Part 3, project 3, exercise 1: People in context – a figure in an interior

Updated on 12 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

24 August 2016. In most of the portraits I made in this project so far the environment already played a role, so I decided that I would take a step further and tell a little story. Since we will need to go to Aschaffenburg this weekend and may come back with a son to be fed mostly on fat for as long as he can stand it, I wanted to have him as the subject of this exercise.

7 September 2016. We are back from the hospital in Aschaffenburg. Our son will have to stick to the modified Atkins diet for as long as he can stand it, ideally for at least two years to hopefully achieve a positive result. It did not take him long to realize that he will have to go, for an endless time in the world of a nine-year-old, without sweets or pasta or bread, fruit or vegetables. He is allowed ten grams of carbohydrates per day, which is next to nothing, say 3 gummi bears or 12 medium-sized grapes. Thankfully there is a growing market for quite nice alternative products, which we are trying to get acquainted with. We are a bit tense at the moment, because medication and diet will not tolerate any mistakes.

Since I lost more that two weeks from the course and the preparation of the unfamiliar diet needs to find its place in our daily routine, I will need to plan well the preparations for the following two exercises and the assignment to be able to meet the deadline at the beginning of October, while also having to consider the requirement to send my parcel by carrier. I already know my subjects for all of them and I might switch between them as I go along. The exercises will be on smaller size acrylic paper, the assignment on canvas carton.

Of all the moments during the week spent in that hospital room I remember most vividly my son sitting on his bed, getting more or less ready to hop down, while obviously in deep thought. This moment I want to capture as I have it in my mind. I decided not to take any photographs to help me remember, but would like to see whether I would be able to build a paintig from memory while taking the opportunity to fill the “gaps” in photographic detail with the associated powerful emotions. As I write this I realize that there are two nested sets of emotions, as I will be able to portray my son’s state of mind only through my own. In order not to disturb the flow between memory and my paint brush I will paint directly on my paper prepared with hospital greenish-yellow and glazed over with a transparent foggy layer of Paynes grey.

13 September 2016. I came up with the following, which is exactly what I had hoped for. First I produced the background, which is not as straightforward as it may look at first and consists of about ten semitransparent glazes, using a foam roller. The latter I had not used in years, because it would get clogged with the different types of acrylic paint I had used then. With my new brand of paint using the roller is a great experience, allowing – with practice – the praparation of interesting backgrounds (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Prepared background on 56 x 42 cm acrylic paper

On this I painted with the same mix of colours, using a slightly denser texture, but also with several glazes on top of each other. My mix of turquoise, yellow and white produced an uncanny glow on the painted structures. The interior I deliberately reduced in detail so as to focus on my son’s emotional situation. I really like the result (unfortunately difficult to reproduce digitally), so I decided to stop working at that stage. For the scaffolding on which to attach my story I placed three small focal points of pure red on the paper, in strategically important positions on the patient monitor, the alarm button next to the door and my son’s mouth. By the way, the bed was as small as it looks: five more centimetres in height and my son, who is not exactly a giant for his age, would have got stuck :o) (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Finished painting

I think that I managed to tell the intended story and am glad that I did not continue working past the present stage. To me the finished painting radiates some of the uncertainty of the situation my son was in and I also think that I managed to investigate both my own and some of my son’s emotional state.



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