These are digital portraits made using a video editing tool which allows you to take a video and then get the pixels of that image to move with a subsequent video.
a drip self portrait done with acrylic on board. 12 inch x 18 inch. May 21 2021.
I wanted to see the wood and to more clearly define the portrait. A friend requested a portrait like this so i did a practice at this scale which is below. The final piece he has asked for is much much bigger (1 meter x 1.2 meters) and will be the biggest painting i will have done so far.
test portrait of Joe. acrylic on board 12 inch x 18 inch. May 2021. Joe has requested something much bigger. He wants the image face on and for his face to blend into the background.
i found myself getting into a rut of doing self portraits, in part out of practicality, I am the person i have easiest access too to paint. I decided to draw some landscapes from Sheffield. This City I’ve lived most of my life. For each of these the process has been slightly different but as a general approach, they are a base painting in acrylic that i’ve worked into with oil pastels. The capture something of the messy life of a city, somewhere between a harsh urban world and the green countryside. They feel slightly sad and worn.
a street in the wicker. Oil pastel on black paper. 30cmx30cm 20th of May 2021
the bottom of Stanley Road version 1. Oil pastel on white paper 30cmx20cm. 22 May 2021
The bottom of Stanley Road Version 2. The same drawing as above but worked over with more colour and becoming more abstract.
on the road from the Manor to Town. Acrylic and oil pastel on Black Paper 30cmx 30cm 24th of May
drip portrait 10inchx10 inch acrylic on board.
2 small portraits (4inchx4inch) acrylic on board. The second image is a digital composition of two paintings layered on top of each other. 29th of March 2021
I struggle to describe feelings, I always have. Growing up, it appears to me, we’re taught emotions are discrete occurrences and the words we use to describe them map onto real things, boundaried objects people can experience. Think of happiness, sadness, anger and fury. I’ve never been good at parsing my experience like this. Whether between this or that emotion or even the boundaries surrounding entire swaths of experience. I’m not good at divvying up.I get the broad brush strokes and know how to apply them. I know what sadness is, but it’s never felt like a particularly clear or accurate way of describing what’s going on for me when i’m living the experience it is supposedly referring to. Is my boredom an emotion? What am I experiencing when confronted by death? What’s going on when I tune into the sound of the wind and rain outside? The act of categorising experience has always been a bit of a mystery to me.
Up until very recently (as in earlier this week) i understood this as a failure to demarcate experience. A skill I lack, a flaw I have, that prevents me from being able to competently talk about the world in the ways other people do. I’ve only just started to reflect on what that means in terms of how I conceptualize the chunking up of emotion and my relationship to that, previously articulated as a lack of skill. Underneath this there seems to be a belief that there are these things out there whose natural state is as discrete objects ready to be perceived.
With my burgeoning understanding of my own neurotype i’d started to move from “this is a deficiency in my understanding of the world” to “I should not care whether i have that skill or not” while keeping hold of the normative priority and in some sense reality of this kind of categorization.
Don’t get me wrong, i feel a lot, I have a lot of emotions, but they don’t appear as neat objects in the world (or in my head for that matter). They are a constant, intense flux. They are shifting, they are formed in relation, they are becoming, they are unbounded, they stretch out into everything and they are vibrant, overwhelmingly so at times.
I don’t really have the words to explain this fully because i think my experience of my feelings is non-verbal and the chunking of them into words really doesn’t fit with what they’re like.
As rough analogy think of colour.
This is one way to represent colour:
Colour here is separated out into neat categories, it is bounded. These colours we can easily give names. It makes sense to talk about blue and red and green and orange.
The parsing of colour above is perhaps overly simple so lets take a further step. How about colour represented like this:
Now i was a big fan of Wittgenstien when i was at Uni (nerd alert) and to paraphrase him “Meaning is use”. The boundaries around each colour can be fuzzy. The meaning of each word can be understood as being a built, shared understanding between the community of speakers using that word. Colour doesn’t need to be neat for categorisation to happen. In this second image, we can still identify and chunk out blue, even though the point at which it becomes purple is not clearly defined (as a side note, this is my basic use of Wittgenstein from memories of texts i’ve not revisited in a decade so apologies if i’ve mis-characterised him).
Now compare both these examples to this:
The view from my bedroom window, just to the side of my desk, of this bright spring morning. Now we can still, if so inclined pull out the multitude of colours here but what i see is not a neatly ordered rainbow gradient. In fact, to stretch this, what i see, just off screen is not the image here, the light has shifted since i took this photo, the image is not bounded by a square frame, i feel the warmth of the sun, i hear the buzzing of building work in my neighbours garden, the clouds, hidden in the image by bright sunlight are visible and quickly moving in the wind. The way I perceive what is going on is all encompassing, emerging and isn’t captured by a list of colours. It’s not really captured by the preceding paragraph either but at least i can gesture towards it.
I can chunk when i want to. I can say that the image above has orange in it and various shades of green but in doing that i’m not sure i’m adding much, or really describing the image any better than what is done when you the reader just look at what is there. To split the photo above into a list of colours is not how the world naturally settles for me. It might be for you, I don’t know.
Content note- discussion of suicide in the next section
Let’s apply this back then.
Last year a family member killed himself. How do I chunk up that experience? I guess I could talk about grief, about shame, about anger, about nostalgia. I could talk about not being able to sleep, i could talk about eating and drinking, about my body changing shape, i could talk about sitting downstairs when everyone was asleep and crying, i could talk about leg rocking, of wanting to stay in the house, of getting pissed off at people at work complaining about day to day things. I could talk about wanting to be silent, about distance, about mess. I’m not really sure though that these demarcations map to what i experienced and in fact hide much of the messiness, the lived, non-verbal, uncategorized complexity of what it was like.
On reflection then I don’t think my difficulty in parsing the world is a deficiency. I dont think thats how the world is, i think it is perhaps more in flux, in process, ever emergent and ever entangled. I think for people who separate stuff out more efficiently than i do, seeing the world as discrete objects, separate and existing is taken for granted. I think that perhaps there is something interesting in trying to resist this. I’m not sure what this looks like yet but this feels like something to explore.