Assignment 4 – Tutor Report

Student name Angela Johnson Student number 513795
Course/Unit Understanding Painting Media Assignment number Four
Type of tutorial (written) Written  


Overall Comments

Thank you for the thoughtfully edited, selected and well organised portfolio.

I have offered a good range and breadth of Reading / Viewing / Pointers: take from this what you see as priorities.  Some of the recommendations may be more useful as you progress to POP1.

The portfolio contained paperworks: evidencing experimentation across a range of media (including oils).  From small scale intimate exercises to larger rolled studies exploring visual research, mimicking particular qualities of abstraction and mark-making.

There is a genuine exploration and creative struggle with oils being pursued.  Some of the less-worked, looser studies have a quality of brushwork, that flows with the form of the figure.  Where the colour and tone of paint conveys the building-up of the structure of head, hair and upper body ( pink and naples yellow, next to grey).

The submission explored personal content of a diverse nature, in addition to the set assignment brief.  You are struggling to develop and explore your own content, (at times seeming confused or drawn to contradictory, complex concerns).  I suggest you are tackling too much at once (for Level 1).   Trying to explore and develop deep, diverse content, whilst gaining practice and understanding of an exciting new media is a huge challenge to set yourself.

Look at the criteria and outcomes for Level 1: If you could focus on a few personal concerns, this would allow you to enjoy the painting process more.  You will gain greater confidence and understanding of the media, visual language and build on your creative strategies. Allow the ideas and concepts to develop, as you gain confidence in the handling of oils.

Assessment potential

“I understand your aim is to go for the Fine Art Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, and providing you commit yourself to the course, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment.”


Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

{Where I felt it useful to comment on specific pieces (or you requested specific guidance), I have lightly pencilled a numerical ref. on the top right reverse of the study / outcome.  Where you asked for specific comment / analysis I have used the same ref.}

Throughout the assignment you are enthusiastically exploring the matter and manipulation of oil paint.  By methodically testing out differing qualities of thin to fat processes, experimenting with brushwork and gestural qualities. Where these are most successful is when you refer to your visual resource; drawing with the brush to reflect form, tone and palette. {see #2 girl’s face, hair and upper hand}.

There are elements within each of the studies that you could could learn from and apply within one outcome.  For example see my specific comments on #1, #2 & #3 and try to apply them in one A3 painting. (see Pointers)

There is a lovely, tenderness and percieved form to the girl’s face {#2} and the controlled yet fluid handling of her hair.  The choice of red and heightening of colour in the hair and cheeks, (though invented) work well alongside the soft grey of the collar.

 Some of the less-worked, loose studies have a quality of brushwork, that flows with the form of the figure.  You have selected and applied colour and tone of paint which convey the structure of head, hair and upper body ( pink, yellow, next to grey). {see #1}

In relation to {#3} there are several areas I would recommend you re-work; use your photographic reference to guide you here.  The black you used conveys a flat, dense negative space.  If you wish to maintain the distinct negative / positive spatial relationship do so, but mix your black (see below technical note).  Your composition and flat black focusses the eye on the faces.  I suggest that you have loosely knocked them in, now you need to re-establish a structure.  You have begun this around the nostril and bridge of nose, with some simple strokes.  The cheekbones of both girl / boy need reintroducing with a simple broad brushwork following the form of the bone.  {see #1 /#2}.  (see Pointers)

Some technical notes: I recommend that you try mixing your blacks and greys.  For example you can mix blacks by combining two complementary colours such as: Equal quantities of Alizarin Crimson / Pthalo Green {or Viridian Green, if you cannot get Pthalo}- Royal Talens offer a very good range ‘Rembrandt’ or Winsor & Newton.  You can also mix AC with Prussian Blue, however not equal quantities- use less PB (otherwise it has a tendency to dominate).  To make a pale grey from this, I recommend mixing a tiny amount of the mixed black (size of a sunflower seed on tip of palette knife)  into ( a hazelnut sized squeeze of) Titanium White.  If you have time to experiment with mixing / do a little research into mixing of chromatic blacks & greys. (see Reading / Viewing).



Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

You are exploring a good, broad range of painting media including gouache and oils.  This through the exercises and studies is beginning to show in your confidence and approach to drawing with your paintbrush, loosely knocking-in areas and using differing qualities of paint as you build up a study.

You are drawing upon your research to mimic brushwork , layering and gesture.  It would be useful to think about what you find valuable in this process.  How might you learn and translate these marks, gestures; linguistic surfaces (?) to your own work.  (see Research heading).

I recommend that whilst still experimenting with your visual language and ideas; as much as possible use preliminary drawings and photo refs to work from.  When you use a reference (rather than relying on invention)- you have a more considered and confident quality of mark, drawn gesture and form.  (see Pointers)



Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

A good breadth of research in primary and secondary source material and well referenced throughout the blog.  This is good, sound academic practice.

You mentioned relating your ‘500 word essay’ to oil painting, with a focus upon Goya and Tuymans.  Oil painting as a medium seems an ideal choice given your more recent interests. This is an interesting and intriguing dialogue to explore.  There are links with reference to dry, wit and humour with regard to the polemic, critiquing of political and belief systems, in Goya and Tuyman.  I suggest that there is a contradiction here (not for the first time) regarding you being drawn to the darker qualities of the human condition, as opposed to your need to focus on healing and a joie de vivre.

An article by Robert Hughes on Goya’s social commentary:

Tuymans ‘Gas Chamber’:

I think you need to make a decision, about whether you want to avoid or address these darker aspects of humanity, in both your research and work.  Until you decide you will, most likely continue to feel confused about what ideas or concepts to explore and how.

You asked for some guidance on layering techniques for oil painting, in addition to the recent email- look at Ralph Mayer’s ‘The Artist’s Handbook of Techniques and Materials’ and the Margaret Krug artist’s handbook (seet UPM Reading List).  The glossary at the rear of the course pdf has some brief description of useful techniques such as scumbling and glazing, as does the early section introducing oil paint.  Experimentation with these techniques will help you to expand upon your knowledge, techniques and gain confidence.

Research: think about and explore visual language (not ‘style’) : mark-making, qualities of line, palette, energy, movement, flow or tension in drawing / painting and how this communicates emotion and ideas.  Draw regularly to explore your own language, use these drawings to inform and feed your paintings.  Ask yourself if you take / copy from your research: what, why and for what purpose?   For instance the palette and brush marks from Joan Mitchell why have you chosen these, what sense / qualities do they communicate, how might you translate / transform these for your purpose?. (see Pointers)

Regarding your development of a personal visual language, approaches to layering (picture-making), exploring of further techniques and processes (including stencil / masking-out) I have flagged-up a number of Youtube videos on Julie Mehretu.  Each one offers insightful reflections on her research methodology, how this informed the development of her drawing language, how this process underpins the structure and framework within her paintings …..- (see Research)


Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

A good use of the blog to archive your thought processes across application of media and process, research and considering your voice.

You’ve developed a good practice of researching across primary and secondary sources.  You are begininng to edit and select ready for assessment.  Difficult though you find this, it is good practice for you to hone and focus as you progress.  Practice making these choices / decisions about; what you are interested in pursuing and developing will become more important.  Focussing on less will help you go deeper in your understanding and analysis.

Where you have explored the copying and mimicking of others’ work; it would be useful for you to comment specifically of how you respond (to the visual language you mimic): emotionally, aesthetically and in ideas / content.  This will help you to decide what and why you might replicate layering and gesture for example.  (see Pointers)


Suggested reading/viewing


Practical painting handbook: See Margaret Krug on the UPM Reading List.

POP has a good introductory section on colour theory / mixing.

Ralph Mayer’s ‘The Artist’s Handbook of Techniques and Materials’

Julie Mehretu– Watch all of the following:

Youtube ‘Art21’ Exclusive series

‘Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture with Artists Julie Mehretu’



‘Studio Assistants’

Louise Despont

Youtube ‘ Art 21’ New York Close Up series

‘Draws Deep’

‘According to the Universe’

In the above Louise Despont talks about her references, the primacy of drawing and layering, in addition to the spiritual, life-affirming nature of her imagery and ideas… pertinent to some of your emerging themes.

Molly Crabapple on ‘What it Means to be an Artists in New York’,

Youtube ‘Vice’

The artist illustrator is an interesting example of what might be termed ‘edgy’.


Pointers for the next assignment

 Reflect on this feedback in your learning log.

  • Try mixing black and greys (see technical notes / Reading above)
  • Use your preliminary drawings / photographic references constantly at each stage of the construction of your paintings.
  • Rework areas of #3 and #2.
  • Analyse the research you have ‘copied’ and ask yourself which elements you selected, what you feel / think they convey… how this then feeds back into your work.
  • Look at Velasquez’s portraits i.e: Infanta Margarita Teresa in Blue Dress, Infanta Margarita Teresa in Pink Dress. Analyse his blocking-in of the each area of for e.g the dress and hair, from thin, dark shapes to the final drawing of highlight / detail.

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