[retrospective post] Part 5, project 2, exercises 1 and 2: Adding other materials – preparing a textured ground and mixing materials into paint

14 March 2017. I decided to report on the two exercises in this project in one post, since I combined them in some of the experiments I carried out.
This post is going to be somewhat difficult, because I threw away some of my experiments – they had nothing to do with my assignment pieces and went into the bin after I had submitted my portfolio.
I did a whole A2 watercolour paper with glue, dilute violet watercolour and writing ink. In order to at least describe the effects I made this bullet list for effects noticed:

  • wet glue spread thinly had no influence on dilute paint or ink dripped on it, both spread through the glue into the paper uninhibited
  • dry glue spread thinly repels some of both ink and paint, but much less so than anticipated
  • wet glue in strings will attract ink to travel underneath and into it. The ink spread slowly into the strongs of glue to add a greenish hue
  • dry glue will hold ink to a large extent, although a little will always travel for some small distance in the paper under the glue, paint will be repelled and the pattern produced by the ink stands out
  • wet glue placed on wet ink or paint repels some of the pigment contained, so that unpigmented rings develop around it. The degree of repulsion depends on the type of pigment involved
  • wet glue placed on dry paint or ink has no further effect

For the remaining experiments covering these two exercises I have photos. A few of these appear in other posts for this part of the course, since due to my failed rearranging of exercises they combine approaches (e.g. preparing a textured ground and dripping paint).

Since the effect of glue was a bit disappointing, I repeated the same with acrylic binder (in preparation for an assignment piece in my project “A Shadow on His Soul” (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a) (Fig.1-2):

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Figure 1. Sketchbook – experimenting with enclosing paint and ink in acrylic binder
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Figure 2. Sketchbook – experimenting with producing the effect of a person’s “soul” showing on the outside, acrylic binder spread roughly, then painted over after having become dry

The following two experiments (Fig. 3-4) were already described in my “impasto” post (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b), both using serrated spatulae to create a rough texture to be used later in painting portraits of Bashar al-Assad  for my assignment project “A Shadow on His Soul” (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a).

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Figure 4. Creating texture using a serrated spatula on a thick layer of acrylic medium
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Figure 5. Creating texture using a serrated spatula on a thick layer of white acrylic paint

Continuing the series by examining the special properties of acrylic binder, which I developed a liking for over time, I added sand, charcoal and white as well as writing ink at various stages during the drying process (Fig. 6 below):

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Figure 6. Sketchbook – examining effects with acrylic binder, sand, crushed willow charcoal and inks to create texture effects to be used in the assignment

In the series of experiments on mixing other materials into paint I had produced a background of white acrylic paint with dried, crushed leaves mixed in. In a dripping experiment I had used this background to see whether a shadow effect might be produced with applying ink with a pipette from one edge (Lacher-Bryk, 2016c). While the former did not work at all, I found that emphasizing the existing texture with a combination of writing ink and Persian Red antique ink would result in an incredibly beautiful metallic lustre and interplay of structure with the charateristics of the applied inks (Fig. 7-8):

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Figure 7. Black writing ink mixed with Persian Red antique ink on top of background consisting of a very rough mix of acrylic paint with dried crushed leaves
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Figure 8. The same as in Figure 7, but with an emphasis on Persian Red ink

Following an impasto experiment using acrylic paint and crushed willow charcoal (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b) I decided to investigate the properties of this type of background for my assignment painting project covering Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Shadow” (Lacher-Bryk, 2016d) (Fig. 9):

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Figure 9. Sketchbook – experimenting on background layer of acrylic paint with grated willow charcoal, adding layers of different inks as well as acrylic paint

I very much enjoyed experimenting with texture. This was only a taster of a world of endless possibilities, but since it was dedicated to serve a particular purpose, I was also quite happy to have come up with a working background layer solution for Andersen’s tale.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016a) Assignment 5, subject 2: “A Shadow on His Soul” (including Part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Available at:  https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/assignment-5-subject-2-a-shadow-on-his-soul-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 14 March 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016b) [Retrospective post] Part 5, project 1, exercise 1: different ways of applying paint – Impasto [blog] [online]. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/retrospective-post-part-5-project-1-exercise-1-different-ways-of-applying-paint-impasto/ [Accessed 14 March 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016c) [Retrospective post] Part 5, project 1, exercise 2: Different ways of applying paint – dripping, dribbling and spattering [blog] [online]. Available at:
https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/retrospective-post-part-5-project-1-exercise-2-different-ways-of-applying-paint-dripping-dribbling-and-spattering/ [Accessed 14 March 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016d) Assignment 5, subject 3: Hans Christian Andersen “The Shadow”. An attempt at an illustration (including part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/assignment-5-subject-3-hans-christian-andersen-the-shadow-an-attempt-at-an-illustration-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 14 March 2017]

 

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Preparation for Assessment: A second attempt at a shadow entering a house dedicated to “learning the pattern”

27 Febuary 2017. In my Assignment 5 feedback my tutor stated, with respect to my inadequate processes of project development, that “I have the skills, but I need to learn the pattern”. In order to see whether I would be able to include in my assessment submission a learning sequence as expected by assessors, I produced this belated addition to the investigatory process relating to shadows entering houses, which I had done predominantly on a photo basis due to a long spell of extremely cold weather in January. My tutor had asked in her feedback, whether I could “afford” to try and work as faintly as Luc Tuymans in his 2004 painting “The Window” (Lacher-Bryk, 2017 and Fig. 1 below). To see what sort of development the intriguing word “afford” might trigger in someone like me, I was curious to to find out where it would take me:

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Figure 1. Sketchbook

While I am not sure whether Tuymans’s painting relates to shadows or reflections or possibly both, I understand that this kind of approach demands processes of deconstruction from both artist and viewer and helps to raise in the viewer an interest in engaging themselves with possible messages at a more than purely superficial level.
In order to start the process, I went back to my original photo of my shadow entering an old farmhouse, had one quick look at it, then started experimenting in my sketchbook. First I went to have another look at different artists and their very own methods. I found that on most occasions shadows were emphasized, not reduced, and made part of a vivid composition. The images below (Fig. 2) were taken from a review of an exhibition on show in 2008/09 in the Kunsthalle Wien, “Western Motel: Edward Hopper and Contemporary Art” (Kalafudra’s Stuff, 2009). Shadows were in all cases inseparable from their “producers”, the human shapes, so I would need to find a very different approach.

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Figure 2. Sketchbook: Some black and white Impressions from exhibition “Western Motel”

In order to set up a first compositional scaffolding I decided that I would start off with a charcoal sketch (Fig. 3) to identify dark and light areas as appearing in my memory. I quite like how the charcoal, with great ease, provides both mass and ethereal components. In my photo there had only been my own shadow, but I soon realized that I would want to include another, cast by a passer-by, as I had experienced on a number of occasions on my photo tour in January. At the same time, always with my goal of wanting to have a faint final result, I came up with the idea of including a living form on top of that faint painting. I therefore investigated how a dog, walking on a lead with the person passing by and at the same time in interaction with that person’s shadow, could add interest to my composition. I really like the idea but will have to avoid overloading the painting with messages:

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Figure 3. Charcoal sketch

In order to see how my provisional ideas could be arranged on the canvas I produced a sequence of rough acrylic sketches investigating possible viewpoints and painting methods (Fig. 4):

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Figure 4. Sketchbook: Acrylic sketches. Top row: Positive shadows, bottom row: negative shadows

In the top row of Fig. 4 I painted the shadows in black on a whitish background, in the bottom row I used the negative technique introduced much earlier in the course (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). While I did not like the painted results after the charcoal I immediately saw that I would want to continue with the negative technique, since it produced a much more energetic and at the same time believable result. I also had the idea of having the dog being interested in me rather than its owner, so a connection would become visible between my world and that outside. The bottom right setup appeared the most promising and versatile to continue working with, to I did another sketch, this time filling a sketchbook page and continuing further by experimenting with making the result faint (Fig. 5-7):

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Figure 5. Sketchbook: Page-filling skecth, stage 1

Making a very rough and faint ink pen sketch of my own shadow on a builing where wall and street met helped me setting my mind on the next step (Fig. 6):

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Figure 6. Sketchbook: Ink pen sketch

So I went over the first layer (Fig. 5) with a number of semi-transparent layers of white and added a dog (Fig. 7):

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Figure 7. White layers and dog added to sketch

While I think that the faint image is not bad for a first attempt, I am not happy with several aspects here. Again, regarding whether I could “afford” to paint faintly considering my subject, I would say yes and no. No, because I need to be ever so careful not to lose the viewer in a technical extreme without connection to my message, and yes, once I know for what particular reason I would want to paint faintly in the first place. For exercise purposes this is not a problem, but would require considerate planning for a finished painting. Also, I am not happy with the dog’s position here. There is no way how I could include it in the intended way without making the position of the lead look awkward. I liked the charcoal sketch better in that respect, but with that setup the connection between passer-by and myself would be cut. Will see whether I might have to let it go. Also, despite the interesting effects produced by the many brushstrokes, I do not think that they add to my message. On acrylic paper I find them hard to avoid, but on a smooth background produced using a roller on a grey carton I should be able to investigate the effect. I will have to cut out the result and stick into my sketchbook.

First, however, more research on Tuymans using faint painting techniques, to see how I could produce a quieter image avoiding brushstrokes. Very useful I found another painting by Tuymans, “Couple” from 1998 (Fig. 8, left). The gradual softening of edges does not occur “out of the blue”, but is an effect indeed connected with looking into the sky. Tuymans observed a natural phenomemon here and put it to good use by creating the appearance of the couple “having their heads in the clouds”. When examining the painting on the computer screen I can see may harder brushstrokes softened by a top layer of “fluffy” strokes. Maybe I will not have to work super smooth at all. We’ll see. I also liked the aureole effect around the figures in Tuymans’s “Saint-Georges” from 2015 (Fig.8, right), which enhanced the shadowlike effect without having to darken the figures. Here also the natural observation was thorough and included into the painting not just as an effect but for its actual presence in the real scene. This relationship with reality is something which lacks completely in my last sketch and I will have to think whether this is what I want. The white brushstrokes suggest light coming from a place completely different to where the sun is, which may make the scene awkward. Does it matter, though? I couldn’t say.

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Figure 8. left: Luc Tuymans “Couple”, 1998, oil on canvas, right: “Saint-Georges”, 2015, oil on canvas. Source: see text

To find out whether a difference would be visible, I prepared 3 small pieces of grey carton with 3 layers each of titanium white, Payne’s grey and cobalt turquoise using a roller. The background became very smooth. On the two smaller pieces of carton I tested the effect of a hard, worn-down brush and a soft brush (Fig. 9, top row): The soft brush was great for producing even layers with larger amounts of paint, where the brushstrokes were evident in the test using the hard brush. The former would not be not so ideally suited if little paint was to be evenly distributed, because the soft hair would not allow the exertion of any useful amount of pressure. My weathered hard brush worked well here, although I had to be extremely careful not to put too much paint on at the same time. The carton holds the paint in place as soon as it comes to lie there for more than a second or so. While writing this I remember hearing of a method involving sanding a prepared canvas, but I think that the carton is smooth enough for my purposes. Using both brushes I made another quick sketch of my layout using  the negative technique (Fig. 9, bottom). I noticed immediately that spreading the paint was much easier than on the prepared sketchbook paper. With care I might produce totally even layers of paint. For the purpose of this experiment, however, I switched between ways of applying paint and came up with some very nice-looking effects, especially in places where the dark background would shine through the white. I think that this is what I might need.

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Figure 9. Top: applying paint – left: with worn hard brush, right: with soft brush. Bottom: Negative sketch using both brushes

 

 

 

 

 

In the above experiment I particularly like the mix of soft and hard transitions between dark and light areas. This subject appears interesting enough, both as (more or less) working composition and possible story that I would not want to add any more information to it, so getting rid of the dog at this stage. I also do not want to go over the painting to make it faint, but there I am and it will have to be. This time I will not be tempted to just cover it all, but will – hopefully – use the opportunity to carry out this task with sensitivity and regard to the effects every change might have.

28 February 2017. I went over the first stage today with my worn brush (Fig. 10). I am quite happy with the changes to the shadow of the passer-by, especially the different shades in the corner of the house. The changes to my own shadow are not satisfying yet. I will need to work on the transition from ground to wall, wall to windowsill and inside wall. Overall the reduced contrast is pleasing to look at, but needs very subtle adaptations to gradation in several places.

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Figure 10. The sketch from Fig. 9 after a first attempt at softening the contrast.

Here comes how far the little journey would take me (Fig. 11). In the end I found a solution for the dog, which to me looks both interesting and fitting. Since the shadow of my passer-by appears to be that of a taking-the-dog-for-a-walk posture anyway, it was straightforward now to have a lead added, which may have the dog in a position to make contact with me, so something for the imagination of a potential viewer. With this added, however, I feel that the original idea of my own shadow entering that room might now be too much for one painting. For a working painting it might be sufficient to have my own shadow travel up the outside wall, but since this exercise belongs to the retrospective preparation of my Andersen theme, I will leave it here.

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Figure 11. Finished sketch


References:

Kalafudra’s Stuff (2009) Western Motel: Edward Hopper and Contemporary Art [blog] [online]. Kalafudra’s Stuff. Available at: https://kalafudra.com/2009/01/28/western-motel-edward-hopper-and-contemporary-art/ [Accessed 21 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Part 1, project 2, exercise 4: Monochrome studies [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at:
https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/part-1-project-2-exercise-4-monochrome-studies/ [Accessed 27 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Artist research: Luc Tuymans [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/artist-research-luc-tymans/ [Accessed 27 February 2017]

Tuymans, L. (1998) Couple [oil on canvas] [online]. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/99.74 [Accessed 27 February 2017]

Tuymans, L. (2015) Saint-Georges [oil on canvas] [online]. Musée des Arts Contemporains de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Available at: http://france.fr/fr/agenda/luc-tuymans-premonitions-lam-lille [Accessed 27 February]

Assignment 5, subject 3: Hans Christian Andersen “The Shadow”. An attempt at an illustration (including part 5 project exercises)

Updated on 25 March 2017 (Harvard referencing and some content).

21 January 2017. A few days ago I mentioned the subject I had chosen for my last assignment of this course to my parents and they remembered Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Shadow” (Andersen, 1847a). I had not read it before, but when I did, I found it to be an incredibly well-conceived insight into human nature. As was to be expected, it started following me around like a faithful shadow, so I had to make it the third and last subject in my series. My aim for the final painting in the series of experiments would be to devise a cover illustration for a book containing this tale. I found surprisingly few existing illustrations (Andersen, 1847b; Andersen, 1847c, Andersen, 1847d) and not many  blogs investigating shadows in their metaphorical sense. One of these, “Schattenflug” (Küster, 2014-16), I returned to several times, however. It contained, among others, a reference to one of the most famous stories about shadows willed to become separate from their owners, “Peter Schlemihl” (Küster, 2014). The following illustration shows the devil taking Schlemihl’s shadow as agreed (Fig. 1):

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Figure 1. George Cruikshank: “Peter Schlemihl”, etching, 1827. Source: George Cruikshank (1792-1878) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
As my previous two subjects included some very spontaneous painting, I wanted to make the final result of this part deliberately detailed, while easy and transparent.
To give me an idea of what other painters do to interpret similar ideas, I went for a closer look at what the Tate gallery has on offer when searching for “shadow”. In its absolutely most reduced form I found a very clear line drawing by Andy Warhol (1928-1987, USA) “The Shadow” (Warhol, 1981). Linking in with Andersen’s tale, but on a considerably less complex level of storytelling: two reworked photographs by Keith Arnatt (1930-2008, UK) “Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self” (Arnatt, 1969-72) and “Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist” (Arnatt, 1968). By Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005, UK) was one work, “Braque Curtain” (Caulfield, 2005), which helped me placing my idea in a first possible technical context. Vik Muniz was represented with a photograph “Pictures of Dust” (Muniz, 2000), which was one of the rare occasions, where a shadow broken from the horizontal to the vertical appeared as a search result at all. It appear to me that “broken shadows” do not seem to carry much aesthetic appeal to many artists. As, however, this is what I need to illustrate the story, I realised that I would have to be doing lots of own observation. In style Jeffery Edwards’s (*1945, USA) “Moonlight” (Edwards, 1974) connects with the above “Braque Curtain” and seems to indicate a way for me to approach my subject technically.

26 January 2017. In order to comply with course requirements I went through a series of experiments again relating to the application of paint and abstraction from previous direct observation. Since it has been quite extraordinarily cold for the last couple of weeks and there is no sign of any change, I used the opportunity to place paper with very dilute paint outside and see the effect of ice crystals forming. The result was not great. I used one very smooth and one linen structure paper. On both the formation of ice was hardly noticeable (even if helped by covering the paint with snow) and on bringing the paper back inside, the ice just melted, leaving stains I could have produced without freezing temperatures. My impression was that water and paint pigment did their separate things. I will not give up on the matter, however, but will not pursue it further for the purpose of this project (Fig. 1a-c):

Figure 1

28 January 2017. For the same temperature reasons ( minus 15°C during the day) it was practically impossible to stand or sit outside for any reasonable amount of time except for quick sketches.  Apart from one 5 minute attempt with ink pen and paintbrush I caught all the following impressions with my camera – which was not a bad idea, because I found that shadows from a low sun tend to change incredibly quickly and an interesting effect discovered would be gone the next second.
Here is sketch of the shadow of a roof and chimney falling on a wall from a neighbouring house near my son’s school. Despite the strong radiation coming from the midday sun the shadow’s outline was quite blurred, with a darker centre and “fluffy” border. What I am after, however, is the following effect: Where the shadow falls across the window, the stone frame seems to make the shadow “enter” the window opening, because physics requires its outline to follow structural elements (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2. Sketchbook – Ink pen and water-soluble ink

With the above effect kept in mind I went to look for some images my older son and I had taken a few years ago from my workshop window with the main light on. They must have given the lady living in that house the fright of her life, but it was irresistible ;o) (Fig. 3):

Figure 3. Shadow experiments on a neighbour’s house

Again the edges of the shadows are blurred and, as is better visible on the lefthand photo, the outline appears to be drawn into the window openings. If my composition requires it I will try and emphasize that effect. It both connects with my first assignment subject (as the shadows of my bottles travelled both on the table and up the back wall) and with one of the crucial scenes described in the fairy tale: The chief character, a scientist, sits to make his shadow fall on a house opposite to the balcony he is on and wills it to enter the house.
In order to get an idea of the associated patterns I took a walk round the area near my son’s school to catch shadows falling on walls and into houses, some of persons, including myself near windows in particular. Please ignore the unavoidable “photographing position” (Fig. 4-12):

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Figure 4
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Figure 5
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Figure 6

The following effect I really liked, it appears as if the shadows of the trees were intentionally placed there to be part of the building (Fig. 7):

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Figure 7

Here follows a small series of photos taken near an old farmhouse. By coincidence the sun’s position allowed my shadow to “enter the house” by a window (Fig. 8-12):

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Figure 8
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Figure 9
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Figure 10
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Figure 11
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Figure 12

Expedition resumé:
I found that with the sun so low the part of the shadow travelling on the ground is less dark than that on the wall. Also, I may need to take into account that the shadow’s colour will change with that of the background. If I paint it as a transparent wash, this will take care of itself, but not if I choose to use opaque mixes.

One idea was to have the full facade of the building available for the cast shadow, as e.g. in one of the famous scenes in “The Third Man” (Garrett, 2015).

Since Andersen’s tale is located in a southern country, I went to look for a corresponding photo of a street with balconies of the sort described by the author. There were some I had taken during holidays, but the problem with those was the inevitable position of looking up at the balconies from a low point. So I resorted to images available on the web to collect ideas for the composition of a suitable facade. Thus equipped I started my experiments.

In order to set the scene properly and to get a first rough idea of where light and shade will need to be for a working composition, I produced a preliminary watercolour sketch in my sketchbook (Fig. 13):

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Figure 13. Sketchbook – compositional watercolour sketch

I was quite happy with this attempt and could see how thorough preparation for a subject allows some mental tuning. Roughly, the composition is working including an interesting overall distribution of light and shade apart from using them to tell a story. It was a coincidence that I let the man rest his right arm on the railing, which made his shadow reach out beyond the visible part of the room in the house opposite. The latter opens up a side story, because it is impossible to tell whether the intentions of the shadow – if taken as an already detached entity – are necessarily innocent.
This first sketch has some major weak points regarding the physical properties of the shadow. It will have to be smaller in order to allow the room appear larger. Also the outline will need to be blurred. The room and light to the back of the real man also are not quite present yet.

29 January 2017. In preparation for the background of my A2 painting carton I tested the addition of sand and charcoal to acrylic binder as well as white paint and experimented with the effects created when adding water-soluble writing ink and water-proof antique ink. I have to apologize for the poor quality of the below images. The sketchbook is not spiral-bound, so near the end of the book scanning the pages becomes awkward (Figure 14-15):

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Figure 14. Sketchbook – experimenting with materials mixed into acrylic binder
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Figure 15. Sketchbook – experimenting producing structural effects, mixed media

The effects produced with binder mixes were not good (top image), but the mix of white paint and crushed willow charcoal turned out to be very interesting. I used a painting knife to spread the mix, which caused some of the larger pieces of charcoal to disintegrate and follow the movement of the knife (bottom image, 2 images second row). Another very interesting result was white paint spread with a coarse paintbrush, covered in water-soluble ink when dry and added to by water-proof antique ink. The antique ink mixed with the already dry water-soluble black to then dry into a combined water-proof layer. On top of both tests I tried small areas of a transparent wash of white ink.
The use of inks on top of dried acrylic paint I had tried before in a wild experiment with partly crushed dry leaves dropped by my workshop plants covered in white acrylic. I had tried to see whether dripping ink on that mix would create “shadows” in front of the leaves. As the effect did not appear, I decided to paint over the structures with my mix of inks to see whether I would be able to enhance them. When placing the finished piece in direct sunlight to take the photo, I noticed the most beautiful metallic sheen. My black ink appears to “disintegrate” into its component colours every time the underground is water repellent, producing  this effect (Fig. 16-17):

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Figure 16. 56 x 42 cm acrylic paper – experimenting with acrylic paint, crushed dry leaves and different makes of ink

The antique ink helps to highlight the structures, another beautiful effect:

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Figure 17. Closeup of effect produced using antique ink

Both the above tests appeared appealing as well as suitable for my purpose, so that I decided to first of all prepare the background for the final painting with a paint-charcoal mix to serve as basic layer for the walls of the houses (Fig. 18-19):

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Figure 18. Preparing the A1 background using white acrylic and crushed willow charcoal, working with palette knife
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Figure 19. Detail

30 January 2017. Today I found a graphical interpretation of the situation in Andersen’s tale (Andersen, 1847e), which resembles mine to some extent, but leaves the shadow on the facade and seems far too distant (literally and metaphorically) and casual for the actual monstrosity of the scientist’s intention – the shadow is far too large for my imagination to allow it to enter the house at all. In addition, I cannot imagine that a single candle would be strong enough to light up the complete facade of the house opposite – of course this is always open to an artist’s interpretation, but seems inappropriate in this context – after all, it is a scientist carrying out this “experiment” (Fig. 20)

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Figure 20. “The Shadow”. Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, C. & G. Merriam Co. 1913. Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary [Public domain] via Encyclopedian Dictionary
31 January 2017.  I did some experiments in my sketchbook on combining my background with the above metallic effect, noticing instantly that they would not be combarable. The paper in the sketchbook allows a totally smooth distribution of paint, so the background layer was too slippery for my paint-charcoal mix to spread in a similar way to the painting carton (Fig. 21).

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Figure 21. Sketchbook – experimenting with ink and acrylics on acrylic/crushed charcoal background

I did not rely on the results, but realised that I would not want to continue with acrylic paint at all here. The first layer of my background was delicate in a strange way, so I tried to respond to that by going over it with a roller using my black (diluted) and red (straight) inks. The result made me very happy (wonderful metallic lustre structured by the charcoal), but was extremely hard to take a meaningful photo of (Fig. 22):

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Figure 22. Background on A1 canvas cardboard, inks on carylics/crushed charcoal

Taking the lighter and darker areas into account I first made a very rough drawing with white charcoal, then continued to apply black, red and white ink by intuition. Here are the steps (Fig. 23-27):

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Figure 23. Compositional sketch
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Figure 24. First layers using different types of ink

Here a detail of the above (Fig. 25):

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Figure 25. Detail

I was very happy at this point with having decided not to add any more acrylic paint. The semi-transparent layers of ink allowed me to produce a very beautiful indirect light, as e.g. in the man’s face and since they were part of the background, they are in complete harmony with it. The details of the painting will have to be approached with great care in order not to overload it, probably by leaving parts as drawing (Fig. 26).

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Figure 26

2 February 2017. Here came the difficult part, not wanting to overdo it while knowing that the painting was not quite finished. I went through two more cycles, adding a few things in order to create some counterbalance to the main storyline while staying with the subject, then decided to leave it as it is to wait for tutor feedback. This is the finished painting:

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Figure 27. Finished painting

And here my favourite details (Fig. 28-30):

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Figure 28
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Figure 29
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Figure 30

Working on this painting has been one of the most interesting experiences gained throughout this course. The combination of materials is something I will be coming back to, because I think that it holds immense power for development.

This is the last post for my series of paintings for Assignment 5 of this course. Self-evaluation will follow in a separate post.

References:

Andersen, H.C. (1847a) The Shadow [online]. Classic Reader, Blackdog Media. Available at: http://www.classicreader.com/book/109/14/ [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Andersen, H.C. (1847b) Der Schatten [online]. Märchenatlas, Dr. Karen Lippert, Leipzig. Available at: http://www.maerchenatlas.de/kunstmarchen/der-schatten/ [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Andersen, H.C. (1847c) Der Schatten [online]. Lesekorb, Labbé Verlag, Bergheim. Available at: http://www.labbe.de/lesekorb/index.asp?themaid=107&titelid=987 [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Andersen, H.C. (1847d) Der Schatten. Hans Christian Andersens Märchen – gesehen von Günter Grass. Steidl Verlag, Göttingen.

Andersen, H.C. (1847e) The Shadow [online]. Encyclopedian Dictionary, [n.k.]. Available at: http://hans-christian-andersens.blogspot.co.at/2012/05/shadow.html [Accessed 30 January 2017]

Arnatt, K. (1969-72) Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self [photograph, colour, Cibachrome print, on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-shadow-of-his-former-self-t07647 %5BAccessed 21 January 2017]

Arnatt, K. (1968) Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist [Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-invisible-hole-revealed-by-the-shadow-of-the-artist-p13145 [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Caulfield, P. (2005) Braque Curtain [acrylic on canvas] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/caulfield-braque-curtain-t13038 [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Cruikshank, G. (1827) Peter Schlemihl [etching] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Schlemihl#/media/File:Peter_Schlemihl.jpg [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Edwards, J. (1974) Moonlight [screenprint on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/edwards-moonlight-p03115 [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Garrett, A. (2015) Film Noir of the Week: The Third Man [blog] [online]. Old Hollywood Films, Amanda Garrett, 25 June. Available at: http://www.oldhollywoodfilms.com/2015/06/film-noir-of-week-third-man.html [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Küster, S. (2014) Vom Verkauf des Schattens an den Teufel I [blog] [online]. Sabine Küster, Berlin. Available at: https://schattenflug.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/vom-verkauf-des-schattens-an-den-teufel-i/ [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Küster, S. (2014-16) Schattenflug. Schatten in Kunst und Kultur [blog] [online]. Sabine Küster, Berlin. Available at: https://schattenflug.wordpress.com/ [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Muniz, V. (2000) After Richard Serra, Prop, 1968 [Photograph, colour, Cibachrome print, on paper mounted onto plastic] [online].Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/muniz-pictures-of-dust-107865 [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Warhol, A. (1981) The Shadow [graphite on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/warhol-the-shadow-ar00594 [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) The Shadow [pencil drawing on paper?] [online]. C. & G. Merriam Co. 1913, Encyclopedian Dictionary. Available at: http://hans-christian-andersens.blogspot.co.at/2012/05/shadow.html [Accessed 30January 2017]

Part 4, project 5, exercise 1: Working from drawings and photographs – painting from a working drawing

Updated on 23 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

20 November 2016. Having to work high speed to finish Part 4 of the course in time. The requirements set out for the exercises in this project, luckily, are not very different from what I have been doing all along in one way or another, often combining a number of helping techniques (thumbnail drawings, larger linear, tonal and colour sketches, photographs, and more recently painting from memory or inventing an imaginary setting). So, what I might do is shift towards a more complex composition. There is a crowded corner in our kitchen at the moment with lots of beautifully coloured fruit and nuts collected by the squirrel in our family, i.e. my husband, which I would like to go for here and lay the main emphasis on painting from memory again. This latter method I have come to enjoy very much recently. It opens up a whole new world of compositional freedom together with ample opportunity to make a mess from which to learn.

22 November 2016. Here are my three sketches, the first two of which – pencil line and charcoal tonal sketch –  I made while cooking a fish soup for my son following the “Modified Atkins Diet”. My intention was to take what was there on the worktop and see whether I would be able to develop it into something worth looking at (Fig.1 -3).

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Figure 1. Sketchbook – preliminary line drawing, pencil
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Figure 2. Sketchbook – tonal sketch with willow charcoal
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Figure 3. Sketchbook – experimenting with colour

To be honest I was quite pleasantly surprised at the outcome of the colour sketch (especially the fish on the plate, which consists of nothing but a few semi-transparent brushstrokes) and will be trying to loosely follow this in my final painting.

Here is the sequence of stages through the final painting (Fig. 4-7):

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Figure 4. Layout on prepared background
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Figure 5. Blocking in and adding more layers of dilute paint

I very much like the strange effect of mixed dilute paint separating into its component colours while drying on the smooth dry layer underneath:

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Figure 6. Observing the behaviour of dilute paint on dry older layer, see plate lower in right corner

In the picture above on the plate with the fish the behaviour of the dilute paint can be observed while in the process of drying. There is no way in which the paint can be influenced during that stage. It is possible, however, to paint over a such layer when dry with paint straight from the tube – see the effect on the fish in the final painting below (Fig. 7):

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Figure 7. Finished painting

And here three details from the finished work (Fig. 8-10):

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Figure 8. Detail from finished painting (1)
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Figure 9. Detail from finished painting (2)
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Figure 10. Detail from finished painting (3)

24 November 2016. Answers to the questions in the study guide:

  1. I think that the combination of first investigating the subject by direct observation, followed by a linear, a tonal and a colour sketch provided a great deal of familiarity with the arrangement and lighting conditions that most of the actual painting developed without reference to the sketches. There was no additional information I would have required.
  2. There was noticeably more freedom regarding the process of painting without direct reference to the setup (it was irreversibly gone by the time of painting, most of it having been cooked and eaten). I noticed that I was a lot more relaxed than usual and I did not mind at all reconstructing something from my memory that may not have been there in reality. This effect allowed me to produce a composition that feels “whole” in setup, choice of colour and style.
  3. Overall I think that the approach worked quite well. It was the first time that I managed to maintain, roughly, the same techniques (apart maybe from the fish, which was better in the colour sketch). I like the brilliance of the chosen colours and the weird effect produced by using dilute paint, although I am aware that the latter is a bit rough in places. More importantly I feel that I am getting somewhere at last.

 

 

 

 

Part 3, project 1, exercise 1/2: Portrait and Figure – drawing the human figure, linear figure study

Updated on 4 March 2017 (Harvard referencing and changes to contents).

18 July 2016. Since there is very little time available at the moment and my tutor suggested that I paint my sketches for this exercise rather than draw them, I decided that I would combine exercises 1 and 2. My husband sat for me in my workshop and despite our everyday worries the sketches with watercolour on A2 sketch paper (Fig. 1-3) went somewhat better than expected. Since I want to paint my linear figure study with palette knives, I also tried my favourite flat watercolour brush in one sketch (Fig. 2 below). Here I found that it requires a lot of practice to switch from the flat side to the edge in rounded objects such as the muscles in my husband’s arm, so there is ample scope for improvement here, but I enjoyed the experience (despite both of us nearly falling asleep after a demanding day).

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Figure 1
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Figure 2
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Figure 3

I like the setup in the third sketch best, because there appears to be – at least to me – a pleasing combination of tension and relaxation. The chair my husband was sitting on is playschool size, so he had to find a position to give his legs the necessary room (tension), while the weight of his upper body was supported by the arm resting on the backrest (relaxation). We’ll see whether I will be able to include both in my painted study.

Before jumping right into the exercise I had a look round the internet to see some palette knife painting tutorials and find some artists, who use a technique I like. What I do not want is a very rough approach, which to me produces paintings looking like the tiles on a stove of the nightmare kind we sometimes used to get in our area (not surprisingly I cannot find any examples on the web, horrible stuff): Some painters seem to be making a habit of placing the same kind of knife mark at regular intervals, which have no connection with the actual subject and consequently appear to drain all tension from a painting. What I would like to try is to see, whether I am able to “draw” with the palette knife in a way that creates believable organic structures.

In order not to get overwhelmed by the new technique I decided to reduce my palette to the denim range of blue and the colour of skin (Fig. 4):

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Figure 4. Testing the palette knife and colour range

The background I prepared with a mix of dark brown and titanium white, which dries close to skin colour. Since this was to be my first experiment using palette knives and I am not confident yet regarding my drawing abilities in that respect, I drew the outlines first with charcoal (Fig. 5).

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Figure 5. Background and charcoal sketch

It took some time to get used to the properties of the palette knives, but I think that with some practice it shoould be possible to produce volume and tension with just a few marks. I was surprised to see how easy it was to mold the thigh and folds. But the way, my husband’s hair is not quite that flashy – it was the result of having put too much pressure on the palette knife, which went flying and left some interesting hairstyle in its wake ;o) … (Fig. 6):

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Figure 6. My first attempts at using a palette knife

It was relatively straightforward to outline the chair as well, and then things got difficult. I have no expertise yet in forming limbs and faces and I found the palette knife awkward to use in tight places. Also it was necessary to carefully think ahead. The paint had to be in just the right place on the knife in just the right amount and the mark-making does not yet come naturally. I also had to take into account whether a structure would have to be rounded and smooth, come with a darker and/or sharp edge or merge with another structure (Fig. 7).

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Figure 7

After a bit of a struggle I started seeing some progress. Human forms are still very awkward, and especially faces, where I have not found a solution yet to correct mistakes (sorry, Franz, I promise to be more experienced next time!). Still, when looking at the overall result, the composition, selection of colours and part of the outcome I am not unhappy. In particular I do think that my intention of showing tension and relaxation is visible in the finished piece (Fig. 8):

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Figure 8. Finished palette knife “drawing”

 

 

Part 2, project 2, exercise 3: Still life with natural objects (step 3: sketching of objects)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

2 May 2016. With my newly discovered skill of keeping a sketchbook diary properly, I embarked on the next step of this exercise, making sketches of the objects to get acquainted with their properties and having a look at negative space created by placing them. This was most enjoyable and I think relatively successful (in contrast to the mini disaster to follow …).

My preliminary sketches I did in watercolour with ink pen, on the lookout for chance findings to make use of in my finished painting. I found the somewhat abstracted coloured shadows pleasing to look at, while also object likeness was not bad. The most difficult part was the shiny blackness of the pumice, which I was unable to copy, but since the overall structure of the rock was good and I wanted to keep this as a reference for later, I left the sketch as it was (Fig.1 ).

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Figure 1. Watercolour and ink pen preliminary sketches of my objects

Next I experimented some more with placing the objects on my prepared background and already had a feeling that both ideas would probably not go together: I arranged the objects on the support where I thought they would both connect in their geological context and form an interesting pattern regarding the negative shapes between them. Doing this I could see that the shadows, if they were to be coloured, would clash with the negative space, making its properties less visible.
Since however this is supposed to be an experiment and my tutor advised me not to get distracted by seemingly finished paintings in the mind, I went ahead with my arrangement anyway. I made a rough charcoal sketch to identify the important negative spaces (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2. Placement of objects, shadows and negative spaces

Looking at the above sketch I thought the setup looked fidgety, since although everything pointed towards the centre, there was nothing to see there. In order to decrease this effect, I used a bit of beautiful white mesh normally used for decoration purposes and glued it into the sketchbook like an additional page.

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As above, with mesh added

Now the arrangement was more pleasing to look at and I still did not look forward to translating it to acrylics, it was full of foreboding of the weekend to come :o) …