Thursday, August 1, 2013

Big Eye Custom Portrait

The past few days I have spent painting a copy of a Margaret Keane painting, called "Little Ones." It all started because I found a print of a Margaret Keane in a thrift shop. It was $25 and I wasn't in love with the picture, so I passed it up. Of course, that was a stupid decision! It wasn't an original or anything, just a poster, but I still regret not getting it. I went back, crossing my fingers that it was still there, but of course it was gone.
Then it occurred to me that I didn't need to buy one when it would be a lot more fun just to paint one myself. That way I could have any picture I wanted! I also could customize it to have a special meaning.

If you don't know Margaret Keane, she is the artist who inspired Blythe dolls in the 60's and 70's, Tim Burton, and a large portion of the modern lowbrow art movement. It's now known as "Big Eye" art. Her story is interesting so check her out at the link above!

I picked out "Little Ones" to copy because I wanted to replace the Siamese kitty with Mrs. Peacock. I think she turned out extra cute!

keane, big eye art, kitty, kitsch

keane, big eye art, kitty, kitsch

keane, big eye art, kitty, kitsch

If you want to practice painting or if you want to learn but don't know how to start, this might be a good way to do it. Copying isn't a bad thing unless you try to sell it or claim that you came up with the idea yourself (even Roy Lichtenstien copied comic books.) Art classes sometimes go to museums and sit students in front of paintings which they then copy, stroke for stroke. 
For me, I hate trying to figure out proportions and light. Light confuses me so much... I can't just "imagine" where light will fall on something. I need to see it. Also I get tired of drawing a redrawing just to keep saying to myself, "The eye looks sideways and the head is too small... or too big?" So to keep from wasting a whole day trying to sketch something I did the grid method:

I drew 2"x2" grid squares on my canvas lightly in pencil . On the computer I made the picture I wanted to copy the same size as my canvas and drew guides every two inches. Then using the grid as a guide I sketched my drawing onto my canvas.
I changed things up a bit by making the child look more like myself, with green eyes and brown wavy hair, and obviously I added my own kitty, Mrs. Peacock. At the end I put a flower crown on the girl because I thought her head looked like a big mass of hair and I wanted to break it up a little.

Remember that if you use the grid it doesn't make painting itself any easier. If you look closely at the details you can tell that I have no clue how to paint a daisy. I'm no expert, so parts of this painting were tough and a few times I thought I hated it, but I kept going at it and over-painting until I was happy (or at least until I said "f**k it, I'm done!")

If you really can't paint at all but still want to try painting something fancy for yourself, try copying Mark Rothko or Piet Mondrian. I promise you won't mess it up!

keane, big eye art, kitty, kitsch


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