Recently I began working in video as an art form, something I really haven't done. I've been using After Effects for many years to create client work--marketing videos, video backdrops for events, even television commercials. But to think of it as a narrative format for my own images and storytelling was new--just not something I've taken the time to do and try out. I'm grateful to my collaborator, Desi, in Dorian's Shadow, who really pushed me to step into the frame as a character, something I've done often in my paintings, but never on video. We had written a song together entitled "Reflections," and as I closed my eyes and really listened to it, my head filled with imagery. (…story continues below images…)
… I took notes on what the scenes should include, and then I got up the nerve to point the video camera at myself. I sent the videos to Desi for her feedback, and she sent me videos of herself, shot in a similar way. I could see in my mind's eye that there was a man receding into the shadows in this story. I needed to find him. I searched through noir films and found the 1948 movie "He Walked By Night." Scrubbing through the entire film, I found a few scenes that exactly depicted what I had pictured in my mind, and brought those into After Effects, combining those (plus some scenes from two other films of that time, "Oliver Twist" and "Panic in the Streets") with the footage of Desi and myself. It was a laborious process to build the unfolding narrative, and more than I had originally considered. But that is the nature of video--mere seconds can take hours to create. And I got completely lost in it and immersed in the process.
This gets me to painting. I've so often thought of my paintings as stills from films. And when I work in video, I think of each moment of the moving image as something that could be frozen and would make a pleasing and compelling composition as a painting. So I suppose it was natural to eventually bring these worlds together. That's what happened here.
I was working on the video and arrived at what I consider the pivotal point in the story line. A man walks through a space and out a doorway. A woman looks in the mirror and sees him walking away while also seeing herself. She turns to the camera with a disheartened expression. As I created that scene, it became burned in my mind. I knew I needed to paint that exact moment and the feeling it stirred in me. I grabbed some stills of the video and used them as references as I started to draw on the canvas with thinned oil paint. I didn't sketch or use pencil--just went directly into the canvas and placed the characters where it seemed necessary to put them. The painting is large--30" x 40"--and to paint it was to immerse myself in the scene and its shadowy imagery. The process of building the layers, often thick with paint and oil, brought up some deep emotions I needed to exorcise from my psyche. That was the purpose of this painting for me, and after I completed it, I knew I could move on in my life in many important ways. I believe art does this for us. It allows us to revisit emotions we need to dwell within for a time, whether we are the creator of a work or someone who steps into it for a moment.
To see the video I created for Dorian's Shadow--"Reflections"--the inspiration for the painting of the same name, click here. (The video is a shortened version of the full song, which can be heard here.). Dorian's Shadow is on FB at this link and on Instagram at this link.
In the Studio
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