Here are some "in-progress" drawings of Kelly Thomas, the homeless man who was beaten to death last year by Fullerton PD.
I wanted to do a straightforward silverpoint portrait of Kelly for the Fullerton art show (Justice 4 Kelly @ PAS Gallery).....something nostalgic, reminiscent of earlier times in his troubled life. I used a picture I found on the internet, I liked the overexposed boyish quality of the blurry picture. It took a few tries before I drew something that felt close.
But, does a straightforward portrait say enough? The silverpoint lends a softness and it will tarnish over the years...evolving and changing. It's intimate, small, almost snapshot sized.
I decided to take it a step further down the content road....borrowing an element from some of my recent paintings by blotting out what could be considered the most important part of the image. A black square placed in the center of the square image: symmetrical, cubed, sterile.
The humor I felt when naming one of my paintings "Anonymous Succulent" in reference to the black shape they use to cover the eyes in photos (to preserve the subjects' identity) took on a pretty dramatic effect. Kelly was unrecognizable when brought to the hospital...he is taking on an "everyman" quality with regards to mental illness and homelessness. His personal identity....his personality...his individuality is slowly dissolving.
Formally, I love the way the black square establishes the picture plane and inherently pushes Kelly back away from the viewer adding to the nostalgia/memory quality.
Personally, I'm finding it difficult to paint the black square over his face...I worked hard cross-hatching the subtleties of his likeness! (right now it's just a black piece of paper taped to the drawing.)
So do I "wimp out" and do a diptych (one of each?) Not sure.