Request for Collaborators: Portraits

Standing on a smoking battlefield at dusk, a man in a dark suit holds clean calfskin gloves and an iPhone 6s. He looks troubled, and a little hunched against the wind. He looks to be 50, Anglo, maybe Swedish.

A man in a rumpled clown suit sits in a heavy chair, face impassive, his Punch hat on his knee. He appears to be in an entertainer’s dressing room, lit by candles. He looks off to stage left. He might be about to speak, perhaps to the shadow that edges into the canvas.

A sinewy woman observes her makeup in a folding hand mirror. The light in her dressing room is stark, casting a greenish shadow over her very pale skin. She wears a black velvet gown. She seems to be a dancer, somehow.

The above are all seeds of portraits I’ve got blowing around the loading dock of my mind. Together with hundreds of other phantoms I’ve got in there, they represent the beginnings of a foray into portraiture.

* * * * *

I am looking for fellow travelers. I’m not yet sure what the over-arching story or theme is; however I know it is related to the customs of European portraiture of the 19th century, and to Punch and Judy, the ancient and malevolent buffoons of English folk tradition.

Interested in making characters? Contact me.

The process would unfold in this way.

  • Introduction. We communicate as we can; I invite you to answer the questions below. We arrange to meet. I invite you to bring anything your answers connected you to. For instance, if you associate a cadet’s cap with a Vice, you bring one.
  • Photographs. At our meeting, we have a conversation. I take 50-100 pictures of you. We have coffee.
  • Studio process: Drawing. Using the photos I’ve taken, I begin exploring ways to draw you, to represent you–and also to represent not-you, the character-you that seems to be taking shape. Vocabulary begins to reveal itself, in marks and character and symbol and space-making. Stories come together.
  • Studio process: Painting. Having drawn my way to a story/portrait/plan, I make paintings of you/not-you–portraits.
  • Promotion. If we’ve come up with further ways to collaborate during the paths above, we might have ways to promote together.
  • Show. Having conducted the above process with a handful of travelers, I eventually have enough work for a show, and eventually, hold one somewhere. You are invited! Fun ensues.
  • Should you decide to participate, you will have many chances to add your voice to the process. It will be a form of collaboration. However, ultimately I will be the writer and director of these painted plays, these toy theaters, and you will be the actor. You will appear in my work, but you will not own the rights to the work, or end up owning the painting or its drawings–unless you want to. You will not be paid. Through the vicissitudes of the creative process, your portrait may end up failing, perhaps more than once. It may not be completed. However I do hate to let things go, once they’ve begun.

    * * *

    Reflection: Virtues and Vices

    What are your virtues?

    What is a symbol of a virtue?

    Think of one of your strengths. What are you wearing when you are feeling that strength? Where are you, when you’ve got that strength in your bones? What are you holding? The symbols of your strengths, your virtues, can be as small as an atom or as large as a galaxy. As common as a pencil, or as immaterial as Cthulhu’s breath.

    What are your vices? What are the things/actions/people/energies that tempt you, tease you, bedevil you, beguile you? 

    How might we symbolize these vices?

    Think of one of these traits, these problems you’ve nursed and nudged for years. What are you wearing when you are possessed by that vice? What are you doing, feeling, smelling, thinking? What are you holding, or wearing? Where are you? The symbols of your weaknesses, your vices, can be as heavy as lead, as light as a laser.

    Using Format