Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Selfless Portraits - Altruistic Art in the Facebook Era

Recently, I came across an article about a new Facebook app, Selfless Portraits. The idea is to create spontaneous, hand-made art based upon the prompt of a Facebook profile photo. In return someone will create a piece based upon your photo. It is anonymous and random which, is very appealing to me.

An artistic challenge - no matter how it is posed - can reinvigorate our commitment to our craft and help us the hone our creative decision making skills as an artist. I can honestly say that how I chose to approach such an open ended project surprised me.

As I reflect upon my process, twenty-four hours later, I feel that this public art experiment was a wonderful, private moment shared by my mind, my hand and my instinct.

As I approached this sketch I had planned to go with color and at the last minute decided I wanted to work in pencil. Color was the natural first choice because of the vibrant tulips but once I made the decision to go black and white I was primarily working with shape, line and shadow. If this was going to be interesting then those elements had better be compelling.

I started with light shading but quickly realized that the man in the photo was more interesting than the tulips he was holding. - His hands carried all the character - full of expression and life, they became the portrait.

The face is barely there as an anchor. The piece built from the foreground to the background. And then I was left with the tulips.

I love to draw flowers and struggled with the idea of making the tulips the only color or at least rendering them. But it was their shape, bisecting the man's face and casting shadows that was far more interesting than the eye-catching color. The shape was the designer's choice. I created an added element that could only have worked in black and white.

When I finished I realized that this exercise in a quick portrait of a perfect stranger had opened up the process and showed me a little more of how my artist's mind works to solve a creative challenge. Patience, the willingness to give yourself over to the challenge one moment at a time, the spontaneity of changing gears when an new creative opportunity offers itself are the elements of process.

I suppose some would call this artistic growth... I call it fun!

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