Reducto palettum is the result of
nine months’ experimentation with a technique for reductively abstracting
digital photographs. The resultant images clearly recall the source but slide
subtly sideways onto a separate visual plane.
I discovered this strange
world between the familiar and unfamiliar by reducing the palette from up to a
million colours to less than fifty.
The first image I used was
a black and white photograph of my mother, copied with a phone camera that
introduced unexpected pinks, yellows, and browns. Although a glitch, this
palette revealed another feature of the technique: contour lines. The algorithm
is forced to use blocks of colour to simulate three-dimensional modelling rather
than a jpeg’s smooth gradations, making the image appear unreal. With over 14 hours
of digital hand painting, Portrait of Isobel Coulston I echoes Andy
Warhol’s famous Marilyn Monroe or Shepard Fairey’s infamous Barack ObamaHope poster.
I hunted through my archives
for other portraits to experiment on. The difficulty was finding an image with
enough detail to be recognisable but not so much that it couldn’t be reproduced
with just a few blocky colours. Eventually, I started exploring other favourite
subjects: flowers, butterflies, and bees. The incredibly tiny elements nearly
drove me to distraction as every single-pixel brush stroke came with the need
to decide what (and where) to paint and what to erase, which colours to keep
and which to replace.
The most difficult conversion
was a friend’s wedding photo so full of detail that it took more than 40 hours
to complete. I was chagrined when I later painted over most of that detail while
exploring yet another technique by changing the palette from “IRL” to more
images are as challenging and beguiling as only an accident can be.
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