This self-portrait was something I thought about every morning for a year. I painted it in the bathroom. As I was brushing my teeth I observed the way the cold outdoor light came down on my head from the little window above the mirror, and at various times of the day it shifted in very subtle ways that attracted the painter in me. This light contrasted with the warm interior light coming down the hallway and illuminating my form from the back. That light struck me as carrying a metaphor of time passing, of some sort of ancestral passageway. And the shirt? Hell, I’m a snappy dresser.
I like the blue and yellow motif running throughout the painting, Vermeer-esque- down to the carpet in the lower left corner.
Vermeer, Velasquez… if only I’d worked in Vernet I’d have a V trifecta!
The painting itself as expected is brilliant, Scott, but it is that gaze right into the viewer’s eyes that poses so many questions, and anxieties and discomfort – just the kind of thing I always hope a painting will do. That is one of the only ‘movers and shakers’ we have left today. Thanks for your honesty.
This is one of my current favorite paintings. It has a metallic shimmer like I’ve never seen in any other painting. It’s the first painting that was ‘advertised’ for your last exhibition at KDR. It was immediately clear that this was an extremely special painting. I just ‘favored’ it right now, I don’t know how I missed it.. This and Master of Creation are both too cool to handle.
Many years ago I had an alcohol enhanced conversation with my Slovak friend Robert Jancovic as we watched an approaching thunderstorm from the balcony of his flat in Bratislava. As the late afternoon grew into early evening, the sky darkened punctuated by golden flashes of lightening that sorted out the layers of clouds. We began talking about the illusion of luminosity and the discovery and importance of light and, specifically yellow in our work. For Robert, a secretly religious person in the Communist era, that light/yellow was spirit, truth, and even God. With that in mind, he reworked as an ex libris for me, a small mezzotint and drypoint that he had entitled, “Poppera (Propping Up).” In it, a shaft of yellow light pierced through the heart of an abstract figure is enough to support the figure. See the attached.
The morning light on the door is oddly familiar. (that is where I start into the piece). I think similarly, my observations are always on the way things are illuminated. The turned up cuff on your sleeve seems to be a dynamic transitionary piece leading my eye from the striped shirt (I too thought to be pi’s) to the pallet, so delightfully loaded with color. Then the brush leads me back up and around, up the canvas to the illuminated side of your face, and lastly, to the lighting behind your head. It is interesting to me the way i enter top right of the work and spiral around through it ending in the center. I am still struggling with the tempera glaze process! (so I appreciate your masterful work so much more!)
How is your egg tempera coming along? I’d like to see the final product. It takes some practice, but ultimately it is easier than alla prima painting, because it separates form and color.
It’s so hard to keep bright yellows in the background. I love how it pushes the figure forward into the cooler light, and the choice of yellow and blue in the shirt to echo that. Snappy, indeed!
Love the play of the golden light against the golden stripes in the shirt. This painting is seriously amazing.
Thanks, Stephen. I don’t think I consciously was even aware of the interplay of those two yellows as I did the piece, but I did realize the shirt had a bit of ‘zip’ to it.
Yellow and blue. Both are hard to work with. Both the light and pasterns (stripes)provide a powerful visual interest. Slightly muted yellow in the far background and hot yellow right up front create a neat sense of depth. I am still convinced that the painter can do things a photographer cant. The images work differently.
Yes, photos and paintings work very differently. Knowing that a painting is made by strokes of the hand, each deliberate, each an aesthetic gesture of the artist, profoundly alters how we perceive the work. And we think of painting as being so much less efficient than photography, but I look at the work of the group of photographers like Jeff Wall who take weeks to set up shoots with elaborate built sets, actors, large studio crews, lighting, etc., and I think, “Just paint the damn thing, man!”
I was thinking, only ten minutes ago, how activity on Omo, including my own has become very quiet recently, and how it is you Scott who seems to be the only one pushing it and even you have been quieter recently. Then I switch on and there is this. A lovely painting. What more is there to say? Except that I thought at first glance that they were PJs! Not unusual for a painter to be so pre-occupied with painting that he forgets to get dressed!
Internet and social networking has to take a back seat to doing the work. Painting is what it is about and while a pleasant distraction web activities are still a distraction.
Yes, things are a little quiet here at times, but OM has been very good to and for me. I do push it harder than anyone else, but I really enjoy the give and take, ‘meeting’ other artists, seeing some unique work, and even some good sales as a result. It may be a distraction at times, but I don’t think my production level has dropped off at all. Maybe I’m even getting more work done. Go figure?
As for the PJ thought… THIS would be the self-portrait of me in what I sleep in!
Hell yes you are! I’m inspired by this, to paint all the things I’ve been thinking about painting for a year. This is fantastic!
Self Portrait with Up Turned Collar
F. Scott Hess (b. 1955)
Self-Portrait with Upturned Collar
oil on aluminum panel
24 × 18 inches.