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

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.

Exercise 5.2 Study from a 5 min walk

I prepared fine grained heavyweight (200g) paper ground in raw umber watercolour for ink and white 300g HP paper for watercolour.  I have a small watercolour set with a lid which happens to be about A6 postcard size so each paper fits snug into the lid.  The set had a palette which could be used for both watercolour and ink whilst on the walk.

Gilbert & George (Gilbert & George, 1972)collected postcard sized photos and displayed them in a collage of some theme.  They were a mix of colour and black and white arranged in different orientations.  The position and orientation may have been to balance the content visually.   This seems a potentially helpful way to display my paintings from the walk which could each be very different.

Jane Grisewood took photos along a walk in different seasons and displayed each as a collection so you could compare (Grisewood, 2005).     Interestingly she also did a line trace of her movements through the walk (Grisewood, 2005), like a motion sensor.  This turned the walk into something more abstract visually.   This could be interesting to get a more tactile response to the terrain and compare walking down steps to a paved pavement to a beach of soft sand.

Richard long took photos of paths he had created in an environment through walking the grass, laying stones and moving things (Long, 1976).  This is something I could take from the beach.

My walk took me through the garden in front of the apartment then down the hill to the beach.  In the garden there are many interesting ornate plants and trees to paint I even found a snail sitting in a fan palm trunk.    On the way down I stopped to capture the water draining down the large drains with a view of the drains coming down and closeup with detail like Tanya woods.  By the beach I painted rocks, old boats and interesting collections of things left lying around or discarded.   I also took a view looking back up the hill to the apartment from the beach.   This happened to be one of the coldest days of the year so I felt I needed to work fast.  This meant I painted in layers with pale background first then a darker layer and then detail.   This is mostly ok except dealing with keeping areas white proved challenging.   I used white oil pastel for some paintings to mark out white areas.   This proved useful for keeping bits white like the wheel of the bike but it also prevented me from painting the frame over the top of the wheel.

By the beach I felt there was so much stuff I found it difficult to decide what to paint, whereas by the gardens I felt there was less.  Except when I went close to the plants and looked more at the details which seemed to open a new world of options.


Simple shapes and less brush work came out the clearest such as the tyre and boats.  Overworking the brush work really worked out, this distracted and made it harder to see the picture.   I like the idea of displaying detail or closeup along side a view from a different angle.

How can I show closeup work along side wider views showing perhaps more context.   Consider view angle with looking up or looking down gives different view point and feeling of being smaller than everything or bigger.   Contrasting the life below with untidy piles of rubbish with life above in well manicured gardens.  Natural and unnatural water drainage.


Gilbert & George (1972) Whipping Post. At:http://www.gilbertandgeorge.co.uk/work/postcard-art/1972/post-card-sculptures-autumn-1972/whipping-post Accessed on 30/1/18

Grisewood, Jane (2005) Morning Walks At: http://www.janegrisewood.com/Photography/project1detail8.html Accessed on 30/1/18

Grisewood, Jane (2005) Mourning Lines At:http://www.janegrisewood.com/Drawings/project2.html Accessed on 30/1/18

Long, Richard (1967) A Line Made by Walking At:http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/long-a-line-made-by-walking-p07149 Accessed on 30/1/18




Research Part Five

Artist Tanya Wood

Creates intricate pencil drawings which makes use of white space to enhance the viewing of the drawing.  For example the semi detached (Woods, 2013) feels like you are looking through a window with only what you see in the glass, drawn off centre,  the rest left white.   Theres clearly a reflection of the room super imposed on the view of the opposite house outside.   I often notice a reflection super imposed in our lounge window of two views because its a corner window.   However in Tanyas picture the reflection is of the inside against the outside made possible because theres strong sunlight shining on the inside room compared to the outside house in shadow.

Her detailed drawings of the platform edge show texture which breaks down from fully drawn with colour to just outlines.  This reminds me of a creepy crawly drawing described in a magazine (Whitton, 2017) where you capture whats interesting in detail and the rest fades away with less detail.   It also means the composition is a little organic as you add detail until you are happy.   Could I use this technique whilst drawing my environment and not worry about composition too much.

Tanya also created some interesting displays of her work where she included the perforated edge of paper next to the drawing of the perforated edge.  There were drawings of train passengers seen through the train windows displayed with custom white boxes on a table.   This seemed to reflect the experience of viewing the train as it passes by and you look through the windows.  I should note the experience which is important to see how the display can support.

At the same time I don’t like the detail in the way it seems to be a perfect copy.  Although I feel its well balanced by the white space.

I tried sketching the grass next to a paved area at sunset and could see the big shadows for the tufty blades of grass.   The grass is clumpy with gaps.


Artist Archie Franks

I like the monster munch with moon painting (Franks, 2016) which makes a monster out of the crisp packet.  Its humorous.  The packet and crisps come alive with the sharp impasto paint.   There are sharp short marks on the crisps and  with longer marks used on the packet.  The background is thinner with very long marks.  It feels animated and alive.   The moon is broken, possibly reflecting off something and contrasted with the sharp crisp packet.  Theres an blog which gives insight into Archies’ studio (Hamlett Dobbins, s.d) which shows how thick the impasto paint is, and what medium he uses, and the amount of paint he mixes, how big the pictures are and things which influence him such as horror movies.  I’d like to try out some of these points to recreate how he would paint my environment.    In particular I’ve seen some palm roots which look like the trees guts coming out.  He obviously uses more imagination to bring the crisp packet to life and the horror movies influence his style.   I dont like the way they get very dark although it is hard to view online and see subtleties in the paint.

In the absence of oil impasto medium (on order) I tried painting some roots with acrylic mixed with gel with a brush and a cake bag to squeeze the paint out in strips.   I think there may not have been enough paint, it became to peaky and sharp and couldnt get a more rounded finish.


Artist Tim Stoner

I like his charcoal sketches which use thick charcoal lines and two tones where he most likely uses chalk for light tone and charcoal for dark on paper.  They are very simple using simple shapes.

I applied this to sketch the corner of our flat where a reflection of the outside of the flat is reflected on the outside view.   Being able to emphasis the lines and angles and block in the light areas felt natural.    Theres something interesting about seeing the outside inside and also the view.


His paintings are on the large scale almost life size views on the world which must make an impact when viewed in person.   I like how they continue the style of the sketches with charcoal and smaller paintings on panel and paper.  They look like they have been shaded in with pastels or chalk in many layers.   The outlines are often visible.  He seems to captured in late afternoon or early morning light causing silhouettes with little features visible and long shadows.

There are some interesting tree shapes in the gardens like the palm tree (Stoner, 2015)  where he simplifies to basic shapes like a cartoon.  Although its not recommended to sit below because the leaves are very heavy and do fall off.

I’m not sure I like the way he sometimes turns the painting into angular geometric shapes.

I’ve tried painting our plaza using oil on canvas.   I used oil thinned down with linseed oil and thinner to paint the scene very roughly.   I then used a knife to scrape away the highlights.  This gave a sharpness to the rough painting.    The silhouettes of people and parasols and sharp edges follow his approach which focusses on shape.   Perhaps the scraping of paint lends itself to more simple angular shapes.    I also understands he layers thin white washes for the highlights so I need to discover which is appropriate and how they combine or if they are not combined.


Suggested reading

The Poetics of Space (Bachelard, 1994) provided a strange source for inspiration from the suggested reading.  It is a difficult book to read and absorb because it is highly philosophical and I doubt I really absorbed what he was trying to say.  However I’ve taken hints about contrasts of inside and outside and the experience of the small or miniature.   About childhood places where you can hide and daydream.   Its about how the space influences the experience of those living there and expressing it.    With my environment the inside is small but it is a refuge and holds your personal things from the hustle of the city.  The outside calm and relaxing sometimes too quiet.   Life during the day is mostly the people who look after the residential area and provide services.    Other interesting thoughts from the book is what a child would draw when asked to draw their home.    They would draw whats important to them often highlighting something on the outside and inside.   This is unlikely to be in proportion but is important detail.   This got me thinking about the meaning of painting detail and usually I associate detail with finer realistic details but now it could be adding something important which is visually unrealistic.

After reading James Putnam’s book (Putnam, 2001) I can see there are potentially lots to consider in the displaying of artwork.  I found it hard to see how I would apply this because it is mostly relating to the display of collections however this assignment would result in a collection of paintings.    The basic point being I can make use of the way museums display work or store work to give the appropriate viewer experience.   For example if I were to paint life size replicas of the things I see in my environment I might display them on the floor roped off with a viewing platform and labels.  This would make them look important and protected.   Whilst I don’t like the works of the naturalists such as John James Audubo and to some extent the detail of tanya woods I can see this reflects a detailed account of the artefacts.   There is an element of controlling the way the viewer sees the art.  Tanya  was able to do this in viewing people on the train through windows as they pass you on the platform (Wood, 2014).



Bachelard, G., Jolas, M. and Stilgoe, J. (1994). The poetics of space.

Franks, Archie (2016) Monster munch with moon At:http://archiefranks.com/portfolio/monster-munch-with-moon-2016/ Accessed on 11/1/18

Hamlett Dobbins. (s.d) archie franks. At:http://hamlettdobbins.com/studio-visits/archie-franks/ (Accessed on 11/1/18)

Putnam, J. (2001). Art and artifact. New York, N.Y.: Thames & Hudson.

Stoner, Tim (2015) Palm At:http://www.timstoner.co.uk/www.timstoner.co.uk/paintings.html Accessed on 11/1/18

Whitton, Judi (2017) Creepy-crawly drawing In: The Artist Dec 2017  p.49.

Wood, Tanya (2013) Semi-detached 4St. C At:http://www.tanyawood.co.uk/work/2013-2/ Accessed on 11/1/18

Wood, Tanya (2014) Neither here nor there boxed At:http://www.tanyawood.co.uk/work/2014-2/ Accessed on 11/1/18