Thursday, February 23, 2017

Artist versus Designer, chess-boxin Shaolin style!

Chris Breeden from Arnold's Bar & Grill reached out last summer and invited me to be part of a Wu Tang Clan themed art show at Frameshop.

For the past year I have been very intrigued with portraiture. I've always felt that I have not truly learned how to draw the human form well, and the artist side of my head feels that landscape art and portraiture are these classic subject matters that I should explore in my work to gain commissions someday.

My first focus was Method Man and I began approaching the project with the perspective of a Graphic Designer. I wanted to incorporate borders, and type, and be inspired by traditional printmaking techniques to add small graphic details. As I got into the project, I visited the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Van Gogh: Into the Undergrowth" and it inspired my original thought of the details and turned the Wu Tang logo into a halftone pattern. The sky behind Method Man glitters with dots inspired by Pisarro and Van Gogh's Starry Night.

I took the W from the Wu Tang Clan logo and used it to facet Method Man's face. This was inspired by a bit of Art Deco, and perhaps some of the African sculptures I used to collect where the human form is broken down into geometric simplicity.

My major critique is in my abstraction I lost a lot of Method Man's actual likeness in the work.

At some point, things were looking really bad with the progress of Method Man. So in only a few hours I was able to illustrate a portrait of Rza by hand. Using ProCreate on the iPad I was able to draw Rza from composite photos, and create a background pattern inspired by Japanese prints (referring back to Shaolin culture and Kung Fu movies that inspired the Wu Tang Clan).

I created a black and white portrait of Rza, and isolate the background pattern in gold. In some ways this approach was partially inspired by the work of Kehinde Wiley as well as those 19th century Japanese print makers. 

Once in the studio, I painted the skin tones of Rza with watercolor inks on the screen, and created a small series of 3 monoprints. You can see the process of making the prints here: Path to process video on Vimeo

This was an experiment to see how I could capture the human form in a unique way, but also possibly how to create work for commission some day. The Method Man is more unique, but took an entire week of time to produce. Rza is more gestural and actually captures the likliness better, and only took two days to create. The price would estimatedly be $1600 versus $4000 for a patron in the future.

At the end, it felt wrong to take money as an artist using the image of another person I don't know personally without permission. So, it felt best to donate 100% of my profits to Elementz, a Cincinnati-based non-profit created to foster Hip Hop Culture for future generations.

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