Saturday, February 26, 2011

Preparing for Bulembu

Original Source Photo by Vanessa Day Photography used with permission.

I'm finally letting myself become excited about my upcoming trip to Africa this March! For those of you just tuning in, I will be joining a team of creative professionals travelling to Bulembu, Swaziland to create work that uncovers the story of the people that call this town home. The organization that is making this trip happen is amazing. Check out their site to get a better idea of the vision they have.

In order to be in fighting shape, I have been practicing portraiture for the past weeks. One day early on, I realized that I needed to practice one thing in particular - darker skin tones. This might seem ignorant and silly to some, but really, it is a whole other palette. My portrait work over the past few years has mainly involved the people who a) live with me (aka the Mennonite people) or b) commission work from me. This happens to be a mainly Caucasian clientele.

Happily, I have a number of friends who have been happy to grant permission to paint some studies of their children. Above is one four year old sweetie I am well acquainted with. What an amazing experience to play with a whole different part of the "skin tone" palette. The days have sure changed from the days that there was only one skin colour in the box of crayons. It brings to mind an exhibit that I saw a long time ago (I think at the Vancouver Art Gallery) where the whole piece was swatches of "skin colour" found in commercial art supplies and the gamut of tone and colour that this ran across the spectrum. If any reader knows what I am talking about, message me the artist's name. I remember that piece vividly.

While drafting this piece, I started with yellow ochre highlights and phthalo blue/raw umber shadows and then played with a whole range of burnt sienna mixed between. Painting corn rows and beads were tricky (especially the flesh tones in the parted sections) but I think it turned out well.

This was about 3.5 hours from initial drawing to completion. As my friend Vanessa can attest, I take a lot longer to finish a painting when it isn't done all in one sitting (more on that piece in the future, it isn't done yet!)

I leave in little over 2 weeks. I'm hoping to share more about some of the cool projects I am planning on doing while I am over in Swaziland. One involves the kids I work with at the church and the kids at the school in Bulembu. Keep checking back!