My grandma’s apartment shrinks me into a child. When her carpet is beneath my socks, my center of gravity lowers, the little boxes on the tables as close as they were when my head didn’t extend far above them as it would now if I hadn’t shrunk. I open all the boxes the always-taller people don’t notice, poke my head in the room where my great grandma used to live.
On a recent visit to my grandma’s apartment, I snapped this picture of my cousin, aunt, and grandma talking on the couch. I love these women so much and have many memories with them and in the room where they’re sitting. I wonder how my affection and experiences with the people I draw effects my arting process.
I usually draw based on photos I’ve taken or from someone/something I’m in the presence of. I’m interested in drawing people and places I know, feel for/with and remember. When I draw for commissioned works, I research to create a connection to the content. [I’ll explore the commissioned dynamic in upcoming posts through the lens of processes for a few recent installations. (Much love to all those who support art and artists.)]
In addition to the effects of resonating relationships, my perception of the longevity and deadlines around a piece frame the way I approach a project.
I started this drawing as a gift (gesture? is it presumptuous to give someone your art?) to the subjects of the painting. Though I took the picture in November, I only had about 10 hours in December to draw. Basically one night, December 23rd.
I put so many feels into this drawing. I like what I made for them in the time constraints. Sometimes when I art with a deadline, I wish I had another day or two.
I drew the source photo in Photoshop on a 12″ x 9.5″ canvas, assuming I’d print it out as 8.5” x 11” or 8” x 10”. In the past, I’ve started all Photoshop projects at like 300% scale because I thought that would improve their quality. I learned this is not the case while working on the album cover and booklet art for the Affection project. The fine line details I put in looked haphazard when condensed to their actual CD case size.
Even if the canvas isn’t much larger than the planned result, the zoom function in Photoshop tends to distract me from the reality of printed proportions. Amber’s face is the most complicated because that’s where I started, and then realized I was overcomplicating the shapes. I kept the work, but moved forward with a different approach.
I’m getting better at looking at the bigger picture, which can be problematic when painting IRL, but with digital drawing it’s not too much fuss to adjust initial miscalculations of proportion and placement. I study the image for the most prominent shapes.
I always want to zoom, even if it’s not an option, pinch my thumb and index finger together and then spread out. For this piece, when I zoomed in on the faces of my family, it was difficult to disregard subtle shadows. Grinning smiles are particularly difficult for me right now. To draw what I see and not what I know. Teeth should be white, right? The gum line, the lips, the spaces between teeth. All these elements I name I need to learn to forget. Just look at the colors and shapes. Here’s a different family portrait I’m working on where I just filled mouths with pearly whites. Looks weird. I’m not sure it’s what I’m going for.
I’ve done a live drawing of my grandma before, and she made comments about some proportions, said something that was more critical of herself than of my artwork. I kept this in mind for this piece. Made sure her manicure was clear on display.
When I showed my mom a draft of this, she said the shadow beneath Grandma’s nose looked a bit like a mustache. It took me an hour to figure out the shadows in less than a square inch of canvas. Art is funny.
These preoccupations stem from thick of love and friendship I keep in mind when drawing other people, especially those I know and love. This is a gushy post, and it’s not even the half of it.
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Check out my previous exhibitions here! (It was a busy 2017!)
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