I had to take a couple days off from this painting to let the paint dry. Today I focused on the heads of each girl. It is somewhat tricky to make a mask read as a mask in a painting, but I think I’m getting there. Even trickier is that source material that I’m working from: an aged, water-stained Polaroid. Depth of field is not a Polaroid’s strong suit, but I’m figuring out ways to make the painting its own thing. The more I work on this, the funnier the image is to me. At first, I was a little thrown each time I walked into my studio to see this creepy clown head, but now it delights me to no end. It’s like Karen, the five-year-old Karen, is a Borscht-Belt comedian. Take my wife, she says. Please, she says. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.
A few years ago, I told my little cousin Jackson that I can draw anything so long as I can look at it. If you want to be seen as a magical wizard to a little kid, you should tell him this. The same is true for painting, and this picture is day one of a commission I’m working on for the album cover art for my friend Karen. She sent me a polaroid of she and her sister, wearing a pair of hands-down the creepiest Halloween masks ever, from when they were kids. The photo is so old that she mailed me the whole thing, frame and all.
It’s a strange feeling to spend an afternoon intensely focused on someone else’s family photograph. There’s something so intimate about family snapshots. But even when they’re not your photos, everything in the pictures feels familiar. Even the framed picture of Beethoven, which I have somehow managed to make resemble John Belushi.
So this is the painting I have been working on this week in between finishing the Gary painting. As I wrote yesterday, I approached this painting a little differently than usual. In the first photo, you can see that I sketched it out much like my other paintings, but that’s about the only similarity to my usual construction process. In the second and third photos, you can see that I blocked out basic colors and shapes. By eschewing the details, I could more easily see the composition of the painting. In the fourth photo, I started putting in more and more details. The main red wall of the left building took me the longest. It may seem weird, but the hardest thing to do is paint a wall that and make it look like a wall. The actual building is old and weathered and has years of billboard and broadsheet residue built upon its surface. Rather than go for realism, I opted to aim for an impression of the look of the wall (in a little “no-shit” aside, this is what the Impressionists did.)
Here is where the painting is right now:
And that’s it for today. I’m happy with how this painting is turning out, and I think I learned a lesson in patience. If I let the image unfold gradually, rather than cram all the detail in from the get-go, the painting process goes a lot smoother. And that, kids, is learning.
It may not look like it, but I worked on this painting for around ten or so hours today. It’s been raining here nonstop since Sunday, and so I got down to the studio at 8 and I came upstairs at 8. (I’m taking two hours out of that workday for random Penny play sessions.)
Everything was repainted today. I concentrated on indicating the light source and making it really feel like a hot, miserable midwestern summer day. I sharpened the lampposts, added cracks in the sidewalk, and tried to make the shadows in the trees seem believable. I think I did other things; I’m a little tired.
Total aside: you know what seems oddly old-fashioned? Diplomatic immunity.