The Idea

Large Scale Portraits of people with a lot of life experience that integrate the actual words of their stories into the lines and wrinkles of their faces.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Esther: Day 4

End of Day 4. I've been detailing the skin on the face. I still have the nose and one whole cheek to finish up before I get to the neck and ears. Then, the hair and then, the text from her interview. Whew!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Esther: Day 3

It's the end of the third day of painting Esther. I have most of the color in. Today I finished detailing the eyes, eyebrows and the skin around them. No words yet. I'll start those after she is fully painted. I've worked hard....time for bed!

Esther's Eyes

All day I've been working on these two eyes. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Filling In

Well, she still has yellow teeth and yellow ears but, the underpainting is showing less and less.


Patches of color and patches of underpainting. 

Laying it on thick!

Laying in the skin tones. I'm starting to see Esther in there!

First dabs of color

I always seem to start with the eyes when working on a portrait. They are my favorite because they really show you the person inside. These photos are just the beginning.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Colors!

My palette for Esther- all mixed and ready to go! I may just like paint mixing as much as I like actually painting.

Esther Stage 1

Here is the beginning of the Esther painting- the painted sketch that I will paint over completely. It may be hard to get a sense of the scale from the photo but, let me assure you.... it is big.... I'm thinking 4 X 5 feet may be a little too big, actually. It really is a challenge to get the proportions exactly right on this large a portrait. All those little details that makes a painting look like someone have to be in exactly the right place on this great big canvas, otherwise, it is just not quite right.

Esther's Story

The following is the unedited interview that I had the privilege of conducting with Esther. She was so open and honest about her life and has such a sweet way. I am lucky to know and love this wonderful woman! I hope you enjoy her story!

My happiest moment? Hmm have to think about that. When Ted asked me to marry him.

Well, we were riding along in a car and we had decided not to get married until after the war if he had to go into the service and as it happened he didn't -for a short while at least -and so he said to me, "You know, I think we should get married." Surprised me so I couldn't even talk. That's pretty unusual. It was pretty good.

My saddest moment-You were there- I just never thought that he was going to pass away I knew he wouldn't get better but I didn't think he would get as bad as ... That was the saddest - worse than when he actually died- when we were at the nursing home and they were telling us all the things that were about to happen. I just, for some reason, must have blocked the thought of his passing away. I knew he was not going to get well and yet I just didn't think about his dying. I don't know. You would think when you know someone is so ill that that's the next part of life or death or whatever, right? I must have either blocked it away or I don't know.

What did he mean to me? I don't know how to express it, he just.... I can't say... Everything.... Did I ever tell you about the time I first met him? Girlfriend of mine had gone out with him and I guess they liked each other but not enough to have other dates and so she introduced me to him and there were quite a few of us and none of us girls drove at the time and so the guys would drive us home. And it was quite early yet  in the evening when I met him. By early I mean 10 something like that 9:30.

So, we were all in the car and one of the people- guys - said, "Lets play a game" and so I said, "What kind of a game?" and it was a question and answer game. If the guys asked the question, it could be about anything movie stars movies -  anything,  and the one who answers correctly can choose the  person - if it was a guy, could choose the girl to kiss and if it was girl who answered the question she had the choice of the guy. was asked Ted answered it and guess who he picked. Me! The second question,  Ted answered it! Guess who he picked. Me! About three or four times he answered the question as fast as could be and finally, I was getting thinking "This is a cooky game. Somebody else has to be the winner" and I don't remember how it ended. I think I said "I think its time to go home" and the others were getting bored too because... yeah. I thought "Gee he's a pretty good kisser. Really. I was 17. He was 17, 18, 19 boy if I was 17 he was at least 20 but, he didn't know it. That's why later on we were going with each other and he said, "I think we're getting too serious and I think it's time to cut this down- off. I started to cry. It was so surprising but, I could see the reasoning and I was 17. For a good close to a year we saw each other in a group but we didn't go out much at all. Once in a blue moon he'd ask me to go to a movie but really we were just in a group and didn't date and I thought, "I'm wasting my time." But then I was close to 18 and it changed him. He just said "Okay." He started taking me out more. Saw him more. By the time I was 18 he asked me to marry him. I don't know why he wanted to marry me. I knew I wanted him so I would think it's the same thing.  I just kind of knew it when he walked into a room. I knew it! I knew he was the one I wanted but I didn't know if I'd get him. That's a long time. That's why I say I didn't know if I was really wasting my time. And I wasn't evidently. So, then we were married .I was almost 19. Three months from being 19. It was February 14th. We were married 66 years.  Advice for married couples- to talk. I really think that really to talk things over that is bothering them in any way. If you don't talk you don't really know. You don't know what ever it is that's causing a problem - can't be solved unless you know it. That's what kept us together so long, plus a lot of love. I'm talking too much aren't I?

I grew up in Grand Rapids on 2nd street on the West Side. No one was poor-poor but no one was rich that I know of - in our neighborhood at least. A lot of kids - children. I had a lot of friends there.

My Parents?.... I'm trying to think because I was pretty young when they died. They were pretty neat. By the time they had us, they were used to children. They had 7 of them so we didn't bother them that much. Umm... They were really nice. We weren't rich but we weren't poor either for most of the time. Until, I was going to say the recession... It was a lot more than a recession... Then, everybody started getting poor almost. It was frightening because you saw your parents were frightened. How could you tell?... just -  I don't know. You know, parents try to keep things from children but, for some reason it comes through.  And then, they were ill too. My dad became very ill with pneumonia during... it wasn't only a recession like now. It was lot worse than this. I would say it would be as bad for almost all the people like it is now for those who are loosing their homes. There was lot of that because of not being able to pay taxes. Same thing as now..... We lost two homes. They were rentals that my dad bought and was renting them out and when the depression came and he lost his job- he was ill too. First, we lost the one house. I don't know where the renters went. I have no idea.  And then we lost the other one. It was a two family house- the second one we lost . We did not loose our home while my parents were alive We still had it when they died but then the Depression - and we couldn't pay the taxes and we lost that too, and we had to move out and we went to my- well we called her an aunt but really they were just close, close friends. And we rented an apartment upstairs in their home. So that's where we lived until I got married. My sister worked which didn't cover everything but, I had enough brothers and sisters that made sure that we had food and, you know, enough money to pay rent. Things like that goes. Between all of them, we -  all... my brothers, myself- we  got along quite well.

It taught me to save- even after I got married and could afford different things and clothes and all that it was hard to throw things away. It just- in your mind you think "Oh, I better save on to that. Maybe Ill need it." Clothes savings, just being careful with things, with money... but you hope you're not so tight you're making everybody miserable in your family. That far I didn't go. I hope. I think. But, you know it really wasn't an unhappy time. It really wasn't. I do not think of my childhood as unhappy at all. Even after my parents died. Oh it was horrible when they did die of course but, there were enough of us to feel safe. At first you don't, you know. You feel... you wonder what's going to happen to you. But when there are enough people to care about you it changes things .

Of course, we didn't have television or anything like that - not that long ago. We read, we played games. My folks would talk to us about their own parents which we never met because- I don't know if they were alive when we were born- Ed and I- they might have been when the older kids were there and we weren't. But, they would tell us about  Poland and their lives and how happy they were here "Where the streets were paved with gold," they thought. That's what they believed you know. Most of the people that came here thought it was really rich back then- what they had. It was a happy time.

I remember Christmases, and I can see it with all of us sitting around the table. And then Ed and I who were the only ones - no my older sisters- no, Ed and I were the youngest and we went to a catholic school and we would read these little poems that we made up in school. And then we'd tell my dad and my mother that we had prayed for them and our whole family. It was like we laid out a card. You know, I almost forgot about that. And that we loved them wished that they were healthy and that we prayed for them and that was a part of our christmas cards. And then Ed would get up and he would have to say it while everybody was sitting- first me because I was older than he- and then after that we went in the living room with the christmas tree and started singing christmas songs. And they thought I had such a lovely voice- Me! And my brother in law wanted me to try to get on the radio where- oh what's his name- it was a program where they took- first you had to try to convince them your voice was halfway decent and you - I almost had the name of the program-  umm - and you sing on the radio and then, I don't know if people called in you know. like on that dance program. And he wanted me to get on because they all thought I had such a great little voice. Sure 6, 7 years old any kind  of a singing voice is really nice. But, you know, we didn't have the money to carry out this thought to get out to wherever this radio program was- Uncle something... no- but it was fun- Fun! And that's about it.

I wanted to get married and have children - maybe, possibly, hopefully and what scared me most was that my parents died so young and  I used to pray that I would live through to see my children grow up. I did pretty good! 88! ... and live to see them grow up.

Being single is different form being married. And you think of each other- husband and wife- but when the children come - especially when their little and depend on you - you're different. Your life is more thoughtful  I think, so that you can provide for the children teach them- It's just you're a different person from when you were just a young couple - which is good.

Did they ever try my patience? Oh yes! Oh yes! They did- time and again- each in their own way. Maybe not often but, you know, when Teddy was about 3 years old or so he took a box of spic and span from the kitchen and spilled it on the carpet in the dining room and it was an evening that we were supposed to go out and so we had a nice little mess there to clean up before the babysitter came.

And then there's other things like when Sharon asked to go to the prom. A young junior in her high school- and she was only in the night grade- asked her to go to the prom and we said "No." and her dad especially said "NO! These are experiences you will have as you get older. You cannot have them now or what will you look forward to?" And Sharon said " But, so and so is going" and I said, "Well I'm your parent, Dad's your parent and we say you cannot go."  She cried so hard. She was as if she had a fever, she cried so hard. Putting cold wash clothes on her head. Oh, that was so pitiful and Ted went to work and leaves me with this to try to console that kid. But, she got over it and I don't know if she thought it made sense but, we just thought she was too young.

Jimmy- He was so sweet- aaaaah!  Yes, but he did. It was when he went to high school -and the other two- they dressed so nicely, so neatly, never changed- slacks and shirts- something really nice- and then the one day - he was probably a junior maybe a se... yeah- junior probably- he came out of the bedroom in jeans that he ripped at the knees and looked like he was going out to play somewhere and I asked him where he was going. He wasn't going to school that way! And he said yes, he was! He was going to school in those jeans! I told him he couldn't go and he said "That's what they're wearing now and I want to do it now" and that's the way it was. It changed. It changed- I don't know if it was for the better- in one way- especially when they went to college - not just him but all the young kids- they didn't have to try to have these beautiful clothes or if they couldn't they felt miserable because the couldn't keep up so that way it was good but, it turned out okay though didn't it.

I wanted my children to be healthy of course- get and education. Do what would make them happy and still make a living- marry the women they loved and man that she loved and have a happy life.

I'm hoping, yes, that there's going to be an afterlife. I want there to be. I don't want to just go into the ground and be nothing.  I only know what I've been taught. Whether its true or not I don't know. I'm hoping for it- that someday - and it's going to be someday because how many years has it been since it's been said that it's going to happen- that we're all going to be with each other and God. That's what I want.

I ask God to take care of my family. That they' will be kind and loving their wives - their families. Yeah, I want them to love me too but, I want more than that for them.

How do I hope to be remembered? Not much more than loving them- my family-and to have them know I want the best for them.

The very intimidating Blank Canvas

Measuring 4 feet wide and 5 feet tall, is the contender in the right corner....... of the basement that is. That's right, I paint in a dank old basement. But, I am not dismayed. Out of this dingy painting studio will come something marvelous! Something fabulous! Something absolutely wonderful! Well, something I will stand and be proud of, at least. So, armed with a positive a positive attitude and a handful of pretty new brushes, I begin!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Next Interview: Bill Lawson, 99

I just got off the phone with an old and very dear friend of mine, Bill Lawson of Owosso, MI. In all honesty, I didn't know if Bill was still around. I started my search for him by googling his obituary. With none found, I searched is phone number and sure enough, he answered on the first ring! I met Bill when I was 16 years old and he was 87. He used to trot all over town, miles at a time, with nothing but his walking stick. Always self deprecating, he would speak of how slowly he moved now that he was an "Old Man". Inevitably, his next sentence would be "Oh, I can walk faster than this! You don't have to walk slow because of me." Most people from the small town of Owosso would recognize Bill. He has been a bell ringer for the Salvation Army for many, many years and in all kinds of weather. I'll have to ask him if he still does that.

My dear, old friend is 99 now and I am so thrilled to have an appointment to interview and photograph him this Tuesday. I told him all about what I'm doing. He says "I'm happy to help you win that big sum of money." Ha ha! What a sweet guy! He told me it would be an honor but, truly, I am the one honored.

First Art Prize Meet & Greet

Tonight I'm off the the MADE IN BROOKLYN event where I'll get a chance to meet some other entrants, perhaps some venue coordinators, maybe a DeVos or two and Ran Ortner, the winner of the first ever ArtPrize. I'm hoping to glean some valuable information from this well informed crowd and begin the process of "being visible". I hate to say it but, the truth is, the more people you know, the better your chances... at least in the beginning stages of the competition. Thank you to all who are supporting me so far in this great venture! If you haven't already started "following" my page please do so and help me up the ante!  
Wish me luck!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thinking, thinking....

Thinking about the sizes... 4 feet by 5 feet each? hmmmmm......

Thinking about the technique for the text. After weighing the options, I'm going with sgraffito- drawing(or in this case- writing) into wet oil paint with the other end of a paint brush. I think it will really enhance the texture of the wrinkles and keep the text nice and subtle..... yes...... That will work.

Still thinking about speakers. Would the quiet murmur of the interviews be overkill or add interest? I still don't know about that one.

That's all the thinking I can do for now.

The Idea

So far, I don't think I've told you exactly what I'm doing... So, here it is:

In a nutshell, I am interviewing men and women with a lot of life experience and painting very large, detailed, portraits of them that subtly integrates the actual text of their stories into the lines and wrinkles of their faces.

There you have it.

To Speak or Not to Speak?

I'm considering placing speakers behind each portrait to project their actual voices from our interviews. I'm thinking, if each one is very quiet and played continually it might be nice. The emotion in their voices is so touching....

I can't quite decide. I could use some feedback (ha! a post about speakers)


Meet my first subject, Esther. I just can't wait to paint this face! Her story is so touching...More on that later!

And So It begins!

With one week to go before being matched with a venue, I am really digging into my ArtPrize entry. I am all nerves. Entering this competition has the potential to rocket an artist into career stardom or to uplift their hopes and dreams in the face of bitter disappointment. Most likely, this will only be my first attempt at ArtPrize but, I'm already feeling the pressure. Right now, my goal is simply to do my very, very best and to showcase the message of my artwork- Every Face tells the story of a lifetime and that story is important.

So, without further ado, I begin. I will be posting every step along the way. Hopefully, this blog will keep you inspired and interested in ArtPrize and the work I am preparing for it. Of course, getting your vote would be awesome! But, ultimately, I hope that you will be inspired to take a closer look at the people in your life with stories to tell and actually take the time to listen. It is amazing what you can learn by the stories of lives well lived. Thank you so very much for your interest and support!

Lauren Taylor