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27, white face

Joe's Daily Drawing

1998, Year 1
No. 27 Aug 19

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27, white face

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by Robert A. Schaefer Jr., Gallery Daguerre at Art Quarter


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Another self portrait. Finished without mirror, though. I really used those self portraits as a starting point. I don't know when I did the last one, it must have been back in 1973. And I don't think I will ever do one again in my life.

Rembrandt and Beckmann are famous for doing self portraits all their life, others have done, too. Picasso is famous for not doing them except on rare occasions in younger days.

When I was young, I had some trouble finding out what art is all about. At age 12 or 14, my parents gave me oil colors as a Christmas gift, and I copied some van Goghs. Then I quit painting, being sick of good advice, and when I left home at age 18, I took my colors with me to do what I pleased, at least.

But big surprise, all I could do did not satisfy me at all. How come? I was puzzled and frustrated. Then a friend took me with him to the big Pop Art exhibition at the Berlin Nationalgalerie, must have been in 1969. I was furious. This was not art. I could do better! And I did some commentary works, which did not satisfy me either.

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Then I did some thinking, and I decided that I was rather an artisan than an artist, so I'd try photography. I looked at as many famous photographs I could get in books from public libraries, then started to work. During my year in the US 1969-70, I took photography very serious. Well, I almost managed to be honored in the German Yearbook of Photography in 1972. You can see some of my photos at Gallery Daguerre.

But I was not satisfied either. One day it occurred to me that, just as I was not the first to take a photo so there was something to learn about, I was not the first to make a painting. Hence I got me all sorts of books about art from the public library and started studying.

I did not read the text, I was not interested in the text to photos either. I just looked at the images. I remember a double page of madonnas with child, a common theme in middle ages painting. A painter was rather an artisan those days, organized like other artisans. In this book, there were only master pieces, of course. But one was really great, obviously much better than the others. After I noticed the fact, I asked myself how this could be.  

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I could not find out at first. Then I realized that there was a feeling which puzzled me. I was a rational being of the 20th century studying mathematics. There ought to be no feelings about a question like this. But I had nothing else, so I looked at it. The feeling said something like: This image was painted with heart blood, not just mastership.

Now this was interesting! The painter had given more than his skill and talent and knowledge, he had given something of his very personal soul. This was my first clue. Here I got something to ask myself: What is really important to me in this life?

And again I was puzzled. I had no idea. I thought hard, but everything I could think of not relating to common things like loving your wife and children or the like was not really important. Some weeks later it occurred to me that I'd like to have a double lens mirror reflex camera to be able to take a self portrait. I could not afford one, and doing a self portrait with a single lens camera was not the real thing (I used a photo done this way to prove proportions in Creative Journal 1.3).

Hence I sat down in front of the mirror and started drawing. I was totally out of training. I could not do a simple stroke in a right way (see Creative Journal 1.1). Nowadays I wonder, how I did it, but I did not hesitate, did not correct myself, in fact I switched from crayon to ball point pen which you cannot correct by no means. And after some weeks, I could do it, I produced similarity. And then I stopped, because this was not it, obviously.

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Again I resorted to those wonderful books on art and did some more viewing and looking. I will tell you another time what happened then. Today's Daily Drawing shows a painting from those days when I wanted to achieve similarity, and I did. I showed you the realistic painting yesterday, I wear a moustache and spectacles, and my daughters did not believe it was me. If you look at the photo mentioned above, you might not believe it, too. But last year I found a photo portrait of the time from a friend really similar to my painting, and I gave it to my younger daughter Leevke as a Christmas gift.

In painting 27, you see that I redid this painting, I whitened the face. You still see the moustache, but the style is very different from realistic. You also see the power of the strokes, and the painting improved a lot. I still like it today, in fact it hangs at one of my walls.

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