The Process and Vision of Andy Golub’s Human Canvas
March 10, 2018
We were told to arrive between 11:45am and noon so we could get an early start, which in artist-speak means the painting wouldn’t really begin until 1pm. Either way, this 9-person human canvas was sure to have us working for at least 6 hours, maybe longer. As one of Andy Golub’s assistants, I got to work with Amelia Farrell and her mother Donna, Anderson Morales, and Maggie Leung–all of us poised and ready with our brushes in hand, fully committed to the task of the day.
We were to use the studio space at Volition Gallery Bell-ans Creative Art Center in Orangeburg, NY in Rockland County, tucked away in the back hills near Nyack. Phyllis J. Dodge is founder and owner of Volition Gallery, and her dream was to create a space where art and community, music and poetry, pop up galleries, community gatherings, art classes and more can be shared and appreciated. In her words: “The gallery is about delivering a creative experience, interacting and working together. Each event brings people and artists together with art, expressions of desires and will – created of our own individual and collective volition.” It is so encouraging to know that people like her really do exist–those who hold art as something essential to making life more beautiful and meaningful. Next door to the gallery was a quaint farm with a wandering turkey who kept ruffling his feathers near the doorway to the studio. When I went outside to vape, he nearly attacked me, his feathers fanning proudly as he outlined his territory. But I didn’t mind. The outdoor smell was fresh, and the day was just beginning.
Andy went over the details of the process with the artists outlining how to stick to the design plan, but encouraged us to offer creative input along the way as well. The first part of the project was the studio set-up. Mats, pillows, drop-cloths, paints, ladders hoisting cameras, and red tape unrolled to section off the layout for the final overhead shot.
Click on Play to see how the piece was achieved from a direct bird’s eye view:
A bodypainter’s blessing is the model, who is the real hero at work. We couldn’t do what we do without them. Remaining still for hours at a time, it takes as much concentration to hold a pose as it does for us to mix colors and stroke. We are in this together from beginning to end. The following models were part of the process: Amy Morales, Angela Rivera, Dana Defrancesca, Jim O’Connor, Marie Lang, Melanie Fortino, Nicole DuBow, Sidney Oolongo, and Gingerman.
Andy positioned and arranged the models aesthetically, as pillows were placed under all tender spots so that their bodies remained comfortable. Andy then set up his ladder contraption and hung over his canvas of frozen humans as we waited quietly for inspiration to lead him, for he hadn’t had a firm plan for the design going in. With a long tree stick taped to a brush dipped in black, he traced the entire black contour line of the piece. Afterwards we were to finish those black lines neatly, and from there, we could move on to color–my favorite part.
The blue was too bold, so he threw it into some Mehron silver, creating a metallic Mystique feel. The green was too bright so we whisked in some yellow to make our lime. The pink had the right punch, and the whites of the eyes would tie it all together.Andy had a variety of colors for us to work with, and we played around with some ideas for the scheme. Andy knew the nose had to be turquoise and the lips red. We built up from there.
The models were expected to lay prostrate for a little over 2 hours, during which we would mark out the colors that were supposed to be painted in that outlined section. Kind of like plugging the numbers into a color-by-number scheme. It was the rough draft, so to speak.
Andy’s a riot at these things. He comes in stressed and pissed about one issue or another, and then, by mid-afternoon he’s laughing about it. When later comes, and he steps into his boss mode again, we know what we are dealing with–an artist who will only accept his best vision realized. His professional manner holds the weight of his boldness, which is the very quality that best shows his artistic style. And his vibrant humor carries a light air, which engines the fun of the artistic experience minus all the fluff stuff that the art world can sometimes possess.
All the artists then wandered around painting the meandering models sections at a time. The flow was always shifting. There were no stations, only movement. Bending or kneeling, sharing space or raising an arm, the exchange of paint and canvas was kinetic and active. I worked on a lot of pink and white, and stuck to applying turquoise to the nose area a good deal of the time, while Andy worked with the watered down blue base with shiny silver hue.
We painted the standing models as much as possible based on what we had earlier laid out, while they ate pizza and drank their afternoon cup of joe. Now we had to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
The models repositioned, and with a few minor kinks, we were able to get them into the same layout as was designed earlier in the day. Relying on images that were digitally shot from above, we had a continual reference how things were to be lined up and filled in.
We diligently kept working, trusting the process was unfolding as it should, as it steadily came together. Being well on schedule allowed us to pull it tight and add highlights for a pop effect.
Hours and hours of work planning, painting, and fine-tuning. Yet the process had been a lot smoother than anticipated. We had learned each other’s creative language as we plugged along throughout the day.Our arm-strokes were linked together like tentacles of an octopus, flowing into each other’s paint application as our brushes danced in a steady pulsing rhythm. And then, a few snapshots later, the project was done.
By the end of the day we were beat, and I wanted to rest in the arms of my lovely models who got the chance to be beautiful forever in one of Andy’s incredible Human Canvas pieces. And I was thrilled to be part of making that beautiful happen.
Daniel Vialet Gallery:
To see more Human Canvases with Andy Golub, please click on the pic below: