Starting my “Not #MeToo” painting for Art Prize
First of all, let me thank Creative Pinellas for the grant that is helping me realize a large art project! I am working on a 7-foot by 14-foot painting entitled Not #MeToo to enter into the Art Prize 2018 competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this September. Art Prize is the best attended public art event in the world, according to The Art Newspaper’s annual “Big Ticket List,” with about 522,000 attendees in 2017. The event awards $500,000 in prizes, which include a $200,000 prize awarded entirely by public vote and another $200,000 awarded by a jury of art experts.
The stakes for this competition are large, but having a chance for such a sizeable audience to see my artwork is another incentive to compete with the circa 1,300 artists from around the globe in this unique event, which lasts 19 days. I have shown my work in several international art fairs, and the best attendance numbers for one of these events was a tally of about 33,000 attendees. So, Art Prize really ups the ante.
My wife Michaela and I flew to Grand Rapids last October to see last year’s winners and to get an idea of some of the venues which host the myriad artworks during Art Prize. Doing this preliminary research was really useful. We were able to create a list of venues that I would like for my work, and even better, I met the Michigan artist Ken Hershenson, who called me his “artistic soul-mate.” Ken and I have since been in touch, with plans for him to visit us here in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and us possibly doing a gallery show together in Detroit, where he lives. Ken has also provided me with great materials so I can plan for a successful visit to Art Prize, since there are a few insider’s tips that will help a newcomer like me.
The idea for my entry came when Michaela introduced me to two of her best art history students at St. Petersburg College, where we both teach. Madeline and Alexandra are both ballerinas and in casual conversation, prompted by the media coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, we realized that as beautiful women, they have to contend with worries about sexual harassment all the time. We scheduled a photo shoot with them and with one of my regular life drawing models Chris, whose body type approximates that of Harvey Weinstein. During the photo shoot I had my models act out various poses, including having Madeline attempt to swing a baseball bat at “Harvey.” But that did not look right, until we decided to use the Sabre pepper-spray that Madeline carries regularly for her personal safety.
My actual design is in part inspired by the ballerina paintings of Degas and the tenebrism found in the paintings of Artemisia Gentileschi. I tried doing the drawing, based on many different photos with graphite on white paper, but could tell right away that this was not the ideal way to handle this composition. Instead, I switched to black toned paper with white chalk instead. My first drawing turned out okay, but after looking at it for some time, I realized that I had some of the proportions on Madeline’s leg wrong, since she was en pointe in the image.
I completed a second drawing that became the template for my composition. You can see how that turned out at the top of this blog post. In the next several weeks, I will keep you posted here on the progress of this massive project. Thank you for tuning in!
Information about Art Prize can be found at www.artprize.org. That’s where I got some of the details about the competition for this blog post.
To see my entire portfolio of paintings, please check out www.kevingrass.art! You can purchase original paintings and fine art print reproductions directly from my website.
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