Thursday, April 18, 2013

Self-Portraits Intro, Words, Images and the haunted.

Here's a quote:
"I never took quite the same kind of photograph again. From that moment on I regarded the taking of a photograph as a personal act, as personal as the writing of a poem — deep and perilous, intellectual and beautiful. A photograph, or a grouping of them, would be as mysterious as this woman and as complicated as my own mind. I would never document anything. I would hope for luck, but I wouldn’t rely on it. I would hope not to diminish things." John Rosenthal

Reflecting on our discussion today and in conversation with Tanya and Erika.

We want to get closer to some straightforward skill and technique so we can ALL feel connected and confident in starting our final self-portraits - and even feel comfortable enough to break the rules of our own ideas of representation. We have decided to use canvas for our final work- Thanks K!

Next week we can just go over a few fun drawing tricks used to create the features of a face. We'll work on larger sheets of paper and let things get a bit cartooney (remember contour drawing is really just drawing the outline/shape of something). I will bring mirrors to look at different shapes on a face, and my cameras in case you want to use them as 'mirrors' for reference.

Please give the idea of 'reference material' some more thought.  You can equally well use books and images of other people for reference - here is a link to Gray's Anatomy Online that I do use often. Or try something from this link to images of facial expresisons, or Franz Xaver M.'s character heads.  I personally like to work from my own photos, even when I incorporate or appropriate the images of others.  I think it is important to be my own reference for representation because it empowers and somehow grounds my own vision and voice in my work-- this was what I wanted to challenge each of you to try in asking you to take your own photos -- You absolutely do not have to.   While a tree image from google, a drawing of a skull from the 1800's, or details from other peoples faces can help us learn about what things look like...using these in our work has a different meaning that partly belongs to it's origins as another's image, and doesn't teach us as much about our own skills and abilities to 're-present' versus something that is originally and uniquely ours to work out.  

Remember we have already decided that a self-portrait does not have to be your face. But drawing faces is still a good exercise and something to learn about in art.
Thank you to Tanya for keeping things real (and proximal)!   I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to work with the SCORE crew and learn so much from working with all of you.

And thinking about our reluctance to be photographed:
and there are often spiritual-ceremonial reasons where an object or event is sacred so it is considered profane(morally wrong) to take a picture.

I think maybe photo's do steal something of our soul or spirit by what they aren't - they are like the opposite of ghosts--the empty image without the animation.* Maybe that's why they make such good references to use as a short cut for observational drawing. Like still life or specimen jars, they help us objectify what we want to see - much less complicated than trying to look at a person in all their "livingness" and trying to get that down as if it were true or even as if I could ever capture You just by looking.  

We do talk about  "capturing a likeness' or "catching the essence" of a person in a portrait...suggesting there was something authentic - something of that person - in what was caught through representation. So for me making artwork,with photography, can be like a re-presentation or even a kind of re-animation of what might have been taken away in that process. It's about the possibilities of things that I want to claim. With that kind of thinking, what we choose to represent, and how we represent are really personal things, so looking at ourselves probably really needs the distancing filter of a concept, an idea, our charm, style or artifice. I think I find that a comfort, the challenge and the reward in making my own way in art. A camera can be a good filter. And without distancing ourselves by being artful about it, the meaning of a work is very immediate, intimate and even a little raw, and as such, can sometimes forget complexity and seem abrupt and too private to share. A splatter painting for example, is a distancing act: it's 'art' is the pretence to unconsidered actions of the painter that result in abstract expression.   

We are all so different, that's why we celebrate eachother's differences in our approaches and ideas to, in this case, making things, even while it is also very helpful to look at how others found answers before us.

Having said all that, and all our feelings aside, I feel artmaking is a celebration of trying and claiming the sound of our own voices. And while it can be a constructive way to reveal, surprisingly, what you're feeling and thinking, it is in the opportunities artmaking provides for capturing complexity and an essence of sharing something beyond words or images - resisting the clear explanation and yet still presenting itself, that gives us value in making representations - however they haunt us with their possibilities.

More on our final project next class then.
Thanks for today's learning.

*Sketchbooks: Maybe photos create their own ghosts, and if so, I wonder where and how they show themselves? Did photography invent ghosts?  A random portrait image from a magazine and a drawing of the ghost it caused would be a neat sketchbook exercise... or even drawings of some objects this ghost may haunt, and think about reasons why.
Also: Try to find examples of humourous, unusual or artful portraits on google images and then try to imagine what the person looks like in real-life. If you want to, you can try to describe this real-life in words.

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