I am asked often why I paint faces with so many unrealistic colors. I want to answer this question with another one. How is that someone can see a face when it is painted this way and furthermore see the expression on this “face”? This is what interests me. When I crack the plaster medium I use, I am looking for someone. I have an image in mind when I start, but I let the more or less random lines and cracks and the resultant sections guide me and challenge me to find a person within the constraints of what is given. So the painting never ends up being what I started with. The process leads me to discover someone previously unknown.
When we look at someone, our eyes take cues from points on the face around the features. We also define and remember the outline of the face, the angle at which it is presented, and eventually the hairline, neck and shoulders. We make contact with the eyes- the proverbial windows to the soul. So, as I begin painting, I experiment with these cues, trying a feature one way and then another. I try to stay within the framework of the plaster polygons while I work. Each one is painted with a separate color and one at a time. Little by little I can see the identity of the imaginary person on the “portrait” step forward and introduce him or herself to me. I get a strong sense of someone looking back at me, or perhaps looking intently at something I cannot see.
It is a very curious thing to experience a kind of consciousness emerging in such a way. I think the apparently random colors and lines enhance the experience of working to understand the person we see. I use the same color here and there as I detail the face. The colors sometimes seem to group in an array. One group emerges and then another group comes forth. Certain small areas take the form of an abstract painting all by themselves, then reintegrate into the whole. This creates for me a sense of movement. Just as we can watch someone’s face in real time change slightly as their thoughts progress, we assemble and reassemble the parts of the painting to acquire the entirety of a stranger’s image.
Each painting is an exercise in working through this process. Our mind’s eye is constantly creating and interpreting and this is what I am doing as I paint.