Wednesday, February 25, 2015

#tbt - Esther and The Black Balloon - Redux

This piece is not only one of the first pieces I attempted, it's also one of the first pieces I looked at and said to myself "God, what crap. I think I can do better than this."

What it is, is a fairly literal interpretation of a passage from Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, where the narrator, Esther, describes the execution of the Rosenbergs (Wikipedia), comparing her fixation to her first time seeing a dead body:

For weeks afterwards, the cadaver's head - or what was left of it - floated up behind my eggs and bacon at breakfast and behind the face of Buddy Willard...pretty soon I felt as though I were carrying that cadaver's head on a string, like some black, noseless balloon, stinking of vinegar
I was drawn to the idea of carrying that sort of weight around, like a tiny rain-cloud when everything else was sunny, and that image informed my whole reading of the Bell Jar.

I will openly and honestly admit that the original version of this painting is rather terrible, but as I mentioned, this one one of my very first attempts at painting since high school.
Original acrylic on 8x10 canvas
When I went back in to try this again my main focuses were sharpening everything, giving more detail, straightening up the background, trying to give 'Esther' more expression.. pretty much fixing every damn thing.

I think the original may have been done in dollar-store crafter's acrylics, so the color is kind of bland.  You can see in the second that the colours are a lot brighter, with more texture.

The two images were taken years apart, with different cameras (the original might actually be from a scanner), in different lighting so that also accounts for much of the difference in tones.

I still feel like there could be room for a lot of improvement here, but there are elements I enjoy, such as the way she looks as though she is looking apathetically over her shoulder in the updated version.  Also the bushes around the houses are nice, I think.

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