Part 2, exercise 2.3: Unusual materials – collections: Painting on a 3D surface

5 August 2017. As my tutor set me a submission date of 31 August for my second assignment I will have to work high speed through the summer to meet the date. I have some ideas now for both this exercise and the assignment so at the moment I am confident that I should be able to make it. Also, since the last exercise for this part (2.4) is about painting on painted surfaces and I have already done so on a great number of occasions during Part 1 and 2 (including exercise 2.2), I will take the risk and skip it in order to focus on this exercise and Assignment 2.

I collected a number of 3D objects over the last months including styrofoam trays, wooden sticks, the cardboard inside of kitchen rolls, Nespresso capsules, cardboard price tags on strings and such like. A few weeks ago we were given some aluminium cans advertising a new brand of cider. I liked their small size, appearance and name, which is a German language slang word. “Stibitzen” means “to nick” and fits in will with my addressing the passing of time, which in effect gets nicked from us in the course of our lives. So I kept them and decided today that they will be my 3D surface for this exercise (Fig. 1).

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Figure 1. Aluminium cans to serve as 3D support

My plan is the following: William Kentridge’s experimental video “Shadow Procession” (Kentridge, 1999) in connection with the unforgettable song by Johannesburg street singer Alfred Makgalemele has had a lasting impression on me. Also, the afterglow from exercise 2.2, using my photos from the past, is still at work. Keeping in mind my shadow theme selected for the course I will try and bring together a painting technique from Part 1, the photos from my collection to be painted as shadows, and the cans to provide the support for my very own procession. The paintings will be a mix of acrylic and white ink as in part of my paintings for Assignment 1 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a). In a finished state the viewer should be able to rotate the cans and follow the procession. If time allows, I will make a short animated film and add music to it.

In order to find out more about Kentridge’s approach to shadow processions I read an article by Leora Maltz-Leca, ‘Process/Procession: William Kentridge and the Process of Change’ (2013), but soon decided that I wanted my own background to guide me through the exercise.

Planning stages:

  1. Find out more about painting on aluminium
  2. Select photo sequences for each can
  3. Prepare sketching paper in size corresponding to that available on the cans and make procession sketches

Painting on aluminium:

I found out instantly that aluminium is prone to corroding and may need to be primed before painting. As I expect not to continue painting on aluminium and on several websites demonstrating the process priming is not described as an essential step, I decided to skip it, but tested several techniques on the crushed can. First I applied two coats, one dilute grey, then one undiluted black coat (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. First coats using acrylic paint, left: dilute grey, right: undiluted black

I noticed that the paint may come off if not treated with care, especially when trying out line drawing using a very pointed nail (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Left and right: scratched line drawing

The effect of the original printed coat shining through was quite interesting to see, but has nothing to do with my plans, so I went ahead with painting over the scratched paint with my waterproof white ink (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. Left and right: painting with white waterproof ink, using a paintbrush and toothbrush

In order to see whether the triple coat had become more stable on the aluminium I scratched it again (Fig. 5).

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Figure 5. The crushed can after several tests.

The coat was as unstable as before, so I painted half of it with gloss medium. After that had become dry, I found that the stability had increased, so I assumed that it would be stable enough to proceed with my plan for the exercise.
And then I did something extremely silly for one who has been on this planet for a while. During the above treatment the can had assumed a shape I did not think attractive any more and I wanted to quickly bend some of the top bit straight from inside. The opening in the can had looked quite small due to the can’s overall small size and I had expected that my forefinger would never fit. But it did. It went into the can with horrible ease and there I was. The razor-sharp edge lodged itself firmly into my skin and the smallest movement caused it to cut into the flesh of my finger. Trying not to panic I went through several ideas of rescuing my finger. I soon saw that nothing involving moving either can or finger would help and also it had started bleeding. Finally I went for the coldest setting on the water tap on the kitchen sink and cooled the finger down. After what seemed like an eternity I felt that it had shrunk enough to allow it to move micrometer-wise and saved it with three bad cuts. Lesson learnt: No art is worth risking one’s fingers ….

Next I planned my approach for painting the three remaining three cans, measured the paintable area and considered the options for applying the paint (Fig. 6).

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Figure 6. Sketchbook – planning the painting options

On my prepared intact cans I sketched in, with watercolour pencil, the sequence of shadow figures I had created in my sketchbook using my photo collection with some additions (Fig. 7) and made ad hoc changes as I went along, taking care to respond to negative space cues turning up as I went round the cans.

Figure 7. Sketchbook – planning my three processions

Each can corresponds to a part of my life as a teenager and young adult and the figures stand for persons and events, who/which I feel by the way they interacted with my own development “nicked” some of my time. The three slide shows below contain one full turn per can (Fig. 8, 9 and 10):

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Figure 8. Slideshow. Can 1: Teen Age 1, turning the can anticlockwise (7 images)

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Figure 9. Slideshow. Can 2: Teen Age 2, turning the can anticlockwise (8 images)

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Figure 10. Slideshow. Can 3: Young Adulthood, turning the can anticlockwise (8 images)

Overall I like the appearance of all three cans. The rough brushstrokes in the white ink make the silhuettes look lively and individual while producing working connections with each other, which makes me want to keep turning the cans to see how the people are connected. I am not sure whether the exercise is complete, however. The “nicking” aspect is not yet obvious and I want to spend some time thinking about how I can incorporate this by either adding paint, either black and white or colour, or, which I prefer at the moment, by taking away some to reveal part of the original coat of paint. For the time being I want to train the mind mapping aspect of the exercise to explore the options and to avoid rushing to conclusions. I must not confuse the latter with spontaneity and working quickly. I need to exercise the spending of time thinking to be followed by spontaneous work, which makes the world of a difference.

11 August 2017. Yesterday I let my older son have a look at the above images of my cans and he said they looked boring. Funnily enough, as soon as he had said it I felt the same. I had already started experimenting with distorted barcode scans for Assignment 2, based on the results of this exercise, which I had shown my son before he got to see the original cans. The cans look very energetic in my virtual combination with the barcodes, which may well explain my son’s reaction. But also the silhouettes, as they are, may look alive to me because I can fill them with the persons, their lives and personalities. So, in order to make them more successful to other viewers, I will need to add something that strikes their fancy. I have already playing in my mind with the word “Stibitzer” and will try to develop a connecting coloured logo or something similar. Maybe I will add a painted version of my barcodes (description to follow with blog post on Assignment 2)

15 August 2017. The above will have to wait. I am running out of time for my Part 2 deadline and need to concentrate on developing my assignment project. Maybe it is a good thing. This way I can come back to the cans at a later point and see my development through the parts of the course more clearly.
References:

Kentridge, W. (1999) Shadow Procession [online]. [n.k.]. Available from: https://vimeo.com/3140351 [Accessed 05 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017a) Assignment 1: Twenty 15×15 cm Shadows [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 9 May. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/assignment-1-twenty-15×15-cm-shadows/ [Accessed 05 August 2017]

Maltz-Leca, L. (2013) ‘Process/Procession: William Kentridge and the Process of Change’. The Art Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 1 (March 2013), pp. 139-165. College Art Association, New York. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43188799 [Accessed 05 August 2017]

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