13 Jan

Man or Mask?

I spent this holiday season in Nashville, Tennessee. There I have a 20-year-old cousin who has one of the coolest weekly rituals of anybody I know in my age group. Every Thursday, she and her roommates all get together and paint. Doesn’t matter what kind of painting you do or what it’s about, just paint. I hadn’t painted since my sophomore year of high school, and decided, to test my ability, to see if I could replicate or come close to a painting I did that year that was a monochromatic self-portrait. The result is the above painting.

Obviously it doesn’t look like I do now, or really like me at all, but mostly I was just trying to see if I still knew how to properly render facial features. I had no reference photo. I had recently watched a video of a painter who did a portrait and started by painting everything the color of the base shadow and then painting on all the highlights around it, so I sort of mimicked that method which is why it’s so dark.

The paints are acrylic. You have to work fast if you want to do any kind of color blending with acrylics, because once it dries, it’s done. So there’s a lot of working with multiple brushes and even dry brushes to effectively blend spots of paint while they were still wet. I spent a good hour or longer going over and over again with new layers of shadow, highlight, and other tints and shades.

The eyes are completely blacked out because after a while, the face started to look like some kind of plaster mask, and I find masks and their figurative connotations really fascinating, as anybody who knows me recalls my love affair with the image of the masked Mexican luchador. Thus, I decided to make the eyes look like they were cut out.

Spending so much time writing, it really felt liberating painting for once.  Sometimes the creative impulses of the mind don’t willingly bend themselves to the medium of your choosing, or, sometimes, you burn yourself out using the same method repeatedly. It’s like how, sometimes, if you KNOW another language, you miss speaking it after a while if you haven’t spoken it.


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