Today I used my projector to experiment with a technique I’ve seen in paintings by Peter Doig and Daniel Richter, with its roots in Warhol. It involves outlining areas of contrasting value, including areas of light and shadow on a single object or figure, and filling these lines and areas with varied colours and values.This technique reminds me of polarised photographs and topographic maps.
I didn’t put much thought into my choice of image and colours and they haven’t worked out pretty (see below), but as a first experiment I think I understand the basics of the technique. I don’t know if it’s something I want to develop further. Doig and Richter have used it so often, they’ve kind of made it their own. It would be difficult to make a painting this way without it seeming derivative.
I chose a picture of Noam Chomsky, even though it felt naive and banal to create a portrait of a famous person. However, I admire Chomsky, and by painting him I’m challenging myself to find a better way of putting the things I care about into paintings. Remarkably, it didn’t occur to me that using these colours and this technique on a portrait of this type would refer back, passed Doig and Richter, directly to Warhol.
The paint application can be varied (Warhol’s line had an illustrator’s flourish, Doig is more perfunctory in his tracing and allows his line to wobble, Richter scrapes his lines after painting them – like his namesake, Gerhard) but as a method of drawing, it’s very mechanical. It’s pretty much tracing the outlines projected onto the canvas with as little distortion as possible. I found it very boring completing this small exercise, I can’t imagine what it would be like to make one of Doig’s large snow scenes.
The result is effective, but I find it’s a little too much like viewing the photograph through a filter (this goes for any technique that systematically reproduces a photograph). No matter how much the painter fucks with the colour, surface, etc., the photographic form remains. Personally, at this point, I’m more interested in the quirks and inventions of manual drawing, rather than mechanically assisted drawing.