Part 3, project 3, exercise 2: People in context – telling a story

Updated on 12 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

7 September 2016. As the basis for this exercise I used a sketch I made while staying in the hospital in Aschaffenburg. There is a a sort of square next to the hospital’s main entrance, where patients and visitors gather to chat. Under a tree there are some “benches” made of concrete blocks with wooden lattices on top to sit on. In that scene is struck me how closely related joy and distress are and on the same bench some people would laugh and play with their children, while literally centimetres from them a lady would put a comforting arm around her partner’s shoulder. This is my picture for this exercise (Fig. 1):

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Figure 1. Sketchbook – joy and distress, ink pen sketch

As in the previous exercise I decided to stick to a smaller format (A3), but this time referred to my sketch in planning the composition. Since moments like this are highly fleeting in nature and only seconds later will change to something quite different in composition and emotional content I decided that I would try and attempt to paint in a way that is able to transport the ephemeral nature. This gave me the idea to paint in semi-transparent layers, which are somewhat displaced with respect to the adjacent layers, as, say, in printed 3D images looked at without the required glasses or even a misprinted photo in a magazine, where the differently coloured layers fail to lie exactly on top of each other.

13 September 2016. What a week that was! We hardly left the kitchen for need of learning to prepare modified Atkins meals as quickly as possible. Yesterday our son returned to school and that means preparing school lunch at home as well now for the three days he stays for after school care. I still managed to start my painting for this exercise. Here comes the first layer, which I prepared with my roller again to get acquainted with its properties, then sketched in the persons in watercolour fashion. Except for the pair on the right I planned to paint all people “out of focus” as described above, and as indicated already e.g. in the man standing left of the tree (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2. First layer of sketching with paint on prepared background

23 September 2016. Amidst all that cooking a demanding diet it took me ages to finish this exercise. I tiptoed my way through the effects by stepwise increasing the difference between the time-arrested couple and the persons moving around them and in the end came up with something I would have liked to have avoided in a painting course. I had to get out my ink pens and enhance the unsatisfactory feeling of unrest I had produced with my undeveloped out of focus technique. Here is the fist sequence of steps to the final result (Fig. 3-5):

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Figure 3
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Figure 4
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Figure 5. Finished painting

I think that it was important to let the surroundings shine through in the moving persons, which made them look more ghost-like and movement more believable. The ink pens did help to highlight the aspect of movement, although I am not pleased with myself for having failed to use paint only. If I find the time (haha, only a joke), I might try and see whether there is another solution to the problem.
Overall I am not unhappy with the result however and I believe that in the two details to follow it is quite clearly visible how time is arrested in the couple, while life keeps going on around them (Fig. 6-7):

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Figure 6. Finished painting – detail (1)
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Figure 7. Finished painting – detail (2)

Now off to Assignment 3!

Part 3, project 2, exercise 3 – Looking at faces – creating mood and atmosphere

Updated on 11 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

15 August 2016. In order to see how colours interact on a canvas to create mood and atmosphere, I carried out a simple experiment. I went to look for an interesting facial expression and used two different combinations of colours to see how mood and atmosphere change. Also, as I mentioned in my previous post (Lacher-Bryk, 2016), Alexej von Jawlensky and the resemblance to thermographic imaging sounded fascinating to me. So I used Jawlensky’s “Blue Head” as a reference, and had blue, red and yellow as well as Paynes grey and white to chose from.

The model I selected was not a sitter, but the photo of a winner of a gold medal at the London Olympic games in 2012. I had a look at several and selected a few, where facial expression was not just joy, but mixed with something else. I found one like that for 16-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen (Yang, 2012), whose victory was so stunning that it became a doping issue so fierce that it now appears to ruin her career although the suspicions apparently were never confirmed. Hence probably the diffuse emotions on her face (Yang, 2012). The same I found in the Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, but this time due to having to fight depression (Watson, 2012).

Then I had a look at some thermographic portraits to get accustomed to the colour schemes used there (Taylor (2016), Sébire (2016), Sarfels (2013)). These were not too helpful, because the range of colours is of course entirely up to the designer, but they all roughly follow the red/hot-yellow/warm-blue/cold sequence. This I used to set up my own colour scheme, asking myself how the winner of the gold medal would probably react at the ceremony in order to identify the hot and cold areas on their face. Here I proceeded purely intuitively, since my goal was not to end up with a faithful thermographic image, but to see whether I could produce, by using very strong colours, an impression of resonance with an excited crowd (top image) or momentary introversion without emotional contact with the surroundings (bottom image). This is what I came up with, on two adjacent pages in my sketchbook (Fig. 1-2):

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Figure 1. Sketchbook: Range of facial colours “in contact with the environment”

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Figure 2. Sketchbook: Range of facial colours “separate from the environment”

I quite like both portraits and their wild colours, although I am not so sure whether the changes in colour added atmospheric quality to the paintings in the intended way. At the start I had hoped that the anxious look on the medal winner’s face, which in my opinion would be totally inappropriate to the occasion in case she had nothing on her mind to dampen her joy, might be altered by the warm and cool choice of colours as well as the similarity or disparity with the heated up surroundings. At the moment I would not be able to tell whether the experiment was successful, but I will show both paintings to some people without giving them any information about my intentions and see if they can spot the difference.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Research point: Mood and atmosphere in portraits [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/research-point-mood-and-atmosphere-in-portraits/ [Accessed 11 March 2017]

Sarfels, J. (2013) Sichtbares Mitgefühl. Soziologische Forschung mit Wärmebildkameras [online]. Inspect, Weinheim. Available at: http://www.inspect-online.com/topstories/control/sichtbares-mitgefuehl [Accessed 15 August 2016]

Sébire, A. (2016) In the Heat of the Moment [exhibition announcement] [online]. Adam Sébire, Sydney. Available at: https://www.adamsebire.info/the-works/in-the-heat-of-the-moment [Accessed 15 August 2016]

Taylor, L.A. (2016) Breast Thermography Now Available in the Greater Buffalo Area
[online]. Linda Ann Taylor, Williamsville. Available at: http://www.lindaanntaylor.com/thermography.html [Accessed 15 August 2016]

Watson, L. (2012) Five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe reveals he considered suicide and planned places to end his life during career crippled by depression [online]. Mail Online, 14 October 2012. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2217623/Five-time-Olympic-champion-Ian-Thorpe-considered-suicide-planned-places-end-life-career-crippled-depression.html [Accessed 15 August 2016]

Yang, Y. (2012) China gives Western media a gold medal for bias [online]. Latitude News, Cambridge, USA. Available at: http://www.latitudenews.com/story/china-gives-western-media-a-gold-medal-for-bias/ [Accessed 15 August 2016]