Kate Kiernan Art Blog
This is a gouache painting of an African woman wearing body paint. It's based on a photograph taken by Arddu on the Flickr site. I am going to be donating this painting to an art auction in Zimbabwe. It will help raise money for clean drinking water to fight the cholera crisis.
I cannot afford to hire models and so I rely on photographs to make my portraits. Lately I have been going to a site called Flickr that posts photographs. I have found some very nice ones to work from. I love that the photographs come from all over the world. This one was taken in Liberia. As I scan through the many photographs, I feel as if I am traveling and visiting all kinds of people. The photographs I choose are good in their own right, but I still feel that there is a great transformation taking place as I turn a photograph into a painted image. There is the language of color and the language of making marks on a page. Sometimes the change from the photograph is subtle, sometimes drastic. What's coming through is my art spirit. What took the photographer a second or less to choose and capture takes me hours. I have to start from scratch and build my way up and there is no guarantee that when I'm done I will have a cohesive and satisfying portrait.
I feel this portrait is successful because of the paper I used and the paint and the lovely, expressive subject. There is some skill to this painting, but it is still often hit or miss for me. Sometimes there's love between me and my subject and other times I miscalculate the drawing or I lay the paint on poorly. The hit or miss aspect of my work has a lot to do with not getting enough practice in. I have not worked as much as I would have liked to this year. But even so, I am pleased that since I joined Artid last spring I have come to finally identify myself as an artist. There is something so heartening about seeing my work gathered all together in one spot with my name at the top of the page.
Recently I returned to songwriting and singing which lead me back to painting. The two seem to complement each other well. When I'm struggling with a song, I usually stop and head for my drawing table. Drawing and painting is a form of meditation. It clears my mind of excess debris. For an hour or two I become what I'm looking at. If I follow the form and follow the color, I go on a simple journey. I also become my materials, my brushes, the water, the paint, the paper towel, the scrap paper with swatches of test colors, the true light, the paper, and the photograph.
I lose track of time, I lose track of worries. I'm in the moment. And as the image begins to take shape, I begin to claim it as my own. It becomes an extension of me, a kind of self portrait. It doesn't matter that it looks nothing like me because I've infused it with my spirit by committing myself to the process of painting--molding, shading, emphasizing, de-emphasizing. I think the reason that people are creative is because it feels like magic. You can work really hard, you can be very practical and still the end result is fresh and unexpected. Part of that has to do with working myopically and not stepping back or taking breaks, so that when you finally do, you see something new, but part of it is I think a spiritual process when the thing you've created takes on a life of its own.
Inevitably there comes that time when you have to let go of the work, sell it, give it away or store it in order to keep moving with the flow of life so you can grow into new projects. But for the works that succeed, there remains that pull to look one more time, to make sure that the magic has not suddenly expired because you've ceased your work.
And so, I see this Liberian woman as my sister and myself because that's the process that's involved in making art--transformation and good work. But this good work is even more special to me because it will find a good home, maybe even in Africa, and it will be a part of a good deed. I am normally too self absorbed, too unaware of the suffering in the world. I see this painting as if it were a message in a bottle set in the ocean, a message of good will. One of many I hope.