Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Allure Of Charm.

Sketch comedy is tough -- making strangers laugh instantaneously with a new premise in a short window of time. It’s often hit or miss. Risks are taken that don’t pan out. Other sketches become part of the national lexicon (think SNL in the late 80s). The difficultly level is high.

I enjoy the sketch TV series, Portlandia. It possesses an earnestness and charm that I find endearing, and these qualities enable me to overlook the occasional flat premise or sketch. It has a tongue-in-cheek sincerity. It comes from a good place. It makes me happy.

I know that “charming” can be an abstract and subjective value, perhaps even trite, but it carries weight with me. It injects a scene with personality and adds color. I engage with the material.

If something is perfect, you rarely speak about its charm. I think that charm accompanies something flawed. You can always pose the question, “Does it have enough charm to overlook the flaws?” That’s the tipping point. This applies to TV shows, pieces of art, and even when choosing who to date. How often has someone ignored a person’s flaws because they found he/she charming? The allure of the charming bad-boy is legendary. The charm-flawed object produces a more interesting riddle than something perfect (and perhaps predictable). How often have we been won over by the charming pet with scraggly fur?

I have never felt engaged by a photo-realistic painting of a fruit basket. Others love it. Not me. Too perfect.

I’m taking a portrait painting class this term and wanted to practice specific disciplines between classes. I’d like to paint looser and thicker, improve my edgework, and grey my colors down more. I’ve developed an innocent crush on the Portlandia lead, Carrie Brownstein, and decided that she would be the subject matter for my Saturday afternoon painting study.

Using a mix of transparent maroon and sap green I sketched an outline. I created my usual flesh tone composed of cadmium red light, yellow ochre, and titanium white. I greyed it down with varying doses of Gamblin’s radiant blue, torrit grey, or sap green. I applied thick tiles of paint. I evaluated edges, trying to soften them where appropriate. I added color to the hair with quick, reactive flicks of the wrist to better judge values on the face.

Then I stopped. Sure, there are a dozen flaws that I could fix, and I could easily add another two-hundred brushstrokes. But the painting has a quality I like. It has charm.

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