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.


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.



Scully S (2014) Painting.  At: Accessed 25 May 2019

Usher D (2019) Anyone can do it, Sean Scully! At:  Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Artists’ journeys: Sean Scully onHenri Mattise  At: Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Artists’ journeys: Sean Scully: American Beauty  At: Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Sean Scully: Life stories  At: Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Sean Scully: Art business  At: Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully S (2014) Sean Scully: Teaching  At: Accessed 25 May 2019

Guardian The (2011) Sean Scully: “You’ll never get to Nirvana”.  At:  Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully, S. (2014) Sean Scully: Wall of light lecture at the MET.  At: Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully, S. (2014) Sean Scully: Muse 23B Bloomberg.  At:  Accessed 25 May 2019

Scully, S. (2014) Sean Scully interviewed by Anna Johnson.  At:  Accessed 25 May 2019

Daub, T. (2015) Sean Scully in conversation figure abstract exhibition at Crawford Art gallery 2015. At: 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.


Kinnear, M, (2017) At: accessed 15 July 2019

Post Studio Art Practical 2 Critical Review

The Fourth plinth; Written statement of Concept.

The final piece of four dolphins thrusting out from the plinth dolphins will provide a vibrant colourful addition to the plinth itself and enhance its immediate surroundings. The two southernmost facing Dolphins will spout fountains of water in a vast arc into the existing Admiral Beatty fountain in Trafalgar Square directly linking the new sculpture to Sir Charles Wheeler’s existing traditional dolphin sculptures in the fountain. The arc of the fountains will provide a visual link from eye level to encourage the public to look up to see the source of the fountains and will thus naturally draw attention to the sculpture itself on top of the Fourth Plinth.

The intention was for the forms of the dolphins to be sculpted out of plastic coated fencing mesh that would then be stuffed with blue plastic bags thus caging the plastic inside the body of the dolphin and providing a suitable texture to the outside of the sculpture. However, due to the possibility of the deterioration of the plastic bags during the lifetime of the sculpture and producing micro plastics, the plastic bags have been replaced with a resin substructure whilst retaining the plastic coated fencing mesh for its textural feel.

The resin substrate will be turquoise coloured, similar to the colour of oxidised sculpture around the city, allowing the sculpture to blend in to the cityscape while contrasting with the subtle warm yellow tones of the surrounding buildings allowing the sculpture to stand out and be noticed. The black wrapping of the sculpture will give a light linear feel when viewed against the background sky.

The original concept came about due to a concern for the environment and in particular the effects of microplastics on marine life. Micro plastics are small pieces of plastic less than 5mm in length that are ingested by marine life, whilst research is ongoing into the effect of microplastics on marine life it may be many years before the true effects are known.

The sculpture seeks to draw attention to the fact that the investigation into the problem is being carried out at the same time that we are causing the problem, and although attempts are being made to curb the problem, more radical action is required to prevent the escalation of the pollution of our environment by micro plastics.

Post Studio Art Practical

The Fourth Plinth

Whilst researching part 1 it became apparent that much of Post Studio Art is actually carried out in the studio. The designs for the wrapping of things by Christo and Jeanne Claude, the sketch that Damien Hirst shows to his fabricators to explain to them what he wants them to create and the computer mock-ups for Mark Wallinger’s White Horse were all created in the Studio.

Probably this is the way that it always was; Michelangelo didn’t create the design for the Sistine Chapel ceiling standing on a scaffold, the creative thought process is remote from the actual Post Studio Art. Once you know that you want to paint a bison on the wall you need to find a flat enough part of the cave where you can fit it in, which may not be in the same place as that where you make the paint.

What is necessary though is research and planning to ensure that the end result is feasible and will happily sit in the required location and to deal with other considerations such as health and safety, planning permission, structural stability and winning the contest that are also just as remote from the artist’s studio.

It is a different thing entirely from drawing a line in the sand that will be removed by the incoming tide to sculpting metal figures with a solid foundation that will withstand the ravages of the sea over time as Gormley did, it involves an entirely different skill set.

Many of the commissions for art of this scale begin by invitation only, one such example being the commission for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Probably to be invited you could come up with a good enough creative idea and then write to members of the selecting Committee asking to be included in the long list of invitees.

The pdf of the invitation pack for artists from the last competition is readily available on the internet which gives a good indication of some of the non artistic problems that need to be grappled with in a successful application. ( What it does not give are the actual dimensions of the plinth, so the first step concerns a site visit to establish the scale of the work and to get the feel of the surrounding environment so that you can see how your proposal would fit in with the surroundings.

I chose a warm Saturday in June to do my initial research, combining my visit with a trip to the National Gallery to see the Sorolla exhibition. The current incumbent on the fourth plinth is The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist by Michael Rakowitz. That the footprint of The Lamassu is the same as the fourth plinth probably has something to do with the persistence of architectural styles over the centuries, because of its orientation, The Lamassu is guarding the exit from rather than the entrance to Trafalgar Square as it would have been thousands of years ago. This can be easily checked out by visiting the nearby British Museum where correctly mounted Lamassu are on display. The Lamassu in Trafalgar square is the wrong half of a pair and even then would need to be rotated 180 degrees to guard the entrance rather than the exit.

Leaving all that aside, the Lamassu wasn’t attracting much attention from the passing tourists for two reasons, firstly the street theatre on the forecourt of the National Gallery was particularly engaging and secondly people as a rule do not look up. The other three plinths on Trafalgar Square suffer the same fate. Generally people only look up when directed to do so as in “Here is Nelsons Column/Giotto’s Bell Tower/The Leaning Tower of Pisa/The Angel of the North/a firework display, look up and see how magnificent it is” or when there is movement above them such as a helicopter or an aeroplane or even a bird.

I measured the size of the fourth plinth by measuring the size of one of the steps around it using the length of my foot and adding a few fingers and then counting the steps not 100% accurate but as near as makes no difference so that I would know the scale of the final proposal, I made a rough sketch of my observations for later use. I also took photographs to envisage how a proposal would look against the background of the National Gallery and Canada House and indeed Trafalgar Square itself before returning to the studio to do the creative thinking part.

As can be seen from the sketch, the top of the plinth is approximately 3.9m by 1.8 meters. The proposal needs to incorporate movement so that it will attract the casual viewers attention and it needs to be either black or of another colour that allows it to stand out from its surroundings. That is three pretty big decisions out of the way, on with the creativity.

Since beginning to study part 3 of this course I became concerned about the wrapping business in the way that people are wrapping their rubbish in plastic bags and leaving them on street corners in a graffiti-like emulation of Christo and Jean Claude. The rubbish is foul enough, but the plastic bags, unless they are carefully monitored, migrate to the sea where they cause havoc to the creatures of the sea.

From recent news reports there is a new deadly version of plastic bags called micro plastic, all fish in the sea have micro plastic in their stomachs and where it not for the fact that fish are gutted we too would have micro plastic in our stomachs. The micro plastic seems, from the news reports, to be a relatively new area of study, who knows how this particular tragedy will unfold; only time will tell.

I thought about the fish having plastic inside of them and of the fish having plastic wrapped around the outside of them and I connected this with Trafalgar Square being synonymous with Britain’s relationship with the seas. I settled on the dolphin for two reasons: firstly, the cast Iron lamp posts at the side of the Thames all feature dolphins and secondly the bronze sculptures in the fountains in Trafalgar Square also feature dolphins, the dolphin is one of London’s historical links to the sea and the plastic bag is one of London’s current links to the sea.

Plastic needs to feature big in the sculpture so I thought that the dolphins could have an outer skin of black plastic coated wire mesh and be stuffed with plastic bags that would show through the mesh to signify the micro plastics inside the dolphins.

There will be four dolphins leaping out of the top of the plinth in various stages of leap, one for each side of the plinth. To provide movement, to attract the eye of the passersby, where the dolphins break through the top of the plinth loose strips of plastic would be fixed to flutter in the breeze.

The creative idea is almost fully formed now and to make it totally clear I have attached my Written Statement of Concept for the stage 1 selection process of the competition.

Bibliography (2016) The Fourth Plinth: Artist information pack. At: accessed 1 July 2019