To Eat Pigment

April 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment



I love what I do. I love sharing stories of the many creative and unique people. I love being a photojournalist. But sometimes I need to step away from reality. What I do can be harsh, not every story has a happy ending. The hours are long, turnover is quick, and visually my brain gets either exhausted or bored. 

To combat the daily grind and keep myself actively thinking about art with a sharp mind, I turn to other work that is completely different from my photojournalist style. For the most part, these are projects I make for myself; things that only I will ever see. My other visual art can be anything from drawing in the lines in a coloring book, creating/refurbishing junk into interior art or useful home goods, to photographing something staged and planned. 

To Eat Pigments began as one of my visual rest endeavors. To create something fun and interesting that would keep me sharp and focused. I began with the idea to photograph the locations of important memories. The project originally began as a self discovery mission. What moments shaped who I am and who I will become, why did they have this impact, why does it matter. I am graduating from college, I wasn't sure what was coming next, things were scary and I had a very undergrad feeling of nostalgia. 

This quickly evolved into painting my emotions onto the photographs. It was a way to get even more hands on with my own story of my life. Thinking so deeply into what memories are important really brought me back to the emotions I was feeling at the time and the feelings I currently have about these memories. It wasn't the location, or even what happened there that mattered to the story, it was how I currently feel about them that really affects who I am. 

On a whim, I submitted the idea for this body of work to a group show with several of my graduating photography peers. It was accepted and thus became the first of my visual rest projects that would expand out of my mind and home and into the public's eyes. 



What I wanted out of this project was a very hands-on, labor intensive piece. I wanted to go slowly and really think about every little step of the way and what it all means to me. The show was  a success and I have since received a lot of positive feedback about the work. One of the more popular questions I have had is how and why did I create To Eat Pigment. I believe I have started to discuss the why just a little bit, but lets start talking about the how. 

Step 1:

I approached each location with a memory in mind. What did I see in that moment? What did I smell? How did I feel? and how can I translate all of that into one photograph. Shooting mostly in December/January, the outdoor shots became physically brutal. It would take over an hour to really get what I felt represented the memory... in below freezing weather. 

Step 2:

When selecting the photographs I wanted to print, I became really critical of the memory. How authentic is it? How powerful or meaningful was this moment? But what it really came down to was picking images that would still look good and represent the memory when I painted over it. Basically, Will I loose any key details? I know that is not very journalist of myself, but this is my visual rest project and I had a very specific idea in mind for how I wanted it to look. The other memories are not just trashed; I intend to return to them one day; to recapture in a way that I can still paint and be happy with the final product. I then printed the photos on a very thick photo rag paper that gave the images a slight painterly look and was a great texture to paint over. 

Step 3: 

I painted with oil pigments. I am inspired by the impressionist painters. Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, they are all so moving and powerful. I have conducted surface research on these artist, how they painted, and why they created what they did. This is where my initial motivation came from. When applying the paint, I wanted it to sit heavily on the photograph. I wanted to make the two dimensional photograph become a three dimensional piece with the layers of paint. The paint was the physical manifestation of my emotions. I not only wanted to feel that energy while painting, but also I wanted others to feel the same energy. The long calming strokes of blue, the quick and jubilant yellow, they reflect the way my heart beats when thinking about these moments. The speed of my breath. The actions that happened. I want anyone to be able to see the quick short yellow strokes and feel the same happiness I feel, without needing the full story. 



Step 4: 

Framing because the hardest and most labor intensive part of the whole project. Honestly, I thought the hardest part would be the painting. But finding frames that partner well with the image proved almost impossible. I wanted the images to look like something forgotten. Like the paintings you inherited from Great Aunt BettyJean that live in the basement or storage facility. The frames were found at second hand shops. I took the original art out, damaging the frames in the process and having to rebuild a few of them, left the dust and grime around the edges. I then mounted the images and papered the back of the frame. The work does not have any glass. Mainly because I didn't want to have anything restricting the three dimensional view of the work. (But also because I had a bad mishap with frame glass and didn't want to risk any more stitches.)


By the time I had to hang at UnSmoke Systems Artspace in Braddock, I fully achieved the labor intensive practice I wanted. However, a little panic associated with a deadline pulled me out of my creative ideas. By the time I had to hang the photo/paintings on the gallery wall, I was frazzled and missing some of the fun my project was intending to create. Never again will I allow one of my visual rest projects be restricted by a deadline. I lost a huge part of why this work was important to me just to please the art world. I think that is one of the hardest things artist have to face; pleasing yourself but also meeting the needs of the world we live in. Overall,  I hope to continue this project, adding and changing as I age.

"To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture." - Pablo Picasso 


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