I have chosen to limit myself to a small number of pieces of exploratory work for this assignment. This is a further attempt at learning how to work in a more potent way and to ensure there is purpose in everything I do. I have made the decision not to play with composition and not to produce a ‘final’ piece either. This reflects where I am in my journey with painting – I need to continue to focus on learning how to use oil paints (given I have only just started using them in Part 4) and continue my research into my personal artistic voice.
Part 4 has really challenged me to explore my own process of painting. What represents my artistic voice, what style, what layers, what intention? I have researched this experientially as I have worked through the exercises, particularly with reference to the work of Joan Mitchell and Karl Bielik. This assignment is, therefore, continuing this research and many paintings were created during the assignment that feel part of a body of work connected to this but not directly related in subject matter.
Taking my idea from exercise 4.1, I am using an image of my children when visiting a National Trust property as my ‘interior view’ for this assignment. Again, this type of image is a reflection on the banal vs the extraordinary. I also like it because compositionally I feel it is posed in a traditional portrait style and I am able to use this to my advantage in the work.
There were two layers paintings I had created during the course of Part 4 that felt like starting points for my prep work. I wanted to add faces within the abstraction to one of them (first image below). The question I was posing was “can the figurative elements of the work be the structure to balance abstraction?” There is something in this idea which needs researching and developing.
What didn’t work?
- No thought about the colour scheme in the abstract layers
- No consideration of composition – I tried to fit the faces into areas in the abstraction and it hasn’t worked
- The first abstract layer lacked cohesion and in the process of trying to change this I have forgotten my original intention and have obliterated the realistic faces.
- I have also forgotten to choose my colour palette well for my reworking of the image
What has worked?
- Some of the impasto brush marks and gestural forms in the second image
Having made the error of covering the realistic faces I tried to clean the oil paint away to reveal the lower layers. This was only partly successful as only some of the paint was removed. I, therefore, decided to see how I might ‘save’ the painting to understand what I might do in the future when I make errors. I have added in the realistic face using grey tones for the face, hair and hands. I have then taken colour from the painting and used it to accentuate the girl’s clothing and to block in areas to bring her to the foreground. I have also made the compositional decision to remove the image of the boy and this has been a successful choice. The image of a single person works far better now.
Points to remember for the future:-
- Consider palette from the outset
- Consider composition for the abstract layer even if it is painting freely the knowledge of future layers can bring in structure.
- Also consider the style of painting in the abstract layer – e.g. the thicker more impasto paints must be used in the upper layers as it causes ridges and unsightly texture that is then hard to paint over
- Don’t obliterate all of the lower layers – it then renders them pointless and no tension is created
I then moved onto experimenting with the other painting with layers.
What didn’t work?
- The under layer was produced as an experiment with thicker paints and as such was unsuited to over-painting. It was necessary to lose the stronger brushwork which showed it was not suited to this exercise.
- Subtle tones palette-wise may have worked for the under layer but continuing that for the faces meant there was no distinction between layers and no sense of fore/back ground. The addition of yellow was an experiment but also failed to work due to the lack of intention/purpose – it was just an experiment to try and bring out the faces and as such didn’t bring cohesion.
- I then blacked out the background in order to try and create purpose for the yellow (their clothing) and added the sketchy linear work as a structure to provide tension with the figures. Again, this hasn’t worked, it looks clumsy, awkward and very much out of place. I question if it looks worse because the line is very dark, and I also wonder if it would have worked better in moderation e.g. only using the line to define the clothing and nothing else.
- My final attempt to pull back the painting was to obliterate the lines and the yellow, bring in neutral tones and then use this as a starting point when dry to overpaint.
I decided to abandon this piece at this point as I had spent a lot of time on the painting with no success so will revisit it in the future and see what I might be able to do to take the painting further.
The next looser painting was about creating the form of the bodies without the detail. I wanted to utilise another abstract layers painting and chose this one because of the colour palette. I then painted using loose gestures, wet into wet, oil paints with liquin. I chose to use the colours in the original image as my starting point for palette but specifically chose to try and express the faces with the yellow tones because of the colours on one of the robes rather than as a literal reading of the image. I considered my mark making with this piece and what areas to leave unpainted to show the layer beneath.
- There is an energy to the overall feel of the piece
- There is a freedom to the brush marks but they have purpose and structure in the fluidity.
- The under layer creates a tension where it shows through within the clothing, however, it is subtle and does not distract from the figures.
Having reduced the detail in the above piece and added in a black background my next experiment was intended to take this further. I have removed all trace of the body, only the heads and hands remain. I painted this layer using thinned paint (zest-it) but found the background black to be too flat and dull. I, therefore, painted over the black with paint thinned with liquin to add an element of depth to the colour.
The difficulty that this piece poses is where to take it from this point. I can see it needs further work but how? I have, therefore, left this piece at this stage to ask advice from my tutor.
The next two images were painted really in a free flow when I had been painting every day on this assignment and they just naturally happened. I gave thought to the colour scheme for both pieces and also had the fluidity of the work produced by artists such as Alli Sharma and Cathy Lomax in mind when painting.
Having produced these experimental pieces I then moved onto what I was hoping would be more ‘finished’ pieces but still continuing to try different effects with the paint etc.
The two images below were intentionally created using thick and thin mediums to enable me to have a reasonable comparison between the two because of the image being the same.
The first image was created using only paynes grey, alizarin crimson and white plus mixed in with Gamblin impasto medium.
Thoughts – that this impasto medium was easier to use than the liquin version – it seemed wetter but retained the texture well. The colour choice was a bad one – they are two colours I love but as using them to form the entire palette looks too much ‘straight out of the tube’.
- I have managed to tighten up the very loose under-layer by adding tone and detail.
- the difference in the choice of brush marks and painterly qualities between the two figures
- the juxtaposition of the loose gestural brush marks with the tighter, more detailed qualities within the faces
- bringing in the linear almost drawing-like qualities for the hands – something I could have considered for other parts of the image – the clothing?
What doesn’t work?
- The colour scheme is too harsh, I should have experimented with actually painting swatches of colours before beginning – this is a vital piece of information for me to take into future projects
- painting the impasto layer first meant I was very limited with what I could then do to bring in detail over the top
What can I take forward from this?
- Test out the colour palette first
- think further about mark making and pace before painting as well as during in the context of the composition
- plan ahead with layers, think about how the painting will be structured e.g. if impasto will be used what needs to go in the layers before?
- I am really pleased with the effect created on the boy’s robe by rubbing the paint away with a cloth. His clothing has a lovely gestural quality which I would like to experiment with further.
- the juxtaposition of the detailed finely painted faces with the rest of the painting
- The introduction of the slightest hint of colour in their faces – it adds vitality to the monotone colour scheme
- the ‘drawing’-like qualities of definition around the girl’s clothing
- The slight colour difference between each person’s clothing
What doesn’t work?
- There are some areas that appear unfinished (unintentionally so). For example, the triangular area of background between the two figures – this looks messy and needs further definition.
- The girls’ robe would benefit from more of the mark making seen in the boy’s robes – there is some but not quite enough.
- The face of the boy has been painted incorrectly – the proportions are wrong – the nose is too long as is the face.
What can I take forward from this?
- experiment further with mark making e.g. using rags to rub away the paint, putting fine detail next to fluid brush work
- experiment further with the monotone colour scheme with small areas of colour
- to work harder at getting the proportions correct when sketching out the image before beginning work
My final experiment was a watercolour and gouache piece. I found a piece of the experiential research I had done in Part 3 on Eleanor Moreton’s work.
I had forgotten that I enjoyed painting in this way so did the following piece as a quick response to it based on the assignment work.
Some areas of the paintwork are more successful than others but I enjoyed painting in this way because of the dream-like quality of the method – it is abstract but created in a very different way to the other abstract layers paintings that I have been doing. This is, therefore, a style that I intend to further research.
Overall this assignment has been successful in enabling me to explore methods of painting with oils and to experiment with the choice of mark making and editing within the figures. It has also enabled me to further experience oil painting mediums which I can then take further with my work in Part 5. On reflection I would have liked to have produced a much larger piece using the impasto techniques I started experimenting with in my Iain Andrews research.
I will, therefore, bear this in mind with my continuing painting research.