I have decided to share the process of my thinking and painting when I start a new Rorschach painting. So, I have included an image of a plain blot presented to show its four orientations (two horizontal and two vertical).
I will visually analyze the images and determine the shapes that look like something to me. This will help me decide what to do with the blot—how to compose a painting. Once I start painting/drawing I will enter images of my work in progress. Meanwhile, have fun playing with the blots!
This portrait was painted from life as was the case with all of the figurative work in my Rorschach paintings. I prepared the blot in my studio. The model posed for a life drawing session at the Alexandria Art League in Virginia. I did not plan the colors of this painting. They were actually an outcome of the random features of Rorschach painting. There is a lot of trial and error involved in preparing the water color paint for blotting. I never really know the ratio of water to paint in my mixes. It is hard to control the amount of pigment. When I prepared this blot I was in the mood for deep permanent rose tones and intense cerulean blues. However, I ended up with much softer hues that reminded me of baby colors which I found appealing. At the same time, the portrait is not particularly maternal. The viewer is presented with a contradiction to resolve.
What interests me most about this painting is contained in the dark oval shape in the upper, center part of the blot. At first glance this dark shape appears to be a flat surface. However, upon careful observation it appears to have different levels of depth. One can make out parts of at least three different faces which seem to blend in and out of one another. A profile facing left, a face turned away and to the right of the viewer and a face turned towards the viewer all merge into one. In our emotional spaces this is how we sometimes experience ourselves in relationship to others. We lose a sense of our boundaries and our sense of separation from others dissolves. I find oil to be particularly amenable to the production of blots that seem to have multiple surfaces. My interest in Rorschach painting is largely about finding ways to represent emotional space.
I found a 2000 New York Times article by Miles Unger called “Art/Architecture; Finding Art in Random Images is as old as Art itself.” He discusses the use of indeterminate forms as an aesthetic and reviews its use by Leonardo DaVinci and landscape artist, Alexander Cozens. (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F00E7D71F3EF934A1575BC0A9669C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all). Like Leonardo, I found that the indeterminate and random images produced by blotting enhanced my imagination. There were moments in my work where I thought that I created poetically beautiful or enchanting images because I played on the random effects of the way that the watercolor dripped, ran, position itself and dried on the paper. Distorted self-other portrait is a perfect example of how I used such effects. For example, I decided to place the features of the portraits in areas that would maximize the sense of physical distortion, especially lip distortion. Yet, the inherent qualities of the Rorschach blot make these distortions attractive. This allowed me to turn features that have often been devalued in African American culture, thick lips, into beautiful images.
Andy Warhol had this to say about his series of Rorschach Paintings, ” I was trying to do these to actually read into them and write about them.” (As reported by Mia Fineman http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/features/fineman/fineman10-15-96.asp )
I had a different motive. I wanted to share with the world what is perhaps the single most fascinating part of my life as a Psychologist; that is the unique connection that I feel to patients when suddenly I can see the world their way because I see what they see in a Rorschach. That is truly rewarding and has oftentimes left me more able to empathize with the wants and hurts of clients. We can all benefit from more experience seeing through the eyes of others.
The Rorschach Muse is pure fun to me. I had great fun associating visually to the original blot. For example, I conveniently placed the portrait in a spot that allowed me to suggest that it was a picture of a woman with braids because of the two fuzzy,thick lines on either side of her head. However, if one analyzes the blot carefully there is a logics problem because the line on the left is too far from her head to be a braid. I don’t recall what shapes I elaborated to create the illusion of a funny looking hat. The model who posed for this painting seems to possess the secret of joy, which I think is a rich inner life.
I made my Rorschachs by blotting with water color, oils and acrylics. Blotting involves the placement of a fluid medium on paper which is then folded in half. When the paper is opened shapes appear that are at first strange and unfamiliar. However, with the aid of our imaginations we quickly begin to recognize the shapes as objects that are a part of our real world.
In the days to come I will talk often about my Rorschach paintings. By the way, what does the Purple Flower look like?