Reflection (on assignment 2)

Making my brushwork more evident seems to be important to me through this and the previous assignment.  Whilst I spent most of my time practicing with enamels on aluminium I ended up hardly using them in the final painting, partly because it did not show brushwork strongly.    It was the research into Claire Woods which brought me back to showing brushwork and working with oils instead.    I was hoping enamels would have an element of chance where the paint would still move and mix but this did not have sufficient impact.    Maybe I could have continued with enamels following a more natural style similar to those in my earlier research and used work by Geraldine Swayne as an influence.

I spent time sketching to see the overall composition and the form of the key elements. I’m not convinced the sketching helped me arrive at an effective composition however I do think it helped me see the form and structure of the utensils.    The composition immediately draws you into the spoon then the background takes you around in a clockwise motion.  Out of the tools I used to sketch (charcoal, pen, pencil, ink)  ink and brush  helped me quickly capture and get a feel for the composition.

I feel more confident now with aluminium and I like its’ qualities such as light reflection and ease of applying or removing paint.   There is a feeling of greater potential with more to learn and I’m excited about using aluminium again.

The background shadows appear as strong as the objects casting them which adds an unintended conflict.  The painting of the spoon and chopsticks was slightly too controlled.   I think the way I painted the background is starting to reflect my personal voice because it captured a sense of energy and it felt good whilst painting.   Part of the difficulty has been with me focussing more on the technical and visual aspects throughout the work rather than on a message.    Whilst I have thought about a message (fitting into a different culture) represented by the choice and expression of utensils I’ve often used intuition or a feeling of what to paint and how. Having read Contemporary Drawing by M Davidson about intent I realise there is a lot to consider and that there is a lot going on when I paint and much of this is unconscious or perhaps slightly hidden from me.   Looking at this intent maybe useful moving forward both for researching artists and also my own work.

I have experimented with different content (fork spoon and chopstick) and arrangements to understand more about what I wanted to show.    Experimentation also included materials and I particularly liked the effect of ink and enamel on aluminium and how transparent gesso changed the aluminium to something more like canvas which is more absorbent.  I would have liked to have used some of this experimentation such as the gesso but following some small tests I felt each was taking away rather than adding to the painting.  This gave me a feeling I was stumbling a bit with what to do next.

Clare Woods approach with progressively thinner, more controlled painted marks appealed and formed my approach.   Whilst painting the background I felt the need to form a spiral to draw focus on the spoon and this fitting naturally with the shadow shapes.   I remember seeing this work well in many of Turners paintings of storms.   Another influence has been in the time aspect where I’ve broken the flow of thoughts and painting from the initial experimentation to the final painting and preparation by 10 months.  This may partly explain the change in direction as well as the later research into Clare Woods and Geraldine Swayne.


M Davidson (2011) Contemporary Drawing: Key concepts and techniques.


Assignment 2 Painting

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.

Leftside: oil on gesso on enamel, right side oil on gesso on oil, both on aluminium
oil on gesso on enamel on aluminium

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.

Untitled Oil and enamel on aluminium 32″x26″

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.

Assignment 2 research

The work from the exercises on utensils were successful and I liked the way the light reflected from the aluminium surface and wanted to focus on this for the assignment.

Collection with knife, fork, spoon and a flipper.




The shadows, reflections and surface were key elements that stood out to capture.   I explored sketches of the composition.  Then I explored the use of enamels on aluminium.







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I started with black and white enamels and found the best approach was to paint like watercolour, with thinned down black leaving the metal for highlights.     Blurring the paint at the edges proved to be a challenge partly because the enamels found their own resting point which creates a sharp edge.   Going back over the paint later to blur the edges changes the surface with an undesired result usually.  Need to look at painting white first and then use very thin enamels overtop like have done using acrylic.  The use of ink creates extra depth with the ink reflecting more light and pushing the enamel paint forward.

Detailed reflections on the spoon/flipper draws you into the painting and makes it more realistic compared to the the closeup without background and reflections.   Without these reflections and background details the closeup became more abstract and flatter and more effective at this scale.  This close up of the fork spoon knife uses negative space to draw attention to the form creating a good relationship.   The bare aluminium makes them stand out and adds drama to everyday objects with the spoon taking centre stage.   Without any context in the background or reflections makes it feel flatter more abstract at the same time I’ve tried to make them feel real with simple tonal changes reflecting the light.

Using PVA can help to mask highlights however its not very accurate.  It can be painted over giving interesting surface with a little distortion.

Collection fork, spoon and chopsticks




The idea of curating the collection to contrast chopsticks against fork and spoon like Fred Wilson’s mining the museum could add something interesting and relate to me personally.    Angling the light to create exaggerated shadows added another interesting dimension to show the form and show another perspective.


I needed more from other artists so I looked closely at Geraldine Swayne and Clare Woods.   Clare Woods used oils to show the form from a fluid flow of brush marks.   The painting Daytime Despair 2014, oil on aluminium, 150x200cm comprises of 2 paintings of different things in the same style and linked by a continuation in background.   Both focus on something of interest, the left less clear the right the feeding of a bird in a nest.   Both are flat yet 3D with the foreground standing out over the pale background with expressive strokes in oil on aluminium.   Colour is bright, muted and calm.   Foreground is more controlled than the background which seems to be more animated.   The title suggests this is not necessarily calm or content.   My understanding is the left is a pile of receipts which is more mundane work to do and the right is a bird feeding a much larger bird which seems unnatural.   The negative space is used to show the form.   The darker warmer colours used on the bird draw your attention and creates depth over the background.   I found the work by Geraldine interesting but I could not see why her technique would be appropriate for expressing the utensils.

Whereas Geraldine’s small enamel painting on metal (6x10cm) 2017 is about capturing an intense facial expression through contrasting strong tones and colours.   This portrait immediately draws your focus on the eyes and mouth before moving up to the hair and down past the ears.   Theres a mix of strongly painted marks and some less controlled thinly painted marks over the top.   The background has been painting over to give a clean edge and without features so that the portrait takes focus.   The size of all her work is on the small side which really focuses you in on the detail, demanding a closer look.

I’ve had difficulty applying most paint other than enamel to the unprimed aluminium so I’ve purchased some pre-primed aluminium and also some transparent gesso. Oil paint was the the best at showing the brush marks in one stroke and anything on gesso the worst because it became too absorbent.  However the unprimed aluminium still enabled me to paint slow purposeful brush strokes to create form which also created a relationship with the negative space.

The closeups of just the fork created interesting shapes but I felt it was becoming less a collection of items.   This could work if I’d focus on the reflection of the collection in the fork surface.

Looking at the collections with many chopsticks led me to focus on the shadows which created interesting shapes.  The use of gloss on the shadows adds too much reflection to the painting.   Placing the spoon from another photo on top like in an earlier exercise did not stand out because it was too dark relative to the background which also has a lot going on.   The background could be more about the shadows which can represent the chopsticks without painting the chopstick, this would allow the spoon to be painted over.




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Moving forward, Claire Woods approach feels to be an appropriate response to apply because it encourages me to not be so realistic and focus on the form and composition and use of negative space.   I would need to look at the use of brush sizes to ensure the scale is appropriate.





Artists from feedback


Les Meninas 1656 oil on canvas 318 x276cm.

A grand group portrait of a scene centered on an infant.   The size must mean its close to life size.   The light from the window highlights the infant and her ladies in waiting and draws attention along with the sharpness of brushwork on the infant compared to those figures in the periphery and dark vast room.   The grand scale of the work and the room compared to the figures adds to the grandness.   The flowery parts of the dresses are painted with movement and have clearer edges drawing attention over the other parts which are blended loosing much of the brushwork.


Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway 1844 91 x 121.8 cm oil on canvas

The eye is immediately drawn to the funnel on the train moving towards the viewer.   The rest of the painting is almost completely blurred with very faint hints of people and animals.   The blurriness of the train compared to the funnel creates movement.  There are areas of impasto heavy near white paint over-layered with washes of colour.   It seems he paints the white paint thickly early with a knife then adds washes of colour over from light to dark for the sky.   Then dark to light for the train.

Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth 1842 91x 122cm oil on canvas.

The boat is completely engulfed by the storm.   The sweeping wide brush work gives the waves the movement and strength over the small boat which is being tossed around.  The smoke is warmer and darker than the sky and spirals out with the flow of the storm.   Similar use of thick white for the light with coloured washes over-layered.

Sketchbooks of turner show he mostly captured the key features with outlines.  Sometimes he would include some shading lines to indicate shadow.    Some of the marine sketches of boats use ink and were probably made far quicker(a) (Top Left) Composition Study for 'Walton Bridges'; (b) (Top Right) Composition on the Theme of Walton Bridge; (c) ?Maidenhead Bridge 1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

A Sinking Ship and a Boat in Rough Seas circa 1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851


Peter Doig

Man dressed as bat 2007,Oil on linen, 275 x 200 cm.  He kept the rain damage to the painting, allowing rain to affect it then using the marks to influence his marks.   Painted very thin washes, can almost see through the image.


Sketching and rethinking assignment 1

Sketching is something I said I needed to do more of and based on feedback I’ve decided to sketch some the same found images from assignment 1 up to 6 times each.   My view is sketching is about composition so I was looking to find the most appropriate composition from 6 different sketches.   Each sketch was quick so that I would pick out the key elements of the composition.    I found by doing this that I may be able to take a more consistent composition for the series by using the portrait view.   I found the consistent portrait view of the lion could still give the different movements with different painting techniques and mediums whilst creating more of a series.  The size of the paper also lends to a closer crop than with the whole body. Similarly for the umbrella man I could focus on his face and still show the presence of the bright umbrella reflecting off his body.   The cityscape is less clear but my instinct suggests the close crop on the side of the building focusing on the details like Windows and aircon would be like looking at the face of the building.  I could experiment with blurring the windows and focusing on the aircon when painting.   The flamingoes sketches suggested either focusing on one flamingo and its reflection or more likely to focus on the reflection only and see the flamingoes distorted.   To focus on one would mean altering the image.

Reflection (on assignment 1)

The compositions I selected were firstly about including what I felt essential for the viewer to see which also meant deciding what not to include from the found images.  To build confidence I used my sketchbook for new images or ones I felt I needed to change from the earlier exercises.    My decision to use a composition was usually what felt right and because of time pressure I usually didn’t explore or push the composition on paper other than one or two comparisons.   In other words I thought about many more compositions and discarded them without exploring on paper.   E.g. should lion 2 include the whole body, just the head or maybe just the ripples in the body fabric.   I quickly dismissed some of the ideas and decided the head and legs and part of the body were essential to see the movement.   I always have time pressures so I feel I need to remind myself not take the obvious choice without some quick sketches.  I found continuous line drawing liberating and interesting to see the result but I’ve not yet made a link with the painting.

My experimentation with the mediums so far has been positive and is one of the main reasons for taking this course.   I’ve enjoyed seeing how the paints dry on another medium and surface and look forward to trying others.   When painting the lion, I quickly found ink on gouache absorbed too much to be able to express movement compared with watercolour on varnish.  I did several quick works before starting on the final set.

Emerging drama is a term I find appropriate to use as a description of what I’m interested in communicating.    For landscapes its often the feeling or atmosphere I felt being there whereas for portraits its their character and how they are feeling.   The quality of outcome is difficult to reflect on partly because I’m not sure I know clearly what this actually means and partly because its my work and I’ve just painted it.   Taking each individual painting and finding out what people see and comparing against my focus is one way to tell.   Each painting had something different to say which often linked to the story of another painting and sometimes it was about what looked good.

The influence from other artists is often small such as using expressive strokes against a wash for the paintblowers face.   However this in itself feels a big revelation and gives me more confidence about using it again.  I do need to keep experimenting and thinking more about the key concept I want to get across and then how it can be achieved.    My voice maybe something to do with the medium combinations I’ve gravitated towards because often its been an instinctive choice where I’ve dismissed some over others.    This appears to be about enabling expressive work with an element of chance.  This maybe because my work prior this course has been highly controlled and detailed and I’m looking to move on.

I’ve looked at a diverse range of artists helped by the initial set provided in the brief.   Ali Sharma lead me to make my brush work evident and I’ve done this in both wet and dry brushwork.  Peter Doig has been an influence for his approach to painting thin layers over extended time which I applied in the flamingos.       I’ve also visited exhibitions which exposed me to other artists such as Lisa Kranichfeld who prompted me to try mixing the paint on the paper with water in unpredictable ways.   Being located in Asia means a lot of the newspapers, magazines and photos relate to this part of the world and will continue to do so for this course.     I therefore expect it will be an Asian drama emerging.



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.