North Carolina Insanity
For my current piece, I was inspired by another picture by Dorothea Lange. This one was taken in North Carolina — 1936 I believe — and shows a woman, probably a sharecropper, standing in an old wooden shack. It appealed to me.
And as I started to work on the first wall of the cabin — I wondered what I was doing. I do portraits. This piece will have a figure in it, but she is not the main focus of the piece.
At one point, I did come to the realization that she is the house. I saw something online by Alice Walker in which she opined the situation of a slave that didn’t have the opportunity to express herself creatively — and I knew that this was the woman in the picture. She is bereft of herself and as worn down and tattered as the house in which she stands.
This is the first value for the right wall of the cabin. It’s a stand-in for plaster. The light in the pic isn’t great — I was working on this at night and didn’t think to turn on my natural light lamp.
This is the second value. It looks stark against the first value. It’s a batik that I bought to work as the background of my last piece, Worry, but it was too light so it ended up in my stash and works nicely here. Really — it does. Just keep going.
My third value is a rusty brown. I had to search some to find this. I had some rusts in my stash but they were too dark.
It’s a wall — I promise — although I’ll admit that I was getting disheartened. Sometimes you just have to keep going. This wall on the right of the piece is lighter than the rest of the cabin.
The next value is the first true brown — but there isn’t a lot of it here.
And then there is the darkest brown. Still doesn’t look right.
I did realize at this point that I needed to add the door facing — so I went back to the 2nd value.
And the 3rd value.
And the 4th value. Done. OK — it doesn’t look right to me either. The only thing missing is the black. There are many tiny lines of black separating the boards — and I had intended to do this in thread at the end — but at this point, I was disheartened and wondering if I had wasted my time — so I added the black.
Why does that make so much more sense? It just does. Without it, the eye just sees a jumble of shapes.
And then I did her face. I had painted myself into a corner. I couldn’t use the same brown tones I had used in the cabin for her face, so I decided to try the more yellow browns.
Her face is tiny — maybe an inch and a half — and when I first did this, I took this pic and then threw it in the trash. But, looking at it again in my camera with a little more perspective, I thought it might work — so I fished it out and started making her clothes.
I needed a color that would make her stand out but not look expensive. In the end, the blue would look best against her skin. This shows the first (very small) and second values.
The third value shows more of the outline of her dress.
The fourth value brings it even more to life.
This is the fifth value — and at this point, I’m happy with her face.
And then there is a little bit of black to add in there. (Don’t worry about her ear — it won’t be that large once I add her hat.)
Here she is in her hat and shoes. I chose gray which will be similar to the tiles in the roof. The background will be black and will fill in the space between her dress and shoes.
And here she is complete. The tablecloth and table leg are suggested objects. The rest of it falls into shadow.
As of today, I’ve done both the right and left walls of the cabin, the steps, and I’m almost done with the boards above the door and across the entire top.
I have to admit that I must be insane. This is a very complex piece. The applique is taking a very long time to do. And it is a true departure from the kind of work I normally do.
And yet I keep going. When I’m done with the cabin top — there are still a couple of rows of shingles at the top — and then rocks at the bottom. Hopefully all of this will make sense in the end.
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