For this art project, we were asked to paint a portrait of a figure to either make a broader social statement, represent the intangible, or let a figure convey authority through our paintings. I decided to paint a Korean singer called Jong Hyun using both oil and acrylic color paint. Oil paint was used to paint the face of the portrait and acrylic paint was used to paint the background.
As mentioned above, for my project, I chose to paint Jong Hyun, a singer of a famous idol group called SHINee. Regrettably, this figure had an arduous time enduring his stress as a celebrity, and had committed suicide on the 18th of December, 2017. I was very hesitant to make this decision as it is a topic to be very prudent and careful about; however, I wanted to express my condolence for the tragedy and make a social statement revealing my ideas of criticism. To start off with, I’d like to explain what the title “Diphylleia grayi (Skeleton Flower)” means. The skeleton flower is a type of flower than turns transparent when it has contact with water. I chose to use this as a symbol for the intangible emotions Jong Hyun might have felt. In addition to this, I also wanted to connect to Jong Hyun’s song with the same title, which he wrote himself as an artist. By presenting the Diphylleia grayi, I intended to indirectly express the depressing and painful emotions Jong Hyun would’ve felt due to the discourteous words and views of the public and the people. The completely transparent flower petals represent the unpredictable amount tears he would have poured, distressed by his harsh experiences. Also, the flower being detached from the stem implies that the people had cut the flower which symbolizes Jong Hyun himself. I had also attempted to communicate a similar message through the contrasting colors of the background. As perceptible, the background surrounding Jong Hyun is orange while the rest of the background is a deep blue. While orange is a color of warmth, dark blue is a cold color which often illustrates a gloomy mood. In the painting, it seems like the blue overwhelms the orange which I wanted to make clear that the world was too cold for Jong Hyun to live in. This is like an analogy to the skeleton flower which is from a warm habitat and dies in the winter, unable to bear the cold environment. Through this art work, I would like to daringly advice people that although they can criticize others, they do not have the right to harass and attack any individual.
The artist that influenced and inspired my painting is a portrait artist called Jen Mann. What I incorporated from her art work was her painting style and use of color. The analogous color scheme and the smooth blending of paint was what appealed to me most about her art.
Particularly for this project, I developed the piece through the most steps than I took for any other painting. For the very first step, I found a reference picture and Photoshop-ed with the composition that I wanted my painting to look like. Then I used a projector to trace a simple outline of my person on the canvas.After that, I did an underpainting, which is to lightly paint in the values using one color. During the process of the under painting, I had also painted a bit of my orange background so that it would be easy to paint the face on it. Then it was just a continuous, tedious process of layering and layering paint over paint. This process was really hard and tiring because it was very hard to move on from one section that I was unsatisfied with. Because of that, you can really see my painting change a lot after I’m finally done with those detailed parts. When I was eventually done with the face, I then started with the background. The original orange background that I’d started with was way too dark, so I covered it all up with white, so that the next layer of paint would have a bright and vibrant color. I first let the blue dry, and then worked on the orange. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t really turn out like the blue was overwhelming the orange (which was an effect I was looking for), so I slightly regretted working on the blue first. After all the painting part was done, I worked on the “transparent” flower (the skeleton flower). When I first planned my painting, I wanted to use resin to illustrate the transparent effect however, I wasn’t able to find a way to create the shape of the flower with resin so I investigated a different way to show a similar effect. I eventually came up with the idea to make the flower with plastic wrapping. It came out to look better than I thought and I was quite satisfied with how it looked. Overall, the composition of the flower did change a bit compared to my original final plan. It was due to the limitation of media, but it still conveyed the same meaning so I’m rather more pleased than disappointed.
Effort and Artistic Growth:
I am proud to say that I have challenged myself to try out a lot of new ideas and techniques in this project. First of all, it was my first experience of using oil paint in general and although we had already invested with oil paint through our media testing, it was also my very first time to use color oil paint for my final project. Because oil paint was a new medium for me, I put in extra effort to bring the best out of myself. Not only did I take advantage of class time, but I had also spent approximately 11-12hours outside of class to finalize my project. Looking at my completed piece, I am extremely happy to notice that I have grown as an artist, now knowing how to use a new media in art. I also stretched creatively and matured as an artist by expressing a message through indirect symbolism and even incorporating daily-life materials (plastic wrap) in my art work.
Artist Habits of Mind:
Like already mentioned, there were numerous steps to this project. Although I have explained all the process steps of the actual final project, I hadn’t
mentioned the media testing we did beforehand. Before we started with our planning, we took approximately 4-5 classes to learn how to use various mediums. During this process, I was able to learn the techniques of using oil paint. In addition to this, I took the time outside of class to invest in using plastic wrap to create different shapes of flowers which looked aesthetically pleasing.
Because one of the aspects of the guiding questions that I covered was conveying the intangible in my painting, I was able to learn how to express a non-visible feeling and message through symbolism. I did a lot of idea planning and sketching in order to reach to the final plan that I developed. The final symbols I eventually came up with was the skeleton flower and the contrasting colors (like mentioned above).
Along with the charcoal project, this project was one which required the most observing to complete the piece. Because a person’s face is so detailed and unique, the painting would look so different even if I missed a small detail. In order to capture all the features with precision, I zoomed into every small part of Jong Hyun’s face and took hours to draw each section. The part that most challenged me was the lips which I approximately spent almost 4hours fixing