Your musical accompaniment for the evening is provided by the Psychedelic Furs. Susan’s Strange is a quirky little song with some really fun percussion (drum sticks maybe) going on in background along with the Furs’ signature saxophone drone.
I don’t know who the Susan is in the song, or what was so strange about her. The vocals are nearly indecipherable in the recording, aside from a few “Sha La La’s”. Bonus points to anyone who can add a response to this post summarizing the song’s meaning in 50 words or less.
Disclaimer: Regardless of the meaning of the ditty I’ve lovingly plagiarized, my use of the word “Strange” is not meant to impugn the model Susan, but the odd picture for which I must claim full responsibility.
and now, a game we’re calling…
Five Truths And a Lie:
Truth #1: Susan is not that old. She’s actually a lovely, vivacious artist in her own right. A pleasure to talk to, I can only hold out hope that she *never* stumbles across this embarrassing hive of slander that I call a blog. The reason she looks the way she does in the image is mainly because of the way the paint dried around the mouth, giving the appearance of wrinkles.
Truth #2: I probably should have quit while ahead. I kept meddling with this pic, which resulted in a much muddier color range than intended. On the plus side, it has a very different look and feel from my usual palette, which qualifies as expanding my range, right?
Truth #3: The far eye was actually the clearer of the two. Due to some mishaps, it ended up with a cloudy look, which actually kind of works. At the least, it provides a contrast to the sharpness of the nearer eye and the stark play of light and shadow across it. The ‘problem’ started when too much dark color pooled just under the left – her left – eyelid. Attempts to lighten the eye again by lifting the paint off with water caused the ‘glaucoma’ effect that you see in the finished piece.
Truth #4: I really can paint mouths. This, despite all evidence in the past few portraits that have graced this blog. Susan’s mouth ended up a little foggy and narrow. Instructions on “How to Draw the Proportions of a Face” will usually tell you that most humans’ mouths stretch from eye to eye. See for yourself. Look in a mirror and hold a pencil with the eraser on the middle of your lower eyelashes. If you hold the pencil perfectly vertical, you will most likely see that the corner of your relaxed mouth is resting somewhere on the line that pencil forms. Now go ahead and chew on that No. 2. You know you want to.
Truth #5: The background was actually white. Before even putting brush to paper, I chose to minimize the contrast between the dark hair and the wall in order to draw focus to the face – especially those luscious light effects. At some point, I noticed that the background was a way-too-assertive blue. I texturized and toned-down in one step by brushing some yellow ochre over the whole area. As it turned out, the pigment was very opaque and really sat on top of the blue painting. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but it resulted in some interesting texture.
And the Lie: This picture is a failure.
Having read all of the above, you may have gotten the impression that I dislike this watercolor. To be honest, since that seems to be the theme, here; immediately after completing it, I was very frustrated and disappointed with the results. I left it on my easel and scurried out of the studio as quickly as I could. Then I went back a few days later to photograph it. Things didn’t look quite so bad any more. Without the model as an immediate frame of reference, the woman in the picture leaves a very vivid impression of her own.
Still, I spent most of the week beating myself up over the prolonged slump I believed I was experiencing. Only today, when preparing the image for this post did this picture’s true beauty and success become apparent. This was not the success I was aiming for, but it is a success on its own terms.
Art can be like a debilitating addiction, and therefore, the same principles that alcoholics employ should be applied to the artistic life. 1) Admit that you are powerless. 2) Come to believe in a power greater than yourself (art). 3) Make a decision to turn your life over to art.
Art can be so darn humbling.