When my friend Kimbo posted this selfie to Facebook a couple of years ago, it was accompanied by the text “Writing new songs. Feeling inspired and angry. Grateful to be in the present emotionally. Living fearlessly with truth, love and as always Solidarity!”
I looked at the picture again and I just didn’t see the anger. When someone asked “Angry?” she replied “You know… the habitual violence and abuse in the world, The destruction of the environment. I have written songs lately with those feelings of disdain and discouragement but also when I write angry music, it is almost a way of staying productive, causing my mind to think what else? How can I change this? How can I spread awareness? Starting the healing and opening a dialogue of ways to change and better ourselves and the world. I’m angry and want to do what I can with my music to help this world. I want to continue to see the real truth. I feel truth is enough to cause anger. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. In my music it inspires me. Anyway, I’m rambling but YES I’m angry and proud of it.”
I was compelled by the image to try to capture the expression. I dabbled at it over time, putting it aside to work on commissions, but I was never happy with how the face turned out. I’m good with the hair, the sweatshirt, the ribbing on the hat and the puke-green wall of the fluorescent-lit public restroom. But the face was horribly insufficient; too smoothed out, and definitely not angry enough.
As I struggle to avoid the stigma of painting dogs (i.e., paintings vs “pet portraits”), I feel a strong need to steal a little bit of time to generate some meaningful work to be taken seriously as an artist. I knew this image of anger had potential, so I put it back up on the easel to rework the face.
Kimbo is a folk-punk artist and I listened to her songs in the studio to access that anger. I took larger brushes than I’m used to, and dabbed on darker swathes of color, trying to resist the urge to blend it in, perfectly. Harder colors — more Ivory Black and Raw Umber. Shadows (not just as metaphor). I widened the eyes and mouth and jaw. I realized that when I first painted this, well over a year ago, I was existing in a bubble of optimism and happy dogs. But now, as we begin to witness the results of the 2016 election, access to that anger is becoming easier for me.