I try to occupy the same mood of the subject in order to capture their energy and likeness on the canvas in oils. It is an exercise of the imagination, empathy, and receptiveness of their expression, as if I am in front of them sharing in the experience that is suspended in a jpeg photograph printed out on a piece of paper.
It was through a failure in a particular self-portrait charcoal drawing in college that I learned there was much more to expression and likeness. I had attempted to capture an expression of laughter, but instead it looked as though the face was contorting during an orgasm. We all roared with laughter during the critique, and I had some reworking to do. Minute subtleties of line and shading made all the difference. It was one of the best constructive failures that I could have hoped for as it gave way for more intense study. With every portrait, the challenge is to capture expression and likeness with the same intensity as they would appear in real life, which is why it is so important for me to be able to feel the weight of the person’s energy in order to understand how to make it manifest on a two-dimensional format. People know a fake smile when they see one, and it is due to this lack of inner energy that gives it away. I try to avoid this problem by empathizing with the subject and imagining their personalities throughout the process.
The portraits are often on 9×12″, or 14×17″ canvases which makes for a more intimate viewing like a shared smile for the eyes of a close friend or an inside joke. With the head filling up the space on the surface, there is an implied closeness to the viewer – as if we are in the subject’s personal space. Color is important to these works in not only building structure and describing nuances of form through the guidance of light, but also as a conductor of expression, mood, and personality.
The Box Series is a collection of mixed media compositions (acrylic, ink, graphite, and oils) based on candid photographs of friends and strangers in Portland. I place the figures within abstract landscapes made up of patterns and textures inspired by microscopic imagery and the unique grain patterns found on the wood surface itself. Most of these works measure 8×10″ or less, condensing the patterns and figures into a concentrated format.
By placing the figures into these busy colorful settings, they are like explorers that seem not to notice the mess that surrounds them, but instead they focus on their state of being. I am examining the ever-shifting connections between people – strangers and friends – and isolation with these works.