Two weekends ago I was about half way through the previous self-portrait when I had the idea that I should do one for my parents. For one I had never really been big on keeping art: I was more interested in the next piece and there was often enough distasteful about the final project that it wasn't a problem. So that means the decade of art that I did there are no artifacts of. That really isn't the point. The point really was that two weekends ago I was doing all of my Christmas shopping and I realized I could do a picture for my parents. I guess this kind of was the point because it should be the sort of thing that they could hang on a wall somewhere. Something they could touch and feel and somehow have me near by.
So the obvious choice was to do a family portrait. The picture I used was from two Christmas Eves ago of the four of us (Dad, Mom, myself and my Brother). It's a good standard picture.
The issue: fucking around your own or a stranger's picture is one thing. Fucking over someone else in the name of flattery is a whole other issue. Yeah, this kills any experimentation and winnows down your choices to basically doing a fair representational tract. The whole point is to avoid this conversation:
Person, dumfounded, "Oh... nice. Who is this?"
Person, looking back down at the painting "Oh...," looks at you with fake grin on face "It's- good!"
So starting off I had to make sure that everyone looked approximately the way they do in real life. This is kind of complicated by my working from a 9" by 6" photograph (It's kind of hard to set up a painting and scale when working from such small confines). Even blowing it up blurred things. And this was complicated by the photograph being kind of busy (stuff in the background) that could take away from the focus of the painting and make it all too busy. It was complicated further by the figures being backlit... so you have an odd reverse lighting effect. Basically it wasn't the optimal source to work from.
Finally, I had seven worknights to finish it (from last Tuesday to Thursday, taking a break as my boy was in town, and then starting over until I leave for my parents' on Friday). This meant I was going to have to take shortcuts and couldn't get hung up on A being out of scale or not the right color. I guess I could have worked and worked at it until the product was completely polished but there really wouldn't be an appropriate time to give it to them until next Fall. I'm always keen to choose speed over precision. I dunno, maybe its the wrong choice. But then there's always the next painting-
So in five evenings, about nine hours of work I got this. It's a 2x blowup of the original and it turned out pretty well. I captured my parents and my brother really well. My Dad and my brother had a nice oblique pose that had the light hitting their faces interestingly. My Mom was a bit more difficult. I was the hardest as I come off a bit flat... but I did in the original picture as well. The clothes where all simplified- cleaned of most textures and lines and reduced to primary shapes. Again, if I was working from a larger print it would have been much easier to capture the nuances of the image. There just seems to be a point where that is a losing battle. The painting is good at a distance. It seems to lose something under close scrutiny (although I find that very feature intriguing itself). The results reminds me of the images from the late 70's that seemed to be in all the science journals and textbooks I had. It was a sort of quick elemental realism: the image is composed and feels right but it somehow sacrifices a bit of its truth.
The apocolypse background might have something to do with it. Ok, maybe it doesn't look like fire. Maybe it looks like those bland billowy backdrops you get at Sears Photo. But it still seems to change something about the picture to make you say "This is not how it happened". Yeah, I cut out a Christmas tree, a picture in a frame, and a doorway. The background seems to be plausible enough to explain the lighting. And I think its a good combination of colors. Unintentionally there is a top to bottom complimentary color things going on.
It turned out well. It should be an adequate gift. It is definitely no DeKooning... which is a good thing.