You And I Make A Thing with Michael Tarnoff
In this episode I collaborate with artist Michael Tarnoff to make self-portraits inspired by Chuck Close.
Michael's Self Portrait
Thomas' Self Portrait
Thomas: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Creative Shoofly podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about exploring the creative journey as an artist. And in this episode, I'm continuing my improvisational experiment that I call You And I Make A Thing.
I invited my friend Michael to come up with a theme or project that we could do together. I hope you will enjoy hearing about our project, as much as we did doing it.
My guest today is Michael Tarnoff. Michael is a painter, a mixed media artist, as well as a photographer and all-around creative person. Welcome Michael.
Michael: Thank you for having me Thomas.
Thomas: Yeah, I'm glad to have you, Michael. I'm curious, before we get started, I'm want to know if there's some creative project that you've been working on or you're planning to work on right now?
Michael: Well, you know with COVID, things changed for me artistically [00:01:00] as far as access to my painting space and such, and I've been doing more photography and small works. And right now, we're in the mountains in the Utah area and I've been fascinated with ice and snow and cold and what happens with nature with that.
So I've been thinking about, in the back of my mind, a series of photographs and just thinking about them as a series of what nature does in the cold. Because I never really lived in the cold and witnessed it.
Michael: There's just fascinating things like when the fog comes in and then the cold comes in. If there's just the right amount of humidity, ice crystals form everywhere and it looks, it's just, it's magic.
So I'm just kind of keeping my eyes open for that and just being witness to the magic that nature creates.
Thomas: Well that's great, that sounds like a real process of discovery.
Michael: It is, it is. I love that you say that because where I got most of my art learning [00:02:00] from, not so much teaching but learning I'll call it, was at O'Hanlan Center for the Arts in Mill Valley. And the founder Ann O'Hanlan, one of my favorite sayings of hers was, “Exploration comes first, discovery perhaps later.”
Michael: And it’s just, it's so true when it comes to art and life.
So it's really, this really is a process of exploration and discovery, with, I mean the medium is nature and the cold and what, how it's so much different from the temperate Bay Area.
Thomas: Right, right.
Thomas: And I've been following you on Instagram, and your photographs have been just brilliant.
Michael: Thank you.
Thomas: For my listeners, I'll put a link to Michael's Instagram in the show notes. Well, exploration I think is a good segue into what we're going to be doing today, which is You And I Make A Thing. And as you know, what my goal here is to come up with [00:03:00] something that we can do together, either something that we do in parallel or something that we actually collaborate on.
And Michael, prior to our conversation today, I've asked you to come up with three things that you might be interested in doing, and I've done the same. And what I was thinking of is that we'd just bounce back and forth with our ideas and then we'll see if we can coalesce on something that sounds like fun.
How about that?
Michael: That sounds great.
Thomas: Why don't you start with something that's on your list.
Michael: Okay. Let me preface it with saying that when you asked me to think of these things, it actually was harder than I thought it was going to be. And I couldn't because I'm just I'm so spontaneous with my art. I actually never think about what I want to do ahead of time and just sort of let the process flow with that in that moment.
Michael: I mean, I might know ahead of time I'm going to draw just because of, you know, whatever's happening.
Michael: [00:04:00] So this was, this was very different for me. So the first thing I thought of, and these were all things, at least a couple of 'em were things that I've always thought about, but I have never done.
Thomas: Uh huh.
Michael: The first one was doing encaustic painting. Which is painting with paint that is mixed with wax and it sort of creates, on like a panel, it creates this dreamy kind of thing.
And I've never done it before. I don't know how to do it. and I don't even know if it's practical, but it was the very first thing I thought of because I've always wanted to try it.
Thomas: So I do follow a number of artists and I've seen a number of encaustic paintings, and they are sort of dreamy. They're sort of lots of different colors flowing and mixing. And that's what you're talking about, right?
Michael: Right. I mean, you can do realistic stuff. I'm not a realistic painter, but one could do that with encaustic painting. But it just sounds like so much fun. I it would be quite an exploration and discovery process.
Thomas: So I'm curious, is the wax [00:05:00] hot
Michael: Yes. Yes.
Thomas: Oh, it's hot. Oh it's hot wax. Okay. Interesting. And then you're mixing maybe like oil paints or something?
Michael: Yeah. I think, or acrylic. I don't, I actually have no idea. I think you can do acrylic, may have to wear a mask.
Thomas: I would imagine. Yes. It sounds interesting.
Thomas: I mean, I love sort of dreamy and very colorful palettes and drawings and, they don't need to be realistic at all. I just, I don't know about you Michael, but I really respond to color a lot.
Michael: Yeah, I'm a colorist. Yeah.
Thomas: Yeah. All right, well let's bookmark that one and let's see where this goes. So on my list, I've been fascinated with assemblage. You know, like box assemblage, Joseph Cornell type.
Thomas: And I've noticed that there are at least a couple artists out [00:06:00] there that are doing, I guess what they call small box assemblage. They'll take, these little boxes that your iPhone comes in, or even smaller, like little jewelry boxes and then using found art, they'll put an assemblage together.
Michael: Oh, wonderful.
Michael: I've dabbled in that a tiny bit, maybe one or two in my Saturday art class at the center over the 20 plus years that I was there. And it was fun.
Thomas: It's an interesting process to use found art as opposed to, I guess the best way to put it is, is like starting with an idea.
Thomas: It's that exploration thing really. It's like, okay, let's see what happens here.
Michael: Mm-hmm. Oh, love it.
Thomas: What's, what's next on your list?
Michael: Okay. My next one is, I've never worked with Sculpey Clay.
Thomas: Uh huh.
Michael: I've felt it and played with it, but I've actually never [00:07:00] taken it, sculpted something out of it, baked it, and then painted it.
Michael: As simple as that sounds, I've never done it and I think it would really bring out my child, and my adult at the same time to kind of co-create something, again abstract.
But, I even looked into like, can you buy bulk kind of uncolored sculpey and you can. So simple but kind of.
Thomas: Yeah, I mean, I played with clay but I've never fired anything before or hardened it before. So that sounds interesting. And then, you know, and not painted it after.
Michael: Right, and that's the beauty of Sculpey is that you can… I guess I maybe you might even be able to paint it beforehand, I don't know. But you harden it in the oven. So it's, you don't need a kiln to do it.
Thomas: Right, exactly. I like that. All right,[00:08:00] well, my next one is not very well defined. The note that I have here is mail art collage. The idea is to combine the idea of mail art and collaging together. So it might be just a collage postcard, or something that we put in an envelope and then just send to each other
Michael: Oh, that's fun.
Thomas: Yeah. Maybe as almost like a call and response type of thing.
Michael: Oh my goodness. Huh. You know, that I could envision doing it together where you start one and then you send it, partially completed.
Michael: And then you respond and we go back and forth.
Thomas: Uh huh
Thomas: Maybe like a little folded book where the pages are things that we fill in with collage. Or [00:09:00] like a zebra fold? Not no, what's the name? Where they, where you fold it? Accordion! Like an accordion fold. That's what I meant. Yeah.
Thomas: Oh, okay.
Michael: Yeah. I don't know. It sounds like a neat idea.
Thomas: Alright. What's the last one on your list?
Michael: All right. Hopefully you know the artist, Chuck Close?
Thomas: I don't, no. Tell me.
Michael: He did self-portraits, huge self-portraits, and what he did was he narrowed down and magnified into little, he would make a little grid pattern. So maybe it would be a nine-foot by six-foot self-portrait. Right. But he would make grids that were maybe one inch by one inch, or two inch by two inch. And he would zoom in on the photograph and see what the swirl pattern or color pattern might look like.
Michael: And he would paint that in each little box. And so he would, [00:10:00] he would abstract. Build this grid with swirls and colors, and then when you step back, it became a portrait.
Michael: Which was, I was always fascinated by it. And I thought that would be fun to do, like self-portraits of each other.
Michael: And you know, obviously we're not going to do nine by seven feet, so maybe a nine by 12, or something that can be mailed easily.
Thomas: Right, right.
Michael: But you can get a small grid on a nine by 12 and just kind of zoom in on a photograph and instead of drawing, as though you're drawing a face, you just draw what's in that grid, the kind of the shapes and the colors as best you can, and then you move on to the next.
And then you sort of end up with, you know, it's not always going to be this pretty image, which is kind of fun. Not all of his were either, he celebrated the ones that were kind of goofy looking too.
Michael: So his last name is [00:11:00] C L O S E, first name Chuck. I highly recommend you Google him and see if we do it this time or not.
Thomas: Yeah. Yeah, I will.
Michael: But that would be fun.
Thomas: I've been playing with Procreate on the iPad and I can totally see how you could have the the photo, then have another layer that is the grid, and then you just pinch open and then have another layer where you then do the drawing in in different brushes and different whatever.
Michael: Oh, I love that! I would actually love to know how to do that too, because I don’t know how to mix photo and drawing together in digital format.
Thomas: Yeah. Yeah. And actually, I mean, I'm just thinking about this. This is something that we could share easily over email, right? Or file sharing or whatever to get going.
Okay. Well, I'm chuckling a [00:12:00] little bit because my last one is like somewhat related and I don't even know what I was thinking here.
I just wrote down the words wild selfies and I guess the image that comes to mind is like, yeah, I live 20 minutes from the beach, so I'd probably go down on the beach and just, you know, wild poses or jumps up in the air. I don't know what it might be
Michael: Hmm, that's fun.
Michael: You know, I mean, we can each expand on that too. But I want to throw this into the mix just for you and the listeners. I've been on Instagram, there's some amazing artists on Instagram. I really just use Instagram for following artists. And there are a group, many photographers who do what's called Intentional Camera Movement.
Michael: And they purposely move their. [00:13:00] To create visual effects.
Thomas: Oh, right.
Michael: And there are some that are, I mean, they're like gorgeous abstract paintings. They're so beautiful.
Thomas: They're holding the shutter open. Is that what they're doing?
Michael: I'm not sure, I generally only take photographs with my iPhone because even though I have very nice equipment, the phone just fits in my pocket and I usually take photographs when I go hiking.
Thomas: The iPhone is so good actually.
Michael: It's actually quite good. The only way I've been able to do it is at night when the iPhone has a longer exposure and I can play with moving it.
So you kind of, there would be some exploration into how do you get enough light, but not too much light and, but those would be some wild selfies for sure. That would be fun to try.
Thomas: Yeah. Well, I think we have six fantastic ideas and, and I felt a lot of energy around all of 'em.
Thomas: So I'm [00:14:00] curious now, what, which one did you feel a lot of energy around in particular? I have one that I did.
Michael: I think the one that I got the most energy around as much because I think it combined a couple of what we talked about and the ease of sharing was this idea of these sort of Chuck Close style wild painted selfies using Procreate.
Thomas: I agree.
Michael: And we can share, you know, constantly in progress sharing and it's, it's digital makes it very easy to do it. Since I'm, you know, we're 800 miles apart so.
Thomas: I totally agree. That's the one that I just felt, “Wow, okay.” That's something that I've never done before. And I can totally see, I can already visualize how I might be doing it, at least, for me working on Procreate on the iPad. Do, do you have Procreate?[00:15:00]
Michael: I don't, but I suppose I can get it, so yeah.
Thomas: Yeah, it's not, it's not that expensive. I think it's just, if I remember right, I think it's just $9.95 or something like that.
Michael: I can definitely get it.
Thomas: Wow, Michael, this went really quick, which I'm delighted about, and I'm also just, I'm just excited about how all of these ideas were really good.
Thomas: I mean, I definitely was sort of imagining something I might be making in Sculpey. And the encaustic painting sounds very interesting as well. But, I think we found something that is actually really exciting here.
Michael: I do too. And as a tangent, you know, this could be expanded to many people. Where you take any photograph and it could be a photograph of somebody that we don't even know, and you divide it into nine. So you would need nine different people, you know about it in nine [00:16:00] sections.
And then each person takes that and they have to be exactly the same size and that each person takes that. And then we all agree on the size of the grid that we're going to use. And then we each do one ninth and all our focus is on our little piece, and then you bring them all together and see how they form.
Thomas: It's like a quilt
Michael: A lot of fun too. Yes. That's a lot of fun too.
Thomas: Thank you for this offer. I'm going to go and look up Chuck Close now and see what he's come up with.
Michael: Oh, for sure. Yeah.
Thomas: All right. Very good. we'll be in touch as far as the logistics and all that kind of stuff.
Michael: I'm looking forward to it, Thomas.
Thomas: In just a moment. I'll return with Michael. To talk about how we did. On our Chuck close portrait adventure.
(Editor’s note. The musical interlude was performed in Sonic Pi and was created by Pit Noack. The complete code listing is available here: https://www.heise.de/select/ct/2017/13/1497796312321798 )
Thomas: Well, hello Michael. How's it going?
Michael: I'm well Thomas, how are you?
Thomas: I'm doing great. I have to say I had such a great time with this You And I Make A Thing and creating a self-portrait on the iPad. It was a very interesting experience.
Michael: Yes, I could wax away about my experience with it, highs and lows, but I can go into more detail about it, but it was fun.
Thomas: Let me read to you a quote from Chuck Close. He was interviewed by Cleveland, Ohio's The Plain Dealer newspaper, and he [00:18:00] made a choice in 1967 to make art hard for himself and force a personal artistic breakthrough by abandoning the paintbrush.
He said, “I threw away the tools. I chose to do things I had no facility with. The choice not to do something is, in a funny way more positive than the choice to do something. If you impose a limit to not do something you've done before, it'll push you to where you've never gone before.”
When I read that, I thought, wow, that's exactly what we were doing here, isn't it?
Michael: Yes. That's great.
Thomas: I'm always delighted when I read the thought processes of artists that I follow and admire, and in this case learned about, that sort of mirror some thinking that was going on in my mind. In this case about going places that I've never gone before.
Michael: Yeah, this process that we took was, [00:19:00] well by nature my design. It was new to each of us and there were aspects that I love and aspects that I struggled with. It was very, very different process from how I normally create.
Thomas: Well expand on that. How did you feel at the very beginning? You know, after we had talked.
Michael: Well, I there was a, so the combination of excitement and also newness. I think I had purchased Procreate on another recommendation years ago. I had never done anything with it. And so there was a learning curve. I just went to YouTube videos, and I think you may have sent some videos as well.
So I learned how to, you know, have the background photo so that I could then adjust it, things with that, and choosing the grid size. And then it was a matter of the different pens and such. It was all very new to me. And so I'm sure it, you know, to get to where I am, I think I've probably learned maybe one or two percent of what you can do with Procreate. [00:20:00] And I started with sort of the elements that I felt most comfortable with.
Michael: So my creative process is completely different from this. I never draw something that I think I want to draw, or the idea of what I'm going to draw is never there. It's never a specific thing. I draw more from stream of consciousness or in the present, or I must be channeling something. I don't, I actually don't know what, where it comes from.
And it just comes out of me. And I often make myself go into a very healthy struggle, if you will, so that I can get myself out of it.
Michael: So my art goes through many iterations. It's always abstract. Sometimes it turns into a really cool abstract image that does look like something, but that's not the intent or it's, that's more of a fun ending.
Michael: So mine is always, I'm never intending to do anything other than just be with the [00:21:00] creative process of art and let it flow.
And that's what, that's my charge. I just, I mean, it's just the greatest feeling in the world.
Thomas: So this felt, this really felt different for you?
Michael: Completely different because I was doing something. So it was in the beginning there was a push-pull on how do I do it so that I could, I have still a creative process that's flowing and actually draw something.
And I just started to let go of what I was drawing and get into the meditative movement of it. Following the lines and letting my hand move with the, you know, the apple pencil on my iPad. And, it was fun, in segments where I would get lost were when there weren't any lines to follow.
And so I was split to where do I make it up? Or do I zoom in more, or do I make the background image darker so I can see it?
It was just, it was, you know, there was a lot of mistakes. There was a huge chunk where I put it all in the wrong layer. I [00:22:00] put a bunch of my drawing on the actual the photograph layer. That was lost, so I had to draw it again, which was fun. Again, this was all a good learning process.
But I think I went through a doldrum with it, for a couple reasons, which was really fascinating. One was that I, except for my really large paintings, I don't spend a lot of time on one art piece.
Michael: I usually, it can be a few hours to many hours, but then I'll move on to the next art piece.
Even with some of my canvases. It can be like that with my large canvases, you know, like four feet by seven.
Michael: I will spend months, if not a year working on them, you know, once a week, twice a week. They just go through that many iterations and it takes that long to do it.
Quite frankly, with this, it's just the size of an iPad, right? Hundred by hundred grid.
Michael: I would get to a point where I would realize my arc for creating it was done so [00:23:00] I'd have to recreate a new arc. And it made me look at the piece differently, it made me look at the process differently and more at first, more constricting and like, ah, why is this like this?
And then after I got rid of that voice or I let that voice speak and then I said, okay, what's next?
It was more how do I, you know, I'm creating something really cool here. I'm, I'm creating something representational that I'm not focused on that because I'm only focused on each little grid and I'm gonna pour my creativity into each grid.
And when I zoom back out, we'll see what it looks like. And I'm not even done with mine, which is kind of exciting.
Thomas: I think it looks great as it is already. I mean, to me it has almost like a quilt feel to it.
Michael: Yes, you're right.
Thomas: Which I think is fabulous. I want to know more about what you mean by arc. I want you to elaborate on what you mean by arc. Does [00:24:00] that mean like the arc of getting into a creative or an in inspired moment? Is that what that means?
Michael: So for me, arc in when I'm doing art, what I'm creating, there's, it's undefined as far as time. And when I'm doing something that's not intentionally representational, that's just a free flow, I just follow the arc, so I'll just start drawing and, and, and usually it builds on itself, sort of this beginning.
You have a set a space, right? Sometimes it, you know, with or without music, but you have to get into it, it's a process actually.
Sometimes you, it just comes immediately and you're just, you're in the flow within the first few seconds.
Thomas: Would you say that there's like an act one, act two, act three? Is that what you're getting, at?
Michael: There is.
Thomas: It sounds to me that there's like a beginning, middle, and end. And, when you were at the end, you were [00:25:00] a little bit, I don't want to say lost, but…
Michael: I would say it was the middle.
Thomas: Oh, oh, I see.
Michael: In the beginning, I got into the flow. I got excited about it, and then I thought when I spent as much time as I did, figuring out the pens and working on this little bit, and I zoomed out and I thought, Oh boy, I just spent an hour and I've barely done, I felt like I barely did anything.
I thought, wow, this is going to take way longer than I thought it was, which is why I contacted you and said, we're going to need more time here. Which you graciously, agreed to.
And so I think my middle got, I don't know what the right word is. I don't know if it's interrupted, but the flow was changed.
And at first I resisted it because I just, I naturally flow when I create. I've never had an interruption before, but I still held the first act. It was, it's always, that's the beauty of art, right? Your first act is always there, [00:26:00] um, unless you pick up a new piece of paper.
And so, it was just a very long middle for me.
Michael: I'm coming to the, it almost feels like in this piece I'm coming to the end of one arc and beginning another, or I've done that multiple times on this piece.
It's actually forced me to do that. From the way that I normally create to the way to create, so two things, both with the fact that we're, we're doing something that's intentionally representational and in a grid, right?
So we're limiting what we do. And also, I don't do that much creation digitally. feeling the paper or the canvas, feeling the pencil or the pen, and feeling the friction as that moves across.
Thomas: That tactile feeling.
Michael: That tactile feeling is so important. I didn't realize how important it was until we got deeper into this. I've done shorter drawings on the iPad and those were short arcs, you know, an hour, maybe two at most. [00:27:00]
But when it gets longer, I'm missing that sound of the pencil. Right? I'm going to draw right now. Just that sound when you're hatching or when you're shading.
I'm still drawing right now cause it's, kind of, it's fun. There's this element that I was missing, a connection to the piece of art that I am still learning how to let go of the friction that happens with in-person art.
That's not the right word… Versus the immediacy of when the pen touches the pad, it's creating something. And obviously the apple pencil, if you, whether it's angled or your pressure, it does change things, but I'm still, it's all very new.
Thomas: Right. And then the fact that we were doing the grid and you're, we're essentially starting over with every grid.
Michael: Yes, yes.
Thomas: I can see where that sort of lost feeling in the middle of it [00:28:00] is like, oh, okay, I just did something and now I'm starting again. And almost like Groundhog Day.
Thomas: So, you know, I experienced a lot of the same thing in mine. I laughed when you said, oh, I was, I was starting to paint another wrong layer. I can't tell you how many times I was started to paint the wrong layer.
And in fact, I did finish mine a little bit earlier and just recently I opened up the iPad again because I needed to save it and then send it to you. And I realized I was trying to move it around. And I realized that instead of moving it around, I was painting again.
And it's like uh oh! and frantically undoing. But there were a couple strokes that weren't in the undo stack anymore. And so I actually now have to go back and fix a few of the grids because I accidentally painted over them and. And so, or maybe I'll leave it there. I don't know.
Michael: Yeah, I think so.
Thomas: It [00:29:00] kind of looks goofy to me, but, you know, it's just how it is, right? When you see something that other people maybe not see or they see it differently. But learning the layers was an interesting process. And also it just, it tripped me up quite a bit. It was nice that Procreate does have a grid feature that kind of made it easy.
Michael: That was great.
Thomas: So for me, I felt it, it was also a little bit weird like painting over a picture of me.
Thomas: And so it took me a while before that photo of me staring back at me sort of just faded into the background. It took me a while for just to say, oh, okay, I'm just, you know, I'm doing a process here.
The thing that never went away from me though, were the eyes and the mouth. I mean, that's sort of where you know, our brains focus on, on eyes and mouth. and that's the part that I had [00:30:00] to like, go over several times.
Like, okay, that mouth doesn't look right and I need to, start again. So I ended up spending a lot of time on the eyes and the mouth specifically to try to find something that would translate into this, you know, gridded picture.
Thomas: I'm curious, did you have an aha moment at any point where it's like, oh!
Michael: I, well, I had a few of them. The biggest one was, you know, when you're drawing or painting on top of a photograph, It always looks fuller and more complete until you turn off the photo layer and then it's obviously it's clearer. It's white behind everything that's, that you haven't drawn on,
Michael: Plus all of your ink colors now look different.
Michael: So I think my biggest aha moment was early on when I remembered to turn off the photo layer. And I saw all these crazy line. I was [00:31:00] maybe 10% done and I saw all these crazy lines and, and, and these weird colors.
And I'm thinking, where, where is this coming from? Like I could see that it was sort of my nose and part of my eye. I think that's, think I started right in my, in that part of my face.
But it was, shocking to think like, oh, these colors don't look anything like my photo, like the, I couldn't figure out, and I still can't figure out how you get the right color. That's a mystery still to me.
But there was that moment. I think my hair, which in the photo is big and curly. That's been a kind of a wonderful struggle to get the way I wanted to look. Which I don't actually know what that is yet. It's more of a feel to try to figure out how to make it look something like what I think I want it to look like without actually knowing what that is, right?
I don't, I don't actually have the answer yet because I don't, I haven't seen it, but I've gone through my hair twice now and I'm still only about 50%. I don't even know if I'm [00:32:00] 50% done. Because I still want to play with my hair actually has lots of different colors in it, shades. It almost looks like it's highlighted.
Michael: So that's actually really hard. And so the kind of, the aha moment is, and I've always felt this way, even when I've, you know, you see, great paintings, by Sargent or, um, I'm forgetting all the great painters at the moment in my head, but hair is always one of the most amazing things that artists are able to do, and I've always been in awe in doing it.
Now I can see why, because it's such a fascinating, it's such a fine thing to zoom in on and try to do in blocks.
Thomas: Well, I think you did a great job. As far as what I'm seeing so far, and to our listeners, you're welcome to go to the show notes and you'll see both of our portraits there. You've [00:33:00] selected some washes for sort of the base color, and then you have some sort of fine line work that, uh, almost to me looks like, you know, the terrain maps that have the elevations and all that kind of stuff.
Michael: Well, I am a civil engineer,
Thomas: There you go.
Michael: I think it comes out naturally.
Thomas: Yeah, I think it's great. So I had a few aha moments. One was that I made a layer specifically for swatches because there's a way in procreate where you just tap down on a color and hold, and it'll pick up that color. I picked that up from a YouTube.
So that was sort of a nice little discovery for me. It was, “Oh yeah, create a swatch layer because otherwise those colors ain't coming back.” You know if you're using, like, I used a pen that was called bleach, and so it it's not the full color. It's sort of a runny stained version of that color [00:34:00] that I was using.
Michael: I want to hear your other aha, aha moments. But I'm now, I'm excited to go find that feature. Because I was looking for something where I could use like an eyedropper to grab a previous color and I just, I couldn't figure it out.
The reason mine is a myriad of different colors is because I was trying to guess what the, what color to use each time.
Thomas: Oh, right, right. The other one that I used is the color tool has something called harmony mode, where you can pick a pair of complimentary colors or triad of colors. And so I was using triads in mine. I was sort of filling my squares with like a base color and then covering it with a complimentary color.
Thomas: And then putting a dot in the middle to change the gray scale value, like the density. So my thought was, okay, I'm going to create some complimentary colors and then put the dots in to sort of change the [00:35:00] value, the overall value when you pull back.
Michael: Oh, interesting.
I'm looking at yours right now. It's so great. It has, elements of, uh, Andy Warhol.
Thomas: And for the hair, I just did short strokes. I didn't really spend so much time on it because,
Michael: It's brilliant.
Thomas: Yeah, I had to do my beard and then I had to do my curly hair. What I decided there is I would do strokes, but I, the strokes would remain within the grid. So I wasn't taking the strokes beyond each grid. So each grid was sort of self-contained in terms of that. And I just tried to make sure that I was following the direction of the hair.
Michael: Are your grids and your squares of colors, are those in a different layer from your hair?
Thomas: No. And, but I should have! I think that one of the things I learned here was, is that layers are good, you know, and the more layers you do, the better. [00:36:00] And definitely when you leave it, leave it on a layer that, that you can, you know, erase stuff on.
Because I left it on my main layer. And then, like I said, I came back later and I was trying to move it around and I was actually painting over. It's like, “Oh no!”
Michael: Well, and you kind of created a, you created a grid, like your grid is defined on your painting.
Thomas: Right. And you mentioned how like when you took away the photograph layer that it changed and so I actually had to create a background layer that was sort of a neutral, like 50% gray. And I played with that a little bit and I made it really dark. I made it light, but I finally sort of settled on sort of in that middle 50% gray as a background, because otherwise to me the photo didn't look dense enough.
Michael: And [00:37:00] it's gray background on well, and the listeners will have a look at the images, but you're from your shoulders up, there's one background, and then down below you've got white. There's lots of white that's in there that really helps break up. It creates tension and it helps divide your, painting really nicely.
Thomas: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I didn't, that wasn't intentional.
Michael: That wasn't intentional. Oh, it's fantastic.
Thomas: Thank you. I was just following the photograph, so I'd taken the photograph in my bathroom and there's a yellow wall behind me and so that's why I chose that color. And then the shirt, you know, was a sort of a darker gray shirt.
Michael: Will the photographs be on the notes as well so they can see what it looks like or just
Thomas: Yes. Yeah.
Michael: Oh, great. Good.
Michael: Did you choose the colors for your face and your hair? You, you wanted a more abstract and [00:38:00] fun direction?
Thomas: Yeah, sort of an orange-ish color. I was contemplating to actually to do like a, like a blueish or greenish, but I just, I thought, well, that might look a little bit too ghoulish. So I went with a warm color.
Thomas: I had to play with the colors a little bit, definitely.
Michael: Well, it's it. Yours is definitely playful.
Thomas: Yeah. Thank you. It was also a playful pose that was kind of fun to do the pose.
Thomas: So Michael, what would you say or recommend to someone who was going to try this or something similar to this?
Michael: I would say, well, okay, I was going to say learn the tools and et cetera.
But one of the things that I learned from, where I kind of learned how to create and see and perceive, O'Hanlan Center for the Arts in Mill Valley, was that it's all about seeing and perceiving and kind of [00:39:00] developing that, and letting go of what we've learned in school and the media, whatever that art is, this one thing and it's perfect and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
I would throw all that out the window or set it aside depending on, on your feelings on it. And let mistakes happen and let them be a part of your piece.
Because it's a part, you're creating a part of you, you're creating a journal entry. And so you can, you know, there is no… I used to know an artist who if she didn't like something, she would stick it in the the sink and then turn on the water and, and let the stuff wash off until she's kind of saw a cool part of it that she wanted to keep.
And then she would pull it away and dab it dry and, and then continue. The erase tool can work like that. But I think that I've spent most of my now 24 years drawing, and creating, hardly ever using an eraser and just building on and [00:40:00] incorporating mistakes. And if, if you really like something, don't let it rule the painting or what you're creating.
And, you know, kind of have fun with this and let it, you know, choose your grid size carefully because it makes a big difference in how long it's going to take.
Thomas: Yeah. Sure does.
Michael: But I'm fascinated by what I've, I would, uh, not in my lifetime would I ever create something like this unless I had agreed to do it with you. Because I would've lost interest and I would've like, you know what I, this isn't for me, but because you asked me and we, I agreed and we, you know, made this challenge for ourselves. I stuck to it.
So make it so that you know how much time is going to take and then give yourself the time to do it, because it's a really fun process.
Thomas: And what’s embedded in what you just said there is to make it a collaboration.
Thomas: There's something about creating art in collaboration that [00:41:00] really is a little bit different than when you're just sitting by yourself in your studio. I mean, we did this by ourselves, but we were still doing it in collaboration and it makes all the difference in the world.
Michael: I one hundred percent agree!
Thomas: Yeah. and I also wanted to say that there is really something personal about doing a self-portrait. You know, it's different. It really feels different. It's…
Thomas: … you know, that's me. It's, it's…
Michael: Yeah! Is that, is that what I look like?
Thomas: …a picture of me.
Thomas: Well, Michael, thank you so much for this. This was, this was a real delight and I'm glad we went through this. I'm looking forward to seeing how yours evolves. Let me know as it evolves and at some point if you say, okay, I'm done with it, then let me know as well. I'd love to see it.
But this was really a fun project and, and thank you for, sort of guiding us in this [00:42:00] direction of Chuck Close. I'm so delighted to have learned about the artist and what he did so thank you very much.
Michael: Thank you for inviting me, uh, Thomas. It's been a delight.
Thomas: That's all for today's episode of the Creative Shoofly podcast. I hope you've enjoyed our conversation. The goal of You And I Make A Thing is to step outside our comfort zone and embrace the uncertainty of trying something new. I hope we've inspired you to take a leap into the unknown. Thank you for tuning in. And I look forward to sharing more insights and experiences with you in my next episode. Keep creating and never stop exploring
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