The February 13th Project.
The work in discussion is a 30”x40” oil on canvas painting of Ms. Taylor Swift.
Here it is:
I began the painting on February 13th, 2012. I have been painting for nearly two years (give or take), I am relatively self-taught, and much of that process happened in painting this work, which is one of the reasons I am so happy with it, it is not only the lessons I’ve learned but the product.
January 2012: The start of my last semester before graduation, I’m a little short on credits. I’m aware that the University does “Directed Study” programs which are pretty much DIY courses that the student proposes the coursework for and conducts on his or her own time while reporting back to the instructor. My previous art teacher agreed and by February I had completely changed the original idea for something new.
[unnecessary detail: The original idea was to further study some techniques of famous painters and create replicas (I said “forgeries” because it sounds so much cooler—and because the book The Art Forger’s Handbook had been my kickoff into studying painting techniques on my own—and yes, in my head I do sometimes pretend I’m Neal Caffrey).]
I was set out to copy a work of Bouguereau and something else. I got started but never came to fruition.
I realized that the reason I couldn’t stay focused and it was because I was trying to paint someone else’s muse. Someone else’s dream, someone else’s inspiration and it even though it might have been beautiful, I was motivated by an intellectual feeling, not a creative one.
I realized I needed to paint my own muse.
I had been listening to the Fearless album while painting for some time. I have always thought Taylor beautiful and I realized how taken I was with her as a writer as well. I’m a hopeless romantic so of course I love her songwriting.
But it was more than that, I saw her interviewed a few times and was just blown away by who she was as a person. I remember her raising something like $750k in a single night for the tornado relief right after it happened. And what the heck have I done with my life. Here was this girl, this beautiful girl, who is extremely talented, and creative, and charitable, and need I go on?
So yeah, I was moved by her, inspired by her, ….andunabashedly schoolboy-crush enamored with her—needless to say she kept my attention so I set out to paint her.
I am sharing all of this with you all in hopes it will make its way to the muse herself. People say to pursue your dreams, but why does no one say: “pursue your dream girl?”
Will you please accept this painting as a gift? It would be an honor if so. I would love to present it to you in person—and while I’m at it, let me stop dancing around what I really want to say, what I really want to ask and that is: will you come out with me—on a date, say…for dinner? (Yes, that came out shyly even in writing).
Hey Tay-lor, I can give you fif-ty reasons why I should be the one you choose, yeah those other guys, may be suit-a-ble, but would they paint pic-tures of you?
[Let’s get this viral, help me by tweeting it so we can get her to see it on her twitter feed!]
Early February I heard a song from my childhood. It was the song I remember hearing from every long car ride my family ever took and a song I have always liked and to this day proclaim to be one of the best songs of all time—Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
It brought me back to the “American Pie” days, of classic Americana. I stretched back to the paintings of Norman Rockwell. The days of ice cream parlors and soda shops. Polka dots and sock hops and swing. East coast swing, west coast swing. Skinny ties and nice, brimmed hats.
I haven’t shown all of that—obviously—but it was the aesthetic mood-inspiration for this painting.
I took photos along the way so I could make a timelapse video, at first it was for no other purpose than for my own nostalgic spirit. I later realized I was to do this for another reason.
It took a long time before it even looked like her and, arguably it didn’t until the end. My approach (not that I had much control over it) was to just keep refining, keep whittling away and to be patient. To build upwards and understand that the surface colour is a product of the layers beneath it and you build outwards, every layer plays a part in the prismatic result. The light reaches through each of the glazes. This is a concept that non-art major me learned from Hebborn that he discusses in The Art Forger’s Handbook. The principle philosophy can be summed up:
“…copies and reproductions of Old Master paintings that confine themselves to imitating only the surface colour are missing out all the painterly and tactile values of the work. They are neglecting the scumbles, the glazes, the impasto, and all the rest of the masterly handling that goes into the making of the beautifully painted object than an oil painting should be. These qualities that are lost to modern art must be rediscovered…” (110)
Now we’re transitioning into my philosophy on the creative process and I could get into the connections of writing and painting but I’ll avoid that and leave you with the Hemingway line taken from a letter he wrote to Max Perkins regarding For Whom The Bell Tolls wherein he applies the poetic axiom to prose when he says that “[e]very damned word and action in this book depends upon every other word and action,” just like every layer of paint.