I set out to do more sketches for this assignment and yet in practice I still seem to fall short of doing more. Only four from list of ideas for the assignment were actually worked on, the rest were skipped either because I needed to plan them (e.g. morning sketch) or unable to see anything of interest like with the idea of things faded by the sun (which surprised me with all the sun we get). Time was also against me because I’d lost child care and so was reduced in opportunities to explore. Using oils added to the challenge because they take so long (from days to over a week) to dry and I’m not used to working in a stop start fashion with a plan.
Having watching a video by Cheryl Huntbach on her practice I can see there are obvious practical steps I can take going forward such as drawing for 10 mins each day for a number of weeks with a simple focus.
Oils has been my main focus of materials for the assignment because of its ability to be manipulated for longer periods. I’m not convinced this will be my main material going forward because of the longer drying time and not being able to use unpredictability in blending when thin. I think would prefer to use acrylics if I can find a way to achieve similar effects (to look more closely at Iain Andrews).
The technique for moving the oil paint over a smooth white ground is very simple yet can result in such striking results. If I had more time I would have tried again with painting the tree roots but with much more liquin and paint. My feeling at the time was they were just too weak and I attribute this to surface preparation with glue and gesso and also the amount of liquin and paint loaded on the brush. Appropriate sized brushes were used in each painting relevant for the scale. Although I still haven’t grasped Iain Andrews technique which is partly down to the paint mix being too thick and also finding interesting marks which represent the leaves.
Luminosity is evident in the beast although I feel it could be improved with stronger value background and muted colour.
The composition of roots came about through sketching the roots of many trees and finding a view which used the urban walls as a natural frame. The portrait view provided a natural narrow strip for the roots to grow. For the beast I did a number of sketches from the garden and photos to try to find a composition showing its grotesque elements as well as its beauty. Reaching out was lacking in an effective composition, whilst it did show the fingers clearly reaching out I felt I did not explore this sufficiently due to time.
The monoprints were only used to look at the form of a leaf or root and find a simple base to use in the painting. Unfortunately I didn’t immediately see how I would use it despite a feeling there was some potential.
I’m pleased with the beast in terms of how it brings out the grotesqueness with the composition and use of materials. Bursting out is a little more confusing because the flower bursting out is more about beauty and was not intended to be the focus of the painting. It just naturally went this way with the result overpowering the tree roots. Reaching out worked well at showing the grotesqueness with the finger like roots coming out from the bark. Perhaps together they help balance each other as a collection. I would have liked to have done far more paintings and had a choice about leaving some out especially when there are so many interesting plants growing. One area I didn’t explore was using greater subtlety so that the horror appears not at first but through more time looking. It maybe that I can achieve greater grotesqueness by not drawing attention to it through the materials and mark making but by subtle tones like Alex Hanna’s work.
There was experimentation in the composition of the beast and finding appropriate mediums to use for the eyes and eye lashes which represented more animal than plant. I experimented with different displays of the collection to try to bring out the grotesqueness in each painting. Using dark places such as cupboards and hallway helped support and relate to this concept. There has been an element of balance between experimentation of ideas and use of techniques which allow you to take something forward not knowing exactly where you are taking it. This made me question whether I actually worry too much about how something will look and whether I’m unconsciously dismissing ideas without some basic exploration. I think at this stage I just need to expect to take more time on the assignment to remove any pressure. Previously i said my practice is developing, drama and ephemeral and I believe these still hold.
Mimei thompson’s work is hopefully clearly evident in my work because of the striking and simple technique which I’ve used predominantly in both the beast and bursting out. Archie Franks helped me frame much of the work with an element of grotesqueness. His use of a liquin impasto in the oil helped me create a sharp and slightly distorted view of the roots although I don’t feel I can take his influence much further. Iain Andrews influenced the flower in bursting out and I need to explore his technique further with appropriate mixes of acrylics rather than oil. Turner is going to be an artist which will always influence my work in the way he achieves a level of luminosity in the paint and his expressive use of white impasto early on below thin washes.
In addition to these key artists I have found Tim Stoner helped me see how scratching the surface to show highlights can lead to a striking result and Alex Hanna can make use of subtle tones. These would motivate me to use such ideas in the future and encourage me to seek out opportunities to see more artists work.