This was a quick piece done for an exhibit at Works/San José show, Unity In Diversity. This theme relates to a graphic design project by San Jose State BFA student Javier Yep in 2017 that included a “unity in diversity” flag. This particular call asked for self-portraits and biographical work.
While I’ve used myself in a model in some works, that’s not usually my first choice. I don’t find self-portraits an especially effective path for introspection for me; I am comfortable enough in my own head and processing the visual layer is extra noise. I’m white, and see enough people that look like me in art. And I’m a white woman, and white women in particular are overrepresented as art subjects. Yet they are also underrepresented as artists themselves – so I’ll do self-portraits mostly for the sake of participation in shows when that’s the focus.
I thought about a show of portraits and figured a little variety would help (doesn’t need to be a sea of heads), so I used a part of me I see all the time: my hand. I’ve painted a lot of hands this last year so it feels very familiar now. I picked my non-dominant hand for ease of sketching. I used a limited, saturated palette to emphasize the colloquial description of “white”, and also to emphasize my alarmingly aqua veins. That also led to some spiffy two-gel-light looking edge detail that gives it a nice ’80’s vibe too.
The squares behind it are a pixelly/patchwork representation of the range of tones of my “whiteness”, which on reflection, became a study of body weirdness. I think of pink because I burn easily and have a little rosacea. I think of brown because I get a touch of melasma from sun now. I think of a light blueish on my palm at the base of my thumb. I think of a disturbingly cream color when my toes go numb when it’s cold. It ends up being a survey of details to contrast with the reductiveness of the style of the hand. That, or it simply looks pleasant; really, it’s both.
Here’s a foray into abstraction that I made a little while ago and just recently put up for sale. Inspired by the flame effect of these frames, I created a couple of illustrations in ink and colored pencil based on a painting I did in college. The painting was about the death of Baldur, a Norse myth, and like many Norse myths Loki is in it causing some trouble. I represented Loki’s shapeshifting nature and destructive actions as a kind of cubism on fire.
It had been a while since I’d made the painting, and I found these illustrations had a notably different style even though I had the same approach in mind. I haven’t done much abstract work and I’m finding it to vary quite a bit when I do. While the painting felt rough and smokey, these feel streamlined and slightly Joan Miro-ish.
I also realized I go back and revisit the same themes periodically. These Lokis are based on an earlier painting, and the colored pencil box I have has a painting I made from the story of Ye Xian which I also painted on a scroll in the Chinese folktale series.
Last one in the Harvest series skews tropical with papayas. This ended up being both the biggest fruits (only four on here) with the smallest details (little black seeds).
I changed up my approach on this one and worked pretty evenly across the whole thing. This also has the most variety in colors of the set: dark green and black for the seeds, yellow and orange for the inside, and yellow, green, grass green, and a clay color to desaturate the skin.
3rd of 4 in the Harvest series – avocados, cut open to show off the green insides and shiny pits. Same approach as the others: start at the bottom and slowly develop a pattern along the way.
These are made with Prismacolor colored pencils, and on this one I used seven colors total: green and yellow for the insides (blended with ivory), grape purple and grass green for the pebbly skins, and brown, dark brown, and yellow (blended with ivory) for the pits. It took a try or two to figure out the right appearance for the pitted halves.
Another fruit in the Harvest series – this time, a little pile of blueberries. This one’s more of an experiment in subtle patterns within a dense texture. I varied the amounts of blues and purples, and tucked in the stem area here and there to aim for something random-looking but balanced. I also made the front/bottom area a higher contrast and slightly bigger so it would give a proper sense of perspective.
Like the persimmons, I started on the bottom and gradually worked my way up. It got a little tricky to avoid a pattern that was too regular. Some areas started to get that fishscale-like regularity, and I found the best way to avoid that was to jump to different parts of the image while laying out the initial blueberry outlines. I think the hand (and eye) tend towards patterns that are both (1) regular in frequency and (2) trailing off in whatever direction you write. It’s the same issue with writing sentences on whiteboards, though (annoyingly) it can happen even on a tiny scale like this. Sometimes the best thing to do is to keep interrupting and switch to something different frequently to insert the randomness yourself.
Here’s a bright little drawing of persimmons from memory. I drew this with Prismacolor pencils to experiment with blending techniques to replicate the muted sheen on the fruit. To get this look, I lightly filled in layer of orange and red and/or brown around the edges, and then pressed hard to blend a peach color for the sheen and orange for the rest. The leaves are a mix of two shades of green, ivory, and a pinkish brown.
I started with the fruits at the bottom and completed each one before moving to the next because I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to add something else in here (a pixie in hiding? a knit fruit? a glass ball? make one float up?). I briefly contemplated an Escher-like transformation of the leaves into birds. I ultimately opted to fill it in as you see because I liked the visual rhythm.
I’d started this illustration a while back during a Two Buck Tuesday event at Kaleid Gallery, and felt compelled to finish it now that we’re well into fall. I’ll be taking it full circle and bringing it back to Kaleid for the annual HARK! Holiday Show and Sale in about a month.