The response to The "Unselfie" Project has me excited, nervous, thrilled, anxious, giddy... All good things, I think, when you're working on something new and something you're passionate about. In addition to observations and critiques, I have been receiving lots of questions through comments, messages, emails, and phone calls! I love the questions because they challenge me to focus on my intent and provide me with an opportunity to see things through the viewer's eyes.
So, since there are many questions that keep popping up, I thought it would be a good idea to put the answers to the "frequently asked" all in one place...
The layers of "Stevie"
What is The "Unselfie" Project?
How did you come up with this idea?
The "Unselfie" Project is:
The unselfish desire to see beyond the "selfie"... To learn more about the layers of personality behind the photo.
This project was born from the idea that everyone wants to be seen, not just looked at, but really seen. This project is a way for me to combine my passion for painting with my passion for kindness.
The layers of "Casey"
Where do these faces come from?
With a few exceptions, the faces come from "selfies" that were posted to either instagram or facebook. (I also feel it's important to mention that I ask permission to paint their picture.)
How do you come up with the words that go with the paintings?
The words are a very important part of the project, they work in tandem with the painting. People are so much more than what you see on the outside, or in a single photo. The words describe the things you may not be able to see, but that are (some of) the qualities that make the person unique beyond their physical being.
The layers of "Lisa"
What size are these paintings? Are they on canvas? What is your technique? What medium do you use? How do you create your backgrounds?
All of these paintings begin on an 8" x 8" square piece of 140lb. watercolor paper.
I begin each "unselfie" by writing (with an ordinary graphite pencil) about the person who I am painting. It is a way for me to set my intentions for the piece, and they are the same words that accompany the finished painting. After I am finished writing, I start adding some colors that remind me of the person (usually with watercolors or watercolor crayons). Then I start playing while still thinking about the person... Just as each person is unique, so is the process. Some of the techniques I use in my background layers include: drippy writing (of more words inspired by the person), finger painting, stamping and stenciling (I like to cut my own stamps and stencils whenever possible), collaging papers that mean something, more painting... I just like to build up lots of layers.
The face is painted using shades of paynes gray (acrylic). When I paint a face I start with a quick sketch (in graphite if the background is light, or white charcoal pencil if the background is dark). Then, I roughly paint in the values using a (fairly wide) flat brush. I keep going back in with successively smaller and smaller brushes until I'm finished. (Adding detail to the eyes is always the very last thing I do.)
The layers of "Patience"
What is the point of creating so many layers if you just cover them up anyway?
I love this question! The layers add depth, both literally and figuratively, to each painting. Just like it takes many layers of personality to create a whole person, it takes many layers to create each painting... Sometimes the layers peek through and you get a glimpse, other times the layers are hidden beneath the surface...
The layers of "Jenny"
Why aren't the faces in color?
When I was in college (many years ago!), I was taught that paintings should start with an underpainting (a monochromatic value study). My professors explained that the better the underpainting, the more depth the subsequent painting would have. We always added color, sometimes limited color, but we always added color on top.
It wasn't until very recently that I realized there is a beauty in the underpainting all on its own... And for this project, leaving the underpainting "as is" seemed very appropriate... The "exposed" portrait in shades of gray set against the vibrant background layers creates a contrast that adds even more depth to each painting.
Thank you so much for all of your comments (and questions!) about my paintings... I am so excited about this project, and all of your interest helps keep me motivated!