Israel for me starts with Meyer. His is the face I see first when I arrive. For several years now he meets me in Ben Gurion International and takes me home. Meyer is a taxi driver.
I bet you don’t have a private taxi driver, do you? Well, I don’t either, but my parents do. About 10 years ago my parents got into Meyer’s cab by chance, and they liked each other all the way around. And what’s not to like – Meyer has a sunny disposition, amazing energy, a wonderful warm manner and a dickens sense of humor. From that day on my parents rarely called a general taxi line, they call Meyer. And when the airport and the roads got rebuilt and became as complicated as Rubik’s Cube, it became too hard for them to drive to the airport. So Meyer comes and gets me instead. Every year I look forward to seeing him.
9″ x 11.5″ (22 x 29 cm) watercolor on paper
Several people wrote to me via comments here and email asking about the technique for background in this portrait. So I am adding this description. I used splattering technique, I read about it in a couple of watercolor books. I wanted to try it here because I wanted a sense of desert to connect Meyer to his country. Israel is 70% desert, and even though I took this reference in a lush and green little park where my parents live I thought that the connection was called for.
I started with overall light wash of Aureolin (PY40) covering the entire sheet, the face, shirt and BG. Then I put a wash of Yellow Ochre (PY43) covering the BG but also bleeding into skin and hair. I use Daniel Smith colors, and Daniel Smith Yellow Ochre is the most sumptuous Yellow Ochre I have seen. Then I developed the face and shirt almost to completion but not quite. I made a mask for the face and body from a piece of tracing paper and attached it loosely in 3 or 4 places with dots of masking fluid. Having placed the painting horizontally I covered the outer portions of my board with newspaper (you don’t have to do this, I am just anal-retentive like that.) Then the fun began.
I prepared five cups of concentrated paint making it a consistency of heavy cream. I used the same colors as I used in the painting for the skin and shirt in hope to unify the painting and achieve color harmony. I actually put a bit more thought into choosing my BG colors and they were all natural Earths – siennas, umbers and ferrites. I tested my toothbrush and colors on a scrap paper to figure out the size of my droplets and their trajectory. When I liked what I saw on a scrape paper I started on the actual painting. I splattered one color at a time and let colors dry for various times, a little or a lot, without much thought or plan. I wanted to achieve a controlled randomness (now that’s an oxymoron!) Then I checked the tone and decided it was too warm, so I added some Manganese Blue (PB15) splatter, also a natural mineral color and a color from his shirt, which was not in the prepared set of 5. Waited until everything was bone dry and lifted the mask.
I saw that some splatter got onto the face, so I lifted that and cleaned it up. In another small area my mask covered too much and there was a bald spot, so I added spots of needed colors with a brush imitating splatter.
Then I finished the face that needed more punch now that the BG got darker, painted flyaway hair and details on the glasses. Done.