Action and Reaction

I started my search through photographs I had taken of my older brother to look for emotional content that I could try to capture in my painting.  My older brother is autistic, low functioning and is nonverbal.

Every now and then, my whole family, younger brother D, my parents and I, used to visit Mike at his group home. Those were bittersweet times, as they were a reminder of times past, when Mike lived at home. The family dynamics had changed a bit, since the group home was responsible for his care, but Mike was still the center of attention.  Armed with my camera, I could step back and be the observer. Perhaps this was a way to distance myself emotionally and step into the photographer mode, where framing and timing were paramount.

The scene

The watercolor study below was abstracted from a photo of both my brothers sitting on a bench in the park we visited when we went to see Mike. Mike was just about to bite his hand. I captured that behavior plus my younger brother’s reaction.

The study below consists of Mike’s face, his mouth open ready to bite his hand. He seems to hold his other hand delicately, but he often used the hand he wasn’t biting to slap himself in the head.

Preparation for self harm and reaction by other brother

Brother and Reaction
7″x10″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

There are two sets of disconnected hands visible in Mike’s visual space. D is holding him with one hand and attempting to stop his behavior with the other. You can see his reaction in a shorthand portrait on the right side of the picture.

The above study suggests a separation of personal spaces of my two brothers. Although my younger brother’s hands are included in Mike’s space, they are not connected to him. This might be an accurate depiction of how Mike sees the world.

Second study

The study below is a portrait of D as he reacts to Mike’s behavior. I haven’t included the photograph for reference, since the point of the portrait isn’t accuracy, but rather to portray a reaction. It would be difficult if not impossible to show that the expression is that of a sibling reacting to his brother. I only hope that the viewer detects some kind of emotion and perhaps experiences emotion as well.

Watercolor portrait of a reaction

Reaction Portrait
10″x7″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block


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