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.

 

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: 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.

 

Project: Basic Paint Application – Exercise: Painting with Pastels

02/02/15

Painting with Pastels

Practice making marks and blending with pastels; if you have time, use the techniques you’ve discovered to make a simple picture…

Soft Pastels on Ingres Paper:

Painting with pastels. Mark making and blending with soft pastels.

Painting with pastels.
Mark making and blending with soft pastels.

Having previously explored soft pastels in the Drawing Skills course, I tried to focus on painterly effects, texture, colour mixing and blending.  Using soft pastel on its side for blocks of colour and thin straight lines. By using a shorter piece on its side, I could rotate it round to produce an almost perfect circle.  Different colours can be layered (either by broad side strokes or narrower end ones), alternately hatched or blended with a finger or rag.

Oil Pastels on Mount Board Primed with Gesso:

Painting with pastels. Mark making and blending with oil pastels.

Painting with pastels.
Mark making and blending with oil pastels.

I repeated similar marks to those above, however, the oil pastel was more prone to pick up the texture of the support being used.  This made for some interesting effects when used fairly lightly on their side.  To obtain more solid blocks of colour, I had to use the tip and pressure to work it into the support’s texture.  I actually preferred the blending of the oil pastels as more options were available.  Again I could layer and hatch colour but I also tried using a rag wound round my finger and this softened the oil pastel and produced a subtle, diffused blend of the colours.  I then tried using solvent and brushes, firstly, a hog brush – this had the effect of moving the pigment around a lot more and left  more brush marks visible.  Using the synthetic Mongoose flat, which is much softer, allowed me to fuse the pigment and blend it without it shifting so much.  I also noticed, that with using solvent, the pigment could run and produced lovely drips and pools of colour.

A Simple Picture – Oil Pastels:

After experimenting with the solvent and oil pastels, I was keen to use this to produce a simple painting.  My intention was to let it run and be free with it, in practice it became a little stiff in execution and not as loose as I wanted initially.  I used the solvent in the sky (this is the view outside my window), and combined with a rag it gave a nice base to paint on.  My favourite part is the apple tree and its branches.  By using the oil pastels on their tip and twisting and moving over the support, a pleasing rendition of twiggy branches was created. Doing this on top of the solvent diluted pigment also removed that layer, which worked brilliantly for getting a sharp jagged line, perfect for the branches .  Not a masterpiece but experimental and informative.

Small painting using oil pastels and mark making and blending techniques. Approx A4 on  on canvas board.

Small painting using oil pastels and mark making and blending techniques.
Approx A4 on canvas board.

 

A Simple Picture – Soft Pastels:

I was keen to try both types of pastel and found a photograph I took last week while walking the dog early evening.  It was a spectacular sunset and I remember thinking that it would be nigh on impossible to reproduce such vivid and luminous colours in a painting.  Never one to back down from a challenge, I thought I’d try, so soft pastels were probably my best chance.  The most part of the picture was made using the soft pastel on its side.  I was determined not to rely just on blending with my finger and to attempt hatching and layering too. In the main, I succeeded, and not just because of the fine sandpaper quality of the support.  Any finger blending was more of a dabbing motion and I used a dry cloth round my finger if the need arose.  Naturally in the sky, there were horizontal streaks of colour and diagonal cloud formations that also absorbed the last of the sun’s rays, so that helped focus me.  The foreground and buildings were mainly in silhouette but I introduced some dark colours to avoid it being too flat. I was right, though, it’s nowhere near as stunning as real life and, unfortunately, the pinks and corals have not photographed as vibrantly as they are either which is a shame.

Small painting using soft pastels and mark making and blending techniques. Approx A4 on pastel board

Small painting using soft pastels and mark making and blending techniques.
Approx A4 on pastel board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment 5 – Option 3: Drawing Outdoors

27/11 – 08/12/14

Assignment 5 Option 3 – Drawing Outdoors

Process and Progress:

 

 

Fig 1 – Watercolour wet in wet washes

Fig 2 – Building watercolour layers and defining the middle ground trees

Fig 3 – Adding in acrylic inks and building tone and colour

Fig 4 – Adding definition, tone and colour to focal point iron work.  Washed out the indigo blue watercolour as seems too strong

Fig 5 – Middle ground woodland still too strong.  Added creased tissue paper with 50:50 PVA glue and water – fresh start but with some colour and marks showing through. Began adding texture, colour and tone to the concrete buttresses.  Adhered torn hand-made paper to the bottom left corner and added inks and watercolour for foliage

Fig 6 – Adding brighter ink to the woodland and watercolour washes into  the river

Fig 7 – Using water-soluble Derwent Graphik pens, sepia drawing and brush pens to draw into the under-painting, bringing in the details and building more texture with mark making.

Fig 8 – Addition of more washes, completing all features, building tone in shadow areas, adding colour, definition and texture with oil pastels and colour brush pens.

Fig 9 – Working in the texture in the wooden plank walkway, increasing tone in the middle ground taking down the brightness. Worked into the foreground foliage increasing darks with dark blue brush pen, working negative spaces to bring out natural shapes of leaves with highlight of Graphik pen.

Fig 10 – Water built up with ink pens, oil pastel and washes.

Final work

Final work

Self Assessment
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
material, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
I continued experimentation with different media and drawing tools and tried to push them and myself by letting them find their own way in a sense. As well as inks, pens and oil pastels etc.  I tried textural effects with different papers and salt.  Compositionally, careful planning and the trying out of different views made it easier to be free with how the work was made within a considered design.

Quality of Outcome content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.
Initially, I was excited to try all sorts of ideas and techniques and if I hadn’t gone through the lengthy process of experimenting and trialling effects in my sketchbook and elsewhere, I think there would have been a definite lack of coherence.  By following the process, I achieved a loose and fluid under-painting which I feel has been successfully pulled together by drawing and mark making with detail and accuracy where necessary yet the image remains lively.

Demonstration of Creativity imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.
I used my imagination to create a version of the scene that I hope has enhanced an autumnal feel by my use of colour and texture.  All of the planned elements are there, yet I was determined to avoid a photographic representation, the feelings that the location evokes in me are demonstrated by the treatment given.  Textures, smells and sounds inspired the work and helped develop a representation of a favourite walk.  I didn’t want to rely on laborious, detailed and intricate drawing of branches, mosses and foliage but make the best of what the media and techniques gave me and work with whatever effects occurred.

Context reflection, research, critical thinking (learning log).
I have continued to use my blog to record my reflection of progress and exercises.  I have learnt lessons and recorded them clearly, together with the research undertaken this has informed my decision-making and direction in the making process.

Reflection of Final Work

I have left the assignment drawing for a couple of days and returned to it to re-evaluate and decide whether I am entirely happy with the result.  My thoughts:

  • From a distance the trees immediately to the left of the iron girder appear too vertical and are not distinct from the girder itself.
  • The whole image may need more “pulling together”.
  • The texture and tone in the foliage in the foreground is too flat and indistinct.

Rework to Address the Above

Assignment 5 Option 3 - Drawing Outdoors Final and Complete Piece of Work

Assignment 5
Option 3 – Drawing Outdoors
Final and Complete Piece of Work

Points Above Addressed by:

  • Lightened the end of the iron girder to bring it forward
  • Added more tone and texture to the offending group of trees, plus made them less vertical by adding tonal branches.
  • Brought colours across the drawing to unify and using oil pastels on their side to bring out the relief of the tissue creases to indicate branches.
  • Added lights and darks to the foreground foliage with oil pastels and worked into the negative shapes with dark brush pens to bring the leaves forward.

Detail Photographs

As this particular assignment is being assessed purely on-line due to time restrictions, I have included close-up detail photographs to further illustrate the textures and details.

Detail 1

Detail 1

Detail 2

Detail 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detail 3

Detail 3

 

Detail 4

Detail 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detail 5

Detail 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project: Drawing Trees – Check and Log

11/07/14

Check & Log

  • How many different tree types have you drawn?
    I drew several types of trees: Mulberry (in full leaf but no fruit); an unknown named tree (in full leaf); Bramley apple tree (full leaf, some fruit); Coxes apple tree (full leaf, some fruit) and an old Lilac tree (full leaf, flowers gone over).
  • What techniques did you use to distinguish each type?
    The apple trees were in full leaf with some fruit forming, so they were quite dense and solid in shape. I tried to concentrate on the tone of the whole leafy area, picking out a few leaves and branches only where they were actually visible. The Mulberry tree had been pruned from the bottom so a lot of trunk and lower branches were showing. the trunk was quite textured so more sharp, scratchy marks were used to show that. the leaves were more individual and a nice broad shape theat curled interestingly. These shapes were drawn more realistically and in the expanded view tree drawing, I tried to show the direction they pointed in and how as a group they “fell” in a certain way, almost as if draped. The “tree with no name”, had a tangle of branches with numerous knobbly twigs which were fun to draw with pen, using stop/start strokes with different thicknesses.
Project: Drawing Trees Exercise: Sketching an Individual Tree

Project: Drawing Trees
Exercise: Sketching an Individual Tree
Studies of the whole Mulberry (top left) and “tree with no name” (top right) and then zoomed in detail of leaves and branches beneath each.

Project: Drawing Trees Exercise: Larger Study of an Individual Tree  Bramley Apple Tree  Markers and liner pens on A3 white cartridge paper

Project: Drawing Trees
Exercise: Larger Study of an Individual Tree
Bramley Apple Tree
Markers and liner pens on A3 white cartridge paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • What did you do to convey the mass of foliage?
    I avoided detail and concentrated on lights and darks which help give the illusion of an abundance of foliage. By working pen marks in different directions and hatching into where the darks were, leaving areas for the lights, the leaves seemed to appear without specifically drawing them.
  • How did you handle light on the trees? Was it successful?
    The way light fell or showed itself on the tree was a little unexpected as it was bounced around within the leaves.  It didn’t always follow the pattern of dark away from the sunlight – it was sometimes reflected by the leaves up and/or down and around the edges of the leaf canopy, the sun shone through individual leaves giving them a translucent quality.  Using drawing pens for uncoloured work, made it easier to distinguish light and dark. By laying in bold darks at first, I was able to convey some light as well as texture and shape.  Once changing to colour it was easier to see whilst working, although using oil pastel there was a limit to the amount of pastel the paper would take, even if scratched off first.  Probably the most successful was the lone apple tree – this done in monochrome with differing pen thicknesses and also placing it in a background so darks and lights could be added around it in the negative shapes.
Project: Drawing Trees Exercise: Study of Several Trees

Project: Drawing Trees
Exercise: Study of Several Trees
Coxes apple tree and old, leaning lilac tree against beech hedging. Late morning to mid afternoon, bright sun with dappled shadow.
Underpainted with watercolour pencil washes, marker pen and oil pastel on watercolour paper A2

  • Did you manage to select and simplify? Look at your drawings and make notes on how you did this, and what could you do better?
    • Homed in on interesting part of larger trees to fill the frame
    • Simplified foliage by concentrating on tone and adding small amounts of detail close to.
    • With the colour oil pastel drawing, I think I could have made the darks darker to help emphasis light.  I did try to concentrate on the trees but needed to place it in its setting – maybe the background is a little too distracting?