Thursday, December 20, 2007


Except for the cheery snowmen, I haven't painted in over 2 weeks. There is no better cure for being down than taking a pen or a brush and letting it go on the paper, but the catch is that sometimes, when you are in such a mood, even that seemingly tiny amount of energy is too much.

So, I didn't paint.

I no longer fight it or force myself, as for me, art cannot come on demand. As simple as that.

On Monday, the plumber came to save the irrigation on our front lawn from its gloomy status. And he was one cool plumber! with incredible face, dreadlocks and a cap; when his wife joined him, with her own super-long dreadlocks and a hair band - I could not contain myself. The JohnnyB understood immediately, and gallantly went on a photo-documentary quest of "the work", trying to capture them, with little success. After all, how DO you take shots of people working on the pipes without looking like some freak?

"Why don't you ask them for permission?".

Aha! 'cause once you do, they start posing or being very self-aware of how they look and act, and the magic is gone. Since I am after the essence of people rather than what they look like, photos taken with permission are not quite painting material. It's gotta be sneaky.

As WackieM, the famous face hunter, says, "Well, accept there will be photos you'll never take, and be grateful for the ones you do get".

I gave up, and drove to Trader Joe's to get groceries. Stuck behind a long line of cars at a red light, I saw a man at the end of the block, waiting to cross the road. An old man, with a walking cane and a bag in his other hand, wearing a coat. He had a very long white beard that enjoyed a life of its own, dancing in the cold wind, and a white turban. He looked so out of place, that in my current mood of displacement, I couldn't help wondering how he is feeling, an undoubtedly traditional man, living in the midst of hi-tech.

Other people would just go on wondering and move on. Not me - I snatched LumiB (blessing the long red light), zoomed in with the 12.5X power and took a shot. Too far, damn it! He started crossing the road, getting nearer, but the light turned green, the cars started to move - - - consumed by the frustration over the plumber's face, I was determined to get this one! and so, driving with my left hand, I snapped another shot. Not having time to zoom in, his face ended up occupying only about 1% of the photo, needless to say no details of his features, hardly any notion of light and shadow on his face, except his beard and his turban, that from that distance, seem to have melted into one shape.

Not an easy call, as I am not yet a wiz in making up the details.

I let it sit for 2 days, and yesterday decided to go for it, using WackieM 3-color-lottery challenge again. This time, the dice had an interesting combination for me: Perylene Maroon (a gorgeous rich dark red color that I love), Ultramarine Violet (OK...) and Phthalo Yellow Green (an almost acidic color, that soooooooooooo doesn't go...).

I decided to use the
Tyvek paper that I got from WackieM 2 weeks ago. Yes - Tyvek, as in what is used for mail envelopes, water intrusion barriers on houses and coveralls for workers. Yes, you can paint on it! Hated it to bits in the first 5 minutes, as it behaves very differently than traditional watercolor paper, but as I got used to it, I was in love! Not only does this paper has an incredible feathery texture that adds interest, it is also very forgiving, as you can lift paint and go back to almost white (or a ghost hue of the lifted color).

OK then... what do we have here: an indecipherable face, a non-trivial color combination, and a new kind of paper. Is it wise to tackle all these at the same time? Of course not, but - as The JohnnyB would be more than happy to assure you: logic was never part of the deal.

FoodieP emailed me, "Be it sooner or later I’ll be eager to see your post of the bearded man". Ok then, here are my first 2 attempts. Both done with the same set of colors mentioned above, plus black to achieve darks, on Tyvek paper. Click to enlarge.

Studies for "Displaced", Watercolor on Tyvek, 9" x 6"




FoodieP said...

FoodieP here -- I love my moniker (in Japan my friends say I have a "kitchen fetti" (fetti being short for fettish in Japan).
Sorry the ur down-ness persists but I have to say ur attempts at the Sikh r fab -- esp considering u did the paint color lotto as well as tackling tyvek!

RHCarpenter said...

Well, both of these are wonderful! You touched just a hint of the yellow-green in there and it works and shaped the face well on the Tyvek, too. Sorry you didn't get the dreadlocked pair (maybe another time?). Do I see writing in the 2nd portrait in the background?