My exploration of subject, media and techniques lead me to ideas which I wanted to try to use in the final painting. The key ones being a contrasting view of a fork and spoon with chopsticks expressed using oil on aluminium. Ideas about how they could relate to me personally were about fitting into a new culture.
Applying everything so far on a larger scale was both exciting and overwhelming. I choose A1 size mainly because that was about the size of the aluminium sheet pre-cut and because I wanted to paint something big.
My intention was to show more of the brush work in a similar approach to Claire Woods and use oil paints. I used a large household brush for the background and a brush one third the size for the utensils. Oil mixed with solvent and refined linseed oil was used to reduce the consistency and make it slightly transparent. This allowed me to be more gestural and less precise with sweeping brush work across the surface which I really enjoyed and would like to do more. The fork highlights were wiped off whilst wet. The result was striking and intense and after completing another smaller test I decided to leave it. Originally my intention was to apply a transparent gesso to blur the background further and make the utensils stand out but this combination didn’t seem as appropriate as when enamel had been the ground. This was because I didn’t want to loose the brushwork which I felt took a step to expressing the culture and also I was expecting to create a relationship with smaller brushwork on the spoon.
At this point I’m wondering what I’m really trying to communicate and whether simply showing the fork/spoon next to chopsticks as I see them in the photos is meaningful. I knew I didn’t have a strong message and was relying more on a natural expression of form and shadow to represent my intent.
Next I used enamel to paint chopsticks because it was less expressive and more about being able to control the brush in such a long straight line. Enamels where good for dragging and dripping and so I thought should work in favour. The relationship with negative space was also important so I left highlights and painted the parts in shadow. The difference in style with the long straight stands out and makes me question whether it fits in with the painting, perhaps it’s too representational compared to the background? Is this a reflection of the challenge of fitting in with a culture?
Finally I painted the spoon in oils with the smaller brush and tried to paint only the highlights. However I needed to paint the darker parts to bring the right tone for the spoon relative to the background. This was moving away from what I liked about the work from Clare Woods however I was trying to get the reflection of the chopsticks into the spoon as well as the highlights.
Overall it is a striking painting of the utensils with dramatic contrasting tones. The brushwork helps direct the viewer through the painting. The negative space relates well for the fork and chopstick holder but to a lesser extent with the chopsticks and spoon. The straight on view allows you to easily see the shape of the utensils and compare. The intense big brushwork of the shadows is perhaps more overpowering than the actual objects because they are painted with smaller less dramatic marks. This view was not consciously intended and again moves away from what I observed in Claire Woods painting. The intent is less clear in terms of the message I’m trying to communicate. This is partly because I’ve been less clear on defining up front the idea and more focussed on the techniques and composition most appealing to me.
How to develop this is difficult when I’m not clear on the message however I could have taken my approach further and painted the chopsticks as realistic as possible to enhance the sense they all didn’t fit together. I could try extending the fork approach to the spoon and chopstick and remove paint for highlights and then evaluate the need to paint any darker tones. This later approach seems appropriate because it would remove the actual utensils leaving the shadows to take focus. Alternatively look at the way the utensils are used e.g. chopsticks can be more precise compared to using a fork or spoon. Also I needed to try harder to find other work and artists who have looked at this subject.
Artists who have influenced my work include Clare Woods with the fluid brushwork in oil. Turner with his dramatic swirling stormy landscapes.
M Davidson (2011) Contemporary Drawing: Key concepts and techniques.