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  • Justin Kane Elder

First layer

To begin this piece, we will dive into the realm of conceptual development, something that is no small task and can make or break a project before it begins. Concept and intention can often be the most challenging step in the creative process, but when done with consideration and purpose, they can pave the way to success. The intention behind this painting is to create an abstract self-portrait that captures my being and shares the perspective of my worldview. Unbeknownst to others, I’ve secretly been painting self-portraits for years, they are by no means traditional, but they are all a representation of me. At first, these portraits were a secret to even me, and it wasn’t until later that I understood what they were. After this realization, I began to approach each one with intention, making sure that it represented who I was at that time. Since then, I have noticed that these portraits are the most sought after paintings in my body of work, which was very intriguing because no one even knew their true purpose.

Every painting I’ve done of a bear is a self-portrait. Confusing? Trust me, I was just as confused when I realized this, but It was undeniable when I looked into their eyes and saw myself. Each one captured my essence and used an ever-shifting pallet of techniques to express my being. Some have literal elements that celebrate what inspires me, while others embody my emotional state at that time. Take the blue bear from last year, whose body is made of atmospheric blues representing the ocean—a place where my life was reborn with the discovery of surfing decades ago. The sea is where I learned how inescapably connected we are to everything. The mountain scene at the crown of the Bears head represents the place of my birth in the countryside at the foothills of the Cascades. Each bear serves as a way for me to catalog the transitions of my life.

This year’s bear evolves yet again with a mirroring technique that has become prevalent in my recent work. After an in-depth inspection of my practice last year. I started to uncover new ways to explore the method of portraiture. The mirroring of the subject has many intentions. First, it is a psychological tool used to blur the lines between two sides, making it difficult to see the difference between left or right. Secondly, each portrait is slightly different in scale; thus, hacking our natural ability to recognize patterns, making each face feel unique but strangely identical, giving a hypnotic calming quality to the overall feeling of the piece.

To begin this layer, I scoured the web to find an image that held the right emotive quality. Then that image was used to build the foundation of the composition mounted to the panel before you. After that, I began to experiment with the different motifs that came with this layer. These motifs will ultimately inform the outcome of the piece. Most of my work starts with a digital rendering that provides the roadmap for where the painting will go, but I always leave room for spontaneity and inspiration to shape the artwork along the way. Leaving space for the unknown keeps the art fresh throughout the entire project by not limiting the process to merely copying the rendering. It also allows the mischievous behavior of paint to unfold without limitations.

More than anything, the intention behind this work is to project peace and understanding while offering the calming empathy of gratitude to the world. Thank you again for being part of this journey. It is an honor to have you here by my side. I look forward to sharing the coming layers of this process.

Uncertainty is just the reflection of our own certainty staring back at us.

-jke





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