Exercise 4.3

Furthering my exploration of the banal vs extraordinary I tried using someone else’s photo from instagram as my subject matter.  I wanted to test out whether I would be as engaged with a topic that had no emotional connection with me.  It pushes the idea of the banal containing the extraordinary if it is not personally experienced.

ex4-32 ex4-31

Initially I enjoyed painting this image, however, I also struggled with maintaining my interest.  I also struggled with the bottom right corner as the approach of painting loosely seemed at odds with the unusual shape of the windows that were in the image.  They just looked clumsy and badly observed.

I was happy with the tonal qualities of the piece, in general I had tried to echo different colours throughout the painting to ensure coherence.  Having had time away from the painting I was able to see that the ‘loose’ qualities needing balancing with structure and something more formal – at that point the image looked too similar in mark making and painterly qualties.

I feel this is something that is echoed in my desire to have structure and fluidity in layers in my practice.  The fluidity can only be fully explored with something strong underpinning it.  I see it as being akin to laziness with my observation – the fluid elements only seem valid if I have worked really hard with elements of precision and observation alongside it.

ex4-33 ex4-3closeup

This final point for the painting shows the re-worked window area.  I have brought structure into the loose nature of the rest of the painting. I have paid more attention to the dark and light tones, adjusting accordingly, and have also neatened up areas that also reflect structure, eg. the vertical pillars etc.

I am at an interesting point with this exercise as I consider it a relative success and am now not keen to apply varnish onto the oil paint when I know that I haven’t given the painting any drying time.  With that in mind I am intending to carry out some simple painting experiments with acrylic paint and varnish so that I understand how I can use it – and will varnish areas of this painting when it has had time to dry. (See Sketchbook for varnish experiments).


I decided to revisit this exercise by attempting another painting.  I gave myself a shorter period of time than I had spent on the initial painting (probably around 12 hours), and was less concerned with accuracy and precision and more with fluidity and enjoying the mark making.

ex4-3willow ex4-3willowclose

Initially I painted this image with completely the wrong proportions so this end result is my attempt to quickly rectify my mistakes without taking too much extra time on it.  That is why there are still obvious problems e.g. the hand in the foreground, the size of the hand/arm in the background etc. I then applied varnish to various parts of the image – the water, the life jacket, the part of the sea the girl is sitting on.


The main feeling I have is that I am applying varnish but there is really no need for it in terms of using it with intention as part of the painting.  I realise I need to set my intention to use varnish as a tool within the painting almost at the outset rather than adding it because it seems like a good idea.  I am interested that it adds a lustre to the colour, however, when used inappropriately I think it looks rather daft!!!

On a recent visit to Transition Gallery I saw a painting where the varnish was put to amazing effect.

transition3 transition2

The Whistler (a Meeting), Dean Melbourne 2017 – mixed media on panel, 45 x 60cm

I was transfixed by this painting and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since seeing it.  The varnish has been used to strengthen the colour and almost gives it a luminous quality, but the lack of it in some areas also cleverly creates a sense of depth and mystery to the black background.  I am therefore, intending to use this as an example for some experimentation in my sketchbook as this painting has done much to expand my perception regarding the use of varnish.



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