Abstract Painting Classes

January – May 2017

Abstract Classes

I had the chance to join in weekly abstract classes here on the island. There was a core group of three students who attended regularly, with others jumping in for various weeks depending on their stays in Lanzarote. This in itself is interesting as abstract painting is so subjective, it was fascinating to witness how different the students’ interpretations of similar themes were to one another. Two of the other students had been attending the classes for a couple of months before me and had come to grips with certain aspects, whereas I was a total novice. My only foray into this genre was a couple of projects in the Practice of Painting course, however, these were very basic.

Initially, we looked at various abstract artists’ work in books to see what sort of things appealed to us. I was drawn to colour, especially red, and more loosely worked paintings. Some of the many artists we looked at over the weeks were Frank Stella, Sonia Delaunay, David Hockney, Frank Marc and Vasily Kandinsky.

Action shots taken and kindly allowed to be reproduced her by photographer and tutor Betty Rawson.

Mindlessness

I was so out of my comfort zone it was almost frightening – I had to forget everything I relied on – observation, sketching, planning – and let my mind go. I found I didn’t trust my colour sense anymore and, to be honest, began to think I never had any! Our first lesson was drawing random shapes and adding colour. I really struggled, I didn’t know what I was doing – I didn’t have an end result in my mind to work towards… but there was no going back!

The next week promised to be more fun. Our initial class of five dropped to four, our two experienced students and another novice and myself. We had been warned that we would be outside in a field so to come prepared . This was January in Lanzarote, so although warm enough, it was windy and we had previously had some rain so trainers, jeans, fleeces and aprons/coveralls were the order of the day. We advanced, armed with rolls of paper, brushes, pots of water, water-soluble paints and canvases, everything had to be weighed down with stones and insects had to be discouraged from landed in the paint.

We began with a long roll of paper between two and just splashed, dribbled, splattered and daubed to our hearts content for the first hour. We then set up our canvases and with a little more thought, began to make our paintings.

Field work for abstract course - experimental mark making and beginning my first canvas

Field work for abstract course – experimental mark making and beginning my first canvas

The painting on the canvas above was worked on over a few sessions…

Third session on the Squares and Circles canvas

Third session on the Squares and Circles canvas

A bit more work was done on this, along with some glazing with a dilute PVA substitute tinted with various colours.

Squares and Circles - maybe finished, maybe overworked - still not sure which way up I prefer it. Interesting start though.

Squares and Circles – maybe finished, maybe overworked – still not sure which way up I prefer it. Interesting start though.

Time to move on – we had another experimental session with a small piece of work made with sticking coloured shapes. Some shapes were cut from paper we’d painted and some from patterned paper and magazines. Again, I floundered – my fellow student below was doing so well as her colour sense was developing beautifully – in the beginning, it always took me until 20 minutes before the end of the class for me to “get it”.

Cutting, colouring and sticking shapes onto small card to make small abstracts as reference for a painting.

Cutting, colouring and sticking shapes onto small card to make small abstracts as reference for a painting.

Following our planning and experimental stage we took reference from this to begin our next painting…

I called this Wash Day in the end as it reminded me of clothes being blown about on washing line.

I called this Wash Day in the end as it reminded me of clothes being blown about on washing line.

We always had a little critique at the end of a session and regarding the above, we all thought that the dark shape in the middle was trying to dominate. This, however, was not necessarily a bad thing as a little challenge in an image can work – we nicknamed this challenge the “Party Pooper” as it’s trying to suck the joy out of the rest of the painting.

The weather was lovely so another outside session for us today. We started with a warm up by using brushes on the end of sticks and made marks paint on paper. The sticks were heavy and it was more like sword fighting at times. In fact my brush broke and had to be taped back together at one point. It certainly loosened us up for our canvas though.

Extended brush painting, outside. This was fun and bordered on dangerous at times but a good warm up exercise!

Extended brush painting, outside. This was fun and bordered on dangerous at times but a good warm up exercise!

Using the garden around us as inspiration, not to mention the fabulous view of the mountain in the distance, we began our main event canvas. This was worked on for a few weeks worth of classes and has a little more to be done for improvement. Many methods of mark making were employed in it, from wiggling a paint laden brush in a semi-uncontrolled way across the entire canvas, to drips and runs being blown and guided by turning the canvas this way and that. It has been glazed with dilute PVA with an orange tint several times. The shape and size of the canvas gave the painting a little more scope for experimentation.

This has had many interpretations in the class, what started out as a garden/bougainvillea inspired piece of work has become darker with wicked forest, to horses galloping across it carrying knights...

This has had many interpretations in the class, what started out as a garden/Bougainvillea inspired piece of work has become darker with wicked forest, to horses galloping across it carrying knights…

I was going to give this another heading, however, it still does come under Mindlessness.  In this week’s class, we were to bring a piece of music that made us feel something. We had a pretty full class for this one, five of us at our work stations with ear phones listening to different music and just painting – making marks that we felt came from our music. Nobody knew what the other was listening to. We worked on our canvases for most of the class and at the end, we looked at each other’s work, listening to the music that inspired it. It was fascinating as we were in a larger class than usual, yet we were completely absorbed in our own world of music and paint.

I titled this after the music I was listening to - Titanium. The track I chose was Titanium by David Guetta featuring Sia.

I titled this after the music I was listening to – Titanium. The track I chose was Titanium by David Guetta featuring Sia.

I felt that it was about overcoming outside negative influences, being independent and pushing yourself upwards and onwards – never giving up.

The range of music was vast, from my dance track, to a gentle classic piece, to an African uplifting beat and vocal, to an oriental and mystical composition. We could all see the influences from each in our paintings, although we would never have guessed what they were.

Themes and Where to Start

This week we were down to two of us – I think everyone else knew how tough this would be! Our challenge – whether we chose to accept it or not, was to make a self-portrait – not only abstract but in 3-D. Back to square one then! After looking at each other blankly for a few minutes, we started looking through magazines, patterned papers and other bits and pieces for images, textures, colours that appealed to us and that may be descriptive of us. Even this was really difficult for me. I started cutting and ripping things out and gathered a pile of samples of stuff! We made a base, which we could either paint or cover in other papers. We then began building our self-portrait. This was really tricky, the only things I could fixate on were colours I liked and chocolate! Anyway, this is what I came up with – not very impressive I know…

3-D Self Portrait - is what it's meant to be, but even though I made it and it's about me - I don't get it!

3-D Self Portrait – is what it’s meant to be, but even though I made it and it’s about me – I don’t get it!

This week, I was allowed some comfort back. We were allowed to draw a still life!!! My turn to be happy and for my lovely classmates to groan :0)

Betty had set up a still life of an orchid, with a starfish, a lantern and a few knickknacks. It was actually quite complicated as we had a few minutes to draw it from one angle, and then move around to capture others. Fairly straightforward, but the first few were to be without lifting the pencil, charcoal, pastel or whatever from the paper. (Even more groans from the back – my revenge was complete!)

The last drawing was to be done without looking at the paper – and just to make sure – we had to use white oil pastel! Once this was done, we took our white on white drawings to the table and, using watercolour paint, we were to put down whichever colours we liked, wherever we liked on the drawing. The point being that the paint would be repelled by the oil pastel wherever it met. Unfortunately, I got carried away and decided I wanted a wet in wet effect. The paper was dampened with water and paint added. It seemed that the extra water didn’t allow the oil pastel to resist the paint so well, so my first attempt was a fail…

Overly dampened paper with watercolour on oil pastel

Overly dampened paper with watercolour on oil pastel

 

So, much to the consternation of my fellow classmate, who had done the same, we had to redraw in white oil pastel and start again.

This time, I ensured that the pastel was thicker, although I couldn’t look at it, and did not pre-dampen the paper.

Watercolour was added randomly at first and the resist from the oil pastel was much more successful. I then swapped to a finer brush and traced some of the lines left from the resist. This was very therapeutic and satisfying, and illustrated how something representational could be used to create an abstract work.

 

 

Still Life Orchid in white oil pastel to resist watercolour

Still Life Orchid in white oil pastel to resist watercolour (with a surprise dolphin!)

More drawing this week! We had a plate of peppers plus some other edible items that I can not remember – and as they were abstracted, the drawings don’t help!!

Our method of beginning an abstract painting this time, was to draw the shapes we saw, no particular detail and no tone, just shapes. We made three large thumbnails on a piece of paper and working in shades of black, white and grey, roughly filled in shapes that we had drawn or added.

Monotone shapes drawn from still life - peppers etc

Monotone shapes drawn from still life – peppers etc

I felt that no one of my drawings was what I wanted, so amalgamated all three into something more pleasing to me as below:

Amalgamation of thumbnail sketches

Amalgamation of thumbnail sketches

The drawing was transferred onto some gesso coated hardboard 62 x 45 cm and then painted in acrylic, again with shades of black, white and grey. This is not yet finished but I’m looking forward to working on it again.

Large painting from thumbnail sketch

Large painting from thumbnail sketch

In our final lesson of the term, our last method of starting an abstract painting was to use colour. We had to think of an occasion or event that had a big impact on our lives. With that in mind, we had to relate that to a colour. We then mixed some tones of that colour and made a swatch of those tones on a piece of paper. When we had done that, we needed a contrast colour with mixed tones to add to the paper as below:

My swatch of emotive colour tones with its contrasting colour tones.

My swatch of emotive colour tones with its contrasting colour tones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, I had not brought a canvas with me, so had to use a spare one of Betty’s which was only 20cm square. Although, I probably wouldn’t have finished anything bigger in one session. The event that had a dramatic impact on me was related to water. Specifically, my first experience of a water slide into a pool when I was about ten years old. Prior to this, I was a complete “water baby”, and couldn’t wait to have a go. Not really knowing what to expect, I got in line with everyone else and was soon skidding down towards the water. The complete, all-encompassing wave of water that engulfed me, took me completely by surprise and I barely managed to surface and recover. I still like swimming but have a fear of being out of my depth and overly choppy water, be it in a pool or sea.

Water Shock

Water Shock

That’s all for this term but I am looking forward to the next one.

What I’ve taken away from this is that, I need to let go of the controlled way of working sometimes and go with what I feel rather than what I see in front of me. Art is an emotive and subjective form of expression and if it’s not created with feeling then I can not expect it to be viewed with feeling.

 

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Project 9: Experimental Mark Making on Lino

17-20/01/17

Project 9: Experimental Mark Making on Lino

This project will allow you to experiment with different tools to create a broader range of cuts and textures that linocutters  alone can not offer.

After ransacking both kitchen and tool shed, I emerged with a random selection of tools and implements that would hopefully make some kind of mark on my test lino block.

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

  1. Small flat head screwdriver – Most marks were very straight, even if I tried to curve the line, it became angular as there was no flexibility in the blade. I couldn’t make a mark with the flat end of the tool as it wasn’t sharp enough.  Although repeatedly scraping backwards and pushing the blade into the lino made some impressions. Most marks were made by using the corner of the blade. Wiggling it from side to side made a nice, uniform pattern.
  2. Tile saw blade – As it’s a straight blade, I had to bend it into a curve to be able to make any marks at all. When I moved the blade back and forth in a sawing motion to scrape the lino, it didn’t actually cut as such. By using the curve and therefore a wider surface area, the tiny teeth of the blade made a set of lines and these could be changeable in width according to pressure used. Again  curves were difficult to produce, however a nice calligraphy type style could be made but only in an angular shape. No deep cuts could be made.
  3. Stanley Knife – Although the blade is sharp and clean cuts could be made – it was very unwieldy to use and I was aware that it cut better pulling the knife towards me rather than away from me, which was a little worrying. I thought I would be able to cut shapes out easily but I was unable to gouge out the centre of them – so I would have to use another implement in conjunction with the knife. I also cut right through the lino a couple of times. Any marks made were very fine and I don’t think they would print much if anything.
  4. Fork – This was more interesting to use and safer. I could make the more obvious straight marks with the four prongs. However, by adding pressure and twisting the fork into the lino, it produced the most successful curves/almost circles so far. It was difficult to achieve a complete circle but was effective none the less. Thickness of line could be varied also by using the fork flat on or sideways. By twisting the end prong into the lino, nice circular holes could be made.
  5. Assortment of keys – I had what appeared to be padlock keys – like small Yale type. These made some scraping marks but did not cut deep. Other keys may have been for bicycle locks – with a stubby cylindrical end with slight variations at the opening. These made some interesting circular marks, particularly where the actual “key” notches were, by pressing and twisting into the lino. Neither made a deep imprint.

    Text block on easy cut lino replacement

    Text block on easy cut lino replacement – numbered 1-10 left to right down the page

  6. Pastry cutter wheel – Why is it the implements that you would assume make the most interesting marks turn out the least successful? It made minimal impact on the lino although  the faint marks were attractive – I’m not convinced they will print at all.
  7. Smaller flat head screwdriver – this was a little sharper than the first screwdriver and also made good wiggly marks. As this was a little smaller and easier to handle, I tried using it as if drawing rather than cutting and it could be useful for texturing marks.
  8. Small pair of scissors – Using the tips of the blades and actually scissoring  into the lino, made interesting pairs of marks that were not at all symmetrical. I also used just one blade and “drew” with it. Producing slightly curved lines was possible this way. I also managed to gouge circles with just one blade point.
  9. 7cm long brass screw – I thought I’d be able to draw and make lines with the pointed end, but no – it wouldn’t move in the lino. It did however, make good stabbing marks on its point and slightly angled. I tried using it on its side with the spirals but nothing at all appeared. The screw head also failed to make an impression.
  10. Fruit zester – After the pastry cutter, I did not hold out much hope. However, this actually had the best gouging capabilities although it seemed to blunt quite quickly. It could make light marks similar to fret work patterns, or by  exerting more pressure, make deeper ones although not for such a long stretch. It could also, be dug in and twisted  to give a set of curves. Using it sideways gave fairly ordinary faint lines.

    Print from test lino block

    Print from test lino block – as reversed, the sections are numbered 1-10 right to left down the page

Once I’d completed my ten squares of experimental marks, I prepared some red oil based ink and some A3 sheets of cartridge paper. I pulled two prints which were a little faint, replicating the lack of intensity I had experienced in Project 8. Then I remembered reading that dampening the printing paper may help the ink adhere more successfully. This I did by wetting both sides of the paper sheets and then pressing them between sections of kitchen paper – this made the paper consistently damp but not wet. This worked much better and my next two prints were sharp and intense in colour.

Looking at my test prints, apart from random scratches and more organic marks and shapes, some of the implements used have created quite an urban and/or industrial feel. I then reviewed my test print of marks to establish the most successful of the selection. These proved to be:

  • Small flat head screwdriver (1) – wiggled side to side and reminded me of cogs/wheels/chains. If they could be made into arcs, it would be reminiscent of gearing. Some of the other marks could be sparks flying from a furnace or welding equipment.

    Review of best marks from the selection

    Review of best marks from the selection

  • Stanley knife (3) – using the corner of the blade, these have the irregular appearance of  globules of molten metal being flung through the air. Other very thin strokes made by the knife didn’t actually leave a white mark but, instead, a darker line or streak where the ink collected. These could be the “tail” a bright light leaves in the vision after it has  gone.
  • Smaller flat head screwdriver (7) and 7cm brass screw (9) – both used in stabbing and flicking motions gave a varied set of marks in both size and depth. both 7 and 9 placed in my mind the pitted mark that molten metal can scar other metal surfaces – as if sparks were flying around and landing on other things in their vicinity. This fits in with the other elements mentioned.
  • Fruit zester (10) – These marks remind me of grids or lattice – particularly in metal, looking through railings or bars/portcullis and such rusty metal structures. Because I had used red ink, I think this made me think of heat, the shapes I discovered made me think industrial – therefore metal or steel works.

I then made thumbnail sketches trying to develop and expand on these ideas for my experimental lino print.

Thumbnails of ideas to explore

Thumbnails of ideas to explore

 

Considering colour to emphasise atmosphere for the experimental lino print:

Colour tests for print

Colour tests for print

The colours I would choose would have a large impact on the atmosphere I wanted to convey. I wanted to show heat and bright white light that would reach into dark, musty corners of a workshop or industrial steel works. I had some inks that would be useful in orange, brown and copper but they were water-soluble, plus I needed some other colours to help create the vision I had. As needs must, I had another attempt at using acrylic paint mixed with printing block medium and experimented with yellow, red and ultramarine blue. Once mixed in and left for a few minutes, the medium became tacky enough to obtain that “sound” when rolled which indicates it’s the right consistency. I wasn’t sure whether to mix some colours or just layer them to give a subtle overlaid colour mixing effect. I settled for a combination, the yellow and orange were fairly “out of the box”. I had an “iron” brown, that when mixed with copper produced a less flat colour with a hint of metallic. My main challenge was the dark – I’d tried mixing and layering the brown and ultramarine but neither method quite got dark enough. In the end, I decided to mix a little black ink with the ultramarine but also to dab off a little of it from the block after rollering from the lighter areas. This worked well to give depth in the darker corners and fine outline around the shapes.

Instead of drawing out the shapes on the lino, I just worked freehand reversing the drawings in the thumbnails so that it would print the right way round. My main mistake was not creating a cardboard jig for registering each layer accurately, I thought I could make it work by drawing guidelines on paper to align each colour because I was working so small (A5). I was very wrong and this spoiled what could have been a very interesting print. However, there’s no point making mistakes unless you learn from them and this has been one big lesson. Another lesson learnt was that when experimenting with other cutting tools etc, the same materials should be used in the actual work otherwise similar results can not be guaranteed. I used easy cut for the test block and grey lino for the final print block. They reacted in different ways to the zester tool for example. It had become a little blunt from the mark making trials anyway, and then using it on actual lino, which is much harder changed the marks considerably. I tried a few samples on some off-cuts of brown lino, which is harder than the grey but I gained more understanding by doing that.

 

Below are the four prints taken using the reductive technique and non lino cutting tools. The registration is very hit and miss and this has had a major detrimental effect on the result. However, I still like the prints – the atmosphere has been captured, the marks are very abstract and can suggest different images. My intention had been to create an illusion of hot, sweaty, noisy, dark with blasts of light and sparks place of industry and some elements of that have worked. I can also see an urban landscape depicted in almost thermal imaging of rows of terraced houses, factories etc – maybe the light source is the sun, maybe it’s just a flash of electricity emphasising the man-made world? When I showed my husband he saw an aerial view of where we live –  next to a large (dormant I hasten to add) volcano that has an urbanisation growing up around it – you may almost imagine the volcano coming to life and threatening the civilisation beneath it. I know this is probably the opposite to the intention of most print editions but I also like that there are differences between each one because of the dabbing off of the dark ink. It’s almost as if they are time-lapse photos of the same scene.

The final edition of four prints

The final edition of four prints

My favourites are, I think, 2 and 3.

Print 2 of 4

Print 2 of 4

 

Print 3 of 4

Print 3 of 4

 

Anyway, enough of being fanciful – the registration was still rubbish!

 

Portrait: Annabelle – 10 and 17/03/2016

17/03/16

Portrait: Annabelle – 10 & 17/03/16 – Two Sessions

A nice two-week sitting with Annabelle who has sat before and doesn’t move a muscle! As it was a double session, I had the luxury of having time for almost a full figure portrait. Using a nice sized 20 x 24″ canvas board, with a ground of mixed colours from a left over acrylic palette that included cadmium red, ultramarine, white and various mixes that was randomly brushed on. This gave an exciting and dynamic base that was inspiring to work on. I made a couple of sketches to firm up the composition, deciding on an approximate three-quarter length portrait. The first week, I concentrated on composition, blocking in, establishing colour ranges, tone and loosely establishing the background shapes. At tea break we were fascinated to hear about Annabelle’s exploits at being an extra on the TV drama Mr Selfridge. I spent my lunch hour scanning every second of the episode but, disappointingly,  I couldn’t be sure I saw her – that’s the trouble with a period drama, the costumes and wigs completely disguised her!

The second session was working on the details of the face, clothing etc. I also decided to leave some of the dynamic brush marks from the acrylic ground visible for added interest.

Annabelle Oil on 20 x 24" Canvas Board

Annabelle
Oil on 20 x 24″ Canvas Board

 

 

 

 

Assignment 5: A Series of Paintings on a Theme

Assignment 5: A Series of Paintings on a Theme

08/01/16

My initial thoughts over the last few days have been to create a series of paintings of a similar subject, becoming progressively more abstract. I am unsure what the subject should be, although I am leaning to a more organic theme. That may be a natural still life, a figure or figures, or a landscape.

I am being influenced by other areas of art such as music and dance, and am gaining an understanding of evolving styles from the traditional and classical inspiring experimental interpretations to create something original.

26/01/16

Have been struggling to decide on a subject still:

Have now discounted still life and although was seriously tempted to use a figure, maybe a life model – it was not to be overly practical as my life classes are every 2 or 3 weeks and on a Saturday. I do have many life drawings for reference though and I have sifted through them, considering how I could elaborate on them. However, finally, I think I will use a landscape. I think this will give me more freedom to experiment. My thoughts regarding the series of paintings are still focused on progressively working from realism to abstract, how to do this is another choice to make. We are asked to make a series of 3-5 paintings so I could go from realism to impressionism to expressionism to abstract giving me 4 paintings. There are various ways I could attempt this, the mark making, the paint treatment, colour variation, distortion, changing balance in the image and many more I am sure.

Whilst I was away over Christmas and New Year I visited another attraction designed by the Canarian artist, Cesar Manrique. This was the Cactus Garden on Lanzarote. The garden itself is extraordinary, I felt I was moving between Africa, the Wild West, the tropics and deserts in relatively small area. The shapes of the cacti along with the natural volcanic made elaborate shapes with dramatic shadows in the early afternoon. There were also a few paintings by the artist on display which was timely, as they show how he used splatters and splashes to recreate the “spikeyness” of the plants.

Although the paintings are behind glass and it was difficult to avoid reflections, the techniques used can still be seen. Something to bear in mind.

Now I’m almost certain to use landscape and natural forms, I need to decide which scene to use, I think it is important to use the same scene throughout the series to fully appreciate the intended evolution of each style. Do I use sketches I already have or something completely new?

19-28/02/16

What a journey my musings over this assignment have travelled between the beginning of this post and now. It seemed that not a moment past when I wasn’t running through options and ideas, from waking up in the night to doing the ironing!  I have gone through this section’s exercises and experimented extensively which has informed my decisions on how to proceed. I have:

  • chosen my subject – a series of paintings of my local market town Fordingbridge
  • chosen my supports – canvas board 24×20″ – 3 of
  • given myself an option to add 2 smaller paintings if time allows
  • decided to explore a) the decline of the small market town, b) the picturesque façade or “first impression” c) the regeneration of the town in modern times

I had previously made some sketches of my intended picturesque scene in the Landscape section of this course. These were not used for a final painting at that stage, however, I had noted that I would like to revisit it at a later date – this seemed the perfect opportunity to do so.

My initial plans and a tracing of the map of Fordingbridge, as noted in my sketchbook, showed my first idea was to have a textured large-scale map as the ground for each painting. As the first one took all afternoon to create I decided that this would be impractical. In addition, as I had planned to use painting knives to make at least one of the series, the map would have been obliterated. Therefore, I decided to adapt my plan to use the map as a painting in its own right. This worked out well as I was struggling to create a coherent image for the regeneration painting. My sketchbook scribblings confirmed that this would be a forced image and would not say what I intended so I cut this from the series.

Sketchbook plan for the Fordingbridge series with revisions.

Sketchbook plan for the Fordingbridge series with revisions.

Map Painting

I made a larger, freehand drawing of the traced map from my sketchbook onto the first canvas board – this was to loosen up and not be a slave to the original ordinance survey map. I used string to denote the main A338 road in double width and other B roads with a single strand. For the Avon river that runs around and through the town, I used impasto gel in a textured fashion to represent flowing water. I also had some large gauge embroidery “canvas” which I cut into shapes to represent rows of buildings, which was added to the town. Once the PVA glue and gel was dry, I painted over with gesso to create a matt, uniform effect. I left this over night to dry and contemplate how I was going to move this forward. As I initially intended to use this as a ground for another painting, I had to let my ideas simmer and come to the boil. Whilst this was evolving in my head, I began plotting my plans for the next painting…

Returning to the map, with some half-baked notion of using thin acrylic washes, I added a watercolour ground over the gesso to enable some wet in wet washes. This again had to dry overnight. Again I returned to the other painting…

Maps should give an idea of the terrain of the land, so in order to achieve this, I added a wash of acrylic and laid cling film over the wet paint. Moving the film around created creases, this was left overnight again to dry. In the morning, I removed the cling film and a pale landscape of fields, tracks, streams etc was revealed.  I repeated the process to deepen the colour, and then added more washes of green, burnt sienna and ultramarine to build up the geographical features. I also added blue/sienna/green to the river to bring it forward. This was a long process and I continued to work on the other two large paintings in tandem. I also had to take my time to assess where I was going with this. Finally, I grazed over some oil pastels in places to bring out the relief of the raised features – this is where I left it as complete.

This was definitely an organically evolving painting – it wasn’t originally supposed to be one of the series but claimed its place. I think it works although, it does look tentative which is probably because that’s how I felt making it. It does give the series some introduction and it is subtle in the way that an introduction is not supposed to be the main event.

Final Painting Oil pastel in greys, blues, greens and browns to bring out the relief of the texture

Final Painting 24×20″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas Board
Oil pastel in greys, blues, greens and browns to bring out the relief of the texture

Decline of a Market Town

This is actually an idea I’ve had bubbling around my brain for some time, however, I wasn’t entirely sure how to execute it.  I had spent a very cold but sunny afternoon wandering around Fordingbridge taking photographs of anything that caught my eye. It was a sad reflection of how many closed shop fronts were evident, those that had been re-used were for charity shops, estate agents (ironically) and new clinics for various ailments! Fordingbridge is not a complete ghost town, it does have top quality family run shops such as bakers, butchers, seven hairdressers/barbers (!), a little exclusive boutique and a few shabby chic home-ware shops plus your obligatory mini-supermarkets and post office, a couple of banks – recently reduced by three. It did strike me that two of the most well-kept frontages were funeral directors – it seemed I should include at least one of these in my painting to make a point. Instead of creating a high street of boarded up windows, I decided to create collage of shop fronts albeit painted. I experimented in my sketchbook and added crumpled tissue over the painting with succeeded in giving the image a run down, abandoned effect which I liked and decided to use. I set out to paint pretty much straight onto the board and concentrate on perspective and tone rather that a perfect rendition of the subject – this also helped with the neglected effect I was after.

This was a departure from my usual carefully planned composition, in fact, again the composition evolved. I was really pleased with the experiment in the sketchbook but am not sure if the final work has that same sense of abandonment – should I have done less shop fronts? One thing I am unsure about is whether I should have put washes over the tissue – looking back at the sketchbook, I think I did there.

Decline of a Market Town Final painting

Decline of a Market Town 24×20″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas Board
Final painting

Picturesque Fordingbridge

My rough idea for this assignment was to produce this image in several differing techniques and styles. I decided not to do this as this is a complex subject and to be honest, I probably would have become bored with doing the same view several times in one week. As alluded to earlier, I had wanted to revisit this from the Landscape section previously. This time, however, I determined to produce a looser, more expressive painting instead of becoming embroiled in details. To achieve this and keep me true to my intent, I opted to use painting knives for the entire painting. The only brushes used were to lay down the bright red ground and a rigger brush to branches on the trees and some grasses and reeds in the foreground. I used a red ground to have some show through and give uniformity to the painting, however, most of it was obliterated with the amount and free use of paint.

This was great fun to do and real antidote to the other two large paintings. I literally scrubbed, scratched and smeared paint all over the place. I did adhere to one main rule though and that was ensuring the tones were working in all aspects of the painting. I think it works as when viewed from distance it looks right. This one helped inform my process on the small Down River painting by pushing me to avoid detail.

Picturesque Fordingbridge Final Painting

Picturesque Fordingbridge 24×20″ Acrylic on Canvas Board
Final Painting

Plan for small paintings and overall layout

Plan for small paintings and overall layout

 

After completing the three large paintings in the series, I was more determined to include the smaller two – I felt that their inclusion would give a fuller impression of the theme as a whole. I also wanted to give these a different treatment, yet still keeping them unified with the others by using the same palette of colours.

 

 

 

Town Hall Clock Tower

Whilst taking photographs of the Town Hall, I framed a composition of the various pitched roofs around the clock tower. Although it was only a quick snap, it was strong in my memory too and an idea was already forming. In fact, the memory was so acute, I didn’t recognise the photograph straight away as my basic composition was already set in my mind. I wanted to produce an abstracted version that was still recognisable, yet, could fool the eye.

I actually quite like this technique for abstracting a subject and I think this works in its own right, however, my doubt is whether I have done enough to integrate it into the series of work. I used the same palette although the colours are flat, maybe, just because it’s a series it doesn’t have to fit? I suppose that’s down to my objective. Although I have to admit my objective was to have the series work together and for each painting to work by itself.

Town Hall Clock Tower Final painting with revised colourway

Town Hall Clock Tower A4 Acrylic on Paper
Final painting with revised colour-way

 

Down River

The second small painting was pure indulgence, I stood for some time on the little bridge watching the offshoot stream from the river. It was sunny and cold, which made the light bounce of the trees and bushes beautifully. I was, as seems to be usual, drawn to the long shadows across the water and I chose to paint this just because I liked it! I made explicit notes to treat this simply when painting and although I started well, I began to fiddle with detail – so having a strong word with myself, I painted over the fiddles with flat brush marks and just about pulled it back.

 

I am pleased with the tonal treatment of this painting, and am getting better at keeping detail to a minimum. I never thought I was a detail person – yet I think I like to “tidy” up a little too much so I made myself stop before it looked too neat.

Down River Final painting

Down River A4 Acrylic on Paper
Final painting

Arrangement of the Series

I had a few ideas on arranging the paintings and although I didn’t commit to producing 5 paintings at the beginning until I knew I had enough time, most of the plans involved 5.

I considered putting the paintings together as if they were one large painting in a group, (see first sketchbook plan). After completing them all, I preferred them in a line and played around with the order. I was certain that the map should be in the centre so that the others radiating out from it. I also decided that I wanted to break up the urban/abstract with the landscape focussed paintings, so the final layout would be:

Self Evaluation

This last section of the PoP1 course has been very enlightening for me. Previously, I felt I lacked creativity, I was comfortable drawing or painting what I saw in front of me, yet I felt totally unoriginal. In fact I was starting to despair – any exercise that said to evoke mood and atmosphere, left me cold. I couldn’t get in the zone and any attempt looked forced. The different techniques here, although I was aware of them, made me lose my logical head and allowed me to just do. I enjoyed all the dribbling, splashing and pouring, absolutely loved using painting knives instead of brushes and the abstract exercises were a revelation. I felt I was being creative and artistic not just copying and reproducing. I absolutely understand that I need to learn all the usual drawing, tone, colour mixing, perspective etc but it’s been great to have that underpin such freedom. One small step…

 

Exercise: Abstract Painting from Man-made Form

16 & 17/02/16

Exercise: Abstract Painting from Man-made Form, 

With the same degree of close scrutiny and analysis, study a man-made object. Focus close in on one part of it and try out different viewpoints… until you have an abstract composition that you can develop and enlarge into a painting.

Casting my eye around the room, I found a few contenders and I was drawn to the stapler. However, I began to get embroiled in the angles and perspective in my initial drawing before remembering this is to be an abstract painting. I accept that this drawing is a little off but it is sufficient for my objective. As this man-made object is a little more complex, I again, drew compositional frames around sections, but this time I cropped photographs around them to see them away from the entire object:

 

 

Being much happier with the omission of black and sticking to primary and secondary colours, I continued with an A3 painting in acrylic pigment. I painted the image the same way round as the coloured pencil study. However, again, once I’d removed the masking tape edges and brought it away from the board, I turned it this way and that, and finally found it more pleasing upside down. This is because it made more spatial sense to me. The large, dark shape on the diagonal in the foreground seemed close and in focus, whereas the yellow at the top receded giving the entire painting depth. I am also pleased I included the squares as they give a horizontal foil to the diagonals. I had to add a little white to the yellow as it was a transparent colour, and also to the purple as it was too dark initially, and maybe, the orange could have been a little brighter. On the whole, though, I think it works and has a good balance.

One thing I really have taken away from these abstract exercises, is that I felt much more creativity in working this way. I have always been a “draw or paint what’s in front of me” painter, which I was beginning to find boring and unimaginative. This has been, in my opinion, my main point for improvement and I feel I may be making some progress.

Final painting Acrylic on paper A3

Final painting
Acrylic on paper
A3

 

Exercise: Abstraction from Study of Natural Forms

15 & 16/02/16

Exercise: Abstraction from Study of Natural Forms

In this exercise you can abstract by looking very closely at a familiar natural form and expanding what you see in an arrangement of lines, shapes and colours. 

Again, it’s raining cats and dogs outside so fell back on my box of objects that may be useful for still life work. I have collected leaves, stones, fir cones the usual stuff and more unusually, dried bodies of hornets, flies and my prize possession, a small rat’s skull found whilst gardening. You never know when they will be useful.

 

After careful consideration I went with the rat skull. The process I followed is below:

 

I painted the entire image as per the study i.e. on its side from the original drawing. However, on completion, although I liked the landscape bias, turning back to the representational orientation made more sense to me. As Frank Auerbach said in the film at his recent exhibition, finding an expression in objects is a useful tool. I am a novice in abstract art, both viewing, understanding and most definitely in making it, I’ve found I need to find one thing to make sense and then everything else follows.

I am pleased with the outcome of this exercise, particularly as it’s a completely new experience for me. I like the colours and tones and the overall effect works for me. Even my husband, who when I tried to explain the process asked if I’d overdone my cold medication, liked the finished image and said I should do a really large version. Maybe I will, when the pressure is off.

RAT! Final painting in acrylic on paper 30x30cm

RAT!
Final painting in acrylic on paper
30x30cm

 

Portrait: Roy – 28/01/16

28/01/16

Portrait: Roy – 28/01/16 – One Session

A fellow class-mate came across Roy at a venue where he was reciting monologues in Dickensian costume. Thinking he would make an ideal sitter, he approached Roy and asked if he would mind sitting for the class and here he is…

28012016 - roy sketch

We were allowed to decide for ourselves how much of Roy we would paint e.g. head and shoulders, three quarters or full length. It seemed a shame not to make use of the costume Roy was wearing so I made a quick sketch to help me decide on the composition. Drawing freely on my paper, I then decided where to crop the edges, this informed my painting.

I had a prepared ground in acrylic paint with some fairly bright colour. I was pre-determined not to make this painting look muddy and dull. As per my sketch I decided on just over half the figure. In my drawing I had included Roy’s white gloved hands. However, during posing he had relaxed his arms down further, and, combined with a slightly shorter height to width ratio on my canvas board, there was not room enough to include them. As Roy’s jacket and hat were a very dark grey, not quite black, I decided to use Blue/Black pigment to keep the dark clean (still being paranoid about avoiding mud). This actually worked quite well and allowed me to add a little red and white to lighten the grey on the folds. Although I used a little green in the flesh of the face, I think I could have used some other colours in the shadow too. Trying hard to avoid making mud resulted in making the flesh a little too warm on the dark side. Something else to consider next time. There is a resemblance to Roy and the sculpting of the folds in the face were starting to work. Overall, a few pluses and a few points for improvement, on the whole it was a very enjoyable session.

Roy in Dickensian costume Approx 18x24" Oil on board

Roy in Dickensian costume Approx 18×24″ Oil on board