Mark Your Calendar - Members Only Competition Deadline is December 14, 2012
Last year Karen Kaapcke was awarded First Place in the Self Portrait category and shared these thoughts about her painting and career.
Karen Kaapcke, Self-Portrait with Crooked Glasses
9 x 11", oil on panel
Karen Kaapcke: This painting came about when my private student cancelled her session at the last minute. I was at my studio, and realized that I had the gift of about 3 solid hours of painting time. Though I also had a work in progress that I could have continued with, I thought instead to do a really quick self-portrait, with the challenge of getting it accomplished within this time frame. I have been strongly drawn to self-portraiture for the past 6 or 7 years, and have been painting all sorts and manners of self-portraits, to investigate more deeply this unique category of observational painting. I enjoy balancing off work on longer-term pieces with quick studies, and had been teaching how to bring an oil sketch or study to the level of a more fully resolved painting in a quick and fresh way, and so it was also done in a somewhat instructional manner, as something I would later share and discuss with my student. I also felt it would be good to show my student that it is important to paint no matter what, with your materials at hand, come what may - to paint all the time and in every context!
With this kind of painting, I usually start on a toned panel - but here, I worked directly on the white gesso since the painting came about in a very unplanned manner and that was all I had in my studio. This was actually somewhat helpful, as I had to work really quickly initially to try to get rid of the distraction of the white. I lay in quick strokes to mark out the general map of the placement of forms in a neutral earthtone, and then really quickly got into painting in patches of dark, then the possible lightest light, and finally everything in between with an eye towards building the structures. When I feel things are getting too fussy, I reclaim my energy to obliterate it - bringing it constantly back to a level of simplification. It is important to also constantly observe yourself working, to make sure you are simply, and clear-headedly seeing what's in front of you. Again, when this seems not the case, I gather up the energy to obliterate the marks that have deviated and seem too symbolic, to replace them with the results of pure (as pure as possible!) observation.
After receiving my MA in Philosophy, I trained mainly at the Art Students League in NYC where I studied sculpture with Barney Hodes for a couple of years. At the same time I was studying drawing with Ted Jacobs, and was waiting to get into his painting class. When I began painting, I left sculpture behind in order to focus on the world this opened up. When he relocated to France I continued to work with him there for some time, but also continued to work at the Art Student's League when I had to return to NYC to earn money. There I worked with several abstract painters who influenced me quite a bit, mainly John Hultburg whose monitor I was for a couple of semesters.
This painting, as a part of a larger series of self-portrait investigations that I have been working on for many years, represents a vision of the self that is quick and quirky, a real moment of the self captured, in order to portray an honestly observed and felt reality. The notion of painting honestly has been becoming more and more important to me as I mature as an artist - and the crooked glasses, in particular, stand for that - for the goal of painting as a response to reality, not correcting what your vision tells you by what your mind tries to tell you 'should' be there. When I noticed that I rather unthinkingly painted my glasses as crooked as they really were, not only did I find it a little humorous (since I kept putting off getting them fixed, and it was becoming a real problem!), but true and unjudged.