Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Bozhilova Portrait

Ruska Bozhilova
11" x 8.5", 2013
Watercolor, pencil on paper
This portrait, a bit anemic, of the Bulgarian folk singer Ruska Bozhilova, was drawn rather quickly, without much thought going into it. That said there's always thought and I make an effort to be aware of the thoughts going into a painting, any painting. So here's an account of the thought processes as they occurred on a typical Top 100 painting. First I do a little research concerning the song, the circumstances of the recording, the biography of the musician, and so on. Most importantly I search for an appropriate image to illustrate the song in the Top 100 list. Typically this is a portrait of the musician or singer but sometimes the musicians are anonymous or very obscure. It did not occur to me I would find a photo of the singer Ruska Bozhilova, but I did, it was right there on the liner notes to the album The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: Bulgaria that were compiled by Alan Lomax. Before I paint (and certainly before I write these notes) I read up on some information about the song, and often play it. This is to get focused, to gain some sort of empathy with the musicians and music to be illustrated. When I found this photo of Ruska Bozhilova, I felt good about it. It was a good photo. I had expected to be searching for a while to find anything but those liner notes were the first thing I consulted in this process. So this part was quick. When I investigated the photo I was about to use in a drawing, the first thing that came to mind was that the features of the singer reminded me of those of footballer Christiano Ronaldo. It helped me if there's some sort of familiarity on the onset. Ms. Bozhilova's portrait ended up not looking anything like Christiano Ronaldo, but that's not the point. By the time I was done I was familiar enough with the singer's features that I simply forgot the association with Ronaldo's. Studying that photo I remarked in my mind that this was going to be an easy one. And it was. The whole process from doing the research until the photographing or scanning of the finished product took all but an hour. The usual time frame is more like four hours (for drawings like these that is –the paintings I did earlier in the year for the Top 100 2012 series may take well over a day's work). The process of making it was smooth, from the first pencil lines, through the coloring and the addition of back yard textures (yes, I take every single drawing outside to add a natural backdrop to the portrait). I didn't err or mess up at any stage, but I didn't challenge myself much either. The drawing was exactly like I had planned. The illustration for Tri Mi Zvezdi (three stars) a field recording of a Bulgarian work song made in the fifties by A.L.Lloyd was done. Only a few more left to do!

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