When I was in high school, I took an intaglio printmaking class at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and it would be an understatement to say that it was a formative experience. Before I started the class, my mark-making was vague and undeveloped. But, by the time I finished the semester, I was a crosshatching machine! One of the ways to create a tonal area in intaglio printmaking is through overlaying lines, and I took to it avidly.
Crosshatching infiltrated my paintings immediately, and by the time I was halfway through college, I was painting like this, in a tight grid-like manner.
Two years later, my mark-making had loosened up a bit. I was no longer so set in the rigid horizontal/vertical crosshatching that had consumed me, and I had expanded my range of brushes to include something more than just the smallest rounds I could find. This more playful way of laying down a brushstroke was important to my developing sense of what portraiture should be.
I was interested in capturing not the exact proportions and perfect features of my subjects but instead their breath and movement. I was looking for a way of laying down paint that could reflect a person’s dynamism and emphasize their lines—the way they carried themselves and the way they interacted with the world. By 2004, I’d found some of that, but I was still lacking an important element in my mark-making toolbox: I wasn’t fully capitalizing on the way water can make acrylics flow.
This is the beginning of a painting from 2009, a portrait of my cousin Sharon.
Here my lines flow a lot more easily.
I water down my full body paints quite a bit to help me achieve this effect.
Though I also use wide swathes of color to add flesh and mass to a portrait…
...I rely on line to keep the structure of the likenesses looking right.
I alternate between using bigger brushes to lay down lots of paint…
...and smaller brushes to reveal the movement that must be a part of a living face.
The process of painting becomes a conversation between mass and movement…
...between wide swathes of color and crosshatched lines.
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