Project 6: Single Colour Linocut – continued

15 – 17/08/16

Further Single Colour Linocuts

I decided to explore my other sketches and attempt further single colour linocuts.

Initial inspirational sketches from around me. Pencil in A4 sketchbook

Initial inspirational sketches from around me.
Pencil in A4 sketchbook

 

A neighbouring villa was interesting due to the mid afternoon shadows cast by its various elevations. I needed to simplify the image and remove the additional extensions which would have added confusion in the monochrome reproduction. I also felt I needed to include some of the plants around it as it would have been too stark and “man-made” without them.

The sketch I made from life was more interesting as the sea was never still and the volcanic rocks appeared almost uniform en mass, yet were very individual on closer inspection. I was challenged by how to make the waves recognisable, how to delineate the sky from the sea effectively and how to create convincing rocks all in monochrome.

 

 

White pencil on black paper sketches of villa and coastal images

White pencil on black paper sketches of villa and coastal images

 

 

I began as before, by drawing in white pencil on black paper. At this stage, I felt that both images would work successfully as a single colour linocut.

I decided to work on the coastline scene first of all as I had more of an affinity with it. This is probably because I sketched from life.  However, as I reviewed the white on black drawing, I felt that the rocks needed more individuality. I then decided to make some studies of the rock to try to become more familiar with its character.

 

 

Coastal Scene Linocut

The following gallery shows the process from white on black sketch to cutting the lino block. To increase interest, two of the rock studies were also traced and transferred to the lino, this was to give a definite fore, middle and background composition.

 

 

Following on from the first proof rubbing, I took a couple of prints, first on newsprint and then on light weight cartridge paper.

Coastal scene - first prints for review on newsprint and on light weight cartridge A4 paper.

Coastal scene – first prints for review on newsprint and on light weight cartridge A4 paper.

 

From these early prints, which are more easily judged for accuracy and success than the proof rubbings, I made some observations and notes for amendments. Those being:

  • The foam coming in to the beach needs to be more horizontal – less slanted
  • The sea goes a little uphill on the right of the horizon
  • The rock from my study looks more like a face
  • Think I prefer the softer white of the newsprint to the bright white cartridge paper

Taking these into consideration, I made some revised cuts and amendments.

 

 

 

 

Coastal scene - selected final print on heavy weight, off-white A4 cartridge paper.

Coastal scene – selected final print on heavy weight, off-white A4 cartridge paper.

 

Self Critique

  • Pleased with the sky, it has a definite separation from the sea, yet has some movement and gives perspective with the varied marks.
  • Once rectified, the horizon is clear and level but has movement.
  • The sea, up to the foam is quite successful, although, I think I cut away too much for the sea spray on the left wave.
  • I was disappointed with the sea-foam, which worked really well in the white on black drawing. Again, I think I cut away too much when trying to amend this part of the image.
  • The rocks were my main disappointment. I think by tracing in my studies in an attempt to increase interest, I made my transferred drawing too confusing to follow, especially as it was in reverse to the original sketch.
  • I don’t think there is enough delineation between the sea and the rocks so the image merges everything together
  • I am, having said all that, glad I tried it though. It is a matter of practice and becoming used to working in reverse. It is an ambitious image for my second lino block and taking that into consideration it turned out better than maybe it should have.

 

Villa

After an ambitious couple of images with much texture, I thought it may be a nice change to go for more man-made shapes and angles. The neighbouring villa, obviously was still there for me to use as reference alongside my original sketch.  The lighting was a little different as it was later in the day, so I decided to stick with my original image for that.

I also decided to try actual lino instead of the artificial, soft cut substitute. Again, using the white on black drawing, I transferred the image in reverse onto the lino. The main “white” or negative lines and shapes were cut out first. I find that, sometimes, I can become too engrossed and forget to change the blade to a more appropriate size or shape, which I did here on the  pillars at the front. This took a little too much out of the sides where they should have been in shadow. I may just have rescued them by widening the pillars themselves.  It was also tricky defining the varied blocks in the volcanic wall – which is built in a similar way to dry stone walls by wedging differing shaped and sized rocks together. There is no mortar holding them together and the crevices between blocks are dark and the blocks themselves can reflect quite a lot of the sunlight.  I tried to replicate this, however, with plants and leaves in front I had to ensure they didn’t merge together and held their own definition.

I tried to give the image a sense of place by lightly indicating the planes in the background and additional shrubs in the front.

On the whole this worked ok, although, I don’t find it as engaging as the other two designs.

 

 

I took a few prints on newsprint, light weight bright white cartridge and heavy weight cartridge paper. The bright white paper appealed to me the most as it symbolised the bright afternoon sunlight.

Villa - selected final print on A4 bright white light weight cartridge paper

Villa – selected final print
on A4 bright white light weight cartridge paper

Comparing Substitute, Soft Cut Lino with Genuine Lino Blocks

Substitute, soft cut lino blocks were all I could get before moving away. My observations were:

  • They are very easy to cut into, although, maybe too easy at times.
  • Trying to achieve a clean end to the cut was difficult and a lot of quickly made marks for texture were inadvertently left “feathery” and not sharp.
  • I felt it would be easy to cut right through – and at the edges I did at times.
  • As I only used these for the more textural images – the soft cut may have had an advantage for these marks.
  • Transferred drawings were easy to see and follow.

Genuine Lino – I had a few blocks from years ago that I had never used.

  • Had to be warmed for easy cutting – which slowed me down in a more considered way.
  • Much easier to be precise.
  • Cleaner ends to cuts – much sharper finish.
  • Because of the more solid construction, I felt more in control (until the lino cooled too much – the blade could then slip).
  • The main disadvantage, was viewing pencil marks on the darker lino.

On the whole, though I see why the substitute version has been developed, I preferred the feel and handling of the real lino – for now!

 

Project 6: Single Colour Linocut

10 – 12/08/16

Choosing an Image

Look around you for inspiration. …contains strong light and dark contrasts as well as a variety of textures and shapes.

In my new location in Lanzarote, I don’t have to look far for inspiration. From my window I can see picturesque little villas that follow a similar blueprint but that have been modified by their owners to incorporate their individuality. From my front door, I have a view of a spectacular volcanic mountain and at the end of our road there is a dramatic rocky, volcanic coastline with the Atlantic Ocean crashing against it.

I made sketches of a neighbours villa and, during my morning dog walk, I sat on the rocks and drew a little view of the coast.  I had previously begun a painting of the mountain, Montana Roja, from a sketch so decided to use that also as an option.

 

To help me decide which image to use as my main single colour linocut, I made simplified drawings of each on black paper with white pencil to aid the visualisation of any subsequent print. This was extremely helpful, as the thinking in reverse or negative is quite tricky if not used to doing so.

 

As noted in my sketchbook – I was definitely leaning towards choosing the mountain as my image, but decided to wait until the next day and sleep on it.

Planning your Image

Using your developed sketch you are now going to transfer the design onto black or any other dark coloured paper. This will represent the way your cutting in the lino will appear when printed. It also helps you understand the way cutting areas away to represent the white in your design works.

Ah – and there was me thinking I was “cheating” yesterday. This was definitely worth doing and has endorsed my first choice of the mountain to make my main image.

Reverse your Design on the Lino

Now this will teach me for thinking I was clever earlier. With so much brain intervention, I did indeed trace the image to transfer it to the lino but inexplicably, forgot the “turning over” bit. I reproduced a simple outline of the image and transferred it the same way round on to the lino!

First Cuts

As advised, I cut the basic outlines to establish placement and then using the white on black drawing as a guide, cut textured marks to help describe the fissures, contours, shapes and tones of the mountain. I referred back to the mark making exercise linocut to help inform which tools to use and how. I was keen to ensure that the silhouetted rear peak was clear against a lighter sky, yet maintained the dark sky where the sun hit the main summit.

I took a few proof rubbings to test the effectiveness of my cuts, and found I needed to lighten the sky over the dark peak, sharpen the outline of the mountain and also integrate the light and dark areas of sky. (Some of this was clearer after the first one or two prints I must add.)

 

Even the proofs did not alert me to the fact that I hadn’t reversed the image – they, of course being rubbings, came out the correct way!

Printing your Lino

I decided to stick to black ink as it commands a sense of drama that is befitting a mountain! I prepared some A4 sheets of paper, using newsprint, some inexpensive cartridge paper and some specifically purchased medium weight printing paper. I had bought some equipment and paper prior to leaving the UK, however, as it was in a container goodness knows where for 3-4 weeks, I’ve completely forgotten what paper I’d ordered – so a surprise for me!

After printing a couple of runs on newsprint first, I decided to sharpen some cuts and extend the lighter sky as mentioned above. My initial euphoria at viewing the printed image was dampened by the frustration of the realisation that I had not reversed the image before cutting! How disappointing! I am still pleased with the marks and texture, it’s just back to front. Well, mistakes are for learning from!

Below are the three best prints out of the batch:

 

I think my favourite, being on bright white paper and probably the sharpest print is the cartridge paper.

Montana Roja A4 Bright White Cartridge Paper

Montana Roja
A4 Bright White Cartridge Paper

My Thoughts:

What went wrong?

  • A little more sharpness and clarity in the main outline would be better
  • The lighter sky area could have been stronger on the left edge
  • Yes it would have been a truer image if it was reversed

What went right?

  • The effect of the sun worked just as I’d hoped
  • Using hatching techniques for the distant tonal variations
  • The silhouette of the most distant peak
  • The contrast of black on white, and white on black contour lines
  • The fissures, peaks and troughs
  • Textural marks

All in all, if it wasn’t for the main error (probably don’t need to point it out again!), I am really pleased with this. It is something I have noticed previously, in human and animal portraits and some landscapes, that if I have an affinity with the subject, I feel I have a more successful outcome.

What do you have to take into account in order to create a strong single-colour design?

  • A definite focal point or subject
  • High tonal contrast
  • Simplicity of motif
  • Opportunity for textural mark making

Can you find suitable new drawing techniques which translate into a linocut that have not been included already?

  • Making strong 3 dimensional shapes with blocked tone
  • Using contour lines to describe shape and form rather than outline

I know I will be tempted to try this again – the right way round – in the future. I have after all done all the planning – it’s just cutting and printing!

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: Preparing a Textured Ground

13 & 14/02/16

Exercise: Preparing a Textured Ground

Prepare one or two grounds in some of the ways suggested or use your own ingenuity to create textured grounds. Then prepare the whole surface with the appropriate primer.

When you come to devise your textured ground, you may find it helpful to have a title in your mind to help you select materials and effects. Think of your own or use one of these:

Urban Jungle  –   Rough Sea  –  Autumn  –  Ghost Town

I decided to use the suggested titles purely for speed and convenience as my assignment deadline is looming over me and I’d like to put my time into experimentation at this stage.

Preparing a Textured Ground Selection process for subject of a painting

Preparing a Textured Ground
Selection process for subject of a painting

After reviewing the thumbnails and going through the process I decided to go for the title Rough Sea. I prepared some acrylic paper with gesso mixed with impasto paste and attempted to put in the texture of rocks, waves and sky. However, I was unprepared for the amount of time it would take for this to dry – considering how cold and damp it has been and my studio space is in the summerhouse at the end of the garden – I had to leave it overnight. In the meantime I began the next exercise “Mixing Materials into Paint”.

So next day, I returned to the textured ground much more informed by the leaping ahead and experimenting with adding in other materials. The following gallery shows the progress of this exercise – materials used were tissue paper, fruit netting and handmade paper stuck down with PVA glue. I have to admit that I missed the instruction of using a primer over these before painting, however, as I was using acrylic paint, hopefully nothing untoward will happen.

I decided to play with the perspective slightly as the painting progressed.  There is a feeling of looking down onto a beach from cliffs, yet the sea is being thrown up as high as the cliffs.

The final painting enlarged to show the texture.

Adding colour, deeper tones and more mood

Adding colour, deeper tones and more mood

 

Practice of Painting – Assignment 4

04/12/15

Assignment 4 – Looking Out

Review all your landscape paintings and preparatory sketches and assess which have been the most engaging exercises. Which landscapes have the most appeal for you?

Both the “View from a Window or a Doorway” and “Hard or Soft Landscape” exercises involved the view from inside to outside. I found these very informative and a useful re-introduction to landscape painting as the windows formed a frame-work and provided reference points to place objects in the scene. “Painting a Landscape Outside” was an experience that was more enjoyable on the sunny, cold day (second session). Although I preferred the sketching to the actual painting, I think this was down to the weather as previous attempts at painting on location in the summer were more enjoyable and successful. It also helped being with other painters.

Working from a photograph was fun, as long as it was my own photo and of a place I knew well and liked. The adaptation and focussing in on a particular aspect of the photo was the best part. It made me re-live my being there.

The most appealing of my painted landscapes to me were:

  • Hard or Soft Landscape
  • Painting a Landscape Outside
  • Working from a Photograph

 

Consider why certain paintings are more successful than others and which approaches and styles have worked best for you.

The more successful paintings have:

  • a more dramatic composition
  • made use of shadows and light
  • elements and shapes that help move the eye around the painting
  • a cohesion of colour and tones
  • an emotional connection to me as the painter
  • a spontaneous rather than manufactured mood/atmosphere

The approaches that worked best for me are:

  • On the spot sketches with notes and/or self taken photos of favourite locations that I can sketch from
  • Preliminary sketches of shapes and then tones
  • Less greens!
  • Elements or objects that I can focus on e.g. a specific tree/building or light and shadow effects
  • Always using my sketchbook

Think about how you can consolidate your experiments by working on a large landscape painting (around 90cm x 60cm or larger) using a location and viewpoint of your choice.

Ideas and inspirations:

  • Georgia O’Keefe – simplified landscape/oversized flowers/leaves
  • Gustav Klimt – Expressive details with mark making
  • Emil Nolde – vibrant colours, mood, minimum detail
  • Graham Sutherland – colour/tone/abstraction
  • Paul Nash – his landscapes rather than the war paintings in this instance – similar points to G.S.

Looking back over my sketches, I wanted to explore some of the drawings I had already done and not used. I was also drawn back to the single tree and its shadows that I had painted in the “Painting a Landscape Outside” exercise – I had this taped to the wall and it was always catching my eye.

Two sketches one of the car park area and one of the tree lined ridge.

Two sketches one of the car park area and one of the tree-lined ridge.

 

I liked the distance and mystery of the gravel track disappearing off into the trees, along with the autumnal colours of a bright, cold day. Again the cast shadows of the tree grabbed me, this is a recurring theme whether it’s in a still life or landscape.

 

 

 

Assignment 4 - Large Landscape Combining two previous sketches, Working out composition and rough tones. 8x6" in A4 sketchbook

Assignment 4 – Large Landscape
Combining two previous sketches,
Working out composition and rough tones.
8×6″ in A4 sketchbook

 

 

Combining the two sketches, composition, focal point, scale and light direction needed to be considered. I had already decided to paint over a large canvas that I had used before, it had an underlying texture because of that. It was larger than suggested at 40×30″ (102x76cm). Scaled down, I used proportions of 8×6″ for the sketch and squared up the drawing to transfer to the large size.

 

 

 

Below are photographs of the progress of the large painting:

 

The colours in the photographs are varying quite a lot due to the different light conditions.  I could only really judge these in real life, even then it was hit and miss, even with a daylight bulb! At the point of the last photo of the above gallery, I took a break to get away from the painting for a few minutes. On my return I stood the painting down one end of the room and viewed it from a distance. This made me realise that it needed a lift. Trying to keep it loose and expressive, I swiped across some “sunlight” in the middle ground as there was light across the gravel track at that point but not on the grass This brought the painting together and I decided to leave it there.

Assignment 4 - Large Landscape Acrylic on canvas 40x30"

Assignment 4 – Large Landscape
Acrylic on canvas
40×30″

Make a detailed assessment of your finished painting in your learning log. Consider what elements had a special appeal to you in your chosen landscape subject. Have you found techniques that suited your subject matter and ideas?

  • Have tried to maintain a cohesive feeling with the painting style, ie not overly detailed and loose and expressive mark making, including the sky and foreground.
  • There is a feeling of a cold and bright autumn day due to the colours, tones and touches of sunlight. Initially the main tree’s highlights were a pale blue/green, however, this gave the impression more of moonlight than sunlight. Therefore, I touched in some yellow ochre/white mix and this warmed up the effect.
  • Aerial perspective was subtle as the dark under the trees were a major component of the composition, therefore, I relied on reducing the size of distant shadows and the distance between them became narrower to give the impression of distance.
  • I like the effect of the treetops against the sky, using an orangey sienna against the blue makes it striking because of the complementary colours.
  • I struggled to achieve a pleasing effect in the foreground grass – it kept coming up too flat. After an attempt at letting paint run, I found that by adding undiluted paint with a dry brush with random marks and brushing over it lightly kept it expressive with some texture.
  • I am not sure that the left hand slope in the middle ground is working – I decided to leave it as is – another tutor once suggested that a little “discomfort” in a painting can be a good thing as long as it’s not distracting.
  • The main appeal to attempting this composition was the cast shadows, both in the background and foreground, although I am pleased that they are not overbearing yet add some drama.
  • Techniques I used and discovered to achieve desire effects included:
    • paint splattering after masking with torn paper for the gravel track, very messy, random, effective and fun.
    • letting paint run, I’m getting more confident with this and although it is not overly obvious here, it gave a good base for the dry brush work. I also used it for the main tree shadows by turning the canvas on its side. It didn’t run as much as I thought but sometimes less is more.
    • dry brushing neat paint lightly for texture of short, scrubby grass.

Review your experiences and make careful notes of future plans. Consider the influence of landscape painters that you admire and explain how their work may have influenced your own.

I found this a very challenging section of the course. I was full of optimism and particularly looked forward to the expressive nature of the mood and atmosphere exercise.  As before in other sections where we were asked to decide on and express a mood, I hit a brick wall. This may be because, I see mood and atmosphere as a feeling and not a thought – as soon as I tried to plan or manufacture a mood, it’s artificial and not heart-felt. It all goes flat – I tried hard to evoke an atmosphere with colour and loose and expressive techniques, but the composition was almost non-existent. How can I get over this?

  • Consider playing appropriate music while working? (I’ve become interested in how different areas of the arts influence each other – poetry, music, sculpture, painting.)
  • Small expressive preliminary paintings where the paint is allowed to do its thing and let the feeling come in its own time?
  • Try not to let the technique become the painting – it needs a core message.

I found it interesting that with landscape more than anything else so far, the media is so key to a successful painting for me. Oils worked for me in the beginning with the “through the window” type subjects but it wasn’t until I started using pastels that exterior, expansive landscapes began to work. The tactile nature of the increased contact between hands, pastel and paper seemed more immediate, the paint brush was almost too far away and I disconnected. I also found the colour mixing more successful, laying down one colour, then working over it with another and making different marks for optical mixing was exciting and satisfying. Once I had that experience, the return to painting with acrylic for the assignment was more comfortable and experimental. For the future:

  • Keep switching between media to encourage experiments, free expression and cross-reference of techniques.
  • Try small paintings of the same subject in different media to understand how to get the best from each.

I have mentioned some of my favourite landscape painters through out this section and above. Interestingly, they are a diverse selection, which may have accounted for my over-enthusiasm for the expressive landscape challenge. I may have tried to incorporate disparate styles and confused myself. Whereas, I think I may have got more of a handle on it in the assignment work. Of the artists I listed above, I think my main influences in this work were:

  • Emil Nolde for the more vibrant use of colour – previously my paintings, particularly in oils, are quite muted. However, I think it has been controlled with a few “swipes” here and there.
  • Gustav Klimt – I mentioned his expressive detail through mark making – I have tried to give an illusion of detail with the splattered gravel and have explored the mark making with the tree bark. An influence but not slavishly copied.
  • Although not directly comparable, I have studied both Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland’s tones and colours and tried to make these work visually in my mind’s eye and not just copied – I would love to try to push the abstraction further in the future too.

(Note to tutor and self – see private Pinterest boards – access given in previous email).

Exercise: Working from a Photograph

01-03/12/15

Exercise: Working from a Photograph

Choose a landscape photo with plenty of space and either tall trees in the middle ground or hills or mountains in the background… When you’ve decided on your photo, look at it critically to decide how you might interpret it.

Source photo Looking over Blashford Lakes

Source photo
Looking over Blashford Lakes

This is one of my favourite views from a dog walking route over Ibsley Common in the New Forest. I only have the photo digitally and not in print, so sketched out the main photographic composition in my sketchbook to work on my painting composition.

Sketched reproduction of the source photo with compositional options and notes. A4 Sketchbook

Sketched reproduction of the source photo with compositional options and notes.
A4 Sketchbook

 

Putting coloured frames around parts of the whole sketch/photo helped me decide which composition would be the most interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

Composition scaled up and main shapes marked in.

Composition scaled up and main shapes marked in.

 

 

Once the composition was decided upon, I scaled it up and drew out the main shapes in a fresh sketch.

 

 

 

 

 

Tonal sketch of chosen composition.

Tonal sketch of chosen composition.

 

Next, the drawing was repeated and simplified tone added to assist with the actual painting.

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to use a pastel and watercolour combination on thick cartridge paper. I used a base of soft pastel as an under-painting. I have struggled with working loosely in this section of the course for some reason, so this method is more tactile and more intuitive for me.  I worked the pastel into the paper to try to cover all of the whiteness.  Working in the darks quickly and strongly, using black in the foreground just to get the depth, then using different dark colours, such as purples, reds and browns to give a richness in the shadows. The minimal use of green seems to be helping me, as the autumnal colours are rich and bright, using sienna, yellows and oranges have lifted the whole feeling of the painting. It was important to keep the sky lively too to balance the strength in the middle and foreground. Once the under-painting was done, I tried to avoid overly blending the pastel and kept the marks visible although less so in the background. To assist with subtle branches I used a damp brush to pull the pastel through the trees.

Once the bulk of the pastel work was done, watercolour was added to intensify some darks in the middle and foreground. The birch trees were added with a rigger brush and Naples yellow and sepia. I used the trees in the garden as reference, especially to see the hanging down of the end twigs and remaining leaves, these were added to the painting with a smudge of mixed tones of pastel. Before using the watercolour, the pastel was fixed and each subsequent application was also fixed.

At this point I stood back and assessed what else needed doing. The sky needed bringing up to same level as the foreground, so I built more shadow beneath the clouds. To enliven the painting even more, I splattered watercolour over the foreground shadows after masking off the other areas with a large sheet of paper. I also referred to the last work-in-progress photo and noticed it was more intense in colour than the actual painting.  This is a comment my tutor has made several times, in that the photo works better, therefore, I added more lights and darks to bring it up to intensity level of the photo. Unfortunately, by this time, the light was fading and the final photograph is a little grainy but gives an impression of the finished painting. If time, I may re-take it and post.

Working from a Photograph Exercise. Pastel and Watercolour on cartridge paper. 57 x 39cm

Working from a Photograph Exercise.
Pastel and Watercolour on cartridge paper.
57 x 39cm

When you’ve finished, look at both the painting and the reference photograph.

In what ways did you depart from the photo?
I zoomed into a specific focus in the photograph and have tried to walk the line between representational and abstract.

Why did you make that choice?
I had been struggling with most of the landscape exercises, with a combination of colours, media and composition failing me. I have previously made landscape paintings with pastel that have had a higher success rate, they seem to make me feel freer in the execution of the painting.

Did you produce a painting that satisfied you, or were you overly influenced by the photo?
Funnily enough, when I came back for the second session of painting, I couldn’t access the digital photo for a couple of hours and had to work only from memory and my drawings. This was useful for tonal representation, although, when I could use it again, the photo was useful for colours. As I progressed I used the photo less and less and I like the interpretation that resulted.

Exercise: Squaring Up

29/11/15

Exercise: Squaring Up

The principle is simple – you simply draw squares over the photo or drawing… mark proportionately larger squares on your working surface… Then transfer everything that appears on a small square onto a larger one, paying careful attention to the relationships of the objects to the intersecting lines…

Once the drawing is in place, begin the painting… Your drawing is there as a guide, not a tablet of stone, so let the painting develop with reference to your original idea.

Original photo ( 16 x 12cm) squared up and the enlarged painting after the first session. Acrylic on acrylic paper 32 x 24cm

Original photo ( 16 x 12cm) squared up and the enlarged painting after the first session.
Acrylic on acrylic paper
32 x 24cm

I decided to use a photograph that I took some years ago in Polperro, Cornwall. I initially marked a border round to establish where I wanted the composition focus. I found the numbering of the squares very useful to plan the placement of the main shapes. This technique actually kept me from being too detailed in the drawing. Once the main elements were drawn in, I added paint loosely and tried to stick to shapes and tones initially. Just before I finished the first session, I decided to scrub over the paint with a damp brush, which, as it was acrylic, was mostly dry but what wet paint there was, softened and blurred. I did this to ensure I didn’t become too tight in the painting. I am hoping that by doing this I will keep the painting loose in the next session.

30/11/15

Squared up source photo and notes from sketchbook

Squared up source photo and notes from sketchbook

 

 

Continued with the painting, using the reference photo to assist with shapes and tones.

 

 

 

 

Trying desperately not to get bogged down in detail, I worked in darks to bring out shapes of the boats and general tonal painting of the buildings. Nearing completion I took the painting away from the photo and reassessed the overall effect. Detail had crept in particularly with the buildings’ windows, taking these down in prominence, darkening the front of the buildings themselves and lightening the roofs to indicate the sunlight brought it all together more successfully.  I am still disappointed at the lack of painterly brush-strokes but came to the conclusion that I had spent more than enough time on this. The main objective was the rescaling using the squaring up technique, which itself was successful.

Squaring up - Final painting Acrylic on paper 32 x 24cm

Squaring up – Final painting
Acrylic on paper
32 x 24cm

 

Research Point: The Golden Mean

19/11/15

Research Point: The Golden Mean

Research the Golden Mean (also known as the Golden Ratio or Golden Section) and its application to artistic composition. Don’t get bogged down in the maths of this. Essentially the Golden Mean is a proportion in which a straight line or rectangle is divided into two unequal parts in such a way that the ratio of the smaller to the greater part is the same as the ratio of the greater part to the whole.

Creating the Golden Ratio video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eTw5lKKzmk#

(Apologies for the music and advert – that’s YouTube for you!)

Examples of the Golden Mean may be found regularly in nature:

golden mean - Google Search:

Inside a shell showing how the Golden Mean may be seen in nature

 

Find out also about the rule of thirds in landscape. Renaissance artists realised that placing the main subject in the centre of a composition often led to unsatisfactory results. It’s possible to get a more balanced composition by splitting the canvas into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and placing the main subject on one of these lines or at the intersection point of any two lines…

Image result for the rule of thirds in landscape paintings:

An illustration showing the rule of thirds in a landscape composition

 

... Another way of thinking about this is to plan your landscape in terms of foreground, middle ground and background.

 

 

 

 

Look on the internet and find some examples of landscape paintings that exemplify these compositional principles.

Landscape by Dorrit Black an example of the Golden Mean:

Landscape by Dorrit Black an example of the Golden Mean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

golden mean in landscape paintings - Google Search:

Landscape by Constable illustrating use of the Golden Mean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

golden mean in landscape paintings - Google Search:

The Great Wave off Kanagawa Golden mean in landscape paintings

Emil_Nolde_marsh with farm Rule of thirds:

Marsh with Farm by Emil Nolde Rule of Thirds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 :

Landscape by Thomas Cole Rule of Thirds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exercise: Creating Mood and Atmosphere

10-13 & 17-18/11/15

Exercise: Creating Mood & Atmosphere

For this exercise, either create a completely new painting that evokes a powerful atmosphere of some kind or re-work one of your earlier paintings. First identify clearly what you’re trying to achieve… However you choose to approach this exercise, make extensive notes about the techniques you’ve adopted to achieve your stated aim. When you’ve finished, reflect on the success of your completed work.

Original sketch from Drawing 1 Pencil A6 in skechbook

Original sketch from Drawing 1
Pencil A6 in sketchbook

 

 

Looking at previous paintings I wasn’t particularly inspired, however, I also looked back through my old sketchbooks for ideas. I came across the Sketchbook Walk exercise in Drawing 1 where I had made several sketches of style separating two fields and hedgerows. I like the overhanging trees and various angles of the style. I tried to decide between two different views and tried a couple of watercolour sketches in my sketchbook.

 

 

Preliminary watercolour sketch View 1 A5 in sketchbook

Preliminary watercolour sketch
View 1
A5 in sketchbook

 

This view is interesting but did not evoke any mood to speak of within my mind.

Notes for prelim sketch 1 View 1

Notes for prelim sketch 1
View 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watercolour sketch View 2 A5 in sketchbook

Watercolour sketch
View 2
A5 in sketchbook

I  was fairly certain that I would use view 2, however, I wasn’t sure what mood I wanted to illustrate. The original sketch was made in the summer with the trees in full leaf. I was keen to change the season to autumn yet that wasn’t enough of an atmosphere. Whilst pondering, I had the radio on, and as it was Armistice Day coming up to 11am, the two-minute silence began. Whist thinking in that quiet moment of how life would have been in the World War 1 trenches looking at the drawing, it struck me how I could make the foreground dark, wet and miserable reminiscent of the trenches. The style and fence could be symbolic of the obstacles in the way of a peaceful future and the distance could be brighter and light to show hope. Notes next to sketch indicate my thoughts at the time. I began to add the colours that I thought might aid this idea into the watercolour sketch.

Tonal and compositional sketches View 2 A5 in sketchbook

Tonal and compositional sketches
View 2
A5 in sketchbook

 

 

I felt I needed to work out the tones further and wasn’t happy with the horizontal lines so tried to add more diagonals to give more interest.

 

 

 

 

 

From my research into expressive landscapes, I was very enthusiastic about this exercise. I was particularly taken with the Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland paintings for their shapes and colours, bordering on the abstract at times – and also Emil Nolde’s work for its expressive colour that was allowed to flow and create wonderful effects. I could see how these influences could be incorporated into my painting. As noted in my sketchbook, I wasn’t feeling that oils were the right medium for my purpose. I had bought a watercolour ground that is painted onto a support and makes it react in a similar way to watercolour paper. I was hoping to incorporate texture with wet in wet watercolour to evoke the atmosphere. Below are the stages taken to try to achieve my vision:

 

It was going so well until the details were added. Up to and including picture 5 in the gallery, the painting was full of atmosphere, albeit not quite the one I was aiming for. I kept going with adding a few objects and details with watercolour and at this point it may have been rescued, however, adding oil pastel at this stage killed not only the painting but my enthusiasm also. I over did the pastel and attempted to wash it out with thinners, this just muddied the whole thing and I left everything and came away. The choice of oil pastel was made to work into the watercolour and avoid the necessity for fixing, this proved to be a mistake. The next day, I decided to try again and prepared a fresh support, without the textured acrylic this time – this had made the watercolour pool in an unattractive way the first time round. I had to wait for the ground to cure for at least 24 hours so had intended to start the next day – I was very disillusioned and despondent so didn’t feel creative for a few days. Three days later I was back. Plan B, was to continue with watercolour but to change to soft pastel, a more appropriate pairing of media.  Trying hard to create the atmosphere I had planned I spent a couple of days working on the second painting below.

Creating Mood and Atmosphere 11th Hour 11th Day 11th Month Watercolour and pastel canvas board 60x40cm

Creating Mood and Atmosphere
11th Hour 11th Day 11th Month
Watercolour and pastel canvas board 60x40cm

Again, the colour in the photograph is not closely representational of the actual painting. My tutor has often commented that the photographs are more successful colour-wise than the paintings. With this one, I initially thought this too, however, after looking at the photo for sometime and then glancing up at the painting, I changed my mind. The camera on my iPad seems to enhance blues in particular, which I must be aware of until I can source a better camera.

When you’ve finished, reflect on the success of your completed work.

  • Generally, I think the composition is a little empty – I tried to address this by making more of the middle distance.
  • I think the combination of media worked better than the first attempt.
  • I am happy with parts of the painting ie the puddles, the overhanging branches.
  • I am not convinced that the mood is successful – it’s partly there but would need explaining, which in itself is a fail.
  • To me, it’s not a wow and maybe the size and scale of the support was the wrong choice.
  • A lot of effort but minimal progress.
  • Wish I could have stopped at the fifth photo of the gallery but that did not fit the mood intended.
  • Lots of hard lessons.

 

Research Point: Expressive Landscape

11/11/15

Research Point: Expressive Landscape

Look at the eerie, dream-like landscapes painted by the Surrealists…

Solitude by Salvador Dali:

Solitude by Savador Dali

Woman, Old Man and Flower by Max Ernst:

Woman, Old Man and Flower by Max Ernst

 

Surrealism was a movement that was very much in vogue when I was taking art in school. I found them fascinating, clever and strange – now I still see the skill but some I find too convoluted, probably down to the cynicism that enveloped me as I got older.

 

 

 

The Uncertainty of the Poet by Georgio De Chirico:

The Uncertainty of the Poet by Georgio De Chirico

Consider the work of some artists who have sought to express the more emotional and subjective aspects of landscape…

Road at Porthclais with Setting Sun (1975) by Graham Sutherland:

Road at Porthclais with Setting Sun (1975) by Graham Sutherland

 

Having poured over many of Graham Sutherland’s paintings on-screen, I am completely hooked. He encompasses everything I struggle yet aspire to achieve. His sense of colour evokes atmosphere and mood whereas mine is mud – his balance of composition leads you around his paintings and leaves you wondering. I am in awe as he combines his draughtsmanship and emotion into a coherent vision yet maintains the mystery of the image.

 

 

Western Hills 1938 by Graham Sutherland:

Western Hills 1938 by Graham Sutherland

We Are Making a New World (1918) by Paul Nash:

We Are Making a New World (1918) by Paul Nash

Summer Soltice by Paul Nash:

Summer Solstice by Paul Nash

Being a war artist in the First World War, Nash had obviously embedded his emotional reactions to what he witnessed within his work. His war paintings I find, are quite matter of fact in their handling, yet the colours and expressions on faces leave no doubt as to the suffering. He shows this suffering not only of the soldiers but the land itself. I feel that he was a positive thinking man, he liked to show hope by bringing in the sun’s rays of a new dawn – even rendering Spring in the Trenches, Ridge Wood as a new beginning.

 

Look at landscape paintings by the German Expressionists…. and by artists of the Symbolist movement…

The work of Emil Nolde is mostly new to me – I find it wonderfully colourful and evocative. The sense of wild abandon that has been tamed into a rectangular painting, a balance of letting paint do its thing yet in a way that he wants. Again, a skill to which I aspire but that is frustratingly elusive.

Dark Landscape North Friesland by Emil Nolde:

Dark Landscape North Friesland by Emil Nolde

Dark Sea with Brown Sky by Emil Nolde:

Dark Sea with Brown Sky by Emil Nolde

Italian Horticultural Landscape by Gustav Klimt:

Italian Horticultural Landscape by Gustav Klimt

Coloured sketch by Gustave Moreau:

Coloured sketch by Gustave Moreau

The work I’ve seen by Gustave Moreau is really interesting. His landscapes are so expressive and loose, dripping in atmosphere yet the figures he puts in them are classical and seem oddly out of place to me. It’s as if he is painting in two different eras.

Bakst, Léon: project design for Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune:

Project design for Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

The Love-Embrace of the Universe 1949 by Frida Kahlo:

The Love-Embrace of the Universe 1949 by Frida Kahlo