At a Glance:
Dimensions: 67″x55″ (the size of a standard Twister mat)
Medium: gesso, acrylic paint, vine charcoal
Music listened to: Ed Sheeran’s “Divide,” Beyoncé Pandora Radio, Moana Soundtrack, and a random amalgamation of Disney songs
My assignment for this piece was to create a painting that displayed a week’s worth of personal data. The data I chose to represent were the physical positions I woke up in every morning after a night of sleep. I chose this particular set of data to record because I have a history of being restless during the night, and I often wake up in different positions with all of the blankets thrown off. I felt I could poke fun at myself and just have a generally good time recording this data; it was my way to mentally engage myself in the assignment.
My plan was to record my sleeping position each morning when I awoke by doing a quick sketch in pen. However, I found that (surprisingly) the first thing that I thought about when I woke up was not this ART 340 assignment, so I had to restart my data collecting process after the first few days. I eventually stuck a bunch of sticky notes around my dorm room so when I woke up I they would be the first thing I saw and they would help to jolt my memory. This plan ended up working pretty well, but if I’m being transparent, there were about two days where I forgot and had to approximate my position.
I didn’t particularly learn anything new about myself by collecting this data; I already knew I was prone to tossing and turning. Once I had all of my data collected it was time to figure out how I was going to translate it into a painting.
Right away I knew that I wanted to layer all of the body positions on top of each other in the painting, I just wasn’t sure of scale, surface, or color palette. When workshopping our ideas in class, it was pointed out that my data was unique since it dealt with the physicality of the body, and something about that statement made me think of Twister. I won’t even attempt to analyze that thought process here, that could probably take up a whole blog post! Anyways, there was the answer to my lack of surface: I would paint this on a twister mat.
My feeling of pure victory was short lived and quickly turned into focused brainstorming, because I knew when I decided that I was going to paint on the Twister mat that this process would turn into total experimentation. The mat is obviously very thin, and I wasn’t worried so much about the acrylic paint, which is actually pretty flexible, but I thought I might have a problem with the gesso (so as to not keep you in suspense, I did). The non-porous nature of the mat leaves the gesso prone to flaking if not handled with the utmost care. There was no chemical reason for me to need the gesso on the mat. I didn’t need to protect the mat from the acrylic paint as they were both plastic, but compositionally, I didn’t want to see the Twister mat clearly. This piece isn’t about the look of the Twister mat, and I knew that if I left it uncovered, the familiar imagery would completely overtake the data focus of this piece. I didn’t even particularly have to paint on the mat, but it brings some humor to my piece that feels very authentic to me and also allowed me to paint on a life-sized scale. I find it very humorous to translate my flailing sleeping positions onto a medium that is meant to contort the body for fun. I feel that it really brings out the physicality of my data.
Because of the size of this painting, I found that I had to be really physical in the process, just as the concept was physical. I found it easiest to view my work when it was hanging on the wall, so I often found myself working on it while on a ladder. The only times I took it down were to paint the majority of the background, and to have someone help trace my body.
I really allowed myself to take liberties with the composition of my bodies. I didn’t display them in a chronological order, but rather arranged them in a way that would convey the most movement. Since I covered up most of the mat, I decided to call back to the imagery by using the recognizable Twister colors for the bodies. However, after layering one of each color, I decided that I didn’t want to layer anymore and decided on a whim to convey the rest through simple charcoal outlines. This also helped with similar or repeated positions: as in the case with the yellow form, I had two of those positions, so I conveyed the duplicity by outlining the yellow with charcoal. And I had a similar position to the red, but I conveyed a second one by showing the different arm position, the same with the charcoal legs off of the green form. The blue is left unlined because it is unique. Knowing that I would use all of that bright color, I made the decision to first lay down more of a tonal palette in a pretty loose, dreamlike form to contrast with the bold body forms.
Overall this piece really solidified the idea that I am an experimenter when it comes to creating art. I find that I’m experimenting in all of my pieces whether it be with medium, composition or otherwise, and I really enjoy it. Not all experimentation leads to complete success as with the case of the gesso-mat debacle, but I do not view it as wasteful. On the contrary, if I didn’t experiment in my art, I don’t think I would ever improve. Each experimentation teaches me something and I often find new ways to approach painting that work for me, each time improving on my technique. As they say: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Until next time, thanks for reading!