This piece clearly involves quite a bit of splatter. In the late 80’s and through the 90’s, I used to do some pieces like this – colored mostly by splattering. They take a while – though this one is fairly small and didn’t take too long – about two months overall, but really maybe 8-10 sittings a couple hours each (during which I would paint on this and alternately on a couple other pieces). There’s one built-up-from-splatter portrait of Kathe Kollwitz (based on this photograph of her) that is hanging in my mom’s living room right now. Kollwitz is one of my favorite artists – check out her work!
My frequent reader will remember the splatter theme from past posts here and here, though this images takes it to another order of magnitude. The geometric grid/boxes on the right border may be familiar too – these are sometimes a sign that I am covering up a mistake. In this case, the image was very symmetric (too symmetric), but not quite placed in the middle of the page. So I could have either cut the page or enlarged the image or left a big uneven margin.
I started with a drawing of a face, which was done in India Ink (no pencil underneath.) As I began to put down watercolor washes to color it, I began to add some splatter (watercolor, with some India Ink.) I started to like the effects I was getting – especially a fairly opaque light blue that I was flicking into to fairly dark warm areas. I kept splattering until I started to lose track of some of the drawing, then I reiterated the drawing in ink, and then splattered and then inked and splattered again and again. By the end, I was lightening some areas by splashing whites, Naples yellow, regular yellows, and mixtures of these. As I reinforced the black lines, they became thicker and more splattery. As some of the hatching shading became obscured, I added it back… though the last layers are paint, so the ink recedes a bit.
Here’s a close-up of the area below the man’s right eye. I think that these close-up scans are interesting – so I will try to include more of them in the future.
What is interesting to me about this piece is that it’s actually not a very good drawing to begin with. Had it been a better drawing, I probably would have been more gingerly in coloring it. Because I thought that the drawing was kind of boring (symmetrical, cliché), I had no qualms about experimenting and obliterating much of it. I had nothing to lose… which, for me, is a good place to come from with art. I think it’s good when my creation doesn’t get too precious.