Assignment 1

Paintblower 1,2,3, Lion 1,2,3,4, Flamingos, Yellow umbrella, Girl on mobile, Benjamin Button, Old tree, Attenborough, Old lady, Man upset, Concrete, Cityscapes 1,2,Umbrellas, Fish.
These 20 paintings are very different and don’t sit together in a series like Annie Kevan’s young dictators or Elizabeth Dismorr’s The Borderland.  When I started the assignment I could not see how a consistent composition, style or use of medium would be possible when my main goal was to chose the most appropriate for each found image.   Whereas Annabel Dover’s One a day for a year series was a very varied collection of images and an essential part of what made it worth seeing.    So in the same way I thought the consistent size of each painting would be enough to bring it all together and allow me to treat them as individual paintings.  ‘Emerging drama’ is a theme I felt captured both my work so far and how I looked at things.    There is often a moment I see or feel that I want to paint and success is when I manage to capture it.
Found images
 The 4×5 arrangements seemed overloaded with so much to see in such a small area.  My eye was always immediately drawn to the red Paintblower image and then moving between other high colour and contrasting images giving a feeling of being overwhelmed.   I couldn’t seem to find an arrangement which controlled the eye moving through the image in a pleasing way and the idea of intentionally making it difficult to view seemed wrong.   Using a 2×10 arrangement allowed me to look at each image and to see them more as a story with those in colour contrasted against those without.   The 4×5 arrangements worked better if I balanced the stronger images on opposite sides.

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The more successful paintings tended to use noticeable brush work, usually with acrylic and a dry brush (Paintblower 1, Benjamin Button, Old lady, Man upset, Attenborough, Lion 4, Flamingos).  The main reason being it enabled me to express the different facial expressions, contours and movement.   Also contrasting the dryer brush work with a wash enhanced the effect of depth and movement.    Ali Sharma’s black & white portraits were a major influence for the brushwork and keeping colours to a minimum.
The flamingos background was painted differently using thin layers to create depth and variation which I found in the Blotter painting by Peter Doig.    This contrast with the brushwork on the flamingos helped them stand out even though the background ended up too dark.    This painting is one which took the most amount of time because each layer was painted in-between painting other paintings.
The  dancing lion seemed a good idea for a series of paintings showing the drama of the lion dance.     The sequence of images gave something different to focus on with the movement being a common element in the lions dance.  Each image had something different to look at; starting low and still, moving to the side fast, standing up tall and menacing, coming down face-on towards the viewer.   In that order, taking a close crop to show key parts of the lion and gouache on watercolour to create high contrast opening. Second, for the movement I returned to watercolour on varnish to make use of a streaking effect I discovered to suggest movement.   Third, Ink on acrylic was used to create a looming lion with the foot aloft like a storm cloud or a big wave.   The final lion uses dry brush work in acrylic to suggest movement and direction toward the viewer.    Whilst some of these attempts were not as effective as I’d like, overall the sequence does show those elements described.
I’d seen Shirt and Sweater by Lisa Kranichfeld who allowed the colours and ink to flow and bleed often distorting the portraits face and in contrast to a carefully painted shirt.   I used the same medium in an earlier exercise and found the ink dries less uniform on the acrylic surface.   Lion 3 and Umbrellas used this approach to create a more natural background which had streaks of varying intensities of ink that had dried naturally on the surface of the paint.   This enabled the more controlled painted elements such as the lion and umbrellas to stand out against those that appeared by chance.    Paintblower 2 and Girl on mobile were both attempts to use chance to bleed the paint on features of the head.
For Cityscapes 1 & 2 and Concrete I found the mix of the slightly reflective ink with matt acrylic an interesting contrast and also echoed materials such as shiny glass buildings and dull concrete.    Minimising the colour helped focus on the tones and natural qualities of the different mediums.

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I’ve included collections of experiments and compositional drawings for the lion dance where I found the black ink on red gouache too washed out.  There are also paintings I decided not to include, for example the butterfly felt too heavy, I wanted it to be more delicate like the paintings by Mimei Thompson.
If I was to do this again using the same 20 images I would try to unify the paintings. The easiest approach would be to use a consistent set of colours such as yellow for highlights rather than white and limiting the rest of the palette to maybe one other colour and a dark blue.
Other ways to develop this project would include trying different approaches, techniques and mediums.   Using household paint with influence from Gary Hume and Alicia Dubnyckyj for the cityscapes.  Try using just one colour in acrylic for creating different tones from different texture e.g. Alex Gene Morrison’s Skull.   Look at ways to generate unintended as well as intended images through overlapping images (Gary Hume Water paintings), blurring the paint in places (Lisa Kranichfeld) for images like lion dance and fish.  Look further into Peter Doig’s work to identify how some of the brighter elements of his paintings are achieved.   For larger work I’d like to do more expressive brush work for the lion dance with influence from Jane Callister in particular and also Cecily Brown.

Author: Paul Hunter

A self-taught British artist who paints landscapes using mixed media. I'm currently exploring life in Singapore through paint.

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