Drawing reflection

Following feedback from assignment 2 I've been looking back at my drawings to see what links there are with my painting.

Mostly I use outlines which show form and composition.    These are quick and I just want to get on with painting so want a feeling I have a reasonable composition.  I'm not really thinking about paint so much at this stage.

To show more of the form of the areas of interest I add directional lines to show shading of darker tones, often in direction of the surface I'm drawing.   I notice I've rarely spent the extra time doing this.   When I do I see I often leave areas untouched because its not an area of focus.    Looking at how Turner made some sketches I may benefit from sketching on coloured paper so that I get a better tonal range and coverage quicker.

Notes have sometimes been added about thoughts of the feelings, whats important in the painting, maybe something about the medium.

How do I incorporate mark making qualities, what are they?  

Through reading and noting feedback I'm getting a sense the drawing is more important, particularly whilst I'm experimenting and learning. Today I did some random sketches each time trying to draw as I might paint focusing on how I move the pencil and hold it. I found this taxing because it doesn't look or feel like paint and I've learnt how to use a pencil in a certain way. I'm guessing I need to practice more like this.

I liked the way the cow came out, the lines were clear and intentional. The collection of animals became a mess, although there were some nice marks on the dinosaur. I think i got bored too quickly with it and it's a bit complex. The view worked reasonable well because it reflects the calm and quietness of the moment. It's hard to translate the grayness quickly with pencil.

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.





Painting on aluminium

Aluminium is a totally new surface to try painting on.  I bought sheet aluminium cut down in various sizes from a metal shop.  There are some obvious benefits to using this before I even start such as its smooth surface, it’s shiny, it won’t bend or get damaged that easily.   However painting is not all that straight forward.   Painting acrylic watered down bobbles on the surface in unpredictable ways and easily scratches off when dry.  Thicker acrylic just peals off when dry.  Oils which are oily slide off the surface if vertical or retreat like the acrylic.  The oil paint needs to dry out a bit first to reduce or remove the oil.   Ink only seems to take if I apply neat using a dropper, although it is very hard to control as it wants to retreat.  Enamels do work well straight from the pot and also thinned with thinner.   Enamels create swirly patterns where they meet until they dry which takes at least a day. The enamel primer is Matt grey and I’m not sure of its benefit for supporting enamels because its changing the surface colour and opacity.  It is possible to gesso the surface but this is easily scratched off like acrylic.  Household paint went on but also easily scratches off.  Gary Hume seems to use some sort of etcher to prime the surface first but not sure what type or where to source.   I found a metal primer but this is red and unsure how I’d use it effectively as a ground when I really want the aluminium to interact with the paint.  Nail varnish takes well to aluminium drying fast and layering up with some translucency for some colours and the varnish.

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.


Painting layers

In response to tutor feedback and wanting to understand more about both Peter Doig and Turners approach I’ll be painting the same image several times.   The idea is to paint half the paintings faster within 15 mins per layer and the other half slower within 45 mins per layer.

I choose acrylic because it allows painting of thin layers which dry quickly.   The top left started with pure white applied with a knife for highlights then applied washes of reds and blues and yellows.  Top right started with a darker background wash, the bottom left with very pale washes, the bottom right with stronger washes of reds and blues.  I’m finding it difficult to decide what is a layer because the paint dries so fast I can paint over it once I’ve changed colours.    This just means I maybe painting too much in a layer within the timeframe.

Applying the white thick at the start for highlights seems to help applying subsequent washes because the highlight remains visible.  On other paintings with coloured ground I seem to paint layers building up around the intended highlights to keep them brighter which diminishes the edge quality.    I’ve read that painting in layers from light to dark requires more skill because mistakes are more evident.

Applying the main colour thick instead of white creates a very saturated vibrant look but in this case not appropriate for representing the liquid in the bottle.   Less saturated washes seemed to build up and look more luminous in comparison.

I found it very difficult to slow down with this technique and take up to 45mins for a layer.   This maybe because I only used a large brush and so each layer only involved a few brush strokes to cover the painting.    Also  I was painting  4 in parallel and so divided my time between them for each layer.

Its clear I should build up the layers from light to dark otherwise the colours appear muted and dull.

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Note it is possible to use salt to get a grainy texture within the layers (used in bottom right of the longer painting group)


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.

Research point 2

Fred Wilson – mining the museum was about changing a museums exhibit to highlight the history of african americans.   He highlighting issues by displaying contrasting items together often challenging the viewer to think about issues of racism.


Lisa Milroy – Life on the line 2009 Installation of various canvases in oil.

34_1_lFeels strange because its like I’m observing someones life in their home.   Each painting hangs down like a blind covering part of what’s behind.   The armchair makes it feel homely and everything being life-size makes it more real.   The subjects show that fashion and image is important and a beautiful relaxing place.   It could be the artists life hanging on the line.   The way the paintings are arranged encourages you to look at them and move around to see them.  I reminds me of a large noticeboard of pinned photos.

Painting a picture, 2000, oil on canvas 152 x 223 cm

536_1_lThis is a fun painting with bright simple paintings of various objects.   It reminds me of the first assignment and the idea of creating a series of paintings with some way to link them together.  The use of colour livens the everyday objects and the colour for each square is obviously chosen to relate to the object as well as the colours used.  The composition follows a consistent full frame without cropping and no background detail.

Earlier collections look at repeated patterns and carefully arrangements of objects such as shoes, lightbulbs plates and melons.  Melons 1986 oil on canvas 70×86″.


Paul Westcombe – creates very detailed drawings on objects such as coffee cups of cartoons inspired by someone bored and wanting to draw.

You’re hardly ever here and when you’re here you’re bored.  2008 coffee cup 13.5 x9cm


Lee Edwards – Fades to memory, oil on oak, 2011, 18x15x2cm


Reminds me of a sticker which didn’t fully come off when removed.  The way the artist has made use of the natural grain in the oak to support the idea of the portrait fading away.   The rings also draw the eye in to the face.

David Dipre.  Paints portraits in oils.   The Fresh Face is painted on an a used plastic bottle.  The fresh green colour may have inspired the work and the title.   Often he paints on objects as well as canvas, each time painting thick impasto style.


Reading Freud’s Family Romances (1909) looks at how children create dreams about what they would like their parents to be based on a comparison with others around.   They are critical of their own family and fantasise about a better life based on what they see in the society around them.     I guess you could look at these dreams and ask what is real and what is not in relation to their parents or how society has changed their view on their family.

Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy of History is difficult to comprehend but my understanding is that there are opposing views on history.  One which looks at objects at face value in terms of what it means relative to the present.   The other looks deeper at what it was like at that time, the feelings and emotions of those creating the object.