Daily Oil Pastel: Weeks 4-7

I’ve been drawing and painting like mad, keeping my promise of creating one oil pastel per day. But I haven’t kept my goal of posting here weekly. To celebrate George Washington’s birthday, actually, thanks to the fact that today is a holiday, I’ve taken the time to finish some of the pieces that needed completion, and then photographed four weeks worth of drawings, to post them here. Days, 21-24, I immersed myself into my hands, before I landed on my feet (25-26).

Isaac Hernández. Number 21. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Number 21. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 21.

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 22.

Isaac Hernández. Digital Cloud. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Digital Cloud. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 23.

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 24.

Isaac Hernández. My Left Foot. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. My Left Foot. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 25.

Isaac Hernández. The Other Shoe Dropped. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. The Other Shoe Dropped. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 26.

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait After Francisco de Goya. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait After Francisco de Goya. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 27.

After this attempt to do a Self-portrait after Goya’s self-portrait, I revisited hands for days 28, 30 and 31, with a couple of close-up portraits in between.

Isaac Hernández. Five Bee Stings (Not Pictured). Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Five Bee Stings (Not Pictured). Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 28.

Isaac Hernández. After the Bee Stings. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. After the Bee Stings. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 29.

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 30.

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 31.

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 32.

Isaac Hernández. Still life with oranges and tangerines. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Still life with oranges and tangerines. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 33.

The oranges are from our tree, the tangerines from the grocery store. I tried to capture the latter as shiny objects compared to the unwaxed dull homegrown organic oranges. Ironically, the dull fruit tastes better.

Isaac Hernández. What Came First. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. What Came First. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 34.

The egg shell and the feather are a present from our chickens. What came first? I think the egg. I emptied it and saved the shell because it was bluish-greenish, as opposed to every other egg our hens lay, which are brown. After the egg, salt shakers were an obvious choice, although one of them had an accident.

Isaac Hernández. Salt of the Earth. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Salt of the Earth. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 35.

Isaac Hernández. Accident. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Accident. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 36.

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait on glasses. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait with salt shaker on glasses. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 37.

Isaac Hernández. Waiting for Robert Redford. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Waiting for Robert Redford. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 38.

El Mundo sent me on assignment to cover the Robert Redford event at the Santa Barbara Film International Film Festival. The two-hour wait at the red carpet is usually not fun, especially because it tends to be cold and there are way too many photographers shoving for a place by the fence to photograph the movie star of the day. It was rather warm that night, and not as crowded, as the organizers limited the number of press to each gala event. And I had a lot of fun, since I brought my oil pastels. Santa Barbara Independent intern photographer Peter Vandenbelt took my photo for his film festival coverage. My photos have graced the Independent on several occasions, but only once before was a photo of me, taken by magnificent photographer Paul Wellman, published there… while I was eating a plastic bag.

Isaac Hernández. Sebastian's Birthday Party. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Sebastian’s Birthday Party. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 39.

Lissa brought me as her guest to “Sebastian’s 31st Birthday Party (Again)”. I dressed up in a top hat, bow tie and tails, and brought my camera and oil pastels. I have to admit that the photos I took in the dark came out better than the drawing I did in the dark.

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 40.

For number 40, I discovered Quique, who graciously modeled for me, not only for this occasion, but also for 42, 43 and 44.

Isaac Hernández. Guy Davis. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Guy Davis. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 41.

One of the treasures of Santa Barbara is UCSB Arts & Lectures. Since I’ve donated many of my photos for this organization, they provided me with a pair of tickets for a performance of Taj Mahal, Corey Harris and Guy Davis, who play together as True Blues. I painted Guy Davis, in the dark. He was perfectly lit, but my pad of Strathmore Bristol paper was pitch black; it was a fun experience. And the music was marvelous. Mr. Davis signed the drawing after the show.

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 42.

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 43.

If you follow my daily posts in Instagram, you probably saw another version of the drawing above, where Quique is laying down with his head bent forward. It didn’t quite work, so I completely redid it this morning.

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 44.

I guess my art history classes at SBCC are paying off. This portrait has some unintentional influence from Rennaissance French painter Jean Fouquet, who painted an amazingly modern Madonna and child back in 1450.

Isaac Hernández. Ali's Dog. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Ali’s Dog. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 45.

And then came the dogs, in many shapes and colors. I was asked if I painted dogs, and I do, as it can be seen in my animal gallery, but the question gave me a reason to paint some more canines. Now everybody wants me to paint their dog. Although I prefer to paint from live animals, these are painted from photos I’ve taken. I have to admit it’s been fun to paint from photographs. And necessary, as some of these dogs aren’t even alive today, but the paintings have made their owners very happy.

Isaac Hernández. Robe. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Robe. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 46.

Isaac Hernández. Kuman. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Kuman. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 47.

Isaac Hernández. Zara. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Zara. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 48.

Bonus drawings, number 17, from week three, with larger hand, and number 20, with major changes:

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait After Arnold Newman's Picasso. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait After Arnold Newman’s Picasso. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 17.

Isaac Hernández. Number 20. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Number 20. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 20.

See previous weeks of oil pastels: •Week 1  •Week 2Week 3

Please comment below. Every word you write serves as encouragement for me not to give up. Also, I invite you to follow me on Instagram to see daily progress photos of the paintings. Instagram keeps me honest to really create daily. And the photos turn out to be pretty fun.

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The Brain of the Artist

I’m going to give you a piece of my mind. I figured that the NSA already has access to my brain, stored in my hard drive in the shape of the above brain scan, so I might as well share it with the rest of you. Here you have it, my brain. All my ideas open to the public. Nothing to hide. Naked. The full monty. Go ahead, share me, Wikileak me. Full disclosure. All my ideas exposed. Political views: Color blind. Religious views: Lazy eye.

 

Finally, if Dr. House had a secret identity, like Superman, I think that would be me. At least many people tell me that I look like House, although others say that I’m more like Roberto Benigni. I love how the Dr. House character is a combination of good and evil, of the good wolf and the bad wolf fighting inside of us, just like in the Cherokee tale. Which one wins? The one I feed. It’s a pity that Hernández doesn’t quite have the same ring as House.

Disclaimer: Although the picture above is really my brain, or rather a scan of my brain, I have no relationship with Dr. House. This is a parody. Don’t try to cut yourself in half to see what your brain looks like. Use your brain and contact an specialist, like Dr. Susana Martínez-Conde, who scanned my brain right before I took her picture holding a brain (a fake one). I’m planning to visit Dr. Martínez-Conde shortly to work on a new art project. Stay tuned.

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Being Brad Pitt

Isaac Hernandez, Being Brad Pitt (Self-Portrait), oil pastel on magazine cover, 8″x12″. ©2012 Isaac Hernandez

After the 2012 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, I created this Brad Pitt make-over, painted over The Hollywood Reporter cover with Frank W. Ockenfels 3′s portrait of the actor/producer. In a time when photographs are “upgraded” with Photoshop, it’s nice to be able to “downgrade” one with “finger paint”, which is pretty much what oil pastels feels to me. “Happiness is oil pastel in your fingernails,” I repeatedly say.

Sorry, Brad. Really. Especially after all the good work you do in New Orleans, building the neighborhood with sustainable homes, through Make It Right, which, by the way, it’s going global.

I was lucky to meet and photograph other people who are making it right in New Orleans. The story was published in different publications, including El Mundo. You can see a gallery of really cool people in the Mercury Press archives: Rebuilding New Orleans five years after Katrina

A touch of humor to end this post, Brad interviewed by Jon Stewart about Make it Right:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Brad Pitt Extended Interview Pt. 2
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook
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A Painting a Day (week 3)

Isaac Hernandez. "After Paul Cezanne's Still Life with Apples." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 13.

Isaac Hernández. “After Paul Cezanne’s Still Life with Apples.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. Day 13.

One more week completed, 49 to go. And I still don’t know if these are drawings or paintings. According to the Saatchi Online gallery, where I began to sell prints of my oil pastels, pastels fall under the category of drawing. Oil pastels are not even listed in their media dropdown menus….

As the month of January shrinks like the nights, and the sun takes longer to say goodnight, I have began to question the sanity of my quest. One painting a day for 365 days straight sounds exhausting. Or rather, thinking about it is exhausting. Doing it is actually fun. I have to keep focusing in the moment, which is not always easy; I painted the still life above while the movie District 9 was playing in the background…

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Paul Cezanne." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Day 14.

Isaac Hernández. “Self-portrait after Paul Cezanne.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Day 14.

Sometimes is difficult to draw small details with the big fat Sennelier oil pastels, and I have to complement the process with the little oil pastels, such is the case here. I can see that this painting is not finished; I need a longer nose, or rather a longer face.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Lucien Freud." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Day 15.

Isaac Hernández. “Self-portrait after Lucien Freud.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Day 15.

This one was really fun to create, even though it doesn’t necessarily show, judging by my expression. It took a while to find the right balance between looking like Mr. Freud and myself.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Frida Kahlo." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". Day 16.

Isaac Hernández. “Self-portrait after Frida Kahlo.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. Day 16.

Self as Frida became the most frustating painting of all, so far. The face is so small on the page that I tried scrapping off pastels with a pencil, but it didn’t look right. I must have changed the face 200 times, and it still doesn’t look right. I will come back to it for sure, but I really needed to take a break from Frida. Part of the problem is that I just don’t have the lips!

Isaac Hernandez. "(Red) White and Blue. Self-portrait after Helmut Newton's Picasso." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". Day 17.

Isaac Hernández. “(Red) White and Blue. Self-portrait after Helmut Newton’s Picasso.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. # 17.

After the frustration with Frida, I needed an easier subject. Somehow Picasso as seen by Helmut Newton seemed like the right subject. I feel like I know this photograph very well, as it hanged from my office for many years. My father wrote a poem about the photograph, too. I will find it and share it here in a future post.

Isaac Hernandez. "(Yellow) White and Blue. On the Road (self-portrait)." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". #18.

Isaac Hernández. “(Yellow) White and Blue. On the Road (self-portrait).” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. #18.

The first daily painting on the road was a success. Being away from home didn’t stop me. I really enjoy the slight abstraction here.

Isaac Hernandez. "Number 19." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". # 19.

Isaac Hernández. “Number 19.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. # 19.

Which brings us to the first real abstract of the year. This painting was the result of interactivity with my followers on Facebook, who made suggestions as to what I should paint next. I swear it started as an abstract road, so as to keep the continuity with the previous piece, but it just evolved to this.

Isaac Hernández. "Number 20." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". # 20.

Isaac Hernández. “Number 20.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. # 20.

And finally, a bonus for the week, the abstract I worked on today, and which I normally wouldn’t post until next week. I probably will continue working on it and will post again.

See other weeks of oil pastels: • Week 1Week 2 Weeks 4-7

Please comment below. Every word you write serves as encouragement for me not to give up. Also, I invite you to follow me on Instagram to see daily progress photos of the paintings. Instagram keeps me honest to really create daily. And the photos turn out to be pretty fun.

 

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A Painting a Day (1-5)

New Year’s Day was almost over, and I thought to myself, “Oh s**t! If I want to do a painting/drawing each day, I better start working on it right now.” I really don’t know where that came from; it wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution. I must admit that it was tempting forget about this crazy idea of doing one painting a day for one year, or even to leave it until tomorrow… But I didn’t. And below are the results from the first five days.

Isaac Hernandez. "This morning's coffee." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 1

Isaac Hernandez. “This morning’s coffee.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 1

This is not the first time I have started a painting/drawing per day. Once I had a summer dream in Spain, in which I did one painting per day for a year and it became an art exhibit.

Isaac Hernandez. "The Last Persimmon." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series. Day 2.

Isaac Hernandez. “The Last Persimmon.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series. Day 2.

I’ve managed to make some significant pieces with this process, but it has been at times stressful, for if the end of the day comes and I don’t have something created, I stress and draw something too quickly. This time feels different. Even though I started this project/process without any planning, but just as a sudden thought as the day was waning, it quickly has taken shape, in the form of a square (or close to it) filled with oil pastel. This idea gives the project continuity and somehow it makes it more fun and easier to commit to it. Also, each painting will have some continuity from the previous one, whether it’s subject matter, color palette or some other aspect.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Picasso's Harlequin." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 3.

Isaac Hernandez. “Self-portrait after Picasso’s Harlequin.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 3.

The fact that they have some kind of continuity has also inspired me to turn it into an exhibit. I thought it would be fun to hang a show in the middle of the year, when the project is still in progress, and add new paintings to the exhibit as they are created, so that the exhibit evolves. I could even paint at the show itself so that the process becomes part of the exhibit. I will talk to Roy about this, since he hosted my last painting exhibit.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Irving Penn's Picasso." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 4.

Isaac Hernandez. “Self-portrait after Irving Penn’s Picasso.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 4.

It’s been very much fun so far. If you like what you see, please comment below and encourage me to continue, so that I don’t give up in the process. Also, please let me know if you like the idea of an exhibit and if you have any suggestions for locations worldwide. Finally, I’m going to need a lot of frames for 9×9″ paintings; please let me know if you have suggestions as how to frame these, or if you have frames or funds you’d like to donate. Nevertheless, I will continue painting. I must remind myself the process is what’s important.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Van Gogh with felt hat." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 5.

Isaac Hernandez. “Self-portrait after Van Gogh with felt hat.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 5.

I’ve already drawn number 6, but it’s not photographed yet. I will upload the whole year in this blog as the oil pastels get created, sometimes daily, others weekly. Be patient. My priority is not posting, but painting. Thank you for following.

See other weeks of oil pastels: • Week 2Week 3Weeks 4-7

Please comment below. Every word you write serves as encouragement for me not to give up. Also, I invite you to follow me on Instagram to see daily progress photos of the paintings. Instagram keeps me honest to really create daily. And the photos turn out to be pretty fun.

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Self as my Great Great Grandfather

Isaac Hernandez, self-portrait as my Great Great Grandfather, oil pastel on paper, 2010 (in progress). 35.6×43.2cm (14″x17″).

Back in 2010 I started a self-portrait as my great great grandfather. My friend Bob Porter wrote a poem then. He came to visit again yesterday, and we decided to start a collaboration with poems and paintings.

Isaac Hernandez. Self as my great-grandfather, the Conde de Lipa. Oil pastel on paper, 2010-11.

Isaac Hernandez. Self as my Great Great Grandfather, the Conde de Lipa. Oil pastel on paper, 2010-11. 35.6×43.2cm (14″x17″).

It was 2011 before I could complete the drawing/painting, and before I could finally shave off the silly beard. It looked good on my ancestor, but not on me (and I couldn’t get the beard to curl on the sides like he did). Here’s Roberto’s poem:

Longing
©2010-13 Bob Porter

Out of the shadows
Like twin brothers, those eyes.
Visions of egalitarian turtle eggs
The taste of upright turkish coffee
The smell of onions, turmeric and coriander
In his dilapidated briefcase,
He carries an old, musty typewriter
He chews tobacco, from Georgia,
He carries a letter from Nietzsche, or is it de Tocqueville? carefully folded in his inner vest pocket
He dreams of revolution and Robespierre
Bonfires and barricades in the street
The sounds of gunfire and the sights of twisted lovers
But the eyes are not sure
And so he waits and watches
Longing for an answer
Or a clue…
Longing, longing…
Waiting, watching…

My great great grandfather, that’s my father’s great grandfather, was Polish. And he was also a pioneer photographer. He also had the title of Conde de Lipa and photographer to the Queen of Spain. I always thought it was a good story, but didn’t really gave it much importance. But over the last few weeks I’ve become obsessed with his life, researching why Captain Ludwik Tarszenski went to France and then on to Spain. It turns out he was some kind of war hero. But I’m not going to write more about him here. You can read about him in Wikipedia or in CondedeLipa.com. On with the show.

My box of good oil pastels is lost and I’ve been feeling anxious about it; I thought I was going to start biting my nails. Finally, I just went and bought a new one with the Art Essentials’ gift certificate I received for Christmas, from my friend who I gave the pig painting to. It was kind of weird synchronicity. I gave her oil pastels on paper and she gives me a paper worth oil pastels.

Finally, I had oil pastels. I was ready to paint/draw. We were also having a party with many guests, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. If I didn’t get my fingers dirty in oil pastels, I was going to go mad/der. I knew I had to entertain guests, so I did it the best way I could: they got to watch an artist at work. And some where inspired to create art. How great is that? At one point, I was retouching the painting, while Bob was writing the poem above, inspired by the painting, and Emma Jade was playing the piano.

Luis Tarszenski, Conde de Lipa, photographed by Amalia L. Lopez, one of his pupils.

I had the picture above on my phone’s screen while I painted the self-portrait, in order to keep a similar perspective and light, to inspire the mood, and to copy the suit. I also combed my hair to match Ludwik’s, but backwards (on the reflection of the mirror).

Even though I had a new box of oil pastels, I ended up painted with some left over colors I found: acid yellow and blue. I always try to use up all the colors in a box set; as I run out of my favorite colors, I use colors that normally I wouldn’t use, forcing me to try something new. I didn’t really want to paint it in black-and-white, because I tried those “colors” recently already, and I thought it would be boring to do the same thing again.

Since everybody says my paintings look like Van Gogh’s (I think they look like me, but I appreciate the compliments) I will bring up the painting that Vincent did of his mother from a photograph on view at the wonderful Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, and what he wrote to his brother, Theo: “I am doing a portrait of Mother for myself. I cannot stand the colorless photograph, and I am trying to do one in a harmony of color, as I see her in my memory.” This painting was in my mind as I drew myself as Conde de Lipa, but I hadn’t looked at it in years, until now. I didn’t remember the palette that Van Gogh used, but I remembered his words: “I cannot stand the colorless photograph.”

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Happy and Sad

Isaac Hernández, Self-portrait, oil pastel on paper, 2010.

I’ve been drawing self-portraits for many years. It’s funny, because I don’t look at myself in the mirror very much, other than when I’m drawing a self-portrait. There are many days when I don’t look at myself in the mirror at all. After all, if you don’t shave or comb your hair, you don’t need a mirror. You can wash your face, floss and brush teeth without seeing you.

When I paint a self-portrait, the person in the mirror is a stranger. And since painting occurs very much as meditation for me, that person is often pensive. And those thoughts looks different every time. I’d like to capture silly emotions all the time, but do you know how difficult is to keep a big smile while looking at yourself in the mirror for hours? And with no make up! I invite you to try it.

Some people have given me a hard time for painting myself sad all the time. To them, I dedicate the self-portrait above. What can I say. I’m a happy guy. And I’m a sad guy. I treasure all emotions. I’m happy I’m sad. I couldn’t have painted myself happy without painting myself sad first, see below. Because if we were happy all the time, we would be bored from happiness.

Both portraits are still in progress. I guess everything is always in progress. When it’s over, you die. I’ve tweaked the one on the bottom several times, correcting different elements to make the forced perspective from down below work. Thanks to Libby Smith, who I had as a teacher, it’s easy for me to see what’s wrong in a face, mostly my face. Yes, I know, Libby, the ears need to move a bit lower still and the left eye (the eye on the left which also happens to be my left eye, since it’s a reflection) still needs more work. And the right could use some adjustments too. But I ran out of yellow. I painted until the oil pastel was the size of a grain of rice. I’ll get some more yellow, and I’ll continue working on it once I shave. I will come back to this blog and add the dimensions. Suffice to say that the sad golden portrait below is at least four times larger than the happy blue portrait above. What does it all mean?

Isaac Hernández, Self-portrait, oil pastel on paper, 2010.

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Hikari Haiku

Last year I did a series of self-portraits using the Hipstamatic app for iPhone. The idea was to take 100 photos during 100 days; they ended up being more. For some of them I wrote Haiku poems, what I call a Photo Haiku, or Hikari Haiku. This series of photos can be seen in “I’m Not My Face: 40 Years of Self-Portraits”, a new book launching at the end of 2012.

Self-portrait No. 6.
Almost February
Life’s like a Christmas tree
Time passes quickly

Self-portrait No. 10.
I wanna be a dog
Be closer than I appear
Wind blows in my face

Self-portrait No. 11.
Thousand-words-picture
Who’s the man in the mirror?
Does he even know?

Self-portrait No. 12 (February 6, 2011).
Why do I worry
I’m only getting older
Life is beautiful

Self-portrait No. 13 (February 5, 2011).
A midday siesta
Eyes open to inner thought
What will they see now?

Self-portrait No. 14 (February 7, 2011).
I look pretty scary
When I brush my pearly whites
If I only knew

Self-portrait No. 15 (February 8, 2011).
Sweet scent of flowers
In the middle of winter
Did you stop and smell?

Self-portrait No. 16 (February 9, 2011)
I would love to paint
What a beautiful mirror
Lit by winter light

Self No. 17.
Darkness surrounds me
Like a box of chocolates
Almost Valentine’s

Self No. 18.
I feel like hiding
Under the covers of truth?
Deep inside my thoughts

Self No. 19 (Feb. 12, 2011).
I’m disappearing
Belong no longer here
Not quite, but almost

Self No. 20 (Feb. 13, 2011).
Sometimes not knowing
One hundred self-portraits
I hide behind me

Self No. 21. February 14, 2011
Migraine coming now
The new day has just begun
I can feel your pain

Self No. 22. February 15, 2011.
Andalusian dog
More or less, in dog years,
Five hundred years old

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Untitled in Orange

Evolution of Self-Portrait. ©2012 Isaac Hernandez

Immediately after I finished the last happy self-portrait I set off to making a new one. I wanted to revisit the idea of having both hands in the picture, so as to take turns painting with one hand and then the other. I did this for the first time in one of my first oil pastel self-portraits; the one that reminds people of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

I also wanted to use up all the colors that I never use, since I was running out of bright colors anyhow. So I started with pink, purple, black and beige… The sequence above was all done in one day (actually in just over one hour, which is fast for me), on November 2011. Interestingly, I ended the session by drifting to oranges and blues, colors that I tend to use more.

But one thing was different, I left some black showing through; I normally don’t use black at all, except when I painted the black-and-white self portrait, Thinking of Basquiat. And yes, I wanted to make a serious portrait for no particular reason, perhaps to balance the happy one.

I left the drawing in the studio for months. I wanted to continue painting it, but I didn’t. I can make many excuses, but the thing is that I didn’t. Nevertheless, I’ve been busy with many other creative endeavors, including writing The Magical Seaweed play, so I didn’t miss painting terribly (only a lot). But I did wonder whether I was ever going to finish this self-portrait.

Then, on February 11, 2012, after a day in which I felt like people didn’t care for what I had to say, including some of my students in the photography class, I hid in the art studio. I suddenly was in the same mood as the painting I had started over two months ago. I don’t remember ever painting with so much anguish. Below’s the result, although it’s probably not done yet (I ran out of orange!). I won’t touch it much more, as I like the looseness of some of the “brushstrokes”.

Isaac Hernandez, Untitled (Self-Portrait), oil pastel on paper, 2011-12. ©2012 Isaac Hernandez

Some people don’t like that I paint myself looking sad. Is it because they prefer to think of me as a happy person. Well, I’m a happy person, but I do get sad, and I celebrate that. Besides, it’s easier to be serious than laughing when you’re holding a pose in front of the mirror.

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Munch’s $119,922,500 Scream, and I

Reflections from an artist on witnessing a record art auction

by Isaac Hernández

As I type this, the Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale is broadcasting live on my screen. Claude Monet’s landscape painting (Lot 35), estimated to be worth between US$1 and $1.5 million dollars is on the block… and it just sold for $2.3 million. It’s pretty exciting to watch people spending so much money on art, even if it seems extravagant. Camille Pisarro’s Lot 36 just sold for $1.3M. Manet is next, then Renoir, Pissarro… The millions are flowing faster than I can type. Constantin Brancusi’s Prométhée (Lot 43) just sold for $11.25M, well over the estimated $6-8M; to think I could have hit the “Bid” button and it could have been mine.

The star of the auction, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, has already sold, well above the starting bid of $50 million and even past the expected $80 million, to reach almost $120 million in just 12 minutes. It now holds the record for the highest price paid for a piece of art at public auction. Before today, Pablo Picasso’s Desnudo, hojas verdes y busto was the most expensive art piece sold at auction. In a private deal, the record goes to one of the five versions of The Card Players, by Paul Cezanne, sold to the country of Qatar for over $250 million, as the prized jewel of a new art museum.

Did Edvard ever suspect that his pastel would sell for $119,922,500? He might have been honored and outraged at the same time; screaming, if I may say. Toward the end of his life, he lived a spartan existence in Norway. Upon his death in 1944, he donated all his works to the City of Oslo, who founded the Munch Museum in 1963.

There are four versions of The Scream, but this is the only one in private hands, and mounted in its original frame was painted by the artist with a poem describing his inspiration. Thomas Olsen, a friend, neighbor and patron of Munch, who helped the artist to hide his paintings away from the Nazis,  bought it in 1937. His son Petter will use the proceeds of the sale to fund a new Munch museum, art center and hotel in Hvitsten, Norway.

People often say that the above oil pastel I painted in 1990 reminds them of Munch’s The Scream. It was one of my first self-portraits. I was not thinking about Munch’s masterpiece when I drew it, but rather about how to draw while having both of my hands in the painting. As I always paint my self-portraits looking at a mirror, I had to switch hands back and forth; the right side of the painting is drawn with my left hand and the left side is done with my right.

Other people say that my paintings remind them of Van Gogh’s. I take it as a compliment, even though it’s also a bit sad, because I don’t intend for my self-portraits to look like those of anyone other than my own.

Incidentally, no art pieces by Van Gogh were offered at this auction, but two of his painting are among the top ten highest priced ever sold at auction: Portrait of Doctor Gachet (1890), sold to Ryoei Saito for $82.5M in 1990 (he was so in love with it that he wanted it to be cremated with him upon his death), and Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe (1889), sold for $71.5M in 1998.

I don’t think my 1990 self-portrait looks like Munch’s painting at all. If anything, it was inspired by the work of artist Bonnie Blau, my teacher at the time. If you want to buy this painting, or any other of my self-portraits, come by Roy!  in Santa Barbara, this coming June, where I’m honored to have a solo exhibit featuring a dozen self-portraits, offered for sale well below $119,922,500. If my paintings are really anything like Munch’s, Van Gogh’s, or anything in between, your grandchildren may have a great return on your investment. There will also be limited edition giclée prints for sale, and an eBook with a collection of self-portraits from the last 30+ years. Or you can just hang out at the opening on June 7 (6 to 8pm) and have some fun.

The last lot of the auction has hit the block. The other top prices have gone to Picasso’s Femme Assise dans un Fauteuil (1941), sold for 29.2 million dollars. Salvador Dali’s Printemps Nécrophilique (1936), sold for 16.3 million, and Joan Miró’s Tête Humaine (1931), sold for 14.9 million. I was distracted typing, and missed my chance to bid.

It’s not a bad day for Spanish art. Hey, I’m immigrant from Spain, just like Picasso and Miró. I wonder if that increases the value of my art, even slightly. Don’t get me wrong, I know I don’t compare to Picasso… and I’m still alive.

The Scream, in Munch’s Own Words

Nice - 22.01.1892.

I was walking along a path with two friends—the sun was setting—suddenly the sky turned blood red—I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence—there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city—my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.      

—Edvard Munch

The Other Screams:

• 1893 (tempera and crayon on board), at the National Gallery of Norway

• ca. 1893, (pastel on board) thought to be a preliminary sketch for the work, at the Munch Museum in Oslo

• ca. 1910 (tempera and oil on board), at the Munch Museum in Oslo

• Munch also created a lithograph of the image in 1895

 

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Sunburn

Isaac Hernandez. "Sunburn (self-portrait)". Gouache on paper, 2012. ©2012 IsaacHernandez.com

Last week we celebrated the cast party for The Magical Seaweed with a barbeque that included a beach clean-up. I got a bit sunburn. It was the perfect opportunity to play with my son’s gouache paint set. Who knew gouache could be so much fun? I guess I did, but it had been a long time since the last time I played with gouache.

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After the Play

Isaac Hernandez. "After the play (self-portrait)." Oil pastel on paper, March 20, 2012. ©2012 IsaacHernandez.com

The play is over
Nowhere to hide
Now, I’m low
Before, I was high.

I did the drawing above with a piece of brown oil pastel, but unlike other oil pastels where I build layers upon layers, I traced lightly, treating the pastel as conte crayon or charcoal. I even used a similar pose and composition that in a self-portrait from two years ago (below) done in conte crayon (when I had more hair), which was shown at the Atkinson Gallery back in 2010. Unlike conte crayon, you cannot erase oil pastel, so I ended up tracing very lightly. The result has an ephemeral flair, as if I’m going to disappear, which is the way I’ve felt ever since Carmen’s death.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait." Conte crayon on paper, 2010. ©2012 IsaacHernandez.com

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A la Carmen

I woke up this morning with Carmen in my mind, just like every single day, and a sentence in my lips, “We haven’t ask death for an explanation,” except in Spanish: “No hemos pedido explicaciones a la muerte.” And I had to write a poem. I then proceeded to translate it to English (see below), which was easier than I thought, since the emotions are so present. With this poem, I try to fill the void, just like I attempted to do working on the oil pastel above. It started as an orange and blue painting, and soon became very blue, and black.

 

A la Carmen

No hemos pedido explicaciones a la muerte

No pudimos entender lo cierto

No nos dio tiempo.

 

No nos acostumbramos al vacío de las horas

El pozo que ayer rebosaba con tu risa

Se traga ahora negro los segundos.

 

Ya no existen en el mundo lágrimas

Para inundar la emoción a flor de piel

De días sin fin y noches sin sueño.

 

Tu ausencia llena cada instante

Como el eco de tu voz en la distancia

Que quiere dar consuelo.

 

Dime por favor que la vida es sueño

Que despertaremos de la eterna soledad

Para reír juntos de nuevo.

 

To the Carmen

We haven’t asked death for an explanation

We couldn’t understand what’s certain

We had no time.

 

We can’t get used to the emptiness of hours

The well that yesterday overflowed with your laughter

Now swallows, black, the seconds.

 

No more tears in the world remain

To inundate our raw emotions on edge

The endless days and sleepless nights.

 

You absence fills each and every instant

Like the echo of your voice heard in the distance

That wants to comfort us.

 

Please tell me that life’s a dream

That we’ll wake up from eternal solitude

To laugh again together.

 

©2012 Isaac Hernández

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Self-portrait in Yellow

Isaac Hernandez. Self-portrait (Untitled) 2011, gicleé print, 10″x10″. ©2012 Isaac Hernandez

I painted this large self-portrait, the largest so far, some time in the Spring of 2011, and continued onto the Summer. I was exploring with the idea of making a happy painting with a serious face.

Happy colors. Sad face. Kind of like the make-up I got as a kid at Circus World. The make-up artist asked me if I wanted to have happy clown or sad clown face.  When I answered sad, she was really worried and tried to convince me otherwise. Why did she even asked? I think I was the only sad clown in Circus World that day. My brother and sister were both happy clowns. Why did I pick sad? I guess I’ve always had certain curiosity for sadness. If it had happened today, I’d probably have the FBI investigating me. :); or shall I say :(

The picture above, taken in April, is not the final version. This yellow painting became the main attraction at my solo exhibit of 12 self-portraits, “I’m Not My Face”, which hanged at Roy’s during the month of June, receiving rave reviews. Soon we’ll be launching “I’m Not My Face: 40 Years of Self-Portraits”, the book.

Isaac Hernandez. Self-portrait (Untitled), (painting detail) 2011. ©2012 Isaac Hernandez

It’s big. There are two giant yellow Senelier oil pastel sticks layered onto the paper.

Isaac Hernandez. Self-portrait (Untitled) 2011, gicleé print, 10″x10″. ©2012 Isaac Hernandez

How I love to get my fingers dirty. The Senelier oil pastels are especially sticky, yum!
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