Monday, August 24, 2009

The Healer

I think there were many people wondering about the specific process to this image (I had posted it on Facebook). So, here's a bit more detail about the process:

This first image is an ink jet print of an image of a leper. I wanted to use an image that really gave a close up of the disfigurement of the disease.

The ink jet image was then given further tweaks by hand coloring in areas with colored pencils (Berol Prismacolor). It was important to capture all the details of the disfigurement. After this, I then made a color laser copy of the image and coated it with self-leveling clear tar gel. When it was dry, I soaked the paper off of the back of the image to yield an acrylic skin of just the image. I ended up doing this twice because the first time, I scrubbed the image too much and lost a lot of detail. In addition to that, there were bubbles that had formed that went unnoticed until it was too late. Re-dos happen a lot sometimes in this kind of process!

Blank canvas (already gessoed) with first layer of paint going on it. There is also a special layer of acrylic to help the paint disperse more in a watercolor-like fashion.

The next few layers. By now I've done some additional tweaking and bringing out the more subtle elements of the paint.

In this step, I am creating a special substrate to place the skin of the face on. I used a soft modeling paste and used the skin as a reference as to where I wanted the nose and lips to be. The substrate was so thick that it took about two weeks for it to dry all the way through! I had to score the back of it to let air get to the very middle. You can also see that this is the skin that I had scrubbed too much of the image off of and if you click on the image to get a closer view, you will see where the unwanted bubbles landed!

Here, I am gluing, or adhering the skin to the substrate. I attached just the nose and the bridge of the nose area first and let it dry. Then I went back in and did the rest. In this step, I got over zealous about moving forward and used the WRONG product to glue my image down with! I used a matte medium which gave the image a cloudy, milky kind of look. UGH! I meant to use the semi-gloss gel which dries transparent. This meant that I had to go back over the surface of the image with colored pencils and oils sticks to bring forward the details that I had lost.

So, here is the re-worked image. There are still the 'bandages' that will be wrapped around the face.

I call this image, "The Healer" because on a daily basis, Father Damien cleaned and changed the bandages of the lepers. He was horrified that the residents were left to their own with no personnel to give medicine and keep the gaping wounds clean and bandaged. Some patients would have large chunks of their sides or limbs or digits rotted away and full of maggots and infection. The disease of leprosy also affects the nerve endings to the areas of affliction. There is no physical pain that can be sensed in the areas of the disease.

In a letter to his parents in August 1873 (just several months after he got there), he wrote, "My greatest pleasure is to serve the Lord in his poor sick children rejected by other people." And, in another letter in 1874, he wrote, "In tears I sow the good seed among my poor lepers. From morning to night, I am amidst heartbreaking physical and moral misery. Still, I try to appear gay, so as to rise the courage of my patients."

Daily, he strove to not only heal their wounds, but their spirits.

I also wanted to visually convey how horrific this disease looks. I wanted you, the viewer to experience first hand the reaction you might feel had this been a face in the flesh. I know that I had achieved what I was going for when my son (who is nearly 18 years old) and his friends visibly retract when seeing this image for the first time. I invite them to touch it and they find it difficult to do so.

And in that retraction, lies the magnitude of how shallow our compassion can be when we thought otherwise.

No comments: