Sunday, August 1, 2010

First = Paper

First = Paper
Graphite on paper, 9x12, 2010

Carrie-Ann wanted to give her husband Steve something special for their first wedding anniversary. But the traditional  first anniversary gift is paper - you know, new couples starting out, new lives, you work up to the glitz and glamour slowly.  That made it a little more difficult, as they are already established in their lives. So what could make a good paper gift?

Carrie-Ann and I work together, and she had seen my renditions of other co-workers, so she came to me with her idea - a surprise portrait of the two of them. 

Surprise? Hmm - normally I take photos of my subjects - which I couldn't do in this case.  No problem - here are the wedding photos, but there's a teensy catch - he's not smiling (enough) in most of the photos. Aha! Here's the perfect pose - where he's signing the register.

Now what about Carrie-Ann? There were a lot of nice shots of Carrie-Ann, she has a great smile.  But none where Steve was also smiling. No problem - found the perfect shot - she's even facing the same way !   Out comes the handy-dandy PhotoShop, and I cut and paste the two head shots together and Voila! Now I have a great couples shot to work from, and it stays a surprise.

It was fun working on this commission.  Normally I draw single portraits only, so I was a bit nervous about this.  What would happen if everything went well until the very end, when I might mess up on the second head?  I wouldn't be able to save the first one, and would have to start over.  I was on a deadline, and wanted to do a really good job of this for Carrie-Ann because she's a sweet person and this meant a great deal to her.

I started with the eyes on both people - the eyes are the windows to the soul, right? - and then went to work from left to right.    Personally, if I could be assured I wouldn't smudge, I would have bounced around on the page, but there was no way I would chance that.  I didn't want my hand smudging everything, so there had to be a method to my madness.  I worked on Steve's portrait for a long time, getting it just right. Done! Now it was Carrie-Ann's turn. 

Here my speed went from a comfortable cruise to a crawl.   I was sooo careful - I couldn't afford to make any mistakes (at least not ones I couldn't erase), and I could NOT smudge Steve!  It was my biggest challenge to date - conquering my trepidations and getting on with the job.

When I felt I was done, I brought the artwork and the reference photos to a group of fellow artists and asked for a critique - had I missed something? Had I emphasized anything that I should have left out?

New eyes are such a boon - when you have worked on something intensely, you don't always see what is right before your eyes. Their comments allowed me to see where I could touch up tiny areas (believe me, moving a line 1 mm makes a big difference sometimes).  I added the finishing touches, and then had to steel myself to leave it alone.

I'm a tinkerer by nature - there's always something more I can do, or so I tell myself.  It's how I do portraits too, usually - work on a bit every day.  That way I satisfy my 'tinker-ness' and look at the image with new eyes each time I approach it.  (I don't do this with my abstracts - they're a frenzy of creation that can sometime last 10 hours straight before I take a break).   But this was hard - every time I looked at the work I thought - what about that spot over there? Maybe it could use....  NO! Enough!  I rushed to get the piece matted so that there would be a barrier preventing me from tinkering with it. 

 I delivered it to Carrie-Ann, and from all accounts Steve was very surprised, and likes it a lot, so I'm happy. 

In the end, this was an exciting journey for me.  A triple challenge - two heads, tinkering controlled, and satisfaction (mine and Carrie-Ann's).  I'd like to think I met the challenge head on and came out the other side a better artist and in better control of some of my 'quirks'.

What better way to keep life interesting, eh?

Happy long weekend folks!

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