3 Years of State of Grace
The new year is an apt time for reflection for most folks- this year was a double whammy for me. Not only did I walk into 2018 with everyone else, but just after New Year’s I walked into my third decade of life. As 30 approached, and since it set in, I’ve been doing some thinking about where I’ve been, and where I want to go. I am grateful to say at this point in my life, both sides of the coin are much clearer to me (as clear as they can ever be for a person at least).
3 years of writing my blog in this format has seen my work through some pretty big changes. When I started creating ‘State of Grace’, I just wanted an excuse to design some magazine covers, write a little bit and maybe make some cartoons. I didn’t have much of a direction for my art, and I was trying some things out. Over the last year and a half my work has made a hard pivot from semi-aimless doodling to goal oriented study and figurative practice. I started this blog as an outlet while working in a field it turns out I’m pretty ill-suited for, and over time I began to find a way to bring more meaning to my work. As that transformation happened, my purpose here changed from just finding a way to make myself laugh to creating something a little more personal and more representative. I still like to make people laugh, and I hope I never stop trying, but I’m happy that it isn’t a last resort against the monotony of coding email sales (and more power to those who actually enjoy that work).
From The Inside Out
As I mentioned in my last post, my family gave me an incredible gift last month- a skull that I could practice forensic reconstruction with. I spent the last few weeks creating both 2D and 3D reconstructions of the face, using Karen Taylor’s “Forensic Art & Illustration” as my guide. Only when I had completed both reconstructions was I allowed to see photos of the individual in life to compare my work to. Out of respect to the individual and other students who will attempt this work, I am not able to share the photos publicly. I will however share what the process was like and some opinions about my first attempt.
The first time you try any new skill is never going to be perfect (however much I wanted it to be), and having seen photos of this individual in life now after creating these reconstructions, I can see where I led myself astray. A lesson I have been learning and relearning since art school is that you have to be able to let go of a piece that isn’t working- no matter how much time you have already sunk into it, sometimes you just need to start over. I hit that point on my frontal view about 3/4 of the way through the process. This was my first time using acetate as a drawing surface, and I gummed it up with too much erasure, leading to the appearance of severe facial acne- not what I wanted to do! After some hemming and hawing with myself and some attempts to fix it with further erasing (you can guess how well that went), I realized I had to let it go and start over.
Compared to the photos, the feature that bore the most striking difference was the nose- I overestimated the downturn of the nasal spine, and essentially left a gap of information where the nasal aperture is located, leading to the appearance of a very wide bridged nose. Overall the face shape, chin and mouth were more or less accurate (I can follow directions- but my best guess needs some technical help).
I was more apprehensive about starting the 3D reconstruction, but in the end I felt more comfortable in this process than with the 2D. The combination of sight and touch makes for a very different creation process, and seeing the face form was much more visceral this way. I began the 3D reconstruction on New Year’s Eve- I had been swapping superstitions with friends and really enjoyed the thought of doing something you’d like to do more of in the coming year to ring in the new year. I also spent a respectable amount of time chasing my baby nephew around my brother’s house- so either way I think I’m set for happiness in 2018.
The process for this sculpture unfortunately began with some not-to-be-recommended MacGyvering on the armature. There was a page in the textbook that told me what I should do (and what I will do in the future), what I did do was build an armature out of things I had lying around my studio. Specifically, a coffee mug and a bundle of #2 pencils. Let me repeat, this was not a good idea at all. In the end, it couldn’t support the weight of clay on the face (you can see my early attempts at counterweighting with hair in the process pictures), in the end I had to prop her chin up on another package of clay, or it would begin to droop. Not ideal.
Reflecting on the final result versus the photos- the sculpture was more accurate in most ways than the 2D (the size of the lips for example). I made a point of not referencing the 2D because I wanted to see how my results may differ in 3D. The sculpture had more accurate features (except for the downturn of the nose, but the bridge was now more correct). The face shape was generally accurate as well, although the 2D better represented the actual fullness of the individuals cheeks. After talking to a friend who has gone through this process far more times than I have, I learned that thinned out cheeks are a common early mistake. This is why practice is so important!
Next month I will have the opportunity to take a class on 2D facial reconstruction and post mortem drawing. While I’m glad to have had the chance to practice on my own before I go into a classroom environment, I’m looking forward to having much more experience and guidance in the room with me.
Later this month, these 2 portraits will be showing at Treat Gallery in New York City. I answered a call for submissions a few months ago, not expecting to hear anything, and I was pleased to find out just after my birthday that my work had been accepted, along with 9 other artists. The theme of the show is “Teenage Dream”- they wanted works completed with at least a 10 year gap in between. I couldn’t have planned these two portraits better for that purpose if I tried (nearly complimentary colors- mirrored expressions!). When I answered the call for the show, I began to reflect on the circumstances surrounding the creation of both works and found uncanny similarities between my life at 19, and my life at 29.
In 2007 I was living truly on my own for the first time, no roommates, no partner to share space with- in 2017 I was adjusting to living on my own again. Living alone mostly means I get to listen to my music as loud as I want, I can paint at all hours, and I get to leave my socks on the floor. It’s not a bad deal for me, really. I recall the creation of the first portrait so clearly- I had just quit working for Starbucks (and kept my apron, this painting will forever narc me out for that- but that’s still the apron I use when I paint today, so at least I’m getting my use out of it), I was listening to a lot of Interpol, and I had about a 3 week interlude where I flirted with smoking clove cigarettes. Mostly I was anxious, college was -a lot- and being an adult was hard, my only outlets at the time were painting and driving my ancient Buick all over creation in the middle of the night. While I haven’t touched a clove in over a decade, I still find I use my art to process and chill out when life gets tough. Early 2017 was a hard adjustment, a lot of things in my life were up in the air, being an adult was still hard, I was still listening to a lot of Interpol. The biggest difference, looking back on both of these pieces however, is that I no longer feel like I don’t know where I’m going. I may not know how I will get there- but that’s all just details.