A diversion: Something Like Mona Lisa

Updated on 25 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

9 January 2017. “Listen” I said to little son a few days ago, “Why don’t you draw something for Anni to say thank you for being the wonderful aunt she is?” “Help” he replied, “I cannot think of anything. Tell me.” I had lots of ideas, none of them good enough for him. So I stopped. A day later he said: “I want to paint Mona Lisa for her. How do we start?”
He wanted to use the UV glow paint he had been given for Christmas, so it was to be a special Mona Lisa. With both our hands on one pencil we made a drawing first and coloured it in later, with UV light switched on all the time to see whether the effect would be there. My scanner was unable to reproduce some of the colours we used and it occurs to me now that I should have photographed it with the UV light on, so it looks pale in reproduction, but it was great fun to do and the mystery is all there ;o), so here it is (Fig. 1):

Figure 1. A Christoph and Andrea Joint Venture: UV glow Mona Lisa

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

Updated on 23 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 7. Finished painting

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

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

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

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





Part 2, project 4, exercise 1: Drawing and painting interiors – quick sketches around the house

Updated on 2 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

9 June 2016. Now the dreaded time has come again when I am asked to walk round our house on the look for interesting views. Last year, during Drawing 1, I struggled immensely with the pleasing, but awkward to draw or paint, layout of our house. There are practically no views which are not obstructed by parts of the house in a more than inconvenient way. The layout is open, but there are stairs everywhere, which means that it is just these stairs, interesting as the idea might be in general, which render a view awkward. At the moment, for example, I am sitting at my desk in the open office. I am able to look down a flight of stairs into the living room, but can only see half the width of the staircase, the rest is blocked by a piece of wall in the office. At the same time I can see, from underneath, the stairs leading to my workshop. The edge of the ceiling in our living room is where the bottom of these stairs rests and this edge cuts off about one third of the view through the patio door. In a drawing or painting this looks extremely weird, as if I had got my proportions wrong. This is the case practically everywhere in the house, so I had no other choice than have a look in the garage …

Asked to make very quick sketches in my A4 sketchbook using a pencil (rather than my beloved ink pen) I produced 4 sketches each from a standing, then a seated position, turning 45° between sketches. Since there is not a lot of room in the garage, I had to go for a relatively elongated format in order to create a rudimentary illusion of space.

In the images (Fig. 1a-d) below there is first the set from the standing position, top left with lawnmower and cable, hose and some garden tools, top right with barbecue and wet vacuum cleaner behind it, bottom left a failed view on the garden hose, bottom right a likewise failed straight-on view of half of our ping pong table and a bag of hydrophobic cement :o):

Next the seated versions, trying to keep the viewing angles identical (Fig. 2a-d):

Two of the above views I guess might be more or less suitable to use in a painting. Shapes and negative spaces looked most interesting in the view containing the barbecue. In addition, there was a quite nice distorted reflection of the garage door into the garden on the barbecue’s lid. If combining the standing up and seated version to produce a deliberately elongated format, this might be an interesting project. But again, trying to learn from failures in the not too distant past, I must remind myself to keep things simple …