When I started working on the painting that led to this series, I did it on a whim. I didn’t expect to be starting a new series, I didn’t expect people to get it, or for it to resonate with anyone; I just wanted a way to experiment with some new imagery and some elements of abstraction, in a way that made sense with my own version of realism.

Once I was working on the painting, I started to see that it had the potential to do more. Honestly, I was surprised with the response I got, people got it. For me, this is a total extension of the same elements I have been using for a while. The pixelated skin tones, the text, and the graphic elements of color. The same things that have earned me such a divided response in the past, have finally gone somewhere that seems to connect with a wider audience. Which, I suppose, is good (Even if it doesn’t fit into my overall theory that the response to any art worth looking at should be hated by AT LEAST half the people that see it).

Beyond that, I really started to see that this project had the potential for bigger things. People were excited to volunteer to model for the paintings and, as the reference photos started coming in, they started to reveal things more interesting than the models skin.

I think I have laid out the idea for the project a few times before but, before I go any further, let me explain what I asked of the models when they agreed to participate. I am just going to copy and paste directly from one of the emails here.

The idea is to do a painting in two panels that pair a painted translation of an image sent via text/email, with a more formal portrait done in the studio. The first image is intended to feel like a snapshot that someone would send to their romantic partner if they were out of town. So, kind of a sexy/cute photo that you take of yourself. Since I want this to feel like a private moment that is not meant to be seen by the whole world, some hints of nudity definitely help but, it doesn’t need to be anything too wild, as long as the picture feels like it was not meant for the world to see. I’ll take this image and edit it so that it looks a little bit distorted and glitched, so it feels as if it has been saved and sent many times, and then use that to make a painting. I am hoping that this will evoke feelings of lost identity and lost control of the sexual image. The identity of the model is then revealed in the more traditional portrait of the second panel, allowing her to reclaim ownership of the images of her body.

First image will be painted from a photo taken by you and emailed/sent via text to me.

Second image will be done primarily from photographs taken in the studio but, if you area available, I would like to do a couple sessions working from life.

Beyond the vague instructions that it should be a, “kind of a sexy/cute selfie” I gave the models very little instruction.

What came back was really amazing.

Despite being fairly anonymous figures with mostly hidden faces, the images were incredibly revealing about the people who took them. Everyone had very different takes on the concept, everyone took on different rolls in the photos, everyone had features they hid, and features they favored. The images did a better job of telling stories than I ever expected, they brought life to the whole project. (So, thanks for being awesome.)

Here is my first (mostly) complete full scale attempt at one of these. At the moment, I am having a hard time focusing on anything except all the small changes I want to make in my approach for next time but, I think it is getting pretty close to what these paintings need to be, in order to work. I am going to bring a lot more photo realism into the rendering of the text message image in the next one (and tone down the glitchy effects overall just a bit) so, maybe that will put it all over the top.

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life

So far, I have had five people volunteer to help with paintings in this series. I am not sure exactly the final form for project but, I am feeling very optimistic about the project as a whole, despite the fact that I have a hard time looking past the small changes I want to make in my approach.

If anyone else wants to help out with one of these, definitely get in touch. My goal is to do at least ten of these paintings so that I might be able to hang them all together for a show.

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