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|

Research: Euan Uglow and Giorgio Morandi – colour palette and simplicity in the purity of form

Updated on 7 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

4 August 2016. Two artists to revisit in order to study their choice of colour and approach to depicting form. Since I have seen work from both of them before, I though I would do a tiny compare and contrast exercise here.

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), world famous Italian 20th century still life painter of a purist kind, remained mostly with a restricted colour palette consisting of earth colours and different shades of grey. For a selection of typical works and analysis of his approach see e.g. Artyfactory (n.d.), where I found an explanation for the curiously pure surfaces of his objects. Apparently it took him weeks of preparatory observation and rearranging the objects for him to feel satisfied with a setup and I can see, and even more than that, feel how the forms communicate. Any small change to setup, form and colour and the message would be totally different. The colour palette and chosen pure forms appear to me to mirror Morandi’s way of life and I am amazed at and envy his relaxed and determined attitude.

Euan Uglow (1932-2000) on the other hand, was mainly a figurative painter, but when comparing his choice of subjects and care of analysis with Morandi’s approach I can see many similarities. One of his still lifes, “Still Life with Delft Jar” (Uglow, 1958) radiates the same careful, contemplative approach. Even some of his figurative paintings have a Morandi-like quality, e.g. in “The Blue Towel” (3), which is visible also in a video presenting some of this paintings (inesvigo, 2011). It is as if Uglow had slowly felt his way around the canvas until he was utterly satisfied with the patterns of communicating areas of colour in every tiny bit of it. The above painting makes me want to put it under a light microscope and see whether the pattern is repeated down to the tiniest observable scale.

In both Morandi’s and Uglow’s work there does not seem to be any random noise, no superfluous statements, just what there is and nothing else. This is probably the consequence of a state of mind in tune with body and environment. I guess that not too many people achieve this permanently, but when they do their works of art may achieve a timeless quality.

References:

Artyfactory (n.d.) Giorgio Morandi – Natura Morta (Still Life) [online]. Artyfactory, n.k. Available at: http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/still_life/giorgio_morandi.htm [Accessed 4 August 2016]

inesvigo (2011) Euan Uglow [online]. inesvigo, n.k. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKYlGvuWdJw [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Uglow, E. (1958) Still Life With Delft Jar [oil on canvas] [online]. Arts Council Collection, London. Available at: http://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk/artwork/still-life-delft-jar [Accessed 7 March 2017]

Uglow, E. (1982) The Blue Towel [oil on canvas] [online]. Jerwood Foundation, London. Available at: http://www.jerwoodfoundation.org/collection/26/the-blue-towel [Accessed 7 March 2017]

 

Research: Still Life – Mat Collishaw, Emma Bennett and John Currin

Updated on 7 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

3 August 2016. Still life can be a lot of things, and I met some radically diverging approaches on the subject in this research session.

On Mat Collishaw’s (*1966, UK) (Collishaw, 2016) website I met weird and disturbing installations of a great variety of techniques and ideas. Since my tutor asked me to look at Collishaw’s photos, I was confused at what to pay attention to. I did not know whether the photos were there to show the artist’s work or whether the photos WERE the works of art. Also, in the still life context it was hard for me to see a relationship of the presented works with any but the most radical approach to the concept. Some of the few works reminding me of a still life were “Butterfly Jar” (Collishaw, n.d.(a)) and “Natura Morte” (). Both appear to be colour-composed with great care and contain subtly disturbing elements, like e.g., in the first example, a slide projector appearing to project images of butterflies into the butterfly glass, which makes the net obsolete. I might interpret this as a collision between traditional and contemporary modes of acquisition of knowledge. This reminded me strongly of my own work at my museum, where the collecting of actual specimens has practically stopped (excepting the occasional little researched groups of organisms requiring the establishing of a collection from scratch) and is replaced by imaging systems. Which allows the question of whether the photograph of a setup of projected objects is a still life or something else, removed one more layer from the real.

What a difference when looking at the work by Emma Bennett (*1974, UK). Unfortunately the images I could find (e.g. Bennett, 2017) were too small and dark to see any greater detail. Her paintings look very traditional, and also the modern alterations made, like a fire burning in the middle of a meticulously placed arrangement of fruit or the various elements of a still life hanging in mid air, on their own, follow a long tradition of interpretation. The flames will probably consume the fruit after a while, leaving nothing but a memory. The introduction of elements reminding us of the transience of everything alive belongs in the vanitas concept typical of still life arrangements. See also Bennett’s own explanation of her ideas behind the series in a press release (Charlie Smith London, 2015). Her following a traditional path of artistic development in a radically different contemporary scene does provide some an anachronistic attraction.

John Currin’s (*1962, USA) work on the other hand employs a mix of painting techniques from the old masterly to modern, reminding me in style in places of the Austrian Caricaturist Manfred Deix (1949-2016) (Karikaturmuseum Krems, 2016), or to put it with the Gagosian Gallery (2017): “Consistent throughout his oeuvre is his search for the point at which the beautiful and the grotesque are held in perfect balance.”. Despite his masterly technique his choice of subjects is not always what I would be happy to look at and it was quite difficult to find anything reminding me of a still life, but parts of “Thanksgiving” probably come close to one. The setup even included the fleeting aspect of life represented by the (horribly naked) turkey to be consumed soon – but since none of the slim ladies seem to be capable of doing so, decomposition of the turkey may be achieved in more than one way.

So, in summary, what message do I take from this excursion? There is of course no limit to the interpretation of a traditional subject. The question is: What aspects make an artist’s work noticeably contemporary? For my part I believe that it should be insufficient to just rearrange the established. The message of a work of art (in case one is intended) should be firmly nested within the agreements forming the base of a working society so that it may be interpreted correctly and thus an influence exerted on a projected development of humanity. Or such like.

References:

Bennett, E. (2017) Something Stirs [oil on canvas] [online]. Charlie Smith, London. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/emma-bennett-something-stirs [Accessed 7 March 2017]

Charlie Smith London (2015) Emma Bennett: Several Small Fires [press release] [online]. Charlie Smith, London. Available at: http://www.neilzakiewicz.com/emmabennett//ssf.pdf [Accessed 3 August 2016]

Collishaw, M. (2014) Natura Morte [C-type photograph] [online]. Matt Collishaw, n.k. Available at: http://matcollishaw.com/works/natura-morte/ [Accessed 3 August 2016]

Collishaw, M. (2016) Works [online]. Matt Collishaw, n.k. Available at: http://matcollishaw.com/works/ [Accessed 3 August 2016]

Collishaw, M. (n.d.) Butterfly Jar [n.k.] [online]. Matt Collishaw, n.k. Available at: http://matcollishaw.com/works/butterfly-jar/ [Accessed 3 August 2016]

Currin, J. (2003) Thanksgiving [oil on canvas] [online]. Gagosian Gallery, New York. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/john-currin-thanksgiving [Accessed 3 August 2016]

Gagosian Gallery (2017) John Currin [online]. Gagosian Gallery, New York. Available at: http://www.gagosian.com/artists/john-currin [Accessed 3 August 2016]

Karikaturmuseum Krems (2016) Manfred Deix [online]. Karikaturmuseum Krems. Available at: http://www.karikaturmuseum.at/de/manfred-deix [Accessed 3 August 2016]

Part 2, project 3, exercise 5: Colour relationships – Still life with colour used to evoke mood

Updated on 2 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

28 May 2016. Working towards my plan for Assignment 2 I want to use this exercise to explore the relative aggressiveness of colours. Using the same setup as in the previous exercise I would like to convey an aggressive mood by making both slight adaptations to my setup, e.g. the relative positions of my cocktail glasses and accessories, using strong brushstrokes, and, most important, a set of appropriate colours.

Referring to my own blog post on colour symbolism (Lacher-Bryk, 2016) and preliminary ideas regarding Assignment 2 I will do the following: Combine purple black and grey in a background consisting of a very dimly lit detail of a chessboard to achieve a gloomy atmosphere, on which the aggressiveness or gentleness of the other colours is also highly visible.

When looking for any artists exposing themselves to the subject of aggression in their paintings, regardless of the quality of their works of art, they have in common the use of red and black, the use of strong and wild brush strokes and a predilection for exposed teeth in their subjects. This is not the kind of aggression I am looking for. I would like to be able to raise an aggressive atmosphere with something as harmless as a set of cocktail glasses. So looking for other methods:
It is vitally important to create movement towards the attacked object, see e.g. the painting “Abstract Aggression” (2014) by Pratik Chavan (*?, India) or “Three Roots that Obscure” (2015) by Hildy Maze (*?, USA) or even in an untitled work (2011) by Martin Bromirski (*?, USA). In the latter the aggression becomnes visible only at second glance. The shapes and pointed cutouts appear to move in a particular way that evokes a feeling of uneasiness, althought the main colours, blue and yellow, would suggest otherwise. The use of aggressive colours like red to me feels more effective if used sparingly rather than by covering the whole canvas. Apart from the above I did not find too many works of art giving me a lot of new aspects to think about. Being human, we instinctively know all about aggression (I just had another look at Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973, Spain) “Guernica” (1937)) and we can read its signposts very well. For me, the task is to find my own way of transporting it to canvas. Since my previous steps of working towards a finished piece seemed to work quite well, I am going to repeat and possibly correct and refine them.
First of all I will add to the setup some of the ingredients I am planning to use in the assignment piece, i.e. a Belladonna cherry and ivy leaves and use my sketchbook to play with the relative positions of my cocktail glasses with respect to each other and the imaginary chessboard background. In particular, I would like the whole arrangement to appear to to move in a panic towards the viewer by creating an impression of overbalancing “out of the canvas”.

4 June 2016. What a week and no painting. Today, finally, I managed to finish this exercise with a less than satisfying result. In notice that every time something very demanding happens on the hospital front it takes me ages to return to an already started painting. This time it was worse than I ever experienced before, we even thought about quitting our fight altogether, but then, looking at our son, we just must not give up.
Last week we got some ivy and having played around with my arrangement I noticed that it would have to be either chessboard or ivy to avoid crowding and loss of message. And since it is the ivy that is poisonous it was easy to let go of the chessboard. So this is the sequence, on A2 acrylic paper as in the previous exercise (Fig. 1-6):

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Figure 1. Setup through my viewfinder
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Figure 2. Intuitive first layer of colours
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Figure 3. Strengthening the colours, taking back the 3D impression
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Figure 4. Finished painting
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Figure 5. Finished painting, detail with complementary and similar colours
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Figure 6. Finished painting, creating space without using perspective

In summary I very much enjoy this new way of painting, but my brushstrokes are so inconfident and change with every object I paint, and even when I paint over an old layer, that the result is less than convincing. I do feel, however, that I start recognizing the weakest bits and after having dealt with them I find the next weakest bits. This means that I could go round and round in circles and never finish this exercise. Hopefully learning takes place here, too.

Comparing the result of this exercise with the previous one: It was definitely easier to paint with two complementary colours and white only. In this exercise I spent a long time thinking about the juxtaposition of colours in connection with the message I had in my mind. I did not refer to the setup again after having produced a pencil sketch and drawn the outlines on my paper, because I wanted to see whether intuition would be capable of taking over the final choice of colours and the position of additional – and imaginary – accessories in creating an aggressive atmosphere. This was probably the mistake, because I feel that I am not ready yet for such a complex task, but I will go ahead with my plan for Assignment 2 nevertheless. I owe it to my son.

Resources:

Bromirski, M. (2011) Untitled [n.k.] [online painting]. Martin Bromirski, New York. Available at: http://www.painters-table.com/link/structure-and-imagery/martin-bromirski-rachel-labine-elizabeth-riley [Accessed 2 March 2017]

Chavan, P. (2014) Abstract Aggression [n.k.] [online painting]. Pratik Chavan, Mumbai. Available at: http://www.touchtalent.com/painting/art/abstract-aggression-231846 [Accessed 2 March 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Part 2, project 3, exercise 4: Colour Relationships – Still Life With Complementary Colours [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/05/28/part-2-project-3-exercise-4-colour-relationships-still-life-with-complementary-colours/ [Accessed 1 March 2017]

Maze, H. (2015) Three Roots That Obscure – Aggression, Passion, Ignorance [oil on paper] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://hildymaze.com/artwork/3780677-three-roots-that-obscure-passion-aggression-ignorance.html [Accessed 28 May 2016]

Picasso, P. (1937) Guernica [oil on canvas] [online]. Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/74/PicassoGuernica.jpg [Accessed 28 May 2016]

Part 2, project 3, exercise 4: Colour relationships – still life with complementary colours

Updated on 28 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

21 May 2016. After having spent some time researching colour relationships I became aware of the fact that complementary colours are not just those lying opposite to one another on the colour wheel. There are a number of interesting combinations, each of which creates a very different harmony and thus atmosphere (Tiger Color, n.d., Decker, 2017).

My intention for this exercise is to use it as a first preparation for my choice of colours for Assignment 2. What I want to test in particular is what happens if certain combinations of complementary colours in their simple forms (i.e. those lying opposite) are used for an identical setup using identical techniques. In order to concentrate on colour effects I decided that I would create a very simple arrangement cocktail glasses and accessories and omit 3D by flattening out forms. The finished studies I would like to put on a larger canvas in a grid, just as in Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) famous Marilyn Monroe prints (Borg, n.d. for an image and explanation). Referring to the latter I found an interactive experiment (WebExhibits, n.d.), which investigates just what I am looking for.

22 May 2016. Today I decided that I would want to carry out the experiments and the finished painting for this exercise with blue and orange, both of which are readily associated with cocktails and are excellent in conveying particular opposite emotions. With my simple setup of cocktail glasses I will try and create a number of identical paintings with the colours distributed in different ways. For this reason I will not need actual cocktails, but will “fill” the glasses with my chosen colours.

27 May 2016. To start with I experimented with the mutual effects the complementary pair have on each other, repeating and extending on the experiments introduced earlier in this part of the course. I put the colours (primary cyan, orange mixed from primary yellow and primary magenta to result in an orange skewed neither towards yellow or orange) through a basic investigation of properties, looking for situations of enhancement and cancelling-out (left image below). Then I went through another mixing experiment, repeating one I had thought I had to end abruptly because of running out of space in row one. I did so, too, this time, but continued by placing the last mix in the first row again as the first mix in the second row so as to allow a more or less continuous flow of information. The choice of colours will not allow a grey to develop halfway through the gradual changes, but rather a full green, which is however much darker in tone than both the starting hues. This effect is something I have not yet fully understood and when there is time I will try and find more information on the physics behind it (top part of right image below).

Next I created three very short sets of mixes containing the following sequences:
original hue -> tint (mix with white) -> shade (mix with black) -> tone (mix with grey)
Following the instructions on p. 69 of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2011) a use of black or neutral grey mixed from white and black does not seem to be allowed, so the only chance of a dark hue for this experiment is the use of green. However, it is possible to mix a great number of pleasing tints, so that the medium dark green available as the darkest tone will of course look darker when next to one of the tints (Fig. 1a-b).


In the next step I had another session on the computer to find out more about still lifes using blue and orange only, and I came up with one (“Still Life with Blue Orange 2” by James Bland (*1979, UK) see Fig. 2 below) I wanted to use as a source of information regarding the available mixed and distribution of colours on the canvas. Besides, I like the brushstrokes, which seem to be rather dry at the edges of colour areas, letting layers of colour shine through. It appears that here also there are no colours other than the ones I chose, while I am not sure whether I would be allowed to use a pink or light yellow mixed from white and the respective primary colours used in mixing orange. I decided that I would not take the risk and stayed with the above mixes.

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Figure 2. James Bland (*1979) “Still Life with Blue Orange 2”, n.d., n.k. Source: James Bland (*1979) via Lilford Gallery

Next I prepared an A2 acrylic paper with a neutral grey ground. While I left this to dry I tried some setups with four different glasses used in mixing cocktails. My intention was to create some movement conveying an indication of a story told. The setup fitting my idea best was the one top right in Fig. 3 below:

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Figure 3. Testing setups

The prepared grey ground I split in four squares and filled them with the following grounds: primary cyan, orange, the darkest achievable green and a bluish green (Fig. 4):

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Figure 4. Prepared split background

On this I drew with a lighter and a darker mix of my complementary colours, then quickly filled the spaces with imaginary “cocktails” (Fig. 5-7):

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Figure 5: Sketches using line and setup with viewfinder
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Figure 6. Intermediate stage
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Figure 7. Filled sketches

I quite like I the overall effect of this study and there is an endless number of lessons to be learned from it. Since I did not refer to my setup closely, but allowed imagination to play a role, these sketch paintings seem loose and full of movement. It was difficult to make a choice for the final painting of this exercise, but in the end to me the top left combination of colours seemed  suitable for the purpose.

After having prepared another A2 ground, this time with primary blue only – so as to avoid mistakes regarding instructions – I made another loose painting in the style of the above (see Fig. 8 below, for which, for some reason, I had to place the painting in a floor area in my workshop fully lit by the evening sun in order to get the colours more or less right):

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Figure 8. First layer of complementary colour painting, ball-like object on the right is an imaginary belladonna cherry to play a major role as an ingredient to Assignment 2
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Figure 9. Tonal contrast

There are some quite nice effects in this first layer of colours (Fig. 9 above) and I want to keep them for later reference, in case I destroy them when continuing to work on the painting. I noticed, in particular, how a lighter layer of a light greenish orange on top of the primary blue, except for the shadows thrown by the glasses, will help to deepen the shadows. With the glass “filled with a white liquid” the effect is particularly noticeable, because both the white and the light blue next to the shadow further heighten the tonal contrast.
Since this way of painting is very new to me I can see that my use of the above effects is still more accidental than deliberate, but I want to know where this road will lead me and I want to work hard to master it.

28 May 2016. Today I finished my painting for this exercise. Here is the result (Fig. 10-13):

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Figure 10. Finished painting, A2 acrylic paper

And here come some details:

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Figure 11. Finished painting – detail of reflections on glass and table
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Figure 12. Finished painting – detail of reflections on stem of tall glass
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Figure 13. Finished painting – detail of blue shadow

It took some getting acquainted with applying the laws governing the use of complementary colours only in a painting. Blue and orange may not be the most convenient pair because of the non-availability of grey or near black tones, but I liked the necessity of having to make parts of the painting lighter instead of darker to bring out the darker tones. It was a totally different experience for me and while I know that my technique is still in its infancy, I want to pursue it further throughout the course.

Resources:

Bland, J. (n.d.) Still Life with Blue Orange 2 [n.k.] [online]. Lilford Gallery, Canterbury. Available at: http://www.lilfordgallery.com/james-bland/still-life-with-blue-orange-2/ [Accessed 21 May 2016]

Borg, E. (n.d.) Andy Warhol and Colour [blog] [online]. Discovering design. Available at: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/emilyborg/andy-warhol-and-color/ [Accessed 21 May 2016]

Decker, K. (2017) The Fundamentals of Understanding Color Theory [online]. 99designs, Oakland. Available at: https://en.99designs.at/blog/tips/the-7-step-guide-to-understanding-color-theory/ [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Open College of the Arts (2011) Painting 1. The Practice of Painting. The Bridgeman Art Library, London, New York, Paris, p. 69.

Tiger Color (n.d.) Color Harmonies: Basic Techniques for Combining Colours [online]. Tiger Colors, Oppegard. Available at: http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-harmonies.htm [Accessed 28 February 2017]

WebExhibits (n.d.) Color Vision and Art: Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Prints [online]. WebExhibits. Available at: http://www.webexhibits.org/colorart/marilyns.html [Accessed 21 May 2016]

 

Assignment 2: Stage 1 -Preliminary research (colour symbolism)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

14 May 2016. Assignment 2 is still more than six weeks away for me, but there is an idea I would like to pursue in preparation for this assignment. To this end I would like to start now in order to be able to dedicate the exercises to come as preliminary steps towards the final painting.

The story of our fight for our son has been added to by another unbelievable chapter, this time concerning the role, which the public prosecutor assigned to our case appears to play in further hushing up the commited offences. We have turned somewhat numb at the incredible sequence of acts of wilful negligence we have been exposed to in the last nine years, but are determined not to give up. Assignment 2 will be my channel for expressing what I feel and because it is a poisonous cocktail mixed from extreme emotions, this is a wonderful opportunity to indulge in experimenting with the various effects colours have in communication with the human eye. Since we are required to paint another still life, here is some preliminary research regarding the meanings attributed to different colours in the Western world. And talking of cocktails – this could be the first step towards the setup of my still life.

I found an endless number of resources, but there is a limited number of emotions and conditions, and thus colours, I need to deal with in the context of this assignment and decided that staying with one source of information would provide me with reliable cross-connections. The source chosen also deals with colours in painting (Olesen, 2016):

  • red: warm, positive, strong colour, signals “Stop!”, strong emotions, energizing, promotes determination, steals attention, symbol also of war, too much red makes angry, especially dark red (5). This should be my background colour including a black void as in Mark Rothko’s (1903-1970, USA) painting “Four Darks in Red” (Rothko, 1958) and own research).
  • black: symbolizes evil, depressing, hidden, unknown, mysterious things, power and control also over information hidden from the outside world, but also elegance and wealth, protection against emotional stress (maybe use this colour to limit the effect of turquoise and red by painting round them), adds contrast and allows other colours to stick out more (4), use on the black void and where needed in the painting, maybe position the mixing tools and glasses on a black shiny surface or cloth, black should not stand alone. I will need to buy a darker type of black, my ivory black is more like a very dark grey.
  • brown: colour of stability for the family, protects from the outside world, I will need to put this in between the red outside frame and the black void as a protective shield, stays in the background, emphasizes other colours (13), use a brown not too dark, only if I want it to communicate depression, if dark it should also help to enhance the cocktail colours
  • silver: colour of truth of old, sophisticated, visible in the dark, which for my purpose is also true in a figurative sense, however “silver-tongued devil” is someone who deceives and cheats, the colour can also bring emotional, mental and physical harmony, distinuguish between bright silver, which suggests openness and dark silver, which is associated with negative emotions (1)
    Cocktail mixing equipment is silvery and I could make a mirror image of the silver-tongued devil in my cocktail mixer, while the different sorts of brightly coloured cocktails mixed have various meanings associated. The experience gained, by concidence, with the two different types of silver sheen in my still life with man-made objects may not have been a coincidence.
  • turquoise: creates harmony, but must not be overused, because of a roller-coaster effect, which may represent our own attempt to initiate positive communication with the injuring parties, combines blue with a little yellow, “radiates peace, calmness and tranquility through the blue colour, balance and growth through the green colour, with an uplifting energy from the colour yellow. Turquoise recharges our spirits during periods of mental stress and fatigue”, improves empathy, but in the extreme narcissistic, weighs pros and cons, I will need the shade of blue-green, since it promotes engagement and symbolizes credibility and reliability (3) – it is also probably no coincidence that I have always liked this colour, it is one of my favourites. Type of cocktail: Caribbean mist, opaque.
  • pink: unconditional love, understanding, sign of hope and success, relieves anger (6) Type of cocktail: Pink Lady, opaque. Will need to stand next to the red of the Rothko frame in some place to see the calming effect and the cancelling out of similar colours, don’t make a dark line round the glass in this case! Use hot pink, but sparingly like turquoise
  • orange: as a complementary to turquoise, warm, positive, stimulates mental activity, provides emotional strength in difficult times, encourages two-way communication, encourages self-respect and respect for others (7) Type of cocktail: Campari orange, because it contains two shades – dark orange, meaning deceit, and golden orange, which should be positive
  • white: protects and encourages, opens up the mind for something new, sense of peace, comport, hope, but too much can create a cold, isolated, empty feeling (9). Use a bit of it as something in or on the pink cocktail to enhange the meaning, but also to stand in opposition to the red and black
  • yellow: the brightest colour visible, increases optimism and communication, makes nervous, associated with envy, influences head rather than heart (10). This only in context with other warm colours, but not on its own, since it is part of turquoise, I may not need it separately (just as blue)
  • blue: calming, strength, wisdom, trust, do the right thing in difficult situations (14), since it is part of turquoise I may not need it separately (just as yellow)
  • colours not to use in this context: gold (2), purple (8), both have meanings opposite to those I want to convey; green (11) – it takes away the aggression of the red and adds too much hope, which is not true; grey (12) – because it does not convey any of the emotions associated with this context

The colours I would like to use after this initial research will be shades of red, brown and deep black to create a background in the style of a Mark Rothko painting (research to follow). On this I will try and paint a symbolic, weird and aggressive-looking cocktail arrangement of turquoise, pink and orange drinks made in a silver shaker and served in glasses of different shapes. The colour white will only be used to mix tonal values and to add highlights, yellow, blue and green will not be part of the painting as separate areas of colour. Off now to some detailed research on the mechanisms at work in Mark Rothko’s paintings.

Resources:

Olesen, J. (2016) Hidden Meanings of Colour and Art [online]. Jacob Olesen, Copenhagen. Available at: http://www.color-meanings.com/hidden-meanings-of-colors-and-art/ [Accessed 14 May 2016]

Rothko, M. (1958) Four Darks in Red [oil on canvas] [online]. Whitney Museum of American Art,

1. http://www.color-meanings.com/silver-color-meaning-the-color-silver/
2. http://www.color-meanings.com/gold-color-meaning-the-color-gold/
3. http://www.color-meanings.com/turquoise-color-meaning-the-color-turquoise/
4. http://www.color-meanings.com/black-color-meaning-the-color-black/
5. http://www.color-meanings.com/red-color-meaning-the-color-red/
6. http://www.color-meanings.com/pink-color-meaning-the-color-pink/
7. http://www.color-meanings.com/orange-color-meaning-the-color-orange/
8. http://www.color-meanings.com/purple-color-meaning-the-color-purple/
9. http://www.color-meanings.com/white-color-meaning-the-color-white/
10. http://www.color-meanings.com/yellow-color-meaning-the-color-yellow/
11. http://www.color-meanings.com/green-color-meaning-the-color-green/
12. http://www.color-meanings.com/gray-color-meaning-the-color-gray/
13.http://www.color-meanings.com/brown-color-meaning-the-color-brown/
14. http://www.color-meanings.com/blue-color-meaning-the-color-blue/

 

 

Part 2, project 2, exercise 4: Still life with man-made objects (step 2: finished painting)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

10 May 2016. Much happier with this exercise than with the previous two. I have learned from them, changed back to using water only to dilute my paint and painting on an A2 painting carton rather than acrylic paper.
The study guide requires me to comment on a list of aspects, which I will deal with first to then add a photo sequence with some additional thoughts.

1. Planning and working methods

During the last three exercises I finally discovered the sequence of steps required from preliminary research regarding artists and styles, to a selective choice and well-thought-out positioning and lighting of objects. I have now switched from making sketches on larger-scale paper to such in my sketchbook, which results in a much more coherent story and easy reference while creating the actual painting. This time, for the first time ever, I sat down while painting and I found that extremely useful in case of a  still life. However, I have not yet found an ideal place to put the arrangement, which would at the same time allow a comfortable working position with access to daylight. I will probably have to buy a higher than normal table or board for the purpose (Fig. 1).

Workplace_with_viewfinder_10052016
Figure 1: The workplace

2. Choice of format/scale

I spent some time arranging my objects and found that with the most successful setup a portrait format would work far better than a landscape format. The last two exercises I had been experimenting on smaller scale acrylic paper and found this awkward to work with. I prefer larger sizes from A2 upwards, because I tend to paint with a mix of bold strokes with some detail added and found that I was unable to do that on smaller sized supports. This meant scaling up my objects to about two to three times their actual size, which had the positive side effect that smaller details could be added with confidence.

3. Composition

Initially I was not too happy with the composition, since I am not a typical still life painter, but the longer I worked on the actual painting the more I liked what I got. I think that it contains a pleasing mix of materials in positions which allows the viewer’s eye to wander without effort, while not totally devoid of a story.

4. Colour interest

I think that the mix of subdued greys and browns provided by both the piece of driftwood and the blocks of wood went well together with the metallic hues (brushed cool grey stainless steel salt cellar and pepper caster, polished warm grey spoon) and the plastic egg cup, whose colours were complementary. I tried to paint shaded areas using the colours of the respective objects mixed with my background mix of dark brown, bluegreen and a little black in case where there was deep shade.

5. Use of tonal contrast

Careful planning of the lighting conditions allowed strong shadows stand in contrast with a series of areas of lighter tonal values. I took care to cross-check relative tonal values across the whole canvas.

6. Paint handing

I came to appreciate very much the advice of using a coloured background to start with. It is far easier to work out tonal differences from a background, which is not white. Form the lessons learnt during the last two exercises I kept spraying water on my palette at intervals. I tried to produce strong and at the same time loose marks with a larger size flat brush as e.g. in the piece of driftwood, which went surprisingly well. Keeping in mind what I had seen in the work of Cathleen Rehfeld (Lacher-Bryk, 2016), I went over the background with lighter shades of the background mix, painting around the objects in a loose manner and tried to leave some of the dark to define outlines, where I thought it would create a believable addition to the description of an object’s characteristics.

The following photos were quite difficult to take, I did not find a place in our house and even outside where I could avoid all reflections, so unfortunately some areas on the canvas appear foggy (Fig. 2a-b, Fig. 3a-b).


Today I finished the exercise and am quite happy with the result (Fig. 4, Fig. 5a-b):

Finished_painting_10052016
Figure 4. Finished painting, acrylics on A2 painting carton


An important aspect I noticed with the use of acrylic paint is the fact that with my set of standard quality paint the colour of the prepared mix on the palette has nothing to do with the colour of the wet paint applied to the canvas (unless in very thick layers), but interestingly when dry the paint will return more or less to what was mixed. This was extreme with my background mix, which looked dark green when applied, but would dry to turn back to the pleasant dark brown-grey hue mixed. When mixed with white, however, the greenish hue remained. This I used to modify the background according to the different lighting conditions and was very happy with the effect.

Regarding the relative success of each of the exercises in this project I am not really able to compare them due to the problems I caused myself by introducing gloss medium in the second exercise. I think, however, that the third painting is by far the best regarding the choice of subject and execution through the various stages. This is the most intense phase of learning I have had for a very long time and I am pleased that I was able to come through with such a large gain.

Asked to revisit Assignment 1 there is not a lot I would have done differently. I like the viewpoint and idea behind the painting. What I would do completely differently now, however, is the painting of the flower-heads. I remember that each of them was done in a different way as a reaction to a more or less accidental application of paint and when looking closely the different sequences of opaque and transparent layers is quite obvious. If I had to do it again, I would do some preliminary experiments with the layering of paint in translucent objects and then try to work in a consistent way across the whole bouquet.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Part 2, project 2, exercise 4: Still life with man-made objects (step 1: preliminary thoughts, choice of objects and first sketches) [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/part-2-project-2-exercise-4-still-life-with-man-made-objects-step-1-preliminary-thoughts-choice-of-objects-and-first-sketches/ [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Part 2, project 2, exercise 4: Still life with man-made objects (step 1: preliminary thoughts, choice of objects and first sketches)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

3 May 2016. Right. This time I am going to do this properly. Originally I had planned to use soft pastel crayons and sand paper for this exercise, but since there was so much to be explored regarding the behaviour of acrylics after the last two exercises that I could not just leave it as it is.

What I learned from the last exercise:

  • start with a uniform but coloured background, it can always be changed later
  • do not prepare a background with gloss medium, it is awful to paint on without the right type of practice
  • avoid mixing brand of gloss medium and brand of acrylics. They do not seem to like each other.
  • keep diluting with water, just keep spraying water on both support and tray
  • choose SIMPLE objects (I just realised that a reason for my wrong choices may be the fact that I keep returning to the great images in the study guide, but most of them are way beyond what I can achieve at my stage of development)

I had a look on the internet for artists who paint in a way I would like to explore in line with my list and found a number of paintings by Cathleen Rehfeld (Rehfeld, 2016-17), whose style I find appealing. She explains that she uses black gesso to prepare her support, then paints on that with bold strokes, leaving some of the black background to serve as outline of the painted objects. I was also impressed by her daily paintings (Daily Paintwork, n.d.), where the simplest everyday items appear to come to life. Since her style reminds me of that of some impressionists and my all-time favourite Expressionist, Egon Schiele (1890-1918, Austria) (Fig.1), and I think that during the last few exercises I seem to have worked towards, inconsistently and with the wrong colours, a style reminiscent of the above, I am going to do my best to stay with what seems to be developing anyway. So, another attempt at strong lines and “dirty” colours.

Egon_Schiele_004
Figure 1. Egon Schiele: “Old Mill”, oil on canvas, 1916. Source: Egon Schiele (1890-1918) [Public domain] via malerei-meisterwerke.de
When coming to the choice of items, I will try the “less is more” principle, but will be still be looking for unusual shapes and setups. For example, Picasso’s  “Still Life with Pitcher and Apples” (Picasso, 1919) could not be more straightforward in choice, but the shape of the pitcher and position of fruit attract the attention of a viewer because of the unexpected arrangement. The same applies, in my opinion, to his  “Still Life with Skull and Pot” (Picasso, 1943): It is deceptively simple, but catches the light in an admirable way, while knowing skull and cheeky pot appear to be engaged in some act of important communication. What I also found was a still life by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945, USA), from a three generation dynasty of painters, called “Still Life with Bowl, Onions and Bottle” (Wyeth, 1922): again, simple objects, the most straightforward of arrangements, and all the beauty of it coming from the incredible background and use of light on the objects. It seems as if the shape of the bottle consisted of black background only, its outline defined by wall and table, and only a hint of light on its neck.
This is all well, but I think a big point where my planning goes wrong may be the ACTUAL choice of objects. We do not seem to be a household with stuff that lends itself easily to posing for a still life, so I will need to take my time.

8 May 2016. I took my time and finally came up with a driftwood salt and pepper holder made by my sister, a silver spoon and, as a contrast in material and colour my son’s plastic egg cup. I am not too pleased with my choice, because it will not tell a story beyond “waiting for my boiled egg to arrive”, but this is an exercise and I will concentrate on improving my technique to leave the message for Assignment 2.
Bearing in mind the beautiful choice of background by N.C. Wyeth, I used a dark grey wooden board to serve as wall and a piece of dark brown paper taken from a Nespresso bag to cover the table (Fig. 2):

Setup1_08052016
Figure 2. Objects chosen for this exercise (setup discarded later because of weak shadows und unfavourable distribution of darkest tones)

With this arrangement, my viewfinder and a desktop daylight lamp I experimented until negative spaces, distribution of colours, shadows and highlights looked satisfactory to me. In fact the latter did not come true, but after a day I made up my mind to go for the setup which in my opinion came closest to the requirements. For my sketches I used three different ink pens, a fineliner, a calligraphy pen for the darkest tones and a brush-tip one for the mid tones. The latter unfortunately started to run out of ink and so the last, and most interesting, of the following sketches is lighter in tone than I would have liked it to be (Fig. 3-5).

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Figure 3
First_sketch_ink_pens_v2_08052016
Figure 4
First_sketch_ink_pens_v3_08052016
Figure 5

The above sketch I recreated in my sketchbook at a slightly larger scale with a dark watercolour background and soft pastel crayons, a combination which produced some very beautiful effects (Fig. 6):

Sketch_watercolour_pastels_detail_08052016
Figure 6. Watercolour and pastel sketch emphasizing darest and lightest tonal values

With this sketch to work from I decided to choose an A2 painting carton, portrait format and a coloured background. Report to follow.

References:

Daily Paintworks (n.d.) Cathleen Rehfeld [online]. Daily Paintworks. Available at: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/Artists/cathleen-rehfeld-206 [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Picasso, P. (1919) Still Life with Pitcher and Apples [oil on canvas] [online]. Musée National Picasso, Paris. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-14/picasso27s-still-life-with-pitcher-and-apples2c-1919/3664892 [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Picasso, P. (1943) Still Life with Skull and Pot [n.k.] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.pablo-ruiz-picasso.net/work-1594.php [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Rehfeld, C. (2016-17) Cathleen Rehfeld Oil Paintings [blog] [online]. Cathleen Rehfeld. Available at: http://crehfeld.blogspot.co.at/ [Accessed 3 May 2016]

Schiele, E. (1916) Old Mill [oil on canvas] [online]. Niederösterreichisches Landesmuseum, Wien. Available at: http://www.malerei-meisterwerke.de/bilder/egon-schiele-alte-muehle-08818.html [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Wyeth, N.C. (1922) Still Life with Bowl, Onions and Bottle [oil on canvas][online]. Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/eoskins/5598698301/ [Accessed 3 May 2016]

 

Part 2, project 2, exercise 3: Still life disaster with natural objects (step 4: finished painting)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

2 May 2016. So, here comes disaster diary for the last step in this exercise.

I think that everything that follows can be pinpointed to my introduction of gloss medium as a diluting agent instead of water. In my previous exercise I had noticed that I was unable to create uniform layers of paint, i.e. such that were not totally opaque to the sides of the brush and totally transparent in the brush track. After having got the advice to use gloss medium to dilute instead of water the first experiments looked quite promising except for the weird bubbles created by mixing more than the tiniest amount of paint and medium. While I thought that the background created in this way looked fine and the surface was smooth and shiny, I will have to work some more on my composition skills (Fig. 1).

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Figure 1. The prepared background, A3 acrylic paper, paint diluted with gloss medium

When next I added another layer of paint indicating the position of my objects and their future colours, I noticed straight away that painting on top of that smooth surface would not be as straightforward as it had sounded on the internet. I found that I was unable to go over areas already covered in wet paint a second time, because this would remove all the paint in an instant and I would not be able to close the gaps produced in this way until the layer had dried completely. This allowed no spontaneity im my use of the paintbrush whatsoever and prohibited the correction of mistakes. Also, and what I did not expect to see to such an extent was the extreme darkening effect. Acrylics become darker on drying, student qualities such as I have been using so far more so than professional quality paint (which I will buy from now on!), but the gloss medium made this far worse. The application of mixed hues became totally unpredictable, since I did not know what tonal value to mix for it to dry up to create the tonal value I wanted. And furthermore, the medium and paint reacted together in a way which produced a fluffy, creamy stuff difficult to apply to the smooth surface, which a second later was dry enough to allow no correcting. I spent two days trying to do my best to finish my painting, but I gave up when I saw no way I could improve what I had (Fig. 2):

23_Finished_painting_objects_3
Figure 2. Finished disaster painting, A3 acrylic paper, objects painted with acrylics diluted with gloss medium

While there is no point in wanting to see anything nice in the overall work, I do think that some parts may be worth remembering for later for their effects. If they had been on a separate canvas each I might have been quite pleased with the outcome. So here are the details I liked. The “coral” (or whatever it may be) was believable overall despite the lack of detail provided at closer look. I also want to remember the effect of having outlines contrasting in colour to both the object itself and the adjacent negative space, see top right of following photo (sorry for the poor quality, neither camera nor scanner nor the later removal of highlights on the computer provided a realistic image) (Fig. 3):

27_Finished_painting_detail3
Figure 3. Finished disaster painting, detail: “coral”

In the following two details I liked the texture of the background surrounding the petrified branch (Fig. 4a) and the contrast between the pointed bit of rock and the background, making it look really 3-dimensional (Fig. 4b). These I was also pleased with, because I noticed that for the first time my artist research seemed to have an effect on my style of painting (if one may call that so):

What was impossible to improve in the painting was my piece of pumice. Whatever I tried became so dark in the end that I could only guess at the final colour.
I will resist, however, the urge to apply a pair of scissors to this piece of work and stick the nice bits in my sketchbook. By having it in front of me in my workshop I may learn more from it that I am am aware of at this point.

 

Part 2, project 2, exercise 3: Still life with natural objects (step 3: sketching of objects)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

2 May 2016. With my newly discovered skill of keeping a sketchbook diary properly, I embarked on the next step of this exercise, making sketches of the objects to get acquainted with their properties and having a look at negative space created by placing them. This was most enjoyable and I think relatively successful (in contrast to the mini disaster to follow …).

My preliminary sketches I did in watercolour with ink pen, on the lookout for chance findings to make use of in my finished painting. I found the somewhat abstracted coloured shadows pleasing to look at, while also object likeness was not bad. The most difficult part was the shiny blackness of the pumice, which I was unable to copy, but since the overall structure of the rock was good and I wanted to keep this as a reference for later, I left the sketch as it was (Fig.1 ).

17_Sketching_objects
Figure 1. Watercolour and ink pen preliminary sketches of my objects

Next I experimented some more with placing the objects on my prepared background and already had a feeling that both ideas would probably not go together: I arranged the objects on the support where I thought they would both connect in their geological context and form an interesting pattern regarding the negative shapes between them. Doing this I could see that the shadows, if they were to be coloured, would clash with the negative space, making its properties less visible.
Since however this is supposed to be an experiment and my tutor advised me not to get distracted by seemingly finished paintings in the mind, I went ahead with my arrangement anyway. I made a rough charcoal sketch to identify the important negative spaces (Fig. 2).

18_Negative_spaces_charcoal
Figure 2. Placement of objects, shadows and negative spaces

Looking at the above sketch I thought the setup looked fidgety, since although everything pointed towards the centre, there was nothing to see there. In order to decrease this effect, I used a bit of beautiful white mesh normally used for decoration purposes and glued it into the sketchbook like an additional page.

19_Negative_spaces_charcoal_mesh
As above, with mesh added

Now the arrangement was more pleasing to look at and I still did not look forward to translating it to acrylics, it was full of foreboding of the weekend to come :o) …