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Over the past few months I’ve found the research portion of each assignment for this class to be completely edifying – for both personal knowledge as well as to inform personal artwork.   I came across the following image earlier this winter: an antiquated photograph showcasing the tribal scarification of an African woman.   The date and photographer are unknown.   The picture simply fascinated me.

Online research led me to the work of Helen Coleman and, separately, anthropologist Arnold Rubin and his book Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformations of the Human Body (UCLA Press, 1988).   I have a copy of the book on it’s way to Fairbanks through inter-library loan.   Until then, check out this link for more information and images.

I decided to base my first out of class drawing on this photograph and the idea of African scarification.   I started with a heavy 18×24 inch piece of Strathmore watercolor paper and saturated it with gray ink wash.   Kosher salt crystals were used to extract ink from various spots around the edges.   I used a grid system and a thin piece of charcoal to enlarge and replicate the photo onto the paper, then masked the perimeter of the sketch, reapplied ink wash and placed large rock salt crystals where each scar appeared in the original photograph.

Drawing from photographs is limiting, so I grabbed an ornate frame I had lying around my cabin and, using gestural methods, created a frame within the papers perimeters to encase the scarred figure.   I thought this was interesting in the end, but the drawing still needs a bit of refinement, a bit of white, and certainly more gray values. Additionally, the second salt extraction method, used to emphasize the scarification, needs more work too.  What else is next?  For the final drawing I plan on adding African alligator imagery to the frame design (to emulate scarification and to relate it both geographically and naturally to the figure).   The final drawing will be completed with mostly ink as well.

Time:  3.5 hours.   Paper:  22×30 inch Strathmore watercolor paper.   Media:  charcoal, salt treatment, ink wash.  Actuals:  ornate frame & photograph of woman with African tribal scarification.


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