Meaningful Brushwork. Symbols. Imagery

Meaningful Brushwork

I have been paying much more attention to the quality of my brushwork and the choice of brush I make.  The biggest problem I am having is knowing how to load up the brush to be able to make broad sweeping gestural marks (the paint always seems to run out before the end), and also how to create brush marks that then create drips – without the paint being too watery/translucent? I am unsure how to prepare the paint to do this and how then load the brush.  I also want to work out how to create drawing-like marks, as though I have used charcoal on a painting but in actual fact I have used paint.  Again, I don’t know what consistency the paint needs to be and also what brush is best suited to this task.

I can, therefore, see the need for further research to test out how I might achieve the painterly effects I am hoping for.  I am also hoping that my tutor may be able to advise any books or on-line facilities that may assist with this.

Given my lack of knowledge around brushes and how to consciously choose which brush for which job I have started some basic research to see what marks I can make with which brush.  By documenting this i will at least have a reference tool for future paintings.



I am very much interested in exploring the idea of contemporary imagery and symbols (inspired by Fiona Rae).

I have commented previously about my interest in people using emojis to describe their feelings pictorially rather than with words and have played with using them in my work.  I find them to be a little too generic so looked further into what is culturally ‘current’ and what interests me as an alternative.  I have an interest in Japanese culture and found many images of the ‘cute’ kawaii-style ‘Chibi’ faces on-line.  I like the possibility of this form having endless potential for expression.

The first large painting I produced was not a great success. I accidentally picked blotting paper to work on(!) so not a good start for painting. Because of the trouble I had I decided to then use charcoal to draw in the faces of the Chibi – and because I like rubbing away charcoal I then had the idea to draw the ‘reverse’ chibi – the black faced slightly scary chibi – ‘chibi gone bad’.


My research into symbols is also based on the comment Fiona Rae made questioning whether her work was ‘alive, vital and relevant’.  I am, therefore, hoping that the presentation of the Chibi face is an acceptable/relevant form to use to express something deeper – an access point for viewers to use.

I then started work on a  second painting based on Chibi faces.  This time I used a painting by Karl Bielik as my choice for colour palette.

I began with a simple under layer of different shades and textures of yellow.


I tried to look as closely as possible at the different colours in Bielik’s work and then created a further two layers on top of the yellow before painting on the Chibi faces.


This photograph doesn’t pick up the detail of the abstract layer or the depth of the colours, however, I am pleased with the outcome so far.  I painted the under layers in acrylic and then decided that gouache would be a more appropriate medium to use for the Chibi faces as I wanted an opaque finish.  My intention with the faces was to use them as expressions of the myriad of emotions that we experience as humans.  The cloud and what is above it was meant to represent our dreams, daydreams, aspirations.

I have drawn in a geometric grid within the cloud and in a small diamond in the upper peach section mainly as an experiment to see if I can include geometrics as a new layer. Painting this area was an interesting experience for me as it forced me to slow down, be considered and meticulous with  my painting.  The geometric element is certainly a possibility for me to add tension within my work as the accuracy contrasts the fluidity of the earlier layers.  I now need to learn how to draw the geometric patterns accurately and paint them in an even more measured way.  For the fifth layer (the geometric patterns) I also took the time to select colour swatches that I felt worked with the painting (this time moving away from the original colour inspiration). I also mixed up the paint and tested it before using on the painting – this is something I do not usually do and is clearly a necessity to build into my painting practice.


At this point I am unsure how to take this painting further.  In adding the further colour layer onto the painting after finishing the geometric work I felt restricted by the faces that were painted on the image.  My brush work was more stilted and lost a freedom to it because I needed to be aware of the faces and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to paint over them.

What to remember:-

  • Think about composition between each layer – and think about future layers as the work progresses. This might change my choices around what to paint when (e.g. in this instance, perhaps the Chibi faces needed to be the final layer?).
  • Experiment with ideas before trying them on the painting – e.g. I need to do experiments with the Chibi faces before working further on the painting to ensure my intention is set, ‘Do I want to start painting over them with the next layer?  If so, why?  For what purpose?’



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