Augmented Portraits (an origin story)

Last year, I made a mistake while I was laying out a commissioned portrait on a canvas in pencil. I don't know what it was, maybe I hadn't had enough coffee that morning, but something caused me to sketch the face far too low on the canvas. After staggering a bit, aghast at my own negligence, I erased what I could and started over. Of course, as we know, graphite never erases truly clean. After laying out the complete face a second time, I was captivated by what was now (despite my best intentions) a face with doubled facial features, one a little bit fainter than the other. I had to paint this face too! So, I put the canvas aside and grabbed another to start my commission all over again. Later, as soon as I had time to do so, I painted that doubled face. This was the result:

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"Bifocus" / 8" x 8" / acrylic on canvas / 2015

I greatly enjoyed painting in this style and got an enthusiastic response from friends and social media. So I had to do more! The next one gained even more eyes - the result of another "error" in layout, but I was learning to just go with the flow at this point:

 

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"Hexoculus"/ 16" x 20"/ acrylic on canvas/ 2015

Soon, I just started having fun:

 

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"Cyclopulus"/ 16" x 20"/ acrylic on canvas / 2016

I realized that what I liked about these paintings, and what drove me to want to paint them in the first place, is that they challenge what I've known and have accepted about the human form. This is an area that is particularly fascinating to me. The viewer expects that a face has two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. They are expected to be in very specific places in order for an image to be acceptable and harmonious. What I strive to do is create images that achieve that facial "harmony" upon cursory glance, but then require further investigation. I decided to call the series "Augmented Portraits". They are portraits with something more. So far, I have painted over a dozen in this style.

 

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"Majestica" / 16" x 20" / acrylic on canvas / 2016

Each face is composed with various shapes and patterns, usually in bright colors,  and accentuated by black outline. While technically representational, the overall effect of this style is to draw the eye into individual abstract components that serve as the building blocks of the composition. My hope is that this slows the process of viewing the art and transforms it into a joyful exploration.

 

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"Aphroditrois" / 16" x 20" / acrylic on canvas / 2016