Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sorry it’s been a while…I’ve been self absorbed

Judy has no balls…yet
by Judy Takács
Before and after reworking during an intense period of self absorption.

You’re so much prettier in real life!

You look so sad, troubled, depressed, serious!

Why do you make yourself look so old?

These are the comments I often hear about my self-portraits.

My knee-jerk answer is “that's just how it comes out”. The implication being that if I had better control of my medium (oil paint) I'd look more like how people think they see me (young? gorgeous? Oh thank you! I'm blushing now!)

And truly I think I will never achieve the control of my medium that I’d like…kind of like I don’t have nearly the control of my kids that I’d like. But, I soldier on and love them anyway…my paintings and my children. I do what seems to be necessary at the time, trying to keep in mind larger guiding principles.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and often I am ecstatically surprised.

And I do believe that's the creative process…and the life process…in a nutshell.

So, that said, below is the rework that I reworked for 3 straight 14 hour painting days. Husband out of town, kids happy because I wasn’t nagging them to improve their lives with the aforementioned larger guiding principles and me holed up in my studio, coming out for occasional cooking and driving.

Why did I rework this Chicks with Balls self-portrait I blogged about for my 50th birthday back in September and declared finished?

Short answer: I got better and it looked worse. (Better at painting, don't worry, I wasn't sick or anything)

Longer answer: The head was too small and what I thought were subtle transitions 6 months ago in the heat of painting ecstasy looked too harsh now compared to those in some of my more recent paintings. 

Also, I am gearing up to do a second “Chicks with Balls” portrait too…it is the one to be called, “Judy Finally Grew a Pair.” Before doing that one I wanted to resolve my issues with this first one, “Judy Has No Balls…Yet”. I felt this rework would be a good cathartic warm-up, stretch and foreplay for the second one. To see how the second one comes out, however, you’ll just have to come to the debut show of Chicks with Balls at BAYarts in Bay Village, Ohio on Friday night August 9th…it won't be online.

So, here are the various transitions of this first self-portrait from CWB. I’m going to take you back to the very beginning, showing you the good, bad and the ugly. I kept the same facial expression, using the same photos I took a couple years ago and I apologize for the color differences and glare in my transition paintings. Please don’t take these as any kind of “how to” to demonstrate my well thought-out processes. These are more like the still shots of a convenience store robbery from surveillance tapes…possibly helpful to solve the crime, but not the best for actually learning how to rob a convenience store. 
If you do want to learn about my painting process you can take my figure and face workshop coming up at BAYarts when the Chicks with Balls will be on exhibitAugust 24th and 25th. Check it out at

So for now, I’m happy for you to tell me how much better I look in real life than in the painting…infinitely preferable to the other way around!

I started with an extra expressive drawing…light and dark patterns forming.

Fleshed out that wonderful belly o' mine!
If you're lucky enough to have one with this much expression,
paint it…it's l
oads of fun to do

Worked more on the face and added details in the painting jeans…
also loads of fun to do. My shadow is still amorphous.
I was trying to figure out what shape would be significant to use.

I decided on the puzzle pieces for my background shadows.
In my life I try hard to fit into the plans of the people who need me,
keeping my own plans for later”…that is changing…slowly though.
Looking at this painting later I saw the head had grown too small and
color transitions were harsh…
and thats why I opened the can of worms that is “the rework”

A change of face. I repainted the head bigger…a bit too big,
but it's a step along the way, and sometimes the scale has to tip both ways before it levels out.

Since we're talking heads, lets zoom in on my head.
Heres what I started with.
I sanded down some texture…last thing you want is a
formerly expressive ridge of paint rearing its ugly head
when you're trying to redraw an edge.

I had to build a new face with thick paint…and fast… so the old one wouldn't be a ghost looming in my past for me to correct and refine
when I really should be building from scratch.

It makes me feel better to add some highlights.
They bring a portrait to life a little, and then I feel like I have company
while I do the rest. I shall knock them back before the day is done.
I also made the hair less blocked in with masses and more airy…
thank you 3/0 Rosemary brush!

The process of pushing and pulling my darks and lights in the face is
a constant struggle between conveying a momentary expression without
making it look too contrived or cartoony.
And the goal is always to say something expressive and true
while at the same time painting well.
Making myself prettier was nowhere on my radar,
though at times when I was trying for smoother transitions between colors
I did start to get soft and lovely.
I fought back those happy strangers though.

And here's how my face ended up; quizical expression intact
equal parts "optimistically trying my best" and "what the f-- am I doing?".

I believe I'm happy with the results, but only time will tell.
Anyway, now its onto the second self portrait…
the one that will be called, Judy finally grew a pair”
…and you'll just have to come to BAYarts on August 9th to see that one,
along with the rest of my Chicks with Balls!


  1. Judy, the new expression is rich and exactly what you were after, while at the same time being a bit softer. I think I can see your expression clearer now. Kudos. This is what I call going medieval on a piece!

    1. Going medieval…I like it! Thanks Terry! You are a master of expression, so you know how tough it is to convey specific emotionals that don't fit easily into sad/glad/mad/pensive. I appreciate your noticing!I look forward to seeing you at the Portrait Society!

  2. Love. Love. Love. And as we discussed a month or so ago...we ALL have balls. Well, most of us, anyway. The key is figuring out how and when to show them and use our life experiences to share them with others. I can't wait to see what your balls look like!!

    1. Hey Nicole…I can't wait either! It's all "up here" but not "out there" yet. I'm actually finishing up (or cleaning up) Maria now. And after that it's onto my balls!


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