Fear of Happiness ~ by A. E. Stallings
Looking back, it’s something I’ve always had:
As a kid, it was a glass-floored elevator
I crouched at the bottom of, my eyes squinched tight,
Or staircase whose gaps I was afraid I’d slip through,
Though someone always said I’d be all right—
Just don’t look down or See, it’s not so bad
(The nothing rising underfoot). Then later
The high-dive at the pool, the tree-house perch,
Ferris wheels, balconies, cliffs, a penthouse view,
The merest thought of airplanes. You can call
It a fear of heights, a horror of the deep;
But it isn’t the unfathomable fall
That makes me giddy, makes my stomach lurch,
It’s that the ledge itself invents the leap.
Strictly speaking, courage is not a human emotion but rather a quality of character. I was tossing up between power, fierceness, femininity, and strength but finally settled on courage for this particular face. She emerges from a fiery red background with a bizarre blue tinge to her skin and eyes that focus directly upon the viewer. I have used a pop art style and contrasting colours to emphasise the urgent sense of drama and the presence of now. Women display courage in a vast array of circumstances, whether it be in the corporate world, at home, or within themselves - the feeling of having to fight something is ever present. The aura of this portrait is supposed to capture the idea that wherever there exists challenge, there will be resistance, the strength to fight it, and courage.
This little sketch is supposed to capture the expression of contemplation, or thoughtfulness. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the pen sketch on the page behind has come through on the right hand side of her cheek. This adds a certain something, as if her face has been stained from crying. In both drawing and photography portraiture, hands are often used to frame the face and draw attention to the subject’s facial features.Notice how the placement of her curled fingers makes the image more interesting as a whole, representing a gesture that you yourself might use if you were contemplating something.
I can’t believe it has taken me 7 faces to finally get around to ‘happiness.’ I like this young boy’s face because he reminds me of an old man with his adorable little beret and scarce amount of teeth. It is true when they say that happiness is of such fundamental importance to the human condition and rather fitting, in my mind, when they call it the “pursuit of happiness” because it is indeed the pursuit of it that we devote our lives to. In a beautiful gesture, the United Nations declared 15 March 2014 the first annual International Day of Happiness. Simple, yet significant.
I recently attended a weekend workshop at the National Art School in Paddington held by the 2002 Archibald Prize winning artist, Cherry Hood (see http://cherryhood.co/) Cherry’s works are incredible in many ways, not least because she manages to capture human emotion particularly elegantly, especially those of children whose emotions are in many ways raw and unsullied by the daily throes of life. This girl is sad and the blotchy watercolour stains are supposed to reflect her teardrops. The beauty with watercolours is that if you make a mistake, it is easy to rectify. All you need to do is spray on some more water mist and wipe away the error with a hand towel and viola… mistake no longer!
This is an old self-portrait, painted in cobalt blue oil as a wipe-away with white highlights. Depression seems to be the emotion best captured by the dark and moody effect of the blue tinge. It creates a certain eeriness. At the time that I painted this, I remember being fascinated by the nativeNa’vi in James Cameron’s film, Avatar, and especially how peaceful they were. My favourite scene is of Pandora’s floating ‘Hallelujah Mountains,” which were inspired from the Huang Shan in China.
In the 1665 oil painting 'Girl with the Pearl Earring,' Dutch painter Vermeer made his subject, a servant girl named Griet, sit for a portrait with her body angled to the side and her face turned towards him. If you click the first image above, you will see the second image, where I have drawn the subject with the same body posture. I focused in on her green eyes and experimented a bit with abstract leaves and petals, stepping out of my artistic comfort zone for an interesting result. I’ve decided that the emotion captured this week is 'desire' because of her subtle sex appeal and luscious red lips.
When I type in ‘portraiture photography’ into Google, a photo of this girl is the first image that pops up. She reminds me of the award winning 1985 national geographic cover of the Afghan Girl. I like the smoothness of her skin, her loud red scarf and the mystery deep in her eyes. When drawing her I strayed from my normal technique of simple cross-hatching with black felt tip pen by adding soft pastels on top. As a tip, I would avoid using the white pastel as it dulls the areas of skin that should be hit by natural light. In light of creating a series of portraits that attempts to capture the array of human expression, I dub this one ‘Intrigue.’
I found a photo of this face on the internet, taken by a photographer called Aleci. He called it ‘Frozen Heart.’ I prefer the title ‘Hesitation.’ I opted for simple black and white charcoal to highlight the stark contrast between the man’s pale skin and the black abyss that he seems to emerge from. I put the skeleton sketch up here too because I felt it was striking in it’s own way - with a very stark pop art feel to it. I can’t help but wonder what this person was thinking about that very moment in time… whether he was in the right relationship? how he should find a job? or how on earth did Brazil lose 7-1 to Germany in the World Cup semi-finals?
For this week’s post I’ve opted to do a little doodle in my long abandoned Moleskine journal. What captured me about this particular young girl is the mesmerising look in her powerful eyes. Children are scary sometimes in their purity of innocence.If you are as big a fan of Moleskine art as I am, check out http://www.youthedesigner.com/2011/07/27/50-cool-moleskine-art-samples-thatll-fuel-your-creativity/ to be wowed. I’ve been getting some strange looks from the suits on the bus whenever I feel like whipping out my pen.
ink life drawing, series I
Drawing of grandparents and two of their seven children
My mother in charcoal
oil painting of my brother and sister