Letter to My Late Brother

By: pbcmedia

Oct 07 2010

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Brothers, Collage, Creativity, Digital Collage


Focal Length:100mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:Canon EOS 5D

I’ve been asked to give a seminar on digital collage to a group of college students studying design.  Their semester project is a collage of their own about someone in their life who is dead but who still affects their life.

Rather than talk abstractly or work from previous collages, I decided to do my own and break down the process.  I am giving the seminar on October 13, the 12th anniversary of my brother’s funeral, so the subject of my collage was not far from focus.

The starting paper was made from a National Geographic page of their current newstand magazine about the Oil Spill.  I sponged on some Citra-Solv, a detergent I bought in Whole Foods, which was applied to the surface for about 15 minutes with a bit of saran wrap covering it.  The detergent lifts the inks somehow and after the 10 minutes,  I massaged (there’s no other word for what i was doing, sorry) with my fingers (very gently) the saran wrap this way and that until I liked the resulting abstract image.  Then, I photographed it every which way until I ran out of angles or interest.  At the time I was doing this particular page, I had no idea I’d use it in this project.

The second image is a portrait of my brother I took when I was just learning photography in 1973 in Heidelberg, Germany and he came to visit me.  I remember this visit like it was yesterday and that is a bloody miracle because during it I had the worst hangover of my life.  In fact, the morning he left, I struggled to wake-up following a night of dedicated visiting every establishment that served alcohol in downtown Heidelberg.  I have no idea what size my head was but larger than the size of his suitcase which I tripped over as we hurried out the door.

I had to drive him to Frankfurt airport and we were late.  In order for my head not to explode, I had to put the top down on my blue VW convertible which, on a sunny day and you are not going 75 miles an hour, was a great thing.  But, on this day it wasn’t sunny, it was foggy and misting, and my VW Bug’s accelerator was on the floor and 75 mph was all I could do as trucks and other cars swept by going 90 and 100 mph, shrouding us both in clouds of wet mist.  He was laughing as I told him with last night’s mascara and eye make-up drizzling down my face as each passing vehicle whooshed by us, that I hoped we survived this bleepin’ trip to the airport.

This citra-solv process I first heard about from carolking.wordpress.com and then once again on lesliepaints.wordpress.com.  Both women are painters whose work always teaches me something.

This portrait is not completed btw.  It is as they say, “a work in progress”.

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©Pat Coakley 2010


Photographs from this blog and my wider archive can be purchased or licensed at www.patcoakley.com

18 comments on “Letter to My Late Brother”

  1. You’ve bestowed a Rembrandt-ish quality to your brothers face.
    Like the Chiarascuro of old masters paintings, he seems to radiate out of the darkness.
    I remember reading about that Citra Solve process.
    They chose wisely when selecting you for this visual process.
    Just don’t go out bar hopping after the first night.

    • Hello, Bon Bon! I love that you can both know what chiarascuro is and can spell it! My house smells like Valencia Oranges which is the scent of Citra Solv. It’s been raining here for days so couldn’t do it outside!

  2. Where did the writing come from that shows up in the background?

    • Pat, forgot to put that in the slideshow! The script is also a photograph of writing. These collages often have multiple layers.

  3. Oh, it’s good to see that face again…

    A few years ago I had a really vivid dream right before I woke up that Dad was in. I can’t remember any real details of the dream, but it was really memorable. When he appeared in the dream, my sleeping self kind of recognized that I was dreaming and I remember thinking (while I was still asleep) how thankful I was to see him again. I could cry thinking of it now. It felt like what people think heaven will be.

  4. beautiful. words caught up in my throat as i thought ‘what a handsome face’. just looks like a beautiful person yknow? you can see it in the eyes.
    and i’m fascinated by your process, and excited about your lecture, fantastic! bravo!!

  5. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. The seminar sounds so interesting. Your story about you and your brother was fun. Memories like that are not soon forgotten. I love what you did with the citra solv and then the digital work following it. You went the extra mile, Pat. Cool image!

    • No, you are the one who went the extra mile. Cutting the paper into pieces and using it as the paint on your self-portrait? Sweet jesus that’s “extra mile” material. I’ve gone back many times to look at it and each time I shake my head at how much patience it must have taken!!

  6. Very interesting treament. Citra-Solv on magazine pages, who woulda thunk?
    As for the image being a “work in progress”, one of my lecturers from when I was studying design used to often say, “a design never ends”.

    • I know, Razz! That sense of “it’s done!” really doesn’t happen too often. In this case, I was thinking of actually writing a letter to him in script and then adding that to the piece. Except I know my eyes will be sealed shut for days if I do that.

  7. Hi Pat,

    I am from Citra Solv and just stumbled across your post. Your artwork is beautiful! Usually seeing a piece that some artist has created using our product brings a smile to my face; yours brought a smile and a few tears to my eyes. It is wonderful that you would remember your brother this way.

    Anyway, would it be alright to share your blog piece on our Facebook page sometime? I think we have many “likers” that would “like” it too:)

    Thanks again for brightening our day,
    Melissa and the Citra Solv gang

    • Thanks, Melissa. You can certainly share this blog piece on Facebook. I have a facebook page but never use it! I only have 21 friends. It’s so depressing!!

  8. Your image clearly shows your tender regard for your brother and your memories of being with him. It is beautiful. The story, of course, adds just a bit of lightness for counterpoint!

  9. I really like that portrait of your brother: the darkness of his eyes just pop. Do you remember what film you used?

    • The usual black and white suspects, I think. Plus X or Tri-X. In those days I did all the developing but can’t remember what it actually was. This is approaching 40 years ago for God’s sake!!

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