The Making of "Automaton"
This work was part of a Grad thesis narrative in 2012 while I was in attendance with the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, called the "Jataka Tales of a Budgie-Sattva". Iterations of the underlying composition are still seen in much of my work today; i.e. a young male portrait embedded within an often fantastic psychological environment, with bird/budgie references. This one began loosely with the notion of child super hero play.
As with most all my "Jataka Tales", already at this introductory stage there are parakeets adorning the young man, two of which conceptualize on each shoulder, and another forming on the emblem on his chest. The budgie on the right side is an amalgam of bird and vintage warplane.
The environment at this point begins to feel much like a towering cumulus cloudscape with potential for rain but with the suggestion of bright sunlit peaks. Various distant spread-eagled aircraft form a loose array in the sky.
As we see in the next phase, indeed the scene becomes more murky and dim. Also the bird on the left is deleted in order to clean up the composition. The various air craft also fade.
The scene now is much simpler, and is beginning to find itself. The mood is deepening, and the atmosphere condenses, as would an emergent Midwest storm. As we see below, the amorphous dark clouds condense into a technological, militaristic motif.
At this point my background as a military brat is coming through into the imagery, and that theme casts a kind of vintage era android lens onto the manifesting boy. It becomes clear at this point that the boy is not fully human, but integrated at least in part with the culture of machinery in the scene. Further development cements this notion; the boy is an android of some kind.
Though the essential narrative has been found, the composition at this stage is still finding itself. Color, line, and variety are in flux. In the image below, a large moon has emerged in the background to give variety, atmosphere, and contrast the the foreground.
The cape of the android boy changed color to better suit the rest of the composition, and an organic budgie appears (in the manner of the earlier generation of spread-eagle planes in the initial composition). Now we have a more complete balance, not merely of color and composition, but also within the conception of organic, tech, and the valley between.
The android now ponders a natural bird. Just as the robot bird on his shoulder mimics organic bird qualities, so, too, the organic parakeet's color has evolved to blend in with the military greens of the environment, and then further integrates whites of the Moon and the boy's cape and sleeve.
The image now enters the phase of refinement, as the essential composition and color choices are cemented. Adjustments in color saturation and color temperature unify the scene and provide atmospheric perspective. Finally we arrive at the complete painting:
"The Automaton", Oil on Canvas, 24" x 30" (about 61cm x 76cm), 2012
A narrative of a military brat automaton in a world of geometric, technological, and rational forms. The artificial intelligence encounters an interruption of his rational model; spying an organic budgie. On the boy’s shoulder is a small robot mimicking the form of a bird. The real budgie, in turn, has adapted its coloring to camouflage itself against the inorganic environment. The moon looms large but faint in the distance.