Blog / 2009 / Legos and Cupcakes and Crayons, O My!

February 16, 2009

Sean Kenney’s Red-haired Woman
Sean Kenney’s Red-haired Woman

Making portraits in paint on canvas is less than hip these days, with alternative media like Sean Kenney’s legos gaining ground steadily. And Kenney isn’t the only artist to portray people in a highly pixelated way. It seems to be the method of choice for the new wave of portrait makers.

Zilly Rosen’s A New Birth Of Freedom 2008
Zilly Rosen’s A New Birth Of Freedom

Like for Zilly Rosen, whose medium is a bit more delicious than Kenney’s. Each of the 5000+ dots in this double portrait of Obama and Lincoln is a cupcake frosted in shades of sienna as well as red, white, and blue.

Still, from what I can tell, the process for Rosen and Kenney is the same. They take apart a source image using a photo editing software and produce a plan for the final image that the artist and/or their team can then carry out. All this means that the piece’s creativity rests in the choice of source image, materials, and colors alone, with the assembly of the artwork requiring robotic precision rather than imagination.

Herb Williams’ Portrait of Sherry
Herb Williams’ Portrait of Sherry

Not so for Herb Williams! While I’m not positive that the crayon collage artist doesn’t make his creations based on a computer-generated scheme, I do know that his works avoid the feel of machine-made pixelation, moving towards an organic kind pointillism. It’s for that reason that I like Williams’ work best. Portrait of Sherry may be far from a flawlessy photorealistic representation of the subject, but an artwork’s eccentricities are what bring it to life.

a woman with a Brittany Spaniel on her lap, painted by humanis artis Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Mother
2009
acrylic on canvas
36 x 36 inches
(This piece is part of the Subjective series.)

In fact, I would go so far as to say that, when an image loses its looseness and instead pursues mathematical perfection, it stops really being art and starts being a gimmick. The well-organized images that Kenney and Rosen make can certainly be pleasing, but they lack the heart of Williams’ work—and mine as well!


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