Oils (Turner & Thompson)

This is an essay on oil paint and it use by William Turner and Mimei Thompson.   I will be looking at how they use oils and how I find it appealing and effective.   How has it influenced me and how do I want to develop my use of oils?

Turner is seen as a romantic painter who paints a feeling rather than exactly what you see even though they look realistic.   Mimei paints places or everyday things with a dream like quality seemingly organic but not of this world (Thompson, 2014) so in a way an abstraction of what you see.   They both look at nature and its beauty.   Turner focusses on the grand landscapes (Tate, 1834) from a distance whereas Mimei looks closely at the everyday things and animals.  They both create a luminosity in their work which heightens the beauty and drama.   Turners work seems to be more complex, intense and serious than Mimei who is more playful and in moving the paint around with simple clean brush marks.

She also says she doesn’t have any identity having moved around and this gave her ability to view the everyday as an alien.   This is something I can relate to in my current landscape where everyday things are sometimes overwhelming, alien and perhaps otherworldly.  This influenced me to to try moving paint around and making mark making more visible.  The process reminds somewhat of the monotypes where paint is moved around on glass and the mark making play and important role.

A painter called Tom Keating has studied many masters and provides details of Turners technique using tempera paint which allows him to complete the painting quickly (Keating, 2015).  The canvas is first covered with a ground colour and then white highlights are applied with a knife .  The knife marks reflects the form of sky, land or sea and increase in relief the closer to the light source like the sun to make it brighter (National Gallery of art, s.d).  Colour is blocked in light to dark, then once dry washes are applied from dark to light.    Reflecting on my older paintings using acrylic I can see I took a similar approach except for the thick impasto paint for highlights early on.   I’m anticipating the use of white impasto paint early on will be a key step to achieve the luminosity.   Scrubbing and scraping techniques also seem to play a big part where I guess layers of paint can be easily removed to show the lighter paint below.

Interestingly Tuners skill with skies and seas enables him to adjust the design to better reflect the layout by for example changing the sky (Artists network, s.d).  In other words I need to look closely at the composition and use ‘artistic licence’ to provide balance rather than copying a photo.

To develop my use of oils I should look to find ways to apply highlights soon after applying the ground probably using impasto paint.  Understand what colours are transparent.  bring out the odd or alien characteristics of what I observe.  Look at printing like monotypes and preserving the marks.  How do I removed scrub paint away to reveal more white or underlying paint and broaden the mark making range.


Artists network (s.d) How to paint clouds like tuner by David Dunlop. At:https://www.artistsnetwork.com/store/painting-skies-workshop-part-2-turner-cloud-study Accessed on 5/2/18

National Gallery of art (s.d)  An eye for art JMW Turner. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-JosephMallordWilliamTurner.pdf Accessed on 5/2/18

Tate (1834) The burning of the houses of parliment by JMW Turner. At:http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-the-burning-of-the-houses-of-parliament-d36235 Accessed on 5/2/18

Thompson, Mimei (2014) Bin bag closeup. At:http://www.mimeithompson.com/work/view/binbag-closeup/ Accessed on 5/2/18


Part 5 review

What is my personal voice and my motivation? 

I am certainly learning and developing and will continue to do so.  I am motivated by drama and the ephemeral moments in nature and man made.

3 words to describe my practice:

Developing, Drama, Ephemeral

What might I continue and develop? What ideas or images need further research and development?

  • I found mixing sight and touch helpful in creating greater depth and meaning and would like to develop this and also consider adding other senses (sound , smell , taste).
  • Is it mostly about finding the right contrast to bring out the drama and feeling with the right intensity or can I create the drama in other ways?
  • Continue and develop use of enamel and oil on aluminium
  • Look at how and when I can use monoprints in my work
  • Continue and develop use of directional impasto coloured paint
  • Continue to and develop use of luminosity and the various ways of achieving it
  • Sketch as much as possible


Exercise 5.4 Rubbish

Giorgio Morandi painted still life of ceramics with very simple subtle shapes and limited colours.    In this particular painting (Tate, 1946) the colour comes from hints thats part of the ceramic.   The lighting is strong, bright creating strong shadows.

Kurt Schwitters (Tate, 1942) created collages with found objects,  attaching them to a painting and painting over and sometimes sculpting objects.

Arman (Arman, 1991) uses objects and paints with them and includes the object stuck within the painting.  They are loud and colourful.  Creating interesting pattern by combining many of the same thing organised in interesting ways making something ordinary extraordinary.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster (Noble & Webster, 2002) create sculptures with rubbish such that when a light shines on it the shadow looks like people.

Alex Hanna (Hanna, 2017) paints objects on white backgrounds to show the form and texture with very limited palette.  Interestingly he paints the same objects each year but with different levels of realism and paint application.   He captures the essence of the object like the pill packets or plastic packaging which is very simple yet effective.   The lighting is soft, not strong or direct and overall feels dark.

From these examples I would keep my palette limited to one or two colours but use various shades like Morandi and Hanna.  Its probably safe to use a midtone of the same colour as a ground.   Maybe compare strong and not so strong lighting.   Considering composition, Hanna moves it around and takes up small part of area leaving much more blank around the object.   Morandi seems more traditional with objects carefully laid out in size and placement.

They keep the streets and gardens here very clean and tidy so I went to the beach which is one area that sadly gets lots of plastic washed up.   I found many plastic bottle tops and cups on the beach.   I could try simulate a tide washing them up by painting with the objects and then painting the object where it comes to rest with influence of Arman.  However I would follow Hanna’s palette and also try to simplify the object.

I’ve primed some aluminium, one with white gesso mixed with sand from the beach, the other applied a thick layer of burnt umber oil straight on the surface.   I’ve also got a canvas board I’ve covered with the same oil.    Whilst this was wet I moved one of the bottle tops across the surface like a tide was washing it up onto a beach back and forth and then coming to a rest.   I also wanted to use the ideas of Mimei Thompson so I primed some cotton canvas with glue and guesso.

I’ve sketched the bottle tops with a bright lamp and with natural daylight and the bright light creates a harsh look, greater contrast.    sketching life size seemed natural with them being small.  This also led me to sketch the detail in the same way Tanya Wood might rather than a ‘quick sketch’.


I’m finding the drying time somewhat frustrating because I loose my thoughts and flow.  Some of the paint was not quiet dry and is lifting.  This will in part be because I’ve painted onto the unprimed aluminium.   I do have some thicker aluminium which might hold the paint better.

Painting the oil mixed with liquin led to lighter feel with the thin layer and white gesso showing through.  Also the brush strokes pushed the paint to the edge creating a natural lip or ledge for the screw top.  Whilst they are not accurate they do reflect some of the differences in the tops giving them their own identity and the clear features create interest.   In contrast the detailed tops have low contrast and their features dont come as strong and therefore less interesting.  They do look more depressing but then seeing the plastic on the beach is depressing so perhaps more appropriate than making them look pretty.  I like the trails through the paint from the tops, they show more about the object surface and shape.  The painting with white applied for highlights helps brighten the top.  It needs more layers soft the background and the inside of the top.  It looks like its glowing too much.

For the assignment I can look use this idea of painting with the object if I have something I want to include.  It can provide a background or inspiration.   If I use the cotton canvas I must apply a size like glue first then gesso, the gesso alone is not enough.  Using Mimei’s technique can help show the basic structure with simple brush strokes effectively but depends on the feel I really need.  Interestingly the liquin seemed to speed up drying time significantly.


Arman Studio (1991) Autumn Promenade. At:http://www.armanstudio.com/artworks/paintings/slideshow?view=slider#40 Accessed on 10/2/18

Hanna Alex (2017) Still life with two pills At:https://www.alex-hanna.co.uk/paintings.html Accessed on 10/2/18

Noble, T & Webster, S (2002) Real life is rubbish At:http://www.timnobleandsuewebster.com/real_life_is_rubbish_2002.html Accessed on 10/2/18

Tate (1942) Kurt Schwitters Relief on relief http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/schwitters-relief-in-relief-t01259 Accessed on 10/2/18

Tate (1946) Giorgio Morandi Still Life. At:http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/morandi-still-life-n05782 Accessed on 10/2/18

Urban Sketching

I joined an Urban Sketching meetup group today at the lunar new year fair in Victoria Park for the first time.   The group meetup at a location and sketch and share their work.  This turned out to be quiet a challenge because the fair was bursting with people.  I slowly walked through the flower market section and found interesting stalls to stop and sketch.  The problem then was being able to focus on the painted whilst lots of people watch you and stop to look and also bump into you.   I feel the people watching and I was on edge, I had to really focus and block the distractions out.   This also made me rush slightly and not wait for the water to come through the brush.

The place besides people is full of colourful flowers where each stall specialises in something like Narcissus flower or orchid.   I therefore felt watercolour would be most appropriate.

Adding pen outlines to the colour helped add interesting sharp details in the messy colour.

Seeing others work at the end showed how needed to spend more time on one sketch after a warm up sketch and focus on more detail.   I liked the idea of drawing people and leaving them with no colour whilst colouring in the background.   It gave it a graphic or comic quality.   Mine lacked depth in comparison and interestingly the people where the darkest part.   Some did much better job at the tarpaulin which I muddied.

Practice more sketches with pen or charcoal.   Slow down on second sketch and maybe spend an hour to get detail.   Look at what elements could be left white even though they may not be white, i.e. foreground or background.

Exercise 5.3 Corner of room

I liked the mix of vibrant colours used by Pierre Bonnard to paint interiors (Artsy, 1935).  He uses the patterns found in the walls and floors to incorporate various colours.

Lee Maelzer (Maelzer, 2013) paints things in low light often with a lamp shining on a dark place creating sharp shadows.  The places are often unused left for some time and contain run down things and interiors.  The colours are muted.  Its like the place has been preserved for sometime without change or touch.    He also seems to blur non focus areas in contrast to the focal point.   They feel fuzzy.    The content is dwellings cast in low light mostly unoccupied, contrasting luxury with basic shanty dwellings, looking closely at the dirt.

I choose a bright corner to make the most of the light which has not been so strong over the past week or so.   I painting early morning, just after midday and early evening.  I focussed on the colours to reflect the overall colour and light and also the mix of warm and cool.   Its interesting to see them displayed together to compare and see how the light does change.   Early morning the light outside is not strong so the light inside is bounced around more.   Midday obviously is taken over by the sunlight.  Evening, the warm light bulb sets the colour contrasted with the very low light outside.    The empty chair sits with open arms and is inviting.


Looking at something in a different light can lead to something more interesting or dramatic.  For example I usually paint in the afternoon because its the time I get to do it but these paintings show that is the least interesting.


Artsy (1935) Nude in an interior.  At:https://www.artsy.net/artwork/pierre-bonnard-nude-in-an-interior Accessed on:5/2/18

Maelzer, Lee (2013) Yellow Curtain At:http://www.leemaelzer.com/index.php?/recent-paintings/place-to-be/ Accessed on:5/2/18

Exercise 5.1 Detailed painting of nearby plants

Mimei Thompsons paintings of plants inspires with the otherworldly organic strokes yet show surprising detail.   The backgrounds are usually painted smooth in a uniform direction.   The plants can then take a more natural smooth flowing stroke.   She uses liquin medium mixed with oils and painting on a smooth surface which allows the oil to be moved with each stroke.

I went out and sketched and painted various plants in the garden most of which are ornate and decorative.  I found plants which I found mesmerisingly beautiful and some a sense of fear and wonder.  The later made me think of Archie Franks monster munch and how he plays on the horror element.    I eventually focussed on the Lacy Trees dotted around the pond which seem to be covered in eyes up the trunk with long tentacles snaking down to the ground and water.

I chose to paint on aluminium to give me a smooth surface and paint oil + liquin.   I started with a circular background reflecting the water then built up the plants.  Once dried I added a thin layer of shadow to enhance the detail and shapes.  Then added oil + impasto medium (unable to find the olepasto used by Archie) to build up the eyes which had big eye lashes along the trunk.

This was fun to do and it feels scary with the hairy beast looming out of the depths with these swirling arms at the top.  The leaves look like hands parting to show whats below.  The contrast of long smooth strokes with short broken strokes creates areas of focus to look closely, it feels like there is a lot to see.   The eye is drawn to the trunk which travels along to the leaves and around up and along the blue green leaf to the top left and back down in a circle.


I can see these ideas developing to show the plants and trees in the garden.  If I can improve the brightness of the leaves and experiment with different ways to do impasto in oils for the different elements of the plants.  Look back at Archie to see more about how he interprets things with the horror influence.