the simple fact that the posed image is often trite and dumb. Posing for photographs usually reduces any individualism from the image, subtracts the moment and instead you are left with just more of Everything Else.


The photographers on Flickr are twice as bad about posing. Its all Art with H1 tags, garish colors and all that else. Lil Fatty at work last week admonished me for calling some of the folks we work with Nominal Analysts (since they seemed more interested in playing Jack Ryan instead of writing anything with the insight to warrant merit).

"You have to call yourself something before you become it," was his reasoning.

"Really?" I thought. I could have sworn that title came after deed. You only get to call yourself a doctor after a whole gamut of things, not upon entering med school.


The photography on Flickr can be just as naval-gazing. It's all folks with cameras and too much time spent at home and not enough out in the world. The basic logic seems to be "Finally, I can show myself in the light I was always meant to be seen in". But all you're left with is something souless and trite. At most there is simply a gimmick (365 days of photos is a popular one). But they are never any document. You look at them and only see a fleeting fancy. No statement.


And so while I am more compelled to paint the voyeuristic street photography people have on there, now and then you find something that goes against the rules, the source for this painting being one. Another name for this would be "Why so Arch?" as the first thing I liked about this was the look on the woman's face. Scanning back over what I've painted before, most of what I've gotten to paint so far has involved folks with neutral faces. Look here, look there, light falls from overhead, ambient light from below. That's it. But the face can have so much to it, paradoxes, crossed purposes.


The look our girl here has the one people give after giving someone (our photographer)grief and getting an exacerbated "Can you please be serious?" It is childish playfulness caught for a moment. You can see it in her arched eyebrows, and smiling cheeks juxtaposed with her chin slightly offset and lips tightly pursed. She's biting her tongue. For now.


It's a personal look. You don't share glances like this with your boss. Children give it to their parents. Old married couples share it. Girls give this look to boys. Often (and it doesn't bother us one bit). For our girl here the look breaks open the narrative of the image. She's got the "Goddamn it I wouldn't have come out like this if I knew you were going to take my picture" casual going on (bandana with her hair pulled back). I guess she and her boyfriend had gone down to the shore, wandering around, for what?, they probably don't know. And they stopped and, sitting on a guardrail, looked out at the sea. That I was able to capture this look, a look she only gave him, and now share it with us... I'm pleased.


The image is made more interesting by the weather. There's all of this light (morning? Since it's Chile I'm assuming winter light and if the ocean is to the West then its gotta be dawn-ish) but then these menacing huge clouds over the town. The big sort of romantic clouds Caspar David Friedrich would love to paint. And then even further out, this unbelievably tranquil blue sky. I over-exaggerated that sky and underdid the clouds... in the process making it less of an artifact but underlining one of the things I really liked about the image.


One thing from the original that I wasn't able to capture was her scarf: in the original image its this eye bleeding magenta. Sadly I tried about a dozen fucking mixes and couldn't get a single one to pop. Curse of Acrylic? Maybe. Or its quite possible all the blues I have are too dark. Likewise I really hate Medium Violet. It has the visual consistency of oatmeal. And anything you mix it with soon goes to a hideous gray. So I instead continued most of the color work I had on her face down onto a more red-dominated scarf. Not at all realistic and doesn't capture the color combinations of the original, but still interesting and an adequate save. One thing that doesn't show up here is the amount of texture it has. That's always the one thing you can get by going to a museum that pictures never have: the weight of the strokes. In that way painting can be a 2.5 dimensional process. The fabric of her cardigan thing seems to have worked well. I originally was going to stencil every cord in the fabric but found this way looked better (sort of doing a Valasquez-type thing). I saw that the left arm of her jacket has more of a blue tone but I decided to keep it. I dunno, there's something on how it breaks the uniformity and the expectation that I like.

The ground worked in a similar way: its actually a bunch of smooth shore rocks that, goddamn it, I'm not going to fucking paint. So you have to find an out. This was complicated by the big shadow cast by the guardrail she's sitting on. Having a solution that doesn't work there would be obvious. A three level go with dry brush and the result is what it is. It "ghosts" well. The town is very Edward Hopper to me, with its simple lines and cool blues. The original image was described for all the color in it. Looking at this the one thing I wanted to avoid was making something where the color was flat and that whole aesthetic was lost. Instead I think it remains, with something else separate here that rewards the eye looking at it. I'm happy.

With this painting I've officially run out of material to paint on. I'm thinking I might move to something BIGGER. Not too big, but maybe some custom canvas. I've got a couple pictures that almost seem to require it.


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