I know it has been a while since my last post.  I finally had a procedure done last Friday that has been waiting since Covid-19 hit and over the last few months really needed to be done.  Doing better, but once again having to give up something I love to consume, Jalapeno peppers.  It seems like I only give up things for medical reasons (Kosovo, alcohol, ice cream and peppers), there you kind of have a creative portrait in words of me. I give up things for only when it is medically necessary, not true I gave up cigarettes because I only started them because of a girlfriend and when I gave her up, I gave up cigarettes.

Elizabeth / Tea Garden, 1995

Let’s talk about creating a name or portrait.  I say creating a name and a portrait in the same sentence because when I make a portrait it is kind of like a naming ceremony to me.  In the naming ceremony, you don’t pick your name, it is given to you by an elder and they ask you questions before they give you one.  You have no idea what questions they will ask you although you can assume they will ask the one about your birth order. 

Different elders have different questions to figure out what is appropriate for your name, but eventually it comes down to there are only a little over 400 personal names to give out.  If you were to try to “push” for a certain name, you can bet the elder would give you a different name just to spite you.  You are supposed to allow them to select your name and in so doing they choose one that respects you. 

Portraits should be that way, too. This first one (Elizabeth / Tea Garden) is of an adopted daughter of the publisher of the magazine my Mom was editor of.  I could tell you the reason I chose to select putting her image with this one of the tea garden, but that isn’t what I want to talk about.  This image is a print where I put two negatives in the enlarger at the same time to try to find a composition that worked together. 

That sounds really simple, find a negative of a person and find another negative of something that fits that person.  It’s not that simple with negatives (digitally it got easier) as not all negatives are made the same and even if they were they may not fit together because of something called grain density.  So, you match a negative of a person up with a number of negatives and one-by-one you try them out in the enlarger, remembering that you are looking at them in negative form, until you find the right fit for a composition that will make sense.

This one was made more than ten years later (it is not Elizabeth, but rather someone I was close to).  Both images were shot on film: the portrait in black and white and the flower in color.  In the old days you would not have been able to have done this one because color negative film had an “orange layer” (actually grains were on separate cyan, magenta and yellow layers and there was always residue from those layers that did not get removed in the developing process).  Long story short, mixing a black and white negative with a color negative did not work in color printing the black and white had not “orange layer” and of course there could be no color in the black and white printing process (well, there is tinting and cyanotypes, but not true color).

That means this is a digital creation where I could blend the images to where I liked the images.  Doesn’t that sound easy.  That was the first step as you can see the portrait is superimposed over the flower.  Next, I had to erase away the portrait to leave only what I wanted of it for the desired composition.  I can still see where I accidentally erased on the flower layer instead of the portrait layer.  People say they don’t see it, but it is the first thing I see whenever I look at this image.  The precise erasing step that I could probably go back and fix, but it’s kind of a signature or watermark.  Most viewers don’t even realize erasing was the biggest and hardest part of this portrait.

Blanca / Mask, 2018

This one is similar, but Layer Blending has become much more advanced and creative in the ten years between these portraits.  There are actually two different color images (digitally photographed) but it is three copies / layers of the portrait (one in color, two in black and white) and two copies / layers of the daylily (both in color).  By erasing different portions on different layers I was able to creatively expose / compose this portrait.  Personally, I will never stop experimenting, because to me when you get into rote habits of how you do something, that something becomes a gimmick that blinds you to possibilities.  I don’t experiment to experiment; I experiment to see possibilities not yet tried.

I love pulling this one out and having people stare at it.  People at first believe they are looking at a mirror reflection and that is the first reaction I wanted them to have.  I love it when they then realize that both halves are not exactly the same, then people guess I used twins.  Good guess, but wrong, in fact the first guess was closer.  The photograph was flopped when put onto the “canvas” (digital workplace), then when I started digitally painting, I was able to manipulate the separate halves in similar but different ways thus breaking the mirror.  To me, this is me giving you a reflection where there are possibilities that say the reflection is altered or created to tell you the lake is magic in which this reflection is made.

I still enjoy my paints (and pencils and markers).  People are always saying I could do something very similar digitally.  Yes, I understand that, and you can give it an imitation of painting over a photograph, but if the viewer is half-way aware they can see the difference.  To me it is better to make several prints and then be willing to risk some of those prints so that my process is distinctly in/on the print.  How the paint covers up (I especially liked this one for globbing the paint on the eyes) or the pencils (in the hair) doesn’t cover but is semi-opaque as it is color in a wax medium over the print then I smudged some paint with a palette knife over that.  These are things that can be approximated digitally, but when done by hand give that uniqueness of a painting.

Portraits and names should be unique and treasured.         

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