Assignment 5: Tutor feedback reflection

Updated on 25 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

15 February 2017. What luck that I still have lots of time to prepare for assessment! While part of Assignment 5 was quite successful (see end of this post), it did not turn out to be a great idea to deviate from the study guide despite having felt it to be a good way to tackle Part 5 of the course. I learned lots from this assignment – and I am extremely glad I took the risky route, because otherwise it might have taken me ages to find out about the following (and at this point I want to kindly ask OCA to provide beginner students with more precise information to avoid them getting lost somewhere on the way):

  1. Stick to the study guide at all times unless the deviation is so thoroughly signposted/cross-referenced that it can be used by tutors and assessors with great ease: So, since I am always struggling to find enough time for OCA study (needing to do at least 15, sometimes 20 hours per week to finish a course within a year’s time), for me any deviating, no matter how useful it might appear, is going to be no option in the foreseeable future.
  2. Do all exercises in the sketchbook in a meticulously structured way: For me, until now, the sketchbook had been something for personal use only, to accompany the “real” work. I think now that I might be slow to understand, but it took me until writing this post to grasp that it is supposed to contain the real work. I will need to buy a new, larger sketchbook, because I often tend to produce larger size stuff, up to A1, when experimenting.
  3. Experimenting itself will have to come with more immediately written down thought directly relating to the experience gained when actually applying the paint: This is something I seem to have misunderstood until now. I know that I tend to use techniques not like tools taken from a toolbox, but as a wisp of intuition. This will have to change radically, or in my tutor’s words “If you can, go back to the initial work and reflect on what happened and how you felt the exercise went before extending your own evaluative written content about this exercise”. Not sure where spontaneity comes in here, but maybe this aspect files with “misunderstood” as well: I guess that applied spontaneity in its real sense builds on knowledge and technical ability, not the other way round.
  4. My sketchbook is well-annotated, but difficult to read: I had not realized that this would be necessary as I had assumed the notes were for my personal use only.
  5. Always use the Harvard referencing system, even in blog posts: No tutor has pointed out to me until just now that this is expected even in learning logs, not only for set pieces of writing such as essays: I will go through my posts and correct them.
  6. Paint, paint, paint, even if it is only tiny side notes: Making drawings and using photos is inadequate to produce the kind of information tutors and assessors will look for: I will try and put together a “travel set” to have in the car to use when I encounter spare time. This is often not more than literally minutes and I have not found a solution yet for travelling with wet paint without destroying some of the results. Also, the paper in all the sketchbooks I have is not really made for painting. Watercolours tend to soak both the front and back of a page and cause the paper to undulate in a most unfortunate way, while acrylics make pages stick together. I will have to ask my art supplier for advice.
  7. I do not seem to put enough information on my artist research into both sketchbook and blog, while also not taking enough personal information from the research I do: This is another difficult point. There is so much going on in my head that it becomes quite overwhelming at times, so that the researched information gets pushed to the side. Will have to switch my brain on more often …
  8. Only tackle the final painting after exhaustive experimentation: I do not know how I will cope with that, because I am never finished with experimenting. So-called finished paintings always tend to surprise me with new turns, e.g. in my illustration of Andersen’s tale (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a). My tutor points out the effect visible in the vase as something worth working with in an experimental series before attempting the final piece. However, I did not know before working on the final piece that I would encounter this effect. I hope that I may find a way to correspond to requirements here.
  9. Be careful not to overwork (“overexplain”) the final paintings: My tutor indicated that preparing by making lots of small paintings will help with avoiding overworking, while allowing to increase the risk-taking. I just hope that this will the case with me, it will need a lot of mental resetting.
  10. Explain more, e.g. why I choose a particular subject beyond finding it “interesting”: To me the introductory section I wrote for my self-evaluation seemed sufficient at the point, but this is not so. I need to “explain why I chose this subject against the project exercises for clarity”. I have to admit that at this point I am not sure what is expected of me, but I guess that I will need to add some project exercises whose results will then sort of prompt me to embark on the subject of shadows.

To summarize, there is still too little researched background, both in a theoretical and practical way, to my finished work despite an extensive, well-written learning log. While I write this I notice that my scientist’s mind, with some gritty resistance, seems to be making another step forward in understanding what is expected. I have to accept, quickly, that it is the process of creating, and not with any preformed goal in mind, which I need to be looking for, documenting every emerging aspect, based on and constantly related to the work of artists in the field (as my tutor says about my research on Abstract Expressionism: “I would make your point of reference here much clearer. Explain in more detail why and how it has been interesting for you. Explain in more detail how this references your interests in shadows and how you may wish to make abstract works from this and so on.”. I am extremely glad that I chose Understanding Painting Media for my next course, where I expect to find ample opportunity to do just that. My tutor suggested that I read widely around my subject of shadows in preparation for the next course. This sounds like a great idea and will clearly help me with structuring my imagination.

In preparation for assessment I will now need to do the following:

  1. Assessors will be looking at my work in a way that is structured by the sequence of exercises as contained in the coursebook. In order to achieve this I will need to add to Part 5 posts cross-referencing and sub-heading information for easy access and use.
  2. Also I will need to add some more well-structured and documented preliminary experimentation, since there was too little of that in part of my assignment. It will have to fit in with a “development towards”.
  3. There will have to be an addition of more research and cross-referencing with contemporary artists, taking care to access a larger diversity of highest quality resources.
  4. Citations throughout my blog will need to be changed to fit the Harvard system.

15 February 2017. Having said all that I do not want to sound desperate. So, quoting from the many positive aspects in my tutor feedback:

“This is a great demonstration of creative activity and demonstrates clearly how an idea develops along the way.” (referring to the sequence of “A Shadow-only Painting” (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b).

“Your research is thorough, personally rigorous and the outcomes you have made demonstrated your creative and visual skills well. You have used paint loosely and haven’t been afraid to lose control, which is a big step in your development on this course […] The painting on acetate is bold and daring, so try to maintain this whenever you can.” (referring to “A Shadow On His Soul” (Lacher-Bryk, 2017c)).

“You have really developed a good personally driven research project here […] Overall you have done well and produced work that is personally driven, ambitious and wide ranging.”

Keeping this in mind I am off now to hopefully getting everything else right for assessment, following my tutor’s advice to “edit and pull out some pieces that leave the work teetering on the brink of your viewer’s interest”.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017a) Assignment 5, subject 3: Hans Christian Andersen “The Shadow”. An attempt at an illustration (including part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 2 February. 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 15 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017b) Assignment 5, subject 1: “A Shadows Only Painting” (including Part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 15 January. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/assignment-5-subject-1-a-shadows-only-painting-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 15 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017c) Assignment 5, subject 2: “A Shadow On His Soul” (including Part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 21 January. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/assignment-5-subject-2-a-shadow-on-his-soul-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 15 February 2017]

 

Assignment 5, subject 1: “A Shadows Only Painting” (including Part 5 project exercises)

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

14 December 2016. Yesterday, while waiting for my son again in the December midday sun I observed some shadows travelling across the ground and then up a wall of an adjacent building. This gave me the idea of wanting to try a series of experiments and final painting of “shadows only”: I would like to arrange a still life made up of (or imagined as) white only objects in front of a white wall. On this setup I want a shadow to fall. The warping of the shadow due to the objects in its way would be their only defining element. What I intended to test was whether a shadow of this kind would be sufficient to make the details of my setup visible. Some artists, mainly photographers, make use of this effect, in particular to define the human body (Webneel, n.d.) or in a very different way in a painting by Patty Neal (*?, USA), “Moving Shadow” (Saatchi Art, n.d.).

22 December 2016. Overall, however, I found surprisingly little work by artists, in the past and present, who make shadows a central subject. Most of the time, if at all, shadows are recognized and included as part of some arrangement. For example, Giorgio Morandi, who was an outstanding master of still life, rarely pays particular attention to them: In many of his paintings there are no shadows at all or either always falling to the same side, see e.g. a collection on Pinterest (n.d.). Many artists working today appear to choose subjects, which do not require the inclusion of shadows in the composition, or deliberately omit them. Even if the paintings are titled “Shadow”, the word is quite commonly used solely in a metaphorical way to transcribe psychological phenomena.

Today I started looking for a suitable place for setting up my shadow still life and by coincidence I came up with a near-ideal table in my workshop. The early winter morning sun was shining directly on that table from behind me and would continue to do so for some hours (wandering shadows included). This I wanted to make my experimenting site for this project. In case there would be too little sun over the weeks to come I planned to use a strong halogen light to imitate the effect. I did a very first test of the warping of shadows on curved surfaces. It is clearly visible how the distorsion works (Fig. 1):

Figure 1. Testing the setup, warping of shadows on curved surfaces

The above “setup” was not working in the intended way, however, because I gained too little information from the low resolution shadow “grid” of my fingers. Since I have blinds on my workshop windows I tested the respective effect (Fig. 2):

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Figure 2. The same test with blinds down

The sunlight kept changing from very bright to quite dull in a matter of seconds. At the moment of taking the above photo it was relatively weak. Also, due to their comparative size the blinds needed to be at some distance to my setup. I could see that the achieved resolution was still too weak. So I got out one of those plastic grids used for roller painting walls and held it close to my setup (Fig. 3-5):

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Figure 3. Using a plastic grid (1)
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Figure 4. Using a plastic grid (2)
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Figure 5. Using a plastic grid (3)

Here for the first time I produced something like the desired resolution. The pattern produced by the grid is also something I quite liked, so I decided to continue using it for further experimentation.

27 December 2016. Today was the first day I found the time to continue experimenting with my grids, and – surprise, surprise – there was no sun. I tried to replace it with our very strong halogen light and found it totally unsuitable for the purpose. No matter how strong the light appeared, it was so much weaker even than the faintest sunlight that shadows hardly appeared at all. And more importantly (and again I should have known better considering the physics of light), at the close distance I was forced to use it, it behaved as a dot-like light source, which means that the light beams diverge rather than run parallel (as this would be the case, more or less, with light coming from the sun) and the edges of the shadows came out  blurred rather than crispy clear (physics of shadows (University of Illinois, 2013)). So, in order to continue with this experiment I arranged a semi-permanent setup in the middle of my workshop allowing to jump to attention every time the sun decided to come out from behind the dark clouds. To make some progress nevertheless I also decided to start all my Assignment 5 projects at the same time and continue with whatever was most convenient. I was able, however, to do a first pencil sketch to get acquainted with the features of the shadows and see whether I would be able to create forms using information from the shadows only (Fig. 6).

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Figure 6. Sketchbook – preliminary pencil sketch

29/30 December 2016. Since to me the above result looked both interesting and not overly complex for my purpose, I photocopied it and tried to cut a stencil from a piece of cardboard (Fig. 7-8):

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Figure 7. Trying to make a cardboard stencil (1)
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Figure 8. Trying to make a cardboard stencil (2)

As this proved unsatisfactory (the thin parts of the cardboard started to bend and disintegrate) I repeated the stencil with a piece of plastic (Fig. 9-10):

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Figure 9. Making a plastic stencil (1)
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Figure 10. Making a plastic stencil (2)

I had bought a sturdy cutting board and scalpel the other day. Both the black of the board and the intense sunlight (yes, it was back for a while!) illuminating the edges of the cut lines made the work relatively straightforward. However, the sequence of making the cuts required some planning in order to end up with the plastic sheet intact rather than with numerous snippets. With some concessions made with regard to the completeness of shadows I came up with a usable result. In a few places things went wrong (top and bottom left of image), but as this is for exercise purposes only I decided to use it anyway (Fig. 11):

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Figure 11. Finished stecil with some minor flaws

Since the piece of plastic is a pocket (something I had not planned but was happy to notice while cutting the stencil), I was then able to insert pieces of paper and try out a number of different ways of applying paint to shadows (Fig. 12):

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Figure 12. Happy pocket coincidence

As I wanted to be able to use the stencil a number of times, I prepared a bucket full of water and rinsed the plastic immediately after every use. As a cautionary I started with watercolours, followed by ink and pastels to move on to acrylics last (Fig. 13, 1-6):

Figure 13. Stencil results 1-6

I did not like the results achieved with pastels, the image was far to smooth and without character, similarly with acrylics. For me the best images were the toothbrush-sprayed first one and the black drawing ink.

2 January 2017. There were two more “results” possible with my makeshift stencil until I had to discard it (Fig. 14, 1-2):

Figure 14. Stencil results 7-8

While I did not achieve the water-repellent effect I had expected for the shellac/watercolour combination, I quite like the second of the two efforts. I carefully filled the spaces in my stencil with acrylics and left to dry. Although removing the plastic foil proved harder than expected, eventually destroying it, I found the roughness of the result appealing with some of the older layers of blue acrylic paint coming off the foil with the new paint.

6 January 2017. With the experimental bits and pieces required for this part of the course I started messing around with some more shellac, acrylic binder, dried leaves and ink applied with a pipette dropped by the plants in my workshop in order to both satisfy experimentation requirements and produce usable backgrounds for the final shadows-only painting(s). I soon felt that the incredibly stressful time we have been experiencing since we started cooking the special diet for our son on top of our already mad everyday life is taking its toll. I was not really able to concentrate on making concepts. Most results were pure coincidence, I was proceeding with haste and little sensitivity for materials and methods (which, considering, may turn out as a treat). But a wonderful little Christmas present given to younger son by older son came in useful. I nicked the tool, a 3D pen, to experiment with drawing/painting my shadows “in the air” (Fig. 15-21):

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Figure 15. Tracing my pencil sketch with the 3D pen
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Figure 16. The hot plastic thread turned elastic and durable within seconds

The finished result looks like this:

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Figure 17. A shadow 2D/3D sculpture

After a few seconds taken to solidify the plastic filament is incredibly lightweight, sturdy, flexible and can be added to later. And thinking further, this copy of a drawing of shadows is of course able to cast its own shadows again – in theory an ad infinitum game (Fig. 18-21):

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Figure 18. Shining light through my line sculpture produces more shadows (1)
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Figure 19. As soon as the sunlight was more intense, the shadows became crispy clear at the edges
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Figure 20. Different angle
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Figure 21. Closeup

In the context of this course, however, my 3D experiments cannot be more than an attempt at seeing a bigger picture, so I stopped them here. I will without doubt return to the subject in my next course.

8 January 2017. Yesterday I used one of the experimental splatter and drip backgrounds produced for the exercises of this part of the course to produce one of the possible final paintings for Assignment 5. I painted with turquoise and white drawing ink on the shellac and acrylics background and referring to my initial pencil sketch of the arrangement (Fig. 22-23).

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Figure 22. Ink painting on shellac and acrylic background
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Figure 23. Detail

I found the overall result quite interesting, both regarding the mix of materials, arrangement and behaviour of paint. And, which I am happy to say, the use of shadows only is sufficient to define a shape. I know that I would need to refine the technique in order to make the execution waterproof, but am happy nevertheless.

9 January 2017. In order to have a go at the set exercise of moving towards abstraction I had a another attempt at the above setup. Since I had prepared a wild impasto background for the first exercise of this part, using household dispersion priming followed by sandwiched layers of acrylic binder with shellac and acrylic paint (which in places work together to produce a fiery glow), I wanted to use this to approach the subject in a more intuitive way by trying to respond to the coincidental characteristics of the impasto background but still including the shadow shapes found in the above piece (Fig. 24).

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Figure 24. Shellac and impasto acrylic background

On this background I had the initial intention to paint something like fir trees in the grid-like shadow way developed in the previous painting, but soon got carried away by something totally different. The following steps took me several days to complete and I had to leave the painting often to allow the next steps to appear in my head (Fig. 25-30):

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Figure 25
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Figure 26
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Figure 27
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Figure 28
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Figure 29
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Figure 30. Finished painting

I know that at this stage the above probably is not a truly finished painting. There are several places I am not happy with, especially about the light in the cast shadows. I know that the shapes are not correct as they came from imagination only (which my tutor keeps warning me about), but there is a weird atmosphere I would not want to destroy at this point. For the same reason I resisted the strong temptation to add a flamingo poking his head round the corner in the foreground ;o). I am not sure whether the above counts as abstraction, either, but I think that I am beginning to understand the idea and thought processes involved. In order to make this work fit for assessment, if possible, I will need to discuss it with my tutor.
As things are at the moment, I would choose to count my first finished painting (the shadows defining the objects, above) towards Assignment 5, but may chose to change my mind depending on progress with the remaining assignment pieces.

References:

Pinterest (n.d.) Artist: Giorgio Morandi [image collection] [online]. Pinterest. Available at: https://www.pinterest.com/elisevashby/artist-giorgio-morandi/ [Accessed 22 December 2016|

Saatchi Art (n.d.) Patty Neal. Moving Shadow [online]. Saatchi Art, Santa Monica. Available at: http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Hungry-Shadow/337321/2836423/view [Accessed 14 December 2016|

University of Illinois (2013) Q & A: Umbras and Penumbras. Follow-Up #3: merging shadows [online]. University of Illinois, Department of Physics, 6 December. Available at: https://van.physics.illinois.edu/qa/listing.php?id=2068 [Accessed 27 December 2016|

Webneel (n.d.) 30 Mind-Blowing Black and White Photography Pictures and Tips for Beginners
[blog] [online]. Webneel. Available at: http://webneel.com/30-mind-blowing-black-and-white-photography-examples-and-tips-beginners [Accessed 14 December 2016|

Research: Sonia Delauney’s sketchbooks

Updated on 10 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

4 August 2016. And the last subject for now: keeping a sketchbook in the Sonia Delauney way. The Ukrainian-French artist lived from 1885 to 1979 and produced, in part, innovative geometric colour work reminding me of Josef Albers and Frank Stella (1).
As I was advised to specifically have a look at her sketchbooks I left the larger work aside. It was quite difficult to find on the web reliable sources dealing with this subject. In order to get an overview, I include here, despite having been warned by my tutor, a link to some images I found on Pinterest (2016). From what I found I can see that she liked to explore at a large scale the effects of colour and shapes and test compositions and patterns formed. One example, which did not exactly belong in the above category, but which I particularly liked was “Simultaneous Solar Prism” (Delaunay, 1914), a collage of paper snippets (?), of which I can only guess the sketchbook origin, but the subtle approach reminds me of Euan Uglow.

I do not know whether this is what I was expected to have a look at, but there was very little to find beyond the above sketchbook pages and I think that I am already learning to use my own sketchbook in that way. If there is time I will however try and find more on Sonia Delaunay, when working in my sketchbook preparing the exercises to follow.

References:

Artsy (2016) Sonia Delaunay [online]. Artsy, New York. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artist/sonia-delaunay [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Delaunay, S. (2014) Simultaneous Solar Prism [mixed media] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://calsfieldnotes.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/scn_0005.jpg

Pinterest (2016) [n.k.] [collection of works by Sonia Delaunay]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?0=sonia%7Cautocomplete%7C&1=delaunay%7Cautocomplete%7C&q=sonia%20delaunay&rs=ac&len=2&etslf=7284&eq=sonia%20dela [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Part 2, project 3, exercise 4: Colour relationships – still life with complementary colours

Updated on 28 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

21 May 2016. After having spent some time researching colour relationships I became aware of the fact that complementary colours are not just those lying opposite to one another on the colour wheel. There are a number of interesting combinations, each of which creates a very different harmony and thus atmosphere (Tiger Color, n.d., Decker, 2017).

My intention for this exercise is to use it as a first preparation for my choice of colours for Assignment 2. What I want to test in particular is what happens if certain combinations of complementary colours in their simple forms (i.e. those lying opposite) are used for an identical setup using identical techniques. In order to concentrate on colour effects I decided that I would create a very simple arrangement cocktail glasses and accessories and omit 3D by flattening out forms. The finished studies I would like to put on a larger canvas in a grid, just as in Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) famous Marilyn Monroe prints (Borg, n.d. for an image and explanation). Referring to the latter I found an interactive experiment (WebExhibits, n.d.), which investigates just what I am looking for.

22 May 2016. Today I decided that I would want to carry out the experiments and the finished painting for this exercise with blue and orange, both of which are readily associated with cocktails and are excellent in conveying particular opposite emotions. With my simple setup of cocktail glasses I will try and create a number of identical paintings with the colours distributed in different ways. For this reason I will not need actual cocktails, but will “fill” the glasses with my chosen colours.

27 May 2016. To start with I experimented with the mutual effects the complementary pair have on each other, repeating and extending on the experiments introduced earlier in this part of the course. I put the colours (primary cyan, orange mixed from primary yellow and primary magenta to result in an orange skewed neither towards yellow or orange) through a basic investigation of properties, looking for situations of enhancement and cancelling-out (left image below). Then I went through another mixing experiment, repeating one I had thought I had to end abruptly because of running out of space in row one. I did so, too, this time, but continued by placing the last mix in the first row again as the first mix in the second row so as to allow a more or less continuous flow of information. The choice of colours will not allow a grey to develop halfway through the gradual changes, but rather a full green, which is however much darker in tone than both the starting hues. This effect is something I have not yet fully understood and when there is time I will try and find more information on the physics behind it (top part of right image below).

Next I created three very short sets of mixes containing the following sequences:
original hue -> tint (mix with white) -> shade (mix with black) -> tone (mix with grey)
Following the instructions on p. 69 of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2011) a use of black or neutral grey mixed from white and black does not seem to be allowed, so the only chance of a dark hue for this experiment is the use of green. However, it is possible to mix a great number of pleasing tints, so that the medium dark green available as the darkest tone will of course look darker when next to one of the tints (Fig. 1a-b).


In the next step I had another session on the computer to find out more about still lifes using blue and orange only, and I came up with one (“Still Life with Blue Orange 2” by James Bland (*1979, UK) see Fig. 2 below) I wanted to use as a source of information regarding the available mixed and distribution of colours on the canvas. Besides, I like the brushstrokes, which seem to be rather dry at the edges of colour areas, letting layers of colour shine through. It appears that here also there are no colours other than the ones I chose, while I am not sure whether I would be allowed to use a pink or light yellow mixed from white and the respective primary colours used in mixing orange. I decided that I would not take the risk and stayed with the above mixes.

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Figure 2. James Bland (*1979) “Still Life with Blue Orange 2”, n.d., n.k. Source: James Bland (*1979) via Lilford Gallery

Next I prepared an A2 acrylic paper with a neutral grey ground. While I left this to dry I tried some setups with four different glasses used in mixing cocktails. My intention was to create some movement conveying an indication of a story told. The setup fitting my idea best was the one top right in Fig. 3 below:

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Figure 3. Testing setups

The prepared grey ground I split in four squares and filled them with the following grounds: primary cyan, orange, the darkest achievable green and a bluish green (Fig. 4):

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Figure 4. Prepared split background

On this I drew with a lighter and a darker mix of my complementary colours, then quickly filled the spaces with imaginary “cocktails” (Fig. 5-7):

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Figure 5: Sketches using line and setup with viewfinder
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Figure 6. Intermediate stage
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Figure 7. Filled sketches

I quite like I the overall effect of this study and there is an endless number of lessons to be learned from it. Since I did not refer to my setup closely, but allowed imagination to play a role, these sketch paintings seem loose and full of movement. It was difficult to make a choice for the final painting of this exercise, but in the end to me the top left combination of colours seemed  suitable for the purpose.

After having prepared another A2 ground, this time with primary blue only – so as to avoid mistakes regarding instructions – I made another loose painting in the style of the above (see Fig. 8 below, for which, for some reason, I had to place the painting in a floor area in my workshop fully lit by the evening sun in order to get the colours more or less right):

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Figure 8. First layer of complementary colour painting, ball-like object on the right is an imaginary belladonna cherry to play a major role as an ingredient to Assignment 2
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Figure 9. Tonal contrast

There are some quite nice effects in this first layer of colours (Fig. 9 above) and I want to keep them for later reference, in case I destroy them when continuing to work on the painting. I noticed, in particular, how a lighter layer of a light greenish orange on top of the primary blue, except for the shadows thrown by the glasses, will help to deepen the shadows. With the glass “filled with a white liquid” the effect is particularly noticeable, because both the white and the light blue next to the shadow further heighten the tonal contrast.
Since this way of painting is very new to me I can see that my use of the above effects is still more accidental than deliberate, but I want to know where this road will lead me and I want to work hard to master it.

28 May 2016. Today I finished my painting for this exercise. Here is the result (Fig. 10-13):

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Figure 10. Finished painting, A2 acrylic paper

And here come some details:

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Figure 11. Finished painting – detail of reflections on glass and table
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Figure 12. Finished painting – detail of reflections on stem of tall glass
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Figure 13. Finished painting – detail of blue shadow

It took some getting acquainted with applying the laws governing the use of complementary colours only in a painting. Blue and orange may not be the most convenient pair because of the non-availability of grey or near black tones, but I liked the necessity of having to make parts of the painting lighter instead of darker to bring out the darker tones. It was a totally different experience for me and while I know that my technique is still in its infancy, I want to pursue it further throughout the course.

Resources:

Bland, J. (n.d.) Still Life with Blue Orange 2 [n.k.] [online]. Lilford Gallery, Canterbury. Available at: http://www.lilfordgallery.com/james-bland/still-life-with-blue-orange-2/ [Accessed 21 May 2016]

Borg, E. (n.d.) Andy Warhol and Colour [blog] [online]. Discovering design. Available at: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/emilyborg/andy-warhol-and-color/ [Accessed 21 May 2016]

Decker, K. (2017) The Fundamentals of Understanding Color Theory [online]. 99designs, Oakland. Available at: https://en.99designs.at/blog/tips/the-7-step-guide-to-understanding-color-theory/ [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Open College of the Arts (2011) Painting 1. The Practice of Painting. The Bridgeman Art Library, London, New York, Paris, p. 69.

Tiger Color (n.d.) Color Harmonies: Basic Techniques for Combining Colours [online]. Tiger Colors, Oppegard. Available at: http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-harmonies.htm [Accessed 28 February 2017]

WebExhibits (n.d.) Color Vision and Art: Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Prints [online]. WebExhibits. Available at: http://www.webexhibits.org/colorart/marilyns.html [Accessed 21 May 2016]

 

Assignment 1: Reflection on tutor feedback

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

28 April 2016, Yesterday I received the feedback from my tutor on my first painting assignment. It reflects very well where I see myself at this point of the course.

Going through the comments in sequence of appearance:

  1. Although I take great care to provide the best possible photos of my sketches and paintings, the warning at the beginning of the feedback letter made me aware of the limitations set by a blog-only submission. I do not know yet whether I will be able to send a portfolio every time, since I am based in Austria and it is either excruciatingly expensive or takes weeks to use a parcel service (the post office does not accept my portfolios addressed to the UK due to insurance restrictions), but I see that I want to be even more careful with my blog posts in the future. In particular I will add closeup images to allow my tutor to assess surface structures.
  2. I was very happy to read the line “You have made a promising start to the course”. Our everyday life took a nasty turn last year and I am struggling to keep up with the enormous additional effort to help our little son into a good future, while hoping to develop as a painter. I will keep this line in mind and hold on to to it, if things get difficult again.
  3. “… unexpected happy accidents …” and “What may be an ‘unsuitable material’ for one exercise may produce the best effects for another.”:
    Since I had not been sure about the degree of freedom for experimentation in this course I think that I can safely interpret the above as expectation to be as inventive as possible. I can see how the difference in experience I have in drawing as opposed to painting in acrylics has a major influence on the degree of creativity I am able to put on canvas. I am much more reluctant with paint and during the first part of Part 2 of the course I discovered some beginners’ mistakes using acrylics I have been making so far. For me this course is not only about coming to terms with “what paint can do”, but also “how to treat paint”.
  4. In the sense of the above I will try and include a number of different types of support in my experiments. Since my tutor was positive about my idea of painting on sandpaper with pastels or other media, I think that I will come back to it for the Part 2 still life with man-made objects, which will be my next exercise.
  5. “You should look for opportunities to use negative space …”: I am intrigued by the possibilities offered by negative space and still I keep forgetting about consciously making it part of my compositions. Since is not only negative space that gets lost repetitively in this way, I decided that I will place a large piece of flipchart paper on my studio wall with “negative space!”, “golden mean!” “complementary colours!”, and another few, so that I cannot fall back into my old habit of purely intuitive work. My tutor advised me to look at work by Edward Burra (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). As a watercolour painter I am used to painting around shapes with dark colours, but did not see this technique as making use of negative shape so far, since to me it was part of the whole process of interacting with a developing work and I had no name for it.
  6. I have already started making better use of my sketchbook in developing ideas. So far I often experimented on large sized sheets of paper, which might be seen as oversized sketchbooks, but of course this is difficult to follow if serving the purpose of illustrating a process of development. Most of my newspaper clippings and references to artist research have not made it into the sketchbook so far, because I think that I misinterpreted how to use the blog. Everything I thought useful went straight into a blog note. As I realise now this may be the reason why I keep losing the discoveries I made in the past. If time allows I will therefore try and have a sketchbook recording as well as a blog post.
  7. Regarding my split painting on white and coloured ground my tutor was not too keen about the idea. She suggested I redo the exercise as described in the study guide, so that a direct comparison of the whole arrangement becomes possible. Regarding her question, why I chose to have a monochrome painting on the dark ground and a coloured one on the white ground I would not know a valid answer except for an intutive decision when looking at the objects. Those on the monochrome side were, by coincidence, the simple shapes and strong tonal transitions, while the kitchen scales on the right provided some challenging shapes and forms. The former seemed more attractive to be depicted in shades of grey. If I find the time, I will repeat the exercise with a less demanding setup on two different grounds, although I quite liked the smooth transition between the techniques on the one support.
  8. Regarding the assignment piece (black tulip): I did not include my other sketches in the blog because they were both quite technical and not pleasing to look at due to getting the viewpoint wrong, while also I did not like the idea of having a break in the development of my idea. In the future I will however include all preliminary sketches. The photo I included in the blog both to give readers an idea of the original setup (something I do most of the time) and, in this case, as stated in the blog post, to have a backup: Tulips often wilt within the matter of hours. Due to my son’s condition I do not always know whether I will be able to finish a painting as intended. It took me a several days to complete it. In the meantime the bouquet had changed in colour and overall appearance – tulips tend to grow considerably after having been cut and then start hanging over the edge of the vase. In the future I will have to take more time to consider my choice of subject for aspects of durability.
    I mentioned in my post the research on paintings of tulips, but omitted the findings, because, as I stated in the blog, the ones I did find were nothing I wanted to paint (many were extremely badly carried out or gaudy or both) and so decided that I would like to see whether I would manage without referring to other artists. Not used research I will however also include in my blog from now on.
    The uniformly grey shadow area was intentional. The tonal variation in the shadow came mostly from folds in the cloth I had put under the vase and I had the impression that including this would draw the eye away from the message: I wanted it to serve as diametral contrast to my black tulip and coloured shadow, but I see now that by concentrating on an idea I forgot about the technical execution and thus got the tonal value wrong. The coloured shadow did not just have a yellow outline, but went from a green centre to red to yellow, so as to include all the colours in the bouquet itself. This was probably impossible to see on the blog photo. Since my tutor suggested that the idea of introducing a coloured shadow was worth pursuing, I will try and develop a line of thought from here.
  9. As mentioned in pt. 6 above I know I need to work at putting more emphasis on structured sketchbook work. I have no idea why the concept is so difficult to grasp for me, but I will get there eventually. I already draw on a daily basis in my small sketchbook. Due to time constraints the things I draw are probably difficult to use in course projects, but I keep coming back to them and some may be worth pursuing.
  10. I am happy that my learning log largely corresponds to what is expected from me. Again I will have to find a way of always having at hand the results I keep in my blog without having to produce a double diary. There simply is no time for that yet. Also, I know that a working knowledge of other artists’ approaches to a subject helps immensely with overcoming problems. My tutor suggested that I have a look at James Rosenquist’s painting ‘Untitled (Tulips)’ to support the idea (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). It is probably that I am on my own with the rare option of direct contact that I tend to want to solve problems my own way. In the near future I do not see too many chances to visit galleries, although I take every opportunity. This year I went to several already, but having to guess at the probable contents of an exhibition left me somewhat disillusioned at how to make the best use of the time I have.
  11. I will try and spend much time experimenting in Part 2. In this context my tutor pointed me to Josef Albers and his series ‘Homage to the Square’ (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). She suggested that I should repeat some of his studies in my sketchbook in order to gain deeper insight into colour theory. The suggestion made it clear to me that my experimentation on large sized formats may not be required at all. I will try and reduce the size, where possible, to include it in my sketchbook. Maybe here is where I can gain the time needed.
  12. And finally some more pointers for the next assignment:- apply results of experiments into final assignment painting
    – make a large number of preliminary studies from different viewpoints, look at
    range of ideas for composition and use of colour and tone, explore support –
    hopefully there will be enough time to do this in a serious way, I don’t want to rush
    them
    – develop a visual diary in my sketchbook – I know that many other students do this
    in a brilliant way, I just need to figure out a feasible strategy for myself

So, overall, most of what I need to change has to do with trying to approach my projects in a more structured and reflected way. Help!

References:

  1. Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Artist research: Edward Burra, James Rosenquist and Josef Albers [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 Blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/artist-research-edward-burra-james-rosenquist-and-josef-albers/ [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Part 2, project 2, exercise 3: Still life with natural objects (step 2: testing background colours)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

25 April 2016. Last time I went to our local art supplier I bought some acrylic gloss medium, with I wanted to test during the course. This exercise is a good opportunity. Since my not too good experience when diluting my type of acrylic paint with water over the last three months made me look for alternatives. So I will use the gloss medium for that purpose this time and also test its finishing effect. The instructions include a warning that the application of too many layers of medium may cause fogging, so I will need to plan carefully.
The first tests on acrylic paper revealed an increase in transparency of the mix paint/medium. It was also much easier to spread the colour, although I still noticed large differences in layer thickness when using a flat brush. The only chance of getting a totally even layer was to apply a relatively diluted mix, which was then of course very light in tone and – something I need to be very careful to avoid – had hundreds of tiny bubbles enclosed, which would not disappear during the drying process. What I will do here is the same as with custard powder stirred into milk, which is wait a few minutes before using the mix.

27 April 2016. The results of my experiments are summarized in Fig. 1 below. First of all I prepared small areas of my acrylic paper with 3 mixes for a white background:

1. Paper only
2. Acrylic binder on its own
3. Acrylic binder with about the same amount of acrylic white mixed in
4. Acrylic white on its own

Next I prepared a mix of gold ochre and primary magenta to produce Sahara sand orange (or what I think it might look like during one of those golden sunsets) and mixed some white into half of that. Both of these I again mixed with acrylic binder at a 1:1 ratio. All these I then tried out on all of the above backgrounds, finding the following:

  1. On the paper only ground the undiluted colours left dry-looking edges, an effect I quite like. When mixed with binder, the dry edges were gone, the paint was easier to spread and the chroma was enhanced, particularly in the mix without white.
  2. Doing the same on the binder only background reduced the chroma of the binder-added mixes strongly and the difference between the mix with and without white disappeared altogether. The colour only mix had no dry edges and dried without a glossy sheen, i.e. not surprisingly the varnishing effect is blocked by a layer of paint on top of it.
  3. The ground consisting of binder and white appeared to enhance colour and tonal difference greatly in all the mixes.
  4.  Painting on white only ground the binder-added mixes appeared somewhat darker, Applying the colour only mix was accompanied with noticeably greater restistance.
  5. Applying a finishing layer of binder on the paint only areas did not increase brilliance in the same way as mixing binder directly into the paint – probably because the amount required for dilution was far greater than the ultra thin film I put on in my first attempt.
9_Testing_backgrounds_part1
Figure 1. Testing different backgrounds and mixes of acrylic colour and binder                          (explanation see text)

The above tests left me with a clear favourite for an indifferent ground layer, binder and acrylic white mixed 1:1. This I used to prepare the second half of the paper, then divided it up into triagles in the way I had selected from my photos taken in the previous step and experimented with different colours, colour and binder mixes and surface structures I thought suitable to represent sand, sea and volcanic rock (Fig. 2).

10_Testing_backgrounds_part2
Figure 2. Testing composition and colours for the background

Since my intention was to emphasize that these areas interact, since the above seemed a bit dull, because it was too symmetrical, because I was not satisfied with the edges and, more importantly, because the chosen colours would not provide enough contrast for my objects, I spent another hour or two changing tonal values and edges (Fig. 3):

11_Changing_edges_hues_2
Figure 3. New variant with changed tonal values and attention to edges

Later in the day I was going through a great number of screenshots I had taken during Drawing 1 and which had been sitting around on my computer’s desktop for a year to be cleared away. I came across one, whose origin unfortunately I cannot remember at this point, dealing with composition rules and there were, more or less, my triangles (Fig. 4):

15_Dividing_up_paper
Figure 4. Some composition rules. Source: [n.k.]
This discovery helped me decide that I would use this background to work from and, to do a quick test, I placed my objects on the background (Fig. 5a-c):


From the above it is obvious that contrast will have to be enhanced further. My intention here is to get acquainted with the structure of my objects by drawing (ink, pencil, watercolour and/or similar) in the next step and to adapt the background only after successfully translating them into painted objects. I have an idea for this, which might look quite interesting if I succeed in making it visible, but that will have to wait a little longer.