Meanings Behind Art

blue swallowtail

“Blue Swallowtail” Mixed media on board. 12 x 16 inches © 2013

Questions, Questions, Questions

I have a monthly art blog, Funny Face Studios. It forces me to keep creating: I paint consistently now; I didn’t before. Last week a visitor to the site asked me two questions: What size is the “Spectre” painting; and what is the story behind its creation? The first question was easily answered and in fact, was already present on the page. I always place the title, description, size and year of creation directly under the photograph of the painting. But the reader missed it and I had to wonder, “Why?” What was I not doing correctly that caused her to miss that particular bit of information? This week I went to an artists’ workshop and asked the question. The presenters had this advice, “Provide a distance shot along with the close up. That way, readers will have a clear idea of the size and scale of your works.” Such simple advice! I knew that I worked in what the art world now considers miniatures, but visitors to my site didn’t necessarily know this. (True miniatures are nazar paintings that Indians used to present as gifts to their Mahajaras.)

Stories, Stories, Stories

The second question was easy to answer as well. The painting about which the reader inquired, Spectre, had quite a bit of personal history behind it and I provided the answers. But by asking these questions, the reader started me thinking about my presentation. It made sense to include the actual stories behind my creations. So for this month’s, and all subsequent issues of Funny Face Studio, I will provide the stories that go with the works. Thank you, Kristen, for making me think more about how I present my works. This post is a re-presentation of my current Funny Face art piece. It is about my “Blue Swallowtail” painting and includes the story behind its actual creation. Any feedback is appreciated.

photo 2I have also included two “to-scale” photographs of “Blue Swallowtail.” Here it sits on my tabletop easel. You can see from the photograph how small (or large?) it is or isn’t. While in width it fits properly into the easel, it isn’t quite large enough to fill up the entire height of the structure.

About the Painting

“Blue Swallowtail” is from the “Appropriations Series.” The young woman in the painting has been appropriated from Iranian graffiti artist A1One (also known as Tanha). She reminds me of my Aunt Carmen as she appeared in an old black and white photograph ages ago. I guess you could argue that like the woman, the butterfly too, has been appropriated (from nature).

The Blue Swallowtail Butterfly

The blue swallowtail is one of many butterflies from my childhood. In a way, this painting is a nod to Jamaica. It wasn’t too long ago that these butterflies swarmed the Eastern end of the island. Today they are quite rare. You can still find them in a countryside area called Rozelle which is close to the sea.  (Rozelle lies between Morant Bay and Yallahs Pond, in the parish of St. Thomas.) A mini-waterfall descends from the mountains and cascades into a culvert by the roadside. Here you will sometimes find naked boys and men soaking up the invigorating, and free, mountainside shower.

More About the Blue Swallowtail Painting

As with many of my paintings, the representations are not literal, not exact. The shapes are in keeping with what is being represented. This is true of my presentation of the blue swallowtail.

Here, as in my “Spectre” painting (September/October issue), I chose to use just a few monotone type colors. If you look carefully, you may be able to see a slight hint of a horse’s head in the top middle of the painting. It is another homage to a childhood friend, my horse, Ghirlie.

blue swallowtail 2

9 thoughts on “Meanings Behind Art

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  1. I really liked “Blue Swallowtail” before I read the story behind it; finding out about the images you use and what they mean to you makes it even more interesting! Thanks for posting this.

    1. I just replaced the first picture. It is a little crisper but the painting itself is meant to look old and worn, like an old graffitied wall. So maybe it won’t ever be as crisp as you are expecting it to be. Let me know if this new photograph is clearer, please. Thanks for your feedback, Eric. Much appreciated.

      1. That looks better. I think it’s really a camera issue. When I visiting LA last, I tried to take high quality pictures of all my old art. I even rented 500 watt bulbs, put them at 45 degree angles facing the art, and took pictures with a camera on a tripod, using a timer. They came out like shit. There’s not enough detail. when you zoom in there are all fuzzy. I think the digital camera I used was not up to the job. I might have needed to use a professional camera and film. I dunno.

        One of the few advantages of working digitally is I don’t have to worry about photographing my work.

        Anyway, I just brought it up because if the ones work ends up, when seen via a photo online, only being as good as the photographic reproduction. I’d recommend attaching a larger image as well. You have nothing to lose in people being able to see a large version, because, you have an original! 🙂

      2. Thanks for your feedback Eric. I have trouble with the California (Bay Area) sunshine streaming into the studio. I love the sunshine but it does make photography a bit tricky. I too, may need to use a professional camera or photographer.

  2. Hi Kay,

    Your persistence in making original art is marvelous. (I don’t think you should worry about not being formally trained, as you are a natural.)

    With regard to your changes, I like them. I think they are very effective.

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