Assignment 5: Self-evaluation (p.134 study guide)

Updated on 25 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

1 February 2017. My decision regarding the subject for Assignment 5 was made quite early in the course and having thought a lot about it, I noticed for the first time that shadows have been of interest to me for a very long time, not only during this course (e.g. in Assignment 1, Lacher-Bryk, 2016a), but also outside OCA as well as many years before starting the degree. I am drawn to their ever-changing physical properties and wonderfully pliable metaphorical qualities. The more I explore them, the more I realise the treasure they contain for artistic expression and development.

As always at the outset I was determined to produce the maximum, i.e. five, pieces of work for this assignment. I went through a great amount of scientific research in order to get acquainted with as many facets of my subject as possible. Following this I sat down to initially list around 10 general ideas, two of which survived throughout and a new one, which was added after discussing the subject externally. I found that all three choices would require a great amount of dedicated work, so I changed the original plan by reducing the finished subjects to three. However, for two of the subjects I produced two finished paintings each, so overall there were still five to submit.

The subjects, in order of production, were:

(1) “A Shadow-only Painting” (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a)

I investigated inhowfar it would be possible to determine the form of 3-dimensional objects solely by the shadows falling on them. The resulting shapes I then transformed into abstracted paintings, one close to the original setup and one playing with the found patterns (Fig. 1 and 2 below).

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Figure 1. A Shadow-only Painting (1)
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Figure 2. A Shadow-only Painting (2)

For the first time I was able to produce paintings as the result of painstaking preparatory work including extensive research, observing the chosen subject from many different viewpoints, experimenting with a large set of ways of applying paint and abstracting from the gained results. The painting on top I like for the choice of colours, setup and loose application of paint. I have been able also to include experience gained regarding paint behaviour in Part 4 of the course (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b). Regarding the bottom painting I am pleased that I was able to let myself be inspired by ideas passing through my head and include them in a coherent way into a working painting. I think however that due to my lack of experience the finished painting looks overworked in places and not totally convincing regarding composition.

(2) “A Shadow On His Soul” (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b)

This part was an investigation into means of transporting the innermost darkness of a well-known dictator to the surface of his portrait (Fig. 3-4).

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Figure 3. A Shadow On His Soul (1)
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Figure 4. A Shadow On His Soul (2)


I was happy to discover that despite the large differences in approach both paintings appear to succeed in transporting a shadow on a troubled soul. In the top painting I was glad to have combined several totally different means of applying paint – two “runny” underlying layers suggesting the troubled soul combined with an exaggerated sketchy portrait representing the attempt of this person to remain outwardly intact and quiet. The second attempt (bottom image) used totally different supports. The portrait on a piece of A1 transparent plastic is combined with a completely separate, smaller piece of plastic roughly covered in dark paint to allow a viewer to experiment directly with its effect on the appearance of the face. I expect that I may have to rework the small piece of plastic for final submission since the applied paint is not as stable as expected.

(3) “The Shadow”, an attempt at illustrating Andersen’s famous tale (Lacher-Bryk, 2017c)

Since in this story the dark part of a depicted personality becomes separate from its carrier in form of his shadow, I was able to apply the results gained in the first two subjects to this part of the submission. I was able to produce with greater ease a believable composition including cast shadows and the interaction of a man with the dark parts he knows are tainting his soul (Fig. 5).

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Figure 5. Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Shadow”

I did a great amount of research into this subject relating to its real-world background, contemporary art as well as technical aspects, followed by experimentation with materials and methods totally new to me before attempting the final piece. While I am very happy with the outcome regarding composition, use of colour and story told, I am well aware that illustration is not an explicit part of this course. I made this decision deliberately, however, and will take the risk of submitting this work for assessment since it is supported by a great amount of work based on direct observation.

Before starting Part 5 of the course I realised that in order to be able to immerse myself completely into the chosen subject, I would need to integrate the set exercises for this part into the development of my assignment pieces. Once I had decided on this technique of approaching this part for me the structure of the course (exercises, research, assignment piece(s)) suddenly became a coherent whole and finally I was able to really follow my tutor’s instructions regarding going through meaningful processes of concept development. For me this experience was eye-opening and liberating. I never enjoyed the course more than during Part 5 and this is where I think I made essential progress. There were several points throughout the course where other important steps happened. They were not so much part-related but occurred coincidentally and liberated creative resources within myself:

  1. when I found out about the incredible difference between bad and good quality acrylic paint halfway through the course
  2. when in my Assignment 3 feedback my tutor advised me not to worry about leaving things unfinished (Lacher-Bryk, 2016c)
  3. when in the same feedback my tutor advised me to make my sketchbook a painted one (Lacher-Bryk, 2016c) 

    and – something I would never have expected given my personality –

  4. when I realized that I would not be able to stick to my plan of submitting for March 2017 assessment

2 February 2017. Looking back on the course I think that it took me well into Part 4 to loosen up. I attribute some of that difficulty to both the way I tend to approach things – my parents once asked me why I always had to take the hardest roads to arrive at something – and life in general, which in my case tends to block the easy roads. Maybe I have now come to accept this fact, both as a hindrance but also as a powerful liberating force of creativity. This seems where I have made a large step, which very likely has not translated yet into major technical progress, but the journey through Part 5 proved a major personal gain for me. Where this will become visible I will have to see.

An overall look back on the course and progress evaluation will be posted in preparation for July 2017 assessment.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016a) Assignment 1: A Black Tulip and Its Shadow [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 30 March. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/assignment-1-a-black-tulip-and-its-shadow/ [Accessed 1 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016b) Part 4, project 5, exercise 1: Working from drawings and photographs – painting from a working drawing [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 24 November. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/part-4-project-5-exercise-1-working-from-drawings-and-photographs-painting-from-a-working-drawing/ [Accessed 1 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016c) Assignment 3: Feedback reflection [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 4 October. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/10/04/assignment-3-feedback-reflection/ [Accessed 1 February 2017]

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

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

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017c) Assignment 5, subject 3: Hans Christian Andersen “The Shadow”. An attempt at an illustration (including part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 2 February. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/assignment-5-subject-3-hans-christian-andersen-the-shadow-an-attempt-at-an-illustration-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 1 February 2017]

Assignment 4: Self-evaluation

Updated on 24 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

29 November 2016. In this post follows my self-assessment for the painting produced for Assignment 4, “Claustrophobia”, of Painting 1 (Lacher-Bryk, 2016a):

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I believe that in the course of this part of Painting 1 I was able to make use of most of the skills acquired in the course up to now. For the assignment piece “Claustrophobia” I used the experience gained in planning paintings including subject choice, subject and artist research, testing compositional ideas using sketches on paper and in my sketchbook in the appropriate way as well as drawing on the experience gained in a previous exercise (the river gorge painted for the exercise on aerial perspective, (Lacher-Bryk, 2016b)). Again I tried to transport a message by translating an emotion into a visual language, this time the agonizing feeling of claustrophobia and not being able to breathe due to a trauma left from an own childhood experience (ether narcosis).

2. Quality of outcome

My second charcoal sketch made in preparation for Assignment 4 appeared to me quite strong at transporting my message, whereas the final painting did loose somewhat in this respect. The properties of charcoal are probably much better suited to create the intended atmosphere, because it allows the blending of crisp strong messages and vage suggestions. Also, it could well be that my technical skills regarding the use of acrylic paint are not reliable enough yet. Still I think that I was able to translate my original idea into a working painting. There are some weak points concerning the composition, but I believe that I was able to produce some interesting and beautiful effects using a palette knife throughout (apart from the blue of the sky, which I wanted to be in strong contrast to the rocks of the cave, and the sunrays and haze added).
In this assignment I tried to address a subject, which I believe might be difficult to express to a wider public. If a viewer never experienced the sensation of claustrophobia and/or the feeling of not being able to breathe ever before, I guess that they might not be able to comprehend the strength of the associated emotion to its full extent. However, I believe that nobody is totally free from it, so I hope that my approach might allow them to reproduce what I felt.

3. Demonstration of creativity

I think that I was able to include a large amount of experimentation in Part 4 of the course, both regarding the choice of subject and the use of paint. The assignment piece itself was an extention to the exercise mentioned in 1. above (which I did with the assignment in mind) and so in itself not a totally new approach. However, the choice of subject with regard to the set task of painting a landscape might qualify as being creative.

4. Context reflection

Before embarking on this assignment, I did some intense research on the chosen subject, both regarding the medical and psychological aspects of claustrophobia, the work of spelaeologists (cave explorers), the interplay of light and dust in air and the effect of ether narcoses on patients, as well as on a number of visual artists, who produce(d) work described as claustrophobic and/or addressing the subject of claustrophobia. I think that in this way I was properly prepared to carry out the intended work. I do not think that I was influenced by any named artist, but noticed how references from past and present research came to my mind and help at points when the direction of the next step was unclear.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016a) Assignment 4: Claustrophobia [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 29 November. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/assignment-4-claustrophobia/ [Accessed 29 November 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016b) Part 4, project 3, exercise 1: Expressive landscape – creating mood and atmosphere [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 17 November. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/part-4-project-3-exercise-1-expressive-landscape-creating-mood-and-atmosphere/ [Accessed 29 November 2016]

Assignment 3: Self-Evaluation

23 September 2016. Here is my self-evaluation for Assignment 3.

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Coming through this part of the course I think that I managed to gradually improve my acrylic painting technique in all respects, regarding setup, use of negative space, using transparent and opaque layering as well as the introduction of methods new to me, e.g. roller and spatula as well as painting on unusual supports (aluminium foil).
Throughout this part I used my sketchbooks to draw everyday situations and found increasingly that a first look, supplemented by a few correcting glimpses, would be sufficient to create believable human forms and likenesses. My goal here was to sharpen my observational skills so as to be able to stop having to take and make use of reference photos at all.

2. Quality of outcome

The paintings I produced in this part are of varying quality. It took me some time to adjust to my new high quality brand of acrylic paint. While adjusting I switched to smaller size supports, but have now returned to my usual formats, mostly A2 and similar.
I think that I am becoming increasingly aware of and sensitive to the processes occurring while creating a painting and am more aware of the preparatory steps necessary at the outset. If there is a finished painting in my mind, as in my assignment piece “Lady in Pool” I probably do less hard-copy preparatory work than I should, but there is so much developing and discarding going on in my mind that no sketchbook would be sufficient to truthfully replicate this process.

3. Demonstration of creativity

I think that for reason of worrying about our son’s health I was less creative materialwise than probably expected by my tutor, but I am immensely happy that I still hold out despite the massive time constraints we experience at the moment. We expect the situation to relax somewhat in the months to come, but I need to accept that I may not be able to achieve my full creative potential under the given circumstances.

4. Context reflection

The human figure and condition are my main interest also in my work as a caricaturist. So the choice of subjects was easy in this part of the course and I hope that I will have fulfilled the requirements set out in the study guide. In the wider context I did a very large amount of research on contemporary art both set by my tutor and on own initiative and find that I am increasingly able to relate to artists working in the 21st century.

Assignment 2: Self-evaluation

Updated on 4 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

26 June 2016. This time I did not forget to provide my tutor with large-size images of my blog photos on my Dropbox account and therefore, hopefully, she will be able to see better the details.
27 June 2016. I have just been informed that I will be assigned a new tutor, since my previous tutor has resigned from her job. I can only hope that my work so far meets with the expectations of my new tutor.

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I think that I have made some progress in my approach to planning exercises and assignments. After a lot of guesswork from the start of Drawing 1 until about now I think that finally I have understood the principles of using a sketchbook for the work preceding a larger painting. Also, I can understand now why many fellow students will only reluctantly add a blog to their sketchbook logs. The latter are so much easier to keep, straightforward to use and will take any sort of awkward stuff and notes without producing any error messages. They are wonderful things to flick though and provide instantaneous reference. And since my handwriting is something only I can read a lot of the time I can put in all sorts of stupid ideas and side thoughts without having to feel embarrassed.

After a few disasters with using acrylic medium for dilution purposes I think that I am now using my acrylic paint with more confidence. I know now how important it is to keep paint not just moist but wet at all times and to take care to mix water and paint thoroughly before applying it to canvas. I am also, after an incredibly long time in the dark, getting more familiar with my brushes, so not all mark-making results are accidental any more.

At the same time I find that I become increasingly familiar with the requirements of a (more or less) successful setup. I find that my sketching and watercolour abilities are much better developed than my abilities in painting with acrylics, so my preliminary sketches appear much more interesting and probably better than my socalled finished work.

I am also becoming more familiar with the work of some artists, whose ideas and style have started to influence my own work. In this assignment, for example, I produced a background reminding me of Mark Rothko in order to exploit the mutual influence colours have so as to create the illusion of force or movement in an otherwise static setup.

2. Quality of outcome

I think that I prepared thoroughly for this task, having produced a large amount of research both on the meaning of colours and still life artists, as well as several preliminary studies during the exercises leading up to this assignment. Still I am not convinced that the quality of the outcome is what I would have liked to see. Problems occurring during the preparatory work showed me the importance of being absolutely clear about my intentions especially if my task extends beyond a purely representational painting. In planning the assignment piece I was quite convinced about the feasibility of my idea, but my grasp of colour relationships is not yet reliable enough to guide me safely through the development stage of a painting. In this assignment I think that my very small preparatory watercolour sketch has a higher quality than the finished piece. Despite all this I am happy to be able now to somehow communicate with a developing painting and overcome my fear of destroying something I may not be able to recreate in case the new idea was worse than the one from which it emerged.

3. Demonstration of creativity

As in most of my works I think it essential that they contain a message. The idea for painting poisonous cocktails occurred to me while describing another hair-raising point in the endless story about our son, us and the hospital. As a caricaturist I am used to playing with the meaning of words and one of my long-term goals is to be able one day to do a similar thing by painting alone. I think that my message coming with this assignment might be called creative, but not so the actual painting. I still have not arrived at a point where I think my acrylic painting skills are sufficiently developed to allow a more adventurous approach regarding the use of painting media and techniques. Still I was able to use insights taken from all exercises in Part 2 of the course to apply them in a useful and hopefully believable way (colour relationships, contrast, negative space etc.)

4. Context reflection

I have become increasingly aware of the immense value of researching the work of other artists in preparing my own. Since I am clearer now with my intentions it has become easier to take aboard the respective messages of the artists I have come across so far in the course of my studies. As with any field of knowledge I find that the more I know, the more readily and easily my mind will form bridges and associations, which will then increasingly allow me to find informed solutions for a given problem. Hopefully these will, one day, replace the guesswork I find myself struggling with at the moment, since only when my work stops being arbitrary it will start being truly creative.

Assignment 1: Self-evaluation

Updated on 19 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

1 April 2016. Thank God I browsed the blog of another Painting 1 student to remind me that I might be required to go through self assessment with each assignment. Since in Drawing 1 a reminder came with each assignment, I wasn’t sure whether the same was true for Painting 1. So, just in case, here it is:

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I tried to include in this work the experience gained both during Drawing 1 and the first part of Painting 1. The chosen view from slightly above was comparatively difficult, but I think that background, bouquet and shadows work together in a believable and interesting way. What I will need to work on is, as always, my weak point of not doing enough research concerning both the work of other artists and following a consistent approach to a painting using a series of sketchbook studies. My problem is that I always have a finished painting in my mind ready to be transferred to the canvas and I have yet to find a way to navigate around this aspect.

2. Quality of outcome

While I think that the general layout and the systematic realisation of my idea are not too bad, my use of materials and techniques has ample scope for improvement. In particular, my use of a layering technique using both opaque and transparent layers is still very inconsistent and I will need to do more research in this respect.

3. Demonstration of creativity

Other than with Drawing 1 I am not sure yet whether we are expected to push our limits in Painting 1. Since also the instructions for this assignment included the remark “Don’t be too ambitious at this stage” I decided, for once, not to run wild and stay with something manageable. I still think that, within limits, the idea of having a black flower-head with a bouquet of bright tulips, whose shadow on the other hand is the only one that is colourful, reflects my attitude towards life: Even if something looks quite bleak, it may come with an extraordinary characteristic helping to compensate for the more obvious “deficits”.
Since my grasp of acrylics is not yet well grounded I decided that I did not to want to experiment too much with materials and techniques yet. For the next assignment, however, I am planning to go ahead with a more inventive approach.

4. Context reflection

I think that my choice of materials and techniques support the message included with the painting. The bouquet is not simply a representation of a real world object, but hopefully allows a viewer to interact with the depicted situation in a more intense way, allowing the symbols used to deduce a generalized view of the world.