Tuesday, February 25, 2014

History of a Commission

In Reverse

First few Steps in completing the commission

Our good friends first came to me with the kernel of an idea last year, 2013. She was redecorating their bedroom, and wanted a multi-paneled painting above the bed, had seen many paintings from the LGBT Pictionary, liked the mixed media distressed paintings, and requested the panels to be created in that technique. I said, “Why not make it a triptych since that type of painting has a 500 year history going back through the Renaissance,” and they agreed.

I bought the panels, paints, various varnishes, oil pastels, sprays, archival computer printer inks and other tools needed to make the new artwork after discussing color with my new patrons.* The room is to be in various shades of green and rust, and we looked at two bedside lamps she had bought. Once back at home, I painted the ground layers on the panels knowing that those colors would almost vanish beneath the many layers to be painted over them. Finally I visited with a color-swatch sheet, though I made the point that I would be using more than the colors on the sample. After discussing the colors and making notes as to adjustments and additions I was struck with a notion. Why not bury images of family documents and photos from both sides going back through several generations. That would bring a family history into the room. Both loved the idea, and immediately began discussing which photos and historic documents to use.

Old Layered Distressed Walls

I don't know why it took so long for the inspiration of historic representation to occur to me because the technique lends itself to exactly that. In fact, the original idea came from looking at old layered and distressed walls in Mexico. These had posters and painted lettered signs buried between layers of various colors. The buried items were difficult to read, and without knowledge of local history I knew nothing of the actual events represented by the fractured items in the flaked and textured walls. Never the less they had an authenticity and presence that no ordinary flat-colored walls on ninety-nine percent of all the buildings I have seen possess. It felt as though I had held conversations with those walls.

At this stage in production the three panels have but one or two layers of paint on them. One has been distressed for the first time. Another is about to be distressed. And, the third has only the first layer of paint. Thus the panels represent the first three steps in the process. There will be many steps to come, and I thought to do a history of that process here on the blog. Ultimately, when finished this history will read backwards through time, with this first entry at the end, and the finished triptych at the beginning, a fitting reversal that will actually represent perfectly the mixed media distressed painting technique that I often work with.


* The reader (if there be such) can find descriptions of these art supplies with prices at Dick Blick Art Supplies.

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