I saw something about myself when I told the art class that I was going to do a painting after a twenty year break. I was stepping out and it was time to return to portrait painting. After gathering my thoughts and sketches and setting up the three cameras to film this video for our online art classes, I began!
My wife has a 501c3 nonprofit called Art With a Mission Atlanta which aids students from an orphanage in Haiti to go to college. The artist in our Art School help raise funds to support this project. The image I am using is a little boy named Kiki. He has known so much heartache in his young life.
When I started this painting I did not understand why I was attracted to this image, but I was. With over 300,000 Mission’s Photographs from all over the world I chose this one. I knew I wanted to connect to the viewer through his eyes. His apprehension is obvious, yet somewhere inside of him is a desire to ask for help. His arm is closing us out. He would have to make the first step; hence the title “Step of Faith” by Chris di Domizio
As I teach the artist in our painting classes, start the painting where you wanted the viewer to connect with first, in this case it is the eyes. Then I chose the places for the viewer to look based on KiKi’s story, not wanting any texture from brush strokes which would add confusion to the viewer and to remove all confusion around him meant to remove all the texture. The surrounding white background represented God’s presence of purity and incense bathing him, regardless of his actions and the actions of others against him.
Wanting this stillness to evoke a connection between “ just us”.
Having the eyes become the most important place in the painting without the use of two very powerful visual tools (color and contrast). Most of the teaching in our art program from the drawing classes and the painting classes almost solely focus on Color and Contrast and now I was about to leave them out of most important part of my first painting back in twenty years. I choose to leave out the color in the eyes because the color could have changed the message from hardship to something else. On the other hand I knew my job of getting you to look at the eyes would be easier with the addition of color to the eyes by adding visual weight to that area.
The next choice I was given was adding a highlight to the eyes. This is an easy way to bring attention to this area by adding contrast but it also can add different psychological aspects to an eye. I once heard that a high light to the eyes could give the person hope and alertness. My message was that life has been hard and there has been hurt in this little person’s life afraid tom have hope. So the two most powerful art tools I could use were off the table. The art tools our entire art school is built on and at the most important place of the painting. But I also teach that these “art tools” are not rules just tools for the artist to choose when to use and not to use.
As I finished the eyes I started painting the forhead, but this part of the face was to represent the harshness of his experiences. Keeping the “pretty” color of the flesh tones to a minimum using the greyed colors to evoke this message of harshness. Knowing I needed gray color, I subconsciously loaded my brush with bright orange – red flesh tones as bright as the scarlet red shirt.
There I was in front of three cameras and I needed grey and I grabbed bright orange – red, Boom! Mistake. It took minutes to remove the scarlet red and make it gray.
Starting again I reloaded because I needed gray for the message and Boom, I loaded bright red.
Like Smeagol and Gollum in Lord of the Rings, with a multiple personality, I verbally said to myself “what are you doing? I answered… I don’t know. What do you mean you don’t know…
You know to make the painting about contrast and not color and that putting the grey first will keep the color calmed down. I answered… I know” and at that moment I realized that my precious ego is more important than my message.
As this battle in my mind continued I realized that I had to put the color first to make the forehead come forward, but the painting was about contrast and not color and then I said to myself ”it’s more important to show off what I can do and make it realistic than to communicate a message.”
Welcome back painting! Are we having fun yet?
The next day I realized what had happened. I was so worried what others were going to think that I lost my painting’s message of connecting. As I started to paint on day two, but this time it was about connecting my message, one stroke at a time. I had a great day.
Ironically, on the first day of painting for the instructional video I rarely spoke, all the talking in my head was to Gollum. Imagine a portrait training video with no words! (I will voice over the mistakes and have commentary like a tennis match, with the good and bad strokes, and why)
The second day I had a great day explaining the purpose of each stroke, and that each stroke went in with the right color, temperature, intensity, and texture. Everything I was trained to do was going into the painting.
Day four was a great day, explaining the purpose and execution of a message! Here is what I have learned:
The days I paint for just me, connecting my message with my plan, placing each stroke with a place and a purpose, that’s the day I enjoy painting.
Chris diDomizio the return to painting twenty years later. Painting is fun and I enjoy the process of learning about myself with each stroke.
The title “Step of faith” was for me, it was up to me to “step into my calling in art” to trust in Him who has equipped me to be an artist. To be the Artist that I am today, not the artist I will one day become. I’m just to work on who I am today, One Step of Faith at a Time”.