Dressed in War Paint

On a home visit from college my artist comrade and I decided we would simultaneously paint a friend. Brittany, who had bustling curly fire red hair, made an excellent muse. She sat in the middle of the room as we both dove into our canvas. My artist friend and I loved to perform these experiments to see how we could inspire each others very different art styles. I was very excited by the image of our muse - pale ivory skin, bouncy bright spirals of ginger hair, crystal blue eyes, and her full lips. Immediately I knew I wanted to create her face in the middle of the canvas as it was; surrounded by a white background with spirals and curls of all of the colors on my palate.

The original

Unfortunately this turned out to be a disaster. My friends looked at the image with a tender silence. They attempted to convince me it was a true work of art, but I knew these were only comforting words of my friends meant to placate my dissatisfaction. Nevertheless I took it home thinking I will either grow to like it, add on to the painting to make it more appealing, or reuse the canvas. The canvas moved from closet in Pennsylvania to storage in Georgia to a closet in my new home. In the closet it sat for a couple of years until I bought a new chalk paint I wanted to test on different bases. I looked through my canvases for a couple I was unhappy with and grabbed a wooden board and cardboard to accompany the test.

I created a starburst effect from the outer edges of the canvas toward the center face. Although the teal/turquoise color complemented Brittany's brilliant orange hair, the overall appearance was bland. I grabbed my tube of silver oil paint and streaked the outline with rays of shining silver. I definitely liked the image better, although I was still too dissatisfied with the overall work to call this "complete" and hang it on a wall.

I sat the canvas on top of my dog's kennel so as to decide what to do next. I decided to put it away in the closet again.

A couple of years later I was fired from my day job and I decided I would like to take the art ideas that have been crowding my head and bring them to life. I was inspired on a regular basis to create artwork but working 12 hours a day in an office drained me of the motivation to practice at home. Now, with the freedom and drive I decided I would finally conquer this canvas. I took it out to perform a slew of experiments. I've been craving to find a new medium to add to my paints to expand my boundaries as an artist. Each corner of the canvas I brought one of my ideas to life. I rubbed pastels, sprayed alcohol inks, smeared crayons, splattered watery acrylics, and attached tissue paper to the canvas. I even went so far as to test organic materials such as salt and icing to see what chemical reactions would occur with the paints. For days I tested my mixed media canvas with sun, hair dryers, and left it out in the rain to see what would happen.

I was mostly dissatisfied with the results, but remaining positive I decided that ruling out ideas is better than never having the opportunity to attempt ideas. I found that a large portion of ideas I had were either lackluster or difficult to execute the in way I imagined. Disheartened I left the canvas alone for several weeks until remembering the Failed Art project, and I was once again stricken with an idea.

I wanted to cover every dissatisfaction with thick paint from my palette knife. I transformed my disappointment into anger and used the fuel to create the bright rainbow colored background the image lacked from the beginning. Luckily, I learned the tissue paper I attached in previous experiments created a wonderful texture underneath my paint. On the left side of canvas where I did not have tissue paper the paint was smooth and refused to create dimension no matter how much I smeared on top. I wanted to coat the face with paint in the way women on a daily basis use their makeup as though they were canvases, as though they were going to war.

I attempted to make it appear as makeup contouring, but again the image appeared too bland for my liking. I covered her face over and over until I decided she finally looked like she was properly dressed in her War Paint.

Although I still would not say I am "satisfied", looking at the canvas now I feel satisfaction that it was my struggle and I won my internal battle with the canvas. I learned what I do not want to do, and that is worth something as an artist.

Size of the painting: 20" x 16"

About the artist Agnetta Krechner:

I graduated from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania with a Bachelor in Fine Arts - Painting. I started painting seriously in high school using the Ukrainian miniature lacquer on wooden board method. I was very happy with the quality of work I was creating, however after painting in this style for almost 2 years I wanted to see if there were other styles of art in which I excelled. I began making larger works on canvas using oil paints, and I wanted to experience more. In college I used acrylic for the first time; three years later I realized I am not as satisfied with acrylics. I searched for more methods to test my limitations. I began to knit, crochet, macramé, practice origami, mosaic, alcohol inks, played with polymer clay, Perler beads, and many other small practices (none to my satisfaction).

My current endeavor is looming, wood carving, embroidery, and I am also attempting to return to miniature lacquer painting.