I started this piece with nervous openness, ready to keep the piece malleable throughout the three months I had to work on it, but not sure what direction it had in mind. This is an aim for the entire series of self portraits at this scale, a welcoming of the jazz influenced "free play" and improvisation that can pull things from one's subconscious like an undertow. My process for the previous series had become a bit rigid and I felt the safety of that process starting to suffocate the art.
I knew only that I had become somewhat hypnotized by this pattern* I have been uncovering or discovering on the surface of my skin and found it a natural starting point. In the pattern are four overlapping spirals that descend from the crown of one's head. In order to emphasize those spirals I put one big spiral of paint around my actual head and started there. I watched the drips of paint and took some photos to reference for the shine and shadows. As I started drawing I thought it would be exciting to leave some of this pattern visible. I had done this before, most recently in The All Most. The most difficult thing to see about this surface pattern is the connection between the different terrains of the face- nose into eye into forehead. In The All Most I had revealed disconnected circles of surface, except for the two overlapping circles over the nose and eye. That was my most ambitious undertaking at that time, but in Baptism I was deciding to do six cross sections that spanned the entire width of the head. The foreshortening at the sides of the face create a compression of detail that make it very difficult to accurately observe. In a photograph or digital image the amount of information is the same across the surface of an image, but in real life (and in a mirror's reflection of real life) the amount of detail increases exponentially where foreshortening exists. There is more surface depicted in smaller space. I love this compression of detail and give extra time and emphasis to accurately drawing these passages. They are areas of transition with an outline at the threshold, and my work is often about moments of life's transitions so I bring extra attention to these areas of the drawing. I was convinced that the pattern revealed by a liquid spiral was going to be dynamic enough to hold the piece together. It was an everest of a visual undertaking. After months of seeing and rendering these patterns, I realized the drawing was still flat and listless. So I regrouped and saw that the geometry supported two different spirals, that they would line up convincingly, and it started asking for that: a double helix. Suddenly my head became the negative space around which a double helix wraps and DNA becomes the obvious metaphor. The purple and yellow came from watching our baby video monitor and looking at Koruna fall asleep (or not) during the setting sun. For some reason in the low light the little monitor was reduced to picking up only purple and yellow and I (properly influenced by the extraordinary beauty of my baby girl) loved this feature. So purple and yellow- opposites on the color wheel and a nod to the ever present duality of creation.
With a few weeks to go, the drawing was still lacking depth and vibration and I was getting nervous that all the work was heading toward ruin. The purple and yellow looked to be straight out of a crayon box so I added some purple to the yellow and yellow to the purple to take it back toward a central gray and things started getting a bit more dynamic. It wasn't until the last week that I realized I couldn't ignore the fact that it was looking like honey. I needed an admission so it wouldn't dominate the back burner and people wouldn't say, "why has he got that honey on his head?" then walk on by. The bee came to me (literally) on a spring day and I caught him and sacrificed him to the immortality of art (sorry little guy). Look close and you will see that the bees attracted to the yellow honey have a slight purple tint and vice versa. Where the bees alight upon the pattern they emit their special codified pattern of honey comb and it lines up with the pattern of my face. This little echo points to a distant ancestry that all cellular creatures on this planet share. Our interconnection with the bees is also hinted at by the fur around their bodies mimicking the fuzz surrounding the outline of my head.
*A note about that pattern: I find myself most engaged in drawing when my eyes assert their authority over my mind. My mind is constantly trying to take the reigns and the most difficult aspect of my practice is the discipline to trust the physical body (eyes) acting and reacting to the physical world (that which they observe). The mind insists upon its "correctness" and tries to steer the hand to make the marks it fancies, but each time it is responsible for a mark, the mark strikes me as inferior and dishonest. So I take a moment and reconnect with the eyes, with what I am seeing, and start again. It was this practice, repeated over and over again while looking at my reflection that began to reveal the patterns I have been seeing in the separation of the pores on my face. So, to say that I look for a pattern to get started is a bit inaccurate. In fact, I am very wary of that pattern and each time I see it coming out in my drawings I think I am seeing the influence of the mind and the infiltration of ubiquitous computer generated images that must have saturated my subconscious. So I check with my eyes again, and lo and behold, I see them- they are there.