[Retrospective post] Part 5, project 3, exercises 1 and 2: Towards abstraction – abstract painting from man-made form and abstraction from study of natural forms

15 March 2017. Again I need to combine my retrospective report on two exercises. This is for two reasons: The first is due to my failed rearranging my working sequence for this part of the course and the second is directly connected with the nature of shadows. Shadows are per se natural, there is no way of having anything like an artificial shadow. So any abstracting from shadows belongs to Exercise 1 of this project. On the other hand, the behaviour of the naturally occurring shadows I observed for this project were distorted by man-made forms, grids and bottles, which belongs to Exercise 2. So what I need to do is write a combined report. Again I need to apologize for double-posting images. Since the associated series of experiments was very long, I also ask to kindly refer to my extensive report in the post writing up the work for the first project of my submission for Assignment 5, “A Shadow Only Painting” (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a). Here I provide a summary of the most important steps in the process (Fig. 1-5):

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Figure 1. Testing the distortion of shadows made by grids on bottles under natural lighting conditions (intense sunshine)
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Figure 2. Sketchbook – pencil sketch of working setup
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Figure 3. Finished stencil with inserted A4 paper

Below are the results I achieved with my stencil for various types of paint, inks and pastels (Fig. 4):

Figure 4. Stencil results

After that I used my son’s new 3D pen to make an outline painting of the pencil sketch in my sketchbook and continued experimenting with the shadows produced by this shadow of a shadow, thus producing sequential abstract paintings derived at the same time from both natural and man-made forms:

Figure 5. 3D pen and the self-propagating shadow

This series of experiments was highly enjoyable and revealing regarding the wonderful possibilities arising from the creative process involved in becoming aware of emergent properties. Equipped with these results I embarked on turning the patterns seen into paintings for my Assignment 5 submission.

References:

Lacher-Bryk (2016a) Assignment 5, subject 1: “A Shadows Only Painting” (including Part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/assignment-5-subject-1-a-shadows-only-painting-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 15 March 2017]

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[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]

 

[Retrospective post] Part 5, project 1, exercise 2: Different ways of applying paint – dripping, dribbling and spattering

14 March 2017. I have to admit that I am not a great devotee of these techniques. In one week-long course dedicated to experimentation I did several years ago we had a great day splashing paint on all sorts of supports and guessing at the things we could then do with the results, but I am not convinced, because I have not yet been able to identify, for me, a purpose other than a decorative one. I guess that attitude depends on ability and I tried to gain some more confidence in this part of the course. The dripping and dribbling experiments, inlcuding the portrait drawings below were all carried out using a pipette. What I find is that I am always tempted to interfere with the process or think ahead of what I might need it for, so this is what my results reflect (Fig. 1-9):

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Figure 1. Dripping and dribbling acyrlic paint on a drip and dribble semi-wet background layer of shellac, later to be used as background for an assignment piece
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Figure 2. Dripping acrylic paint and ink on dried impasto acrylic medium background produced with serrated spatula, paint running along grooves
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Figure 3. Dripping ink on dried impasto acrylic paint background prepared with a criss-cross structure produced by serrated spatula. Ink running not as expected
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Figure 4. Dripping ink and dilute acrylic paint on acetate sheet

Next I examined some spattering effects with ink and acrylic paint on plastic foil. (Fig. 5-6). Although the initial effects were interesting and later used in connection with my Assignment piece “A Shadow on His Soul” (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a), I noticed that paint and ink would – not immediately but after a week or two  – stop adhering to the foil. Flakes would come off, so that I consider the combination inadequate for any but short-term use:

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Figure 5. Ink spattered on plastic foil, then distributed with brush
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Figure 6. Ink and acrylic paint spattered on plastic foil, distributed with brush, then “printed” in Rohrschach inkblot manner

Since there was a long spell of very cold weather I then tested the effect of -15°c and the addition of snow on wet splatters of dilute watercolour on two different types of watercolour paper (smooth and rough). I had imagined that ice cyrstals should form to give the drying paint some interesting structural effects. But not so. The paint would not dry even after hours in the sun, so after taking the paper back into the house the snow and ice would melt, leaving nothing I could not have produced without the cold (Fig. 7):

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Figure 7. Wet watercolour test with very low temperatures and snow

On more acrylic paper I had prepared a mix of white acrylic paint and crushed leaves for exercise 2 in project 2 of this part. In order to see whether letting ink run in one direction  would produce some shadow effects I applied some to the dried background. The effect was hardly noticeable, unfortunately, since the acrylic paint would make the ink flow in all directions, ignoring the law of gravity (Fig. 8):

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Figure 8. Ink dripped down background layer of acrylic paint mixed in dried crushed leaves

Finally I want to report one dripping effect, which was not part of an exercise but appeared while painting one assignment piece. I had mixed black writing ink and white ink to paint a small vase for the table-top in Andersen’s “The Shadow” (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b), which after application did not ingnore the effects of gravity, but settled in a beautiful way to produce a believable effect of light reflecting off the glass of the vase (Fig. 9):

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Figure 9. Producing the effect of light reflecting off a glass vase with very simple means – two types of ink running down the canvas together

I know that after these experiments I have hardly started exploring all possible effects. I am looking forward to getting the opportunity to experimenting some more in this direction in my next course.

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) 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]

 

[Retrospective post] Part 5, project 1, exercise 1: different ways of applying paint – Impasto

Retrospective post following tutor feedback.

14 March 2017. In her feedback to Assignment 5 my tutor suggested that I rearrange my blog for Part 5 of the course for easier cross-reference in assessment. Since doing this with the existing blog posts would in my opinion produce more trouble than clarification I decided that I would produce retrospective posts fitting the project exercises in the sequence of appearance in the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2011, pp. 123-134). I apologize for double-posting images already contained in the posts covering the work for my assignment pieces.

So, here is my exercise work for testing the impasto technique of applying paint. In Part 3 of the course I had already started using my palette knives (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a) (Fig. 1). After an awkward start I had found them increasingly good and easy to use:

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Figure 1. Drawing with paint – Part 3 exercise work using impasto technique

Also part of my preparatory work and assignment piece for Assignment 4 was mostly painted using impasto (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b). The finished result unfortunately suffered from a deplorable longer-term change of colour in the black paint I had used then (it turned a very unfortunate indifferent dark grey after I had taken the photo, which swallowed all the beautiful elements visible in Fig. 2 below), but I was quite happy with the structural quality of the rocks produced. I also noticed that my confidence in using palette knives grew quickly:

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Figure 2. Assignment piece for Part 4 of the course – impasto painting technique used for creating the rock structure

For the present exercise I first produced an intuitive multi-layered impasto piece, in which I examined the emergent properties of depth and light effects. This 56 x 42 cm acrylic paper would later become the background for one of my Assigment 5 pieces (Lacher-Bryk, 2016c) (Fig. 3).

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Figure 3. Multi-layered impasto examining light and 3D effects

Next I produced some monochrome structured layers on 42 x 56 cm acrylic paper, first using acrylic medium only on top of a dried white background (Fig. 4), then using acrylic paint directly (Fig. 5). The structures were created using two different kinds of large serrated spatulae. Both the exercises below were later used in my Assignment 5 project “A Shadow on his Soul” (Lacher-Bryk, 2016d):

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Figure 4. Spreading acrylic medium with a serrated spatula
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Figure 5. Producing a rough structure in acrylic paint using a serrated spatula

Some more impasto effects I also tested in preparation for my third Assignment 5 project. In particular, I mixed finely grated willow charcoal into white acrylic paint and applied it with a palette knife. The charcoal dust mixed with the paint to give a wonderful cool grey, while the larger pieces moved with the direction of the palette knife to produce a very attractive pattern (middle row in Fig. 6 below. This type of mix I later used to prepare the background layer for my third assignment piece (Lacher-Bryk, 2016e).

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Figure 6. Impasto techniques tested for assignment project 3. Middle row: acrylic paint mixed with grated willow charcoal. Bottom row: Thick layer of acrylic paint applied with coarse paintbrush, then different types of ink added

Impasto for me is an incredibly versatile technique, which I will without any doubt come back to regularly with great joy.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016a) Part 3, project 1, exercise 1/2: Portrait and Figure – drawing the human figure, linear figure study [blog] [online]. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/part-3-project-1-exercise-12-portrait-and-figure-drawing-the-human-figure-linear-figure-study/ [Accessed 14 March 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016b) Assignment 4: “Claustrophobia” [blog] [online]. Available at:
https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/assignment-4-claustrophobia/ [Accessed 14 March 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016c) Assignment 5, subject 1: “A Shadows Only Painting” (including Part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/assignment-5-subject-1-a-shadows-only-painting-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 14 March 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016d) 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. (2016e) 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]

Open College of the Arts (2011) Painting 1. The Practice of Painting. The Bridgeman Art Library, London, New York, Paris, pp. 123-134.

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]

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|