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):
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).
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):
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):
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):
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.
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]
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):
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):
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).
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):
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):
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):
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):
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):
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):
The antique ink helps to highlight the structures, another beautiful effect:
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):
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)
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).
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):
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):
Here a detail of the above (Fig. 25):
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).
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:
And here my favourite details (Fig. 28-30):
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.
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]
16 November 2016. There is a warm front travelling to come into Austria on Friday, so I need to be quick in order to plan and carry out my plein air painting exercise before more winter weather. There is a special place in our vicinity, a bit of woodland growing in a sandy pit in a restructured river basin. This place I chose before once for one of my Drawing 1 projects (Lacher-Bryk, 2015). Since I did not follow study guide instructions in the previous exercise (use and rework an existing painting), I decided that I would carry over this instruction to this exercise and apply it to the following drawing I made last year (Fig. 1):
I will make some preliminary sketches on site tomorrow (bad weather) and compare with what I have got, then quickly use the fair weather predicted for Friday to make a very rough painting with my largest brush to be completed outside. There is no plan to continue working on it in my workshop, so what I achieve outside will be what I get.
17 November 2016. Proceeding as planned, so setting off to the site just after lunchtime. The weather was very changeable, from overcast and some raindrops to sunshine and quite pleasantly warm and windy, so partly ideal for painting outside. I found the site mostly as it had been the year before, except that the sandy forest floor was covered in lots of brown autumn leaves and the incredible near-white sand and the contrast I had been looking for were invisible (I should have known better, being an ecologist and all that :o). I still took a set of photos of the spot, walking round to see whether other views might be attractive (Fig.2).
In the end I went for a beautiful view across the river with a small, eye-catching patch of white sand on the far bank and produced a landscape and a portrait format mini watercolour sketch (Fig. 3-5):
Cycling back I went through the colour options and the research on Fauvism and Expressionism I had done earlier that day. At first I had wanted to use autumn colours as found on site, but then came up with another option including very light colours, basically warm and cool shades of grey on a darker background prepared with a mix of Paynes grey and small amounts of other colours I would like to use, so that in the end the objects of the painting would have clear dark outlines. We’ll see whether this is feasible.
18 November 2016. It is very warm today and windy – what is called a “Föhn” weather situation typical for the Alps. It gives lots of people headaches, but others like me get a wonderful break from the November drizzle. It also makes painting outside a bit more difficult, since we get quite strong gusts of wind. Before going out I did a greyscale test in my sketchbook in order to find the colours I would need to take with me (Fig. 6).
Around lunchtime I left with my bike and 25 year old trailer full of painting materials and was extremely lucky to get to my site with the sun shining and the wind dropping (Fig. 7).
Here is my open air studio with prepared painting carton. I had a quantitiy of the mix used for the background with me and from this I mixed the rest of my colours. This system worked well, although I found that the conditions changing from bright sunshine to cloudy made my mixing results a bit arbitrary (Fig. 8).
When I found that a hue would not fit the purpose I had intended it for, I used it intuitively in other parts of the composition.
Here is the first stage of the finished painting. Lying in the shade it looks rather blue, which it is not under proper lighting conditions (Fig. 9):
I had two full hours of painting, before it suddenly got very cold and I had to call it a day.
This is how far I got today. I quite like the “coarse” areas of colour in the centre (see detail of white tree across the river and tree stumps in the middle ground below) (Fig. 10-11).
Contrary to what I said earlier I think that I will do a little more work on the exercise in the workshop during the next few days (when there will be November weather and snow again) to try and carefully apply this technique to other parts of the composition.
20 November 2016. Today I spent some time trying to extend the discovered technique to the whole painting. Some of it appears successful, some of it not so. While I was quite happy with the changes to the light, especially by achieving a weird glow in the willow tree hanging over the river and the trees to the left, I think that the trees in the foreground need some more change, although I cannot yet think of what would be required (Fig. 12).
Commentary: “The experience of painting outdoors”
The work required for painting outdoors was not unfamiliar to me. I have done so on many occasions in the past. Although this was mostly watercolours, I knew what to bring and was able to plan ahead taking into acount the weather forecast. The most important piece of equipment is my bicycle trailer. It allows me to take along all necessary equipment apart from an easel, but when working outside I usually prefer sitting on a stool with the support lying on the ground in front of me. Although I know that the faithful copying of the things seen is probably easier on an easel, I appreciate the slightly longer interval between taking in the visual information and putting it on canvas as a very valuable creative break. Also, for me working from above the support results in a much looser brushmark that when standing in front of the easel.
Making linear and coloured thumbnail sketches with ink pen and watercolour, as well as testing the range of colours I wanted to bring in a small sketch using acrylics in my sketchbook, was immensely helpful when approaching the final work. It allowed me to develop in my mind a working “reflection” of the painting-to-be. Working on the final piece consisted of modulating my gathered experience by what came up on site. It was very enjoyable to see and feel this work and I guess that slowly these techniques come more naturally to me.
With regard to formal compositional rules I tested on a printout that to a relatively large extent elements of both the Rule of Thirds and more so the Golden Mean are present, as well as a working foreground – middleground – background construction. There is a pathway into the painting provided by the sandy area leading to the river and on across the river via the conspicuous white fallen tree and the mirrored white in the path leading away from the far side of the river. I also tried to include mirror structures and areas of colour: the white in the fallen tree and far side path, the violet in the smaller tree on the right and in the tangle of very young trees to the left, the turquoise of the river and the hanging tree, and also the shape of the fallen tree mirrored in the branch arching over the hanging tree. Also, I tried to include considerations of aerial perspective by gradually reducing detail as well as colour contrast and intensity. I was happy with the idea of having a selection of shades of grey mixed from an initial mix of Paynes grey, natural burnt umber, raw umber and white at the basis of the composition, since it allowed me to adapt with ease to different requirements and also this slightly aubergine hue went extremely well with all the colours introduced at later points (oriental blue, cadmium red, cadmium yellow medium, cobalt turquoise and black).
Overall I think that the outcome is quite satisfactory, although I am increasingly able to see the weak points in composition and choice of colour.
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:
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.
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.
The ground consisting of binder and white appeared to enhance colour and tonal difference greatly in all the mixes.
Painting on white only ground the binder-added mixes appeared somewhat darker, Applying the colour only mix was accompanied with noticeably greater restistance.
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.
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).
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):
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):
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.