Thomas Rouse: Time After Time

What began as a pre-wedding portrait of three generations of women, evolved into a commissioned fine art portrait of a family’s dying matriarch. After completing a traditional portrait of grandma with her daughter and granddaughter, I began a fine art piece with Mrs. Yamaoka as the central figure. I started with a “yin/yang” line bisecting the subject’s face from the upper left corner in a sinusoidal curve to the bottom right corner of a square frame. The pen tool was used to create a path and was stroked in red. I wanted to give a sense of the totality of the subject’s life from youth through old age. I retained the subjects face to the right of the yin/yang curve and to the left of the curve I constructed a youthful face from elements in my personal image stock. On multiple layers selected features of Mrs. Yamaoka eyes and lips were masked over the left (youthful) image and stylized into what I imagined her features might have been as a younger woman.

Because Mrs. Yamaoka had spent portions of her life in both the east and the west I wanted to incorporate a subtle western motif into the composition to balance the eastern yin/yang motif. My thought was that the “Golden Mean” is among the most western of visual motifs. In a separate document I constructed a grid of various but proportionally sized golden rectangles. I stroked the lines in the same red I’d used for the yin/yang and dragged the layer over the image in overlay blending mode. The right angles of the grid seemed overly regimented for the overall composition so I took the grid overlay into “liquefy” and added a clockwise spin to the entire layer. Several selected images of an Asian models hair were brought in to the image, manipulated with the “transform” tool and masked into position. Saving the layered original (just in case!) a duplicate was flattened and taken into Painter. My experience with Painter was and still is very limited. In this case (as in most cases) I defaulted to a large palette knife. I added broad strokes of red to the left half of the image, dark blue/black to right half. I continued with the palette knife in clone mode and (in Jeremy Sutton’s terms) began a “mucking up” of the entire image. Finally, I added back detail and original contour with the soft cloning brush. The original image is printed on Kodak metallic paper (a material I once thought was a gimmick but have since come to use for many of my images).

Mrs. Yamaoka died on her granddaughters wedding day - a fact that was kept from the bride until late in the day. Although, at the time it seemed to be a terribly unfortunate circumstance, the bride and her family perceive the events as having given symmetry to the arc of their family’s history. A number of the wall prints included in the wedding package were foregone in favor of printing “Time After Time” as mementos for family members.

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