Friday, January 31, 2014

Painting Myself? or how Art Journaling became Imagined Portraits.

So, the selfie isn't the most becoming picture. But it's the only one at the right angle I could find!
A friend saw my paintings and asked a good question.

"Are you painting pictures of yourself?"

Now, at first, I was confused. Most of my paintings don't look much like me. I mean, sure, they are usually paintings of brown women, most often with big, natural hair and huge earrings - style characteristics I share. But when I look at them I don't see me. In fact, I don't really think of who they might be until after they start to form on the canvas or paper.

But after she asked, I took the question and interrogated why I started painting these imagined portraits in the first place.

I was suffering (do suffer) with insomnia and a vascular issue that made it ten times worse. I was already painting abstracts in the middle of the night to quiet my mind. I found painting, as opposed to reading  or writing  (which I do a lot of professionally and personally), relaxing.

One of the other things I do in the middle of the night is surf the internet and look at craft and art blogs. There is this huge online community of women mixed media artists who use art journaling to create diaries, understand the world, vent frustration, and quite a few create awesome art. Faces figure largely in the genre.

What I noticed when I tried to replicate the many techniques and tutorials was that my imagination was decidedly darker. I wasn't interested or motivated by beautiful flowers or butterfly fairies (don't get me wrong I like that sort of art, I just don't make it). And my faces were always dark faces. So very few of the art journal/mix media types on the net right now are women of color who paint women of color in their work. The craft meets fine art elements of art journaling appeal to me.

So, my paintings emerged as failed attempts at art journaling - inserting brown faces into the themes and canvases typical to the genre.I ended up imagining portraits of dark women as decorative, interesting, both deep and frivolous. I started imagining these as pictures on my fantasy gallery wall (one day, I will have a house full of art!).

Now, does it mean that all my paintings are pictures of me, because I paint them with similar themes and and they are black women that share features? Nope. Not at all. But I think I am compelled to paint them because I have a deep need for a widened imaginary when it comes to the decorative art I put in my own home and that my daughter sees.

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