Thursday, November 10, 2011

Self-portrait with textured background

 I have been working out the kinks in a new project I am having my students work on using watercolor paint, transfers, portraiture and working over a prepainted/textured background.  In the process of doing a new project, I will typically create the work myself to gain knowledge of problems they will encounter as well as to have an example of what I am expecting them to do.

For this project, students started by gathering song lyrics, poetry, and images that they could transfer (using a chartpak marker)  onto the page for some texture and hidden imagery later when the portrait was complete. I did not think ahead to photograph my work at this early stage; you can see the transfers through the paint in the image below, they are the black markings, which are actually stanzas of song lyrics and the owl face.
 After the transfers, they were told to pre-paint their paper using watercolors, using the texture technique of their choice (plastic wrap, paper towel, sponge, splatter, salt) and a cruciform page layout, using two colors either complementary or analogous.  I used a dark blue and a burnt umber for a complementary color pairing, with the intention of painting my portrait using a monochromatic color scheme using the burnt umber.
In the image below you can see my painted portrait about mid-stage on the above background.  Again, I wish I had thought to take more photos as I was working rather than when I was done for the afternoon, so my process was more completely documented now.  I began my portrait by painting in shadows using the same blue as in the background and a tiny bit of payne's gray.  Then, I began using the burnt umber and some payne's gray to continue to build a likeness.  At this stage I also used the blue again to define the edges of my shoulders so I did not just have a floating face on the page.

I had intended to have a monochromatic version of my portrait that was unified with my background color and was super surprised as I worked, that by using the burnt umber, I was in fact creating a realistically colored portrait of myself.  
(As a note: this has been a weird hang up for my students.  I am telling them to choose a color from or close to one of their background colors and paint their portrait using a monochromatic scale to follow the values in their photo/face, and then they see mine and say "but yours is real and I can't mix skin color".  To remedy this problem, I began a new portrait (using green) and I have also shown them that the colors I used (deep blue and burnt umber) mix to make a brownish color on an additional sheet of paper.  This seems to have helped and this week in class their projects are coming along beautifully.)
After I completed the portrait by adding in the eye details and adjusting some color in the eye brows, I went back and added more transfers to the background.  I found some gears and cogs, along with a few owl drawings from my sketchbook that I copied on a photocopier so the marker transfer process would work.  At this point I felt like the portrait was finished but I left it at my desk so I could look at it a couple times a day and I felt as I looked at the completed image that I needed to go back into the background one more time with a bit more of the burnt umber and expand the umber color around my head and in the top of the page.  I am hoping to make these additional changes soon, but unfortunately they have yet to happen.  
If I change the background I will add a new image but for now, know it  looks as done as the image below, and that my students are enjoying the project and that it has spread (a bit like a fun and fascinating virus) to include some advanced independent study students in another class of mine who are seeing it done and exploring the process themselves "because it looks cool".

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