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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.