Advanced Watercolor: Body of Work, Part 1

Back in February I shared my proposal for Advanced Watercolor class. In a nutshell, I wanted my body of work to be based on my experiences with depression and self-harm. Each painting was to be a different aspect of the emotions behind these internal experiences. It was a difficult subject to approach and though it had the potential to be revealing, I ended up feeling comfortable with the idea in the end. I mentioned before that it was scary to do a project so personal, but I am glad that I did because it helps give voice to these emotional issues, and hopefully it can give others out there who have suffered or are suffering with the same thing something to relate to.

My dear friend Kelsea posed for me when I needed to take references photos, and I am very grateful for her contribution. She was a great model and I hope to work with her again in the future!

Each piece is painted using Winsor & Newton watercolor paint, and the surface used was a 22" by 30" sheet of 300 lb cold press Arches watercolor paper.

In this post I will address the first painting, which I titled Suicide Dream. I wrote a description about it for my class when I presented it,

There are a variety of emotions and opinions that surround the topic of suicide. With this piece, my intention is to emphasize the gradual increase in complacency to suicidal thoughts. 
First of all, the colors both pink and blue are calming and inviting. Sleep is a period of vulnerability, both physically and mentally. Sometimes we have dreams about things that we would rather not think about, or things that we are purposely attempting to repress from our waking mind. 
Another reason why I chose these colors along with the calming shapes, is to symbolize that a person can become so used to the idea of ending their own life, that it becomes a living and breathing idea. It’s a seed that is planted, and it continues to grow and flourish. Instead of giving off life supporting oxygen, it sucks the life out instead. It is a parasite that attempts to co-habitate, and it pretends to be your friend. It knows better than you do, of course. How could this voice not? Yet, the more you confide in it, the more trapped that you become by it. The eyes in the middle represent this force, seemingly humble, but influencing the madness. 
The girl in this painting is having a dream about ending her own life. It’s something that she feels uncomfortable with, as expressed on her face. She is clenching the blanket, but unable to wake herself. In contrast to this, the reflection of her in the dream is smiling. It’s the part of herself that accepts this possibility, even though it’s terribly gruesome.
At the top is her face, large due to perspective shift, and bearing an indifferent expression. This part of herself does not fight against it, but instead accepts it as part of herself. 
The general idea of this composition took a lot of thought and revision, but eventually I decided upon the use of a sword instead of a gun. A gun would be quick and over easily, but here the sword is quieter and more masochistic, which is a symbolism of deep self-hatred. 
I included moon phases to signify that these feelings can wax and wane. There are periods of time in which one isn’t completely overrun by depression or suicidal thoughts.

The most difficult part of completing this painting was figuring out where the bodies would intersect. I wanted it to feel natural and not too forced, and I think the dream-like aspect is translated well. If I could do this painting over again, I would have waited until I was completely done drawing everything out before touching paint to the paper. My tendency to do the paint-draw-paint-draw method isn't bad, but I think it can develop into inconsistency if I'm not too careful. The next painting in the body of work that I will share has a lot of the paint-draw-paint-draw process.


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