The First four paintings of Part 4

I have been doing much reading and visiting art but in between times I have been painting.

The first painting I did was this one

Figure 01 Essex morning oil on 60 x 50 on board

I think I am beginning to understand things at last, the cool of the sky coordinates with the cool of the mid ground field and contrasts with the warmth of the foreground field and the trees. The orange of the foreground is complimentary to the blue of the sky even though the compliment is softened by the separation of the two by the green of the trees and the fact that there is a difference between the respective hues of the orange and blue.

There is a very hard line between the background hedges which was there in real life because of the height of the wheat (?) but in a painting this needs to be softened as it grabs the eye too much so I will go back to it and soften it and post an update later.

This is the second painting was requested by my sister who wants a painting of Venice for her home. I worked from aphotograph I took on my last visit there.

Figure 02 Grand Canal oil 60 x 50 on board

I was pleased at managing to retain some subdued pink and ochre in the sky as this is one thing about Venice that I will never forget. I am also pleased with the sense of recession and light in the painting.

There are probably a few nods to the golden section because this is how I see things now, but these seem less important than the paint itself. The ebauche across the buildings has served to unify the piece and I like the aged effect of the buildings from letting the ebauche show through the overlying colours

Looking at it again perhaps a few highlights flicked into the water would give added interest and the shirt of the gondolier is crying out for a highlight.

I then had another go using the ebauche with a still life.

Figure 03 Still life with coffee and alstroemeria oil on 60 x 50 board

With the rubbing and the lighter tones produced the ebauche is beginning to splinter, perhaps it is time to purposefully splinter the ebauche maybe using different colours within the ebauche. The brush marks are, I think, becoming more painterly and there is more texture appearing in the work. Apart from that the work itself is becoming less of a struggle and for that is becoming more enjoyable to paint. I think this may be a result of a lot more thinking going on before starting to paint so that the actual painting process becomes quicker and more enjoyable,

Maybe if the cup had been offset a little further from the centreline of the vase the composition would have been a little more pleasing.

And the last of the four;

Figure 04 “a retreating cream coat disappearing into the green”(Smith p129) oil on 60 x 50 board

This one involved an awful lot of research. It was a challenge from my tutor to produce a narrative painting from the book Summer in February by Jonathon Smith. The artist Sir Alfred Munnings is a central figure to the plot which revolves around his painting The morning ride.

The research involved reading the book and a trip to Constable Country to see the Munnings Museum in his former home in Denham. The exhibition of his First World War paintings that was in the army museum is on show there so it was a double delight to see it again. I had my line from the book so I did several sketches for the figure but I realised there was a gap in my knowledge of Edwardian fashions.

Figure 05 figure sketch 01

Figure 06 sketch 02

I watched the film of the book in the hope that the films dresser would have done her research, she had of course, and curiously enough the film’s director had chosen the same coquettish pose for the skirt as I, mine was based around the Etruscan wall painting of The Judgement of Paris where Aphrodite the eventual winner lifts her skirt.

Figure 07 The Judgement of Paris

The wardrobe issue being resolved, the sketch was finalised.

Figure 08 Sketch 03.

With all the research, which I had great fun doing, the painting of the picture went like a dream The process that is evolving from these paintings is that the more research and planning that goes into a painting, the easier and more fulfilling the painting of it is.

As for the painting itself, I kept the sky plain so as not to conflict with the tree shapes, the notan is a light reversed question mark against the dark of the foliage and I learned the lesson of the wheat field against the background wall. The only tight brushwork is in the hat, the red band of which is placed on the golden section as a complimentary to the mass of green.

Bibliography

Smith J. (1996) Summer in February: London Abacus

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My Bed by Tracey Emin.

 

The critics said that anyone could exhibit an unmade bed to which Emin replied “Well they didn’t, no one has done that”(Emin 2013) She went on to compare her bed to Munch’s bed in the museum in Norway  that was important because he had slept in it and how it was important as a personification of the artist.

She could have gone on to cite Whiteread, Rauschenberg, Sickert, Van Gogh, Munch, Degas, Blake Collier, Manet, Velazquez and Titian all of whom used the bed to great effect in some of their works. The bed is and has been a powerful symbol of birth, death, seduction and depression (Cohen 2018) and it has rarely failed to provoke controversy when employed as an artistic motif.

The bed in and of itself is a very private space and its use as a motif in artwork publicising the lack of privacy naturally gives rise to the feeling of exposure of a very private space to which people are unused to viewing, certainly in the presence of others which is why the bed as a motif retains its ability to shock the viewer.

If Emin was unaware of her artistic precedents, the critics ought to know better and treat her self portrait bed as the culmination of a long line of artistic representations of the bed, rather than pander to the masses and ridicule her artistic efforts.

Whilst on the subject of beds perhaps the most startling example of the bed as an artwork to its contemporaries is the Etruscan Sarcophagus of the Spouses where a woman is portrayed as equal to her husband, whilst common enough in liberated Etrusca, it must have horrified contemporary Greek and Roman viewers.

 

Bibliography

Tracy Emin- the South Bank Show (2013) At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxaoAy9oNtY Accessed 08 August 2019

Cohen, A. (2018) Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” ignored Societies expectations of Women At: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-tracey-emins-my-bed-ignored-societys-expectations-women Accessed 08 August 2019

The Flower Paintings 2

I painted another bunch of flowers but this time I started with a reddish black ebauche  by the time it got to slippery to carry on and needed to dry it looked like this:

Figure 1 first pass

I left it to dry for a couple of days before going back to it to lighten the flowers the vase and the tabletop. When I had done that, I took a record photograph, I didn’t pay any heed until I downloaded the photographs and saw them side by side in the computer that the background blue had completely changed.

Figure 2 Sunny flowers oil on 50 x 60cm board

Both photographs were taken at the same place under the same lighting conditions. The difference between the two images is more the sort of result one would expect from the restoration of an old painting. If you click on the images in turn, they will open in a new tab and you can then see clearly the same brush marks in the background blue paint.

I am well aware that colour is relative but I don’t think I have ever seen such a dramatic example of it.

I did an experiment after Joseph Albers just to convince myself it was not a freak occurrence using two halves of the same sheet of blue card with the same stencil of black card and white card superimposed.

Figure 3 black card on A6 blue card

Figure 4 White card on A6 blue card

This again gave the same startling result proving that the first occurrence was not a freak result.

Going back to the final painting, the reddish black ebauche has had the advantage of being tonally similar to the greens and has smuggled a lot of red into the green area of the painting giving added vibrancy to the work.

The focus of the work is of course the pinky red flower at the centre on the image, there are lots of converging linear elements directing the eye to this bloom in a spoke like fashion and it also stands out as the lightest light contrasted with the darkest dark.

It was a good exercise to transfer the ebauche technique from a landscape to a still life and to see it work so well in different circumstances.

The Self Portrait

I painted this;

Figure 1 Self Portrait with a baleful eye, oils on 81 x 81 cm canvas

I worked from a photograph that I squared up onto an acrylic ochre ground, I painted a grisaille using black acrylic paint thinned with water

Figure 2 Grisaille stage complete, with the pencil grid visible in places

I then painted the final layer in oils, sometimes matching the tone of the grisaille, and sometimes using thinner paint to let the grisaille shine through.

It is a standard renaissance technique of a grisaille painted over with thin layers of oil paint although to complete the painting in a single layer is a bit of a tall order and the final layer was thicker than your average glaze. The whole thing took about 4 hours using a 50 mm decorating brush.

That is how it was done, why was it done? There is a long tradition of self portraiture in art and if you don’t do a self portrait people apply Freudian analysis to your other works to form an opinion of you, you must have heard the one about the Mona Lisa being Leonardo in drag (Hall p8).

The theory is that there is always something of the artist in his works because he must have been moved enough by his subject to want to spend the time to paint it in the first place. The Freudian analysts seize on this fact often ignoring the fact that an artist has a basic need to paint and will paint almost anything that he is remotely interested in to exercise that need. The remote interest could be as simple as how the light falls across an object.

I was interested in how the light falls across a human face and unfortunately I was the only human to hand with the time to spare so I painted myself.

The baleful eye provides a useful link to the Cindy Sherman exhibition I saw at the weekend. I did not know I had a baleful eye until the paint was dry and I think there is something about that baleful eye that says “Are you lookin at me”. It is just like Shakespeare said, “the world’s a stage, and each and every one of us must play his part” (Presley) I was playing my part, just as Sherman does in her film series or Artimesa Gentilesci in her history paintings.

The size of the painting and filling the frame with the head gives it a contemporary feel reminiscent of Saville or Lucien Freud, not Sigmund, that was three paragraphs ago.

What would I do if I had to do it again, well I would work from a sketch and mirrors rather than a photograph, that’s the narcissist in me talking, they say that the camera adds seven pounds, well it did, to my moustache, and then another seven pounds to each and every one of my features. Of course I would also allow myself a couple of extra glazes to smooth the transitions.

Bibliography

Hall. J. (2015) The Self Portrait: A Cultural History. London: Thames and Hudson

The Rubbish Paintings

I have almost become an Eco warrior through this part of the course but like Delacroix I have stopped short of manning the barricades or gluing myself to the London streets.

I am saddened by the insensitivity of the public to the devastation we are causing on our planet, plastic will be the death of our race.

If it is in a plastic bag but lying on the streets it assumes a certain sense of neatness, almost art, maybe these people take their cue from Christo and Jeanne Claude, but their do it yourself wrapping projects are definately the blight of our streets.

I have only ever seen photographs of a completed Christo and Jeanne Claude installation, but I have made a painting of the results of the insensitive people’s street art.

Figure 1 Dolphin food oils on 50 x 40 cm board

There is a strange beauty to these individual wrapping projects. one wonders what is contained beneath the plastic wrappings almost like guessing the contents of a wrapped Christmas present, and then the mind recoils, it is the detritus of our society, our offering to the tree, for the tree to pass to the dolphin, that we all know and love and want to swim with, how better he can surface and entertain if his stomach is full of micro plastics.

The very best producers of micro plastics are our supermarkets, although they have been recently curtailed by government, you have to have a till code to purchase cigarettes or alcohol for personal consumption but they will provide you with dolphin poison willy nilly.

My second painting is based around the major suppliers of dolphin poison, you can probably recognise the house colours of the major supermarket chains.

As a medium, plastic is a wonderful, it has both the transparency and opacity of oil paint and a great range of tones and is in turns translucent and opaque and possesses a marvellous textual feel.

My painting was of course inspired by the recent exhibition I saw of Sean Scully and of course Ad Rinehart.

Figure 2 Dolphin feeders 50 x 40 cm Plastic collage on board

Figure 3 Concrete plant oil on 40 x 50 cm board

My third painting was based on the local concrete plant which is making emissions that are almost unfathomable. My day job involves extensive use of concrete and while I can understand that it is a necessary evil for the progress of society, I could weep at the devastation it causes to the environment.

 

Bibliography

Scully S (2014) Painting.  At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWMqrNIdBRk Accessed 25 May 2019

Usher D (2019) Anyone can do it, Sean Scully! At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqJYUrsjEzA  Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Artists’ journeys: Sean Scully onHenri Mattise  At:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynKoopfmNZU Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Artists’ journeys: Sean Scully: American Beauty  At:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6zfIPFinb0 Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Sean Scully: Life stories  At:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoNu6MxIShA Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Sean Scully: Art business  At:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50LDV38qHEk Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Sean Scully: Teaching  At:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQdLPUQkdmc Accessed 25 May 2019

Guardian The (2011) Sean Scully: “You’ll never get to Nirvana”.  At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgeUgjYVoLE  Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully, S. (2014) Sean Scully: Wall of light lecture at the MET.  At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3DfrHPFtIo Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully, S. (2014) Sean Scully: Muse 23B Bloomberg.  At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqiXX9H1KEw  Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully, S. (2014) Sean Scully interviewed by Anna Johnson.  At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vw5S_IIMQQ  Accessed 25 May 2019

Daub, T. (2015) Sean Scully in conversation figure abstract exhibition at Crawford Art gallery 2015. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjENIr97X1M Accessed 25 May 2019

The Norfolk paintings 2

The Norfolk Paintings 2

The ebauche technique has, I think, changed my painting my painting style for the better. I did have plans for the glazing technique but as a method it is very tedious and long winded but I did not have a plan for direct painting. I just used to press on and on until I achieved a passable result and I was so consumed by the constant decision making that I did not have time to consider the important stuff like brush marks and pattern and colour and perhaps more importantly I was so busy attempting to maintain control of the paint and the overall painting that the end result often lost any fluidity.

There are several big decisions to be made

1 Do you need an imprimatura and if so what colour?

2 What colour should the ebauche be?

3 How tight or loose is the end result going to be?

I decided on a split imprimatura with the top half yellow to contrast with the sky and the bottom half red to contrast with the greens of the landscape. Constable used to prepare his boards in this manner before going into the fields to sketch. A minor decision was to put the horizon on the lower of the two golden section lines as I felt that the sky was the most important part of the finished work.

Figure 1 Imprimatura

I decided on a reddish brown ebauche again as a contrast to the greens in the landscape.

Figure 2 Ebauche

I then painted in the sky.

Figure 3 Sky complete

I then completed the painting.

Figure 4. Burnham mill sunset, oil on 60 x 50 cm board.

Figure 5 Tonal check

The finished painting has a wide range of tones and also a wide range of textures, in places the imprimatura and the ebauche show through in contrast to the thick impasto of the foreground road. If I had the painting to do over again I would bring the foreground field in with the ebauche, only because I now realise it would have been easier to judge the colour of the green.

The Norfolk paintings

The Norfolk Paintings

I went to Norfolk to study the Ebauche technique at the Norfolk Painting School.

Ebauche is a painting technique that was prevalent prior to Impressionism but in their eagerness to invent a new style of painting this was the technique that the impressionists threw out with the bathwater. Ebauche is a classical technique where the main subject is laid down in a thin oil wash, that is then worked into using the rag to establish the basic tonal form of the subject. The background is then cut in around the ebauche which has the effect of pushing the ebauche into the foreground.  The ebauche is then developed using desaturated colours mixes, before being finished with pure colour thickly applied.

John Singer Sargent was a master of Ebauche oils as were Corot, Turner, Velázquez and Rembrandt (Kinnear) and the technique was revived in the Twentieth Century by Edward Seago.

As part of the learning process I painted this;

Figure 1 Cloudscape, monochrome oil on board 40 x 30 cm

The object of the exercise was to produce a range of values and a range of paint transparencies cross the picture plane, The black and white image illustrates the tonal range and the transparency of the paint is evident from the original imprimatura showing through the paint layers at the horizon through to the heavy impasto in the white clouds

Figure 2 Cloudscape black and white tonal digital image

The process moved on to make a copy of a Seago painting, as I have said before, in copying a work by a master means that you spend a long time looking at the masterwork, maybe longer than since the original was painted. I created this working from a photocopy of the Seago;

Figure 3 After Seago oil on board 60 x 50 cm

After the course was over I created this to internalise the lessons I had learned;

Figure 4 Cley next the windmill oil on canvas panel 50 x 40 cm

Painting the ebauche first enables you to quickly establish the composition form and tones of the painting and having a solid plan allows you to be freer with your brush marks so that the end result is more painterly.

The notan of the ebauche gives you the complete structure of the painting so that there is no need to be making things up as you go along and also allows the painting to develop naturally from dark to light by cutting into the ebauche with the highlights.

The ebauche firmly establishes the drawing so that you don’t heed to worry about it anymore and just concentrate on the actual painting, There are less corrections and you only need to focus on the texture and thickness of the paint and because there is a proper plan in place you can allow the paint to do its own thing and only need to reign it back or wipe it off when it strays too far from the plan.

I am particularly pleased with the texture in the right hand tiled roof as this is composed entirely from random brush marks

The final result provides a good contrast between the warm darks and the cool lights, but If I had to do this painting again I would go for warm lights and cool darks if only to give more transparency in the shadows by starting with a greyer bluer ebauche. I would also pay less regard to the architectural geometry and let it become more gentle and curved and softer

In my next painting I did become less protective of my edges;

Figure 5 The Blakeney Hotel low tide oils 60 x 50 cm

I started again with the ebauche in all areas except the sea and the sky, rubbed it back a bit and then painted the sky and the water. I then painted over the ebauche with dull dilute desaturated colours before a final pass with thicker brighter paint.

Without the underdrawing the painting is far looser and the boats seemed to grow out of my brush strokes it felt like I was drawing with the brush, and with my love of drawing, there could hardly be a finer sensation while painting.

I was particularly pleased with the distant landscape which almost painted itself while I wasn’t looking.

As part of my critique I am supposed to say what I would change if I was to paint it again to change nothing represents a dead end so let’s just say I can see the beginnings of a whole new chapter in the distant landscape that can develop in a whole host of ways.

Bibliography

Kinnear, M, (2017) At: https://www.artistsandillustrators.co.uk/how-to/oil-painting/1941/a-to-z-of-oil-paint-techniques accessed 15 July 2019