Part 2 and Assignment 2: Self-evaluation

17 August 2017. Here is my appreciation of my development during Part 2 of Understanding Painting Media, including coursework and Assignment 2, with reference to p. 5, 42 and 60 of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015):

Based on the tutor feedback I received for Assignment 1 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a) and an extremely fruitful mail exchange with fellow students on the subject of sketchbooks and the value of using mind maps in planning, I finally found a working solution to keep my racing mind at bay, which provides me with a constant overload of vibrant, ready-to-use virtual paintings. I had mentioned the phenomenon to my tutors on various occasions, but as I understand it now, it may be impossible to explain to anybody who does not share the experience. Another student, however, who knows the problem from her own life, was able to help. I use mind mapping now every time I start feeling overwhelmed and it has worked miracles. However, the past two and a half years with the OCA have taught me to be extremely wary about my own judgment regarding the progress I make. Whether what I do is getting closer to what may be the expected I cannot say. I will have to wait for tutor feedback for this part of the course.

  • Demonstration of visual skills

With reference to my introductory paragraph I can report that with the help of mind-mapping I am now in a better position to use my sketchbooks extensively and effectively to explore materials, techniques and composition. I used a number of extraordinary painting materials and media in this part of the course, including caramel colour, beetroot juice, aluminium foil and cans as well as Nori alga. I managed to explore further my course subject of shadows, both in a literal and figurative sense and built upon the experience gained during Part 1, especially regarding the use of a combination on acrylic paint, gloss medium and a selection of inks. Regarding compositional skills I no longer jump to my ready-made conclusions, but am better able to allow development to occur without a fixed outcome in mind. This was, in my opinion, the most important step made in Part 2 and relatively successful in a journey leading via exercises 2.2/2.4 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b) and 2.3 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017c) to my finished piece for Assignment 2 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017d). Since most of my time was devoted to developing working course sketchbooks, my everyday sketchbook has only had a few new additions, which I will post when there is more to report.

  • Quality of outcome

Again, with reference to the first paragraph I do not intend to make a judgment regarding a possible increase in quality, since in the past I appear to have seen my work in a completely wrong light. What I think has been relatively successful in the work just done was the development of a deeper understanding of the meaning of my shadow subject on a more personal level and the presence of a budding visual vocabulary for transporting associated messages. As I learned in exercise 2.3, however, the difference in personal experience may be large enough to make the meaning of a work of art inaccessible to viewers, resulting in a loss of interest not only in the meaning but also in the work itself. What I will need to be careful of is to avoid an emphasis on meaning at the expense of a visual experience. I think however that I did manage an acceptable balance of the two in my Assignment 2 umbrella project. I chose the umbrella as a support to emphasize my intended painted message, which provides both a relatively unusual visual experience and an easily interpreted message. Regarding a consistency in project development I am not yet sure which qualities I would need to be looking for. In my umbrella project I came up with and discarded a – by my present standards – large number of options, explained the reasons I had and tied a connection to the ideas which followed from a discarded one. Here I think the quality of documentation increased, but again I will need to get this checked by my tutor. I noticed also that to an increasing extent I am able to draw on experience gained in the past and allow it to enter the present work, not quite in as an erratic manner as in the past, but thanks to mind mapping in a somewhat more coherent manner. There is still a long way to go to allow a quality presentation, since I am not yet sure what basis of coherence the OCA may be looking for.

  • Demonstration of creativity

I think that my approach shows creativity, both regarding the use of materials and media new to me or the tackling of challenging subjects. Whether this is the sort of creativity the university expects to see or whether the subjects that appear challenging to me may appear so to the OCA I am unable to tell at this point. Regarding the use of imagination I think that I have learned now that my understanding of imagination is not what the OCA expect. While for me imagination is to allow the mind to run free to come up with a solution to put into practice, I believe now that the understanding as expected by the OCA is an ability to allow the coincidental to occur und to use imagination to select from that to feed inspiration. This aspect of having to look for inspiration is totally alien to me. Inspiration is constantly all around and inside me. What I need to do is to find a method of catching some of the best ideas before the tide rolls in again and deletes the precarious memory of them.
I do think, however, that mind-mapping is successful in supporting me in reducing this kind of lightning speed self-editing. The latter, which I know now, in my case does its job unnoticed while my brain offers me a flood of solutions, so that without an artificial brake I can never at all become aware of the selection going on, and so cannot provide an account of the stages of development. During the second part of Part 2 I noticed a considerable mind-map induced change in my working methods and I can only hope that my tutor will now be in a better position to follow my train of thought.

  • Context

Slowly but surely I am learning to cross-reference with artists I researched either for the part/assignment, or in the past, in a more focused manner. This does not come naturally to me, because I have to keep fighting my mind superimposing a huge jumble of wildly altered information and fleeting images distorted by my own imagination. I know that for the above reason I cannot rely on my knowledge about artists as an “internal reference database” as I would have done in my work as a biologist. If I wanted cross-referencing to work perfectly in this field, I would have to think of starting a real research database. However, since I spend an extraordinary amount of time on my OCA courses already, I do not see a chance to commit myself seriously to this task for the time being. On the other hand, the setup of this course, which requires a certain amount of research to be done ahead of the practical tasks for each part, is ideal for me to get a rough idea of what kind of work may be expected. It helped me very much to finally get into the habit of doing own research before starting a project. I feel more comfortable about this aspect of the work now.
I am well aware that my examination of contemporary art, especially with respect to my own position in this world, is still in its infancy and very likely lacks a certain academic rigour. However I am confident that, given enough time, I will be able to build a reliable working knowledge for my personal context. At the same time I do notice a growing familiarity with and sometimes affinity for the work a number of artists. Among these I feel by far the greatest influence by William Kentridge, whose large exhibition on the occasion of the 2017 Salzburg festival I went to see (Lacher-Bryk, 2017e). I share to a great extent his choice of drawing and painting media as well as a strong urge to use art to promote a political opinion. Less at home I feel at the moment with those artists, whose work consists only of the developmental process. I may be alone and/or wrong with my uncomfortable feeling, but the leaving of the viewer without an idea of where the process may have led an artist reminds me of the Nothing threatening the existence of Fantasia in Michael Ende’s “The Neverending Story”. I would describe it as entering a void, because from where the artist left his story absolutely everything is possible. Coming to think of it, the latter may be a highly personal problem, which ties in again with the functioning of my brain. It will fill any void immediately with innumerable possible and impossible sequels, none of which is satisfactory, because I personally want to know the artist’s intentions. I may not share this problem with many other people, but there it is and I can only act and react on the basis of what I experience.
At the moment the main external factors influencing my development are a long-lasting series of occurrences with far-reaching effects on my family, which both strictly limit my available time for study as well as deeply affecting and constantly altering my view of the world. I am aware that this setting is probably not ideal to initiate a focused and coherent personal development. On the other hand, I can draw on a great wealth of unusual, deeply emotional experiences. If with time I succeed in finding my personal voice I am confident that there is a great deal I may be able to contribute to the contemporary discussion of a number of important societal issues.

References

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017a) Assignment 1: Tutor Feedback and Reflection [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 29 June. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/assignment-1-tutor-feedback-and-reflection/ [Accessed 16 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017b) Part 2, exercise 2.2/2.4: Unusual materials: collections – large-scale line painting/painting on a painted surface [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 4 August. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/part-2-exercise-2-2-unusual-materials-collections-large-scale-line-painting/ [Accessed 16 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017c) Part 2, exercise 2.3: Unusual materials – collections: Painting on a 3D surface [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 15 August. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/part-2-exercise-2-3-unusual-materials-collections-painting-on-a-3d-surface/ [Accessed 16 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017d) Assignment 2: “An Umbrella Project” [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 17 August. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/assignment-2-an-umbrella-project/ [Accessed 17 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017e) Study visit: Museum der Moderne Salzburg – William Kentridge [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 30 July. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/study-visit-museum-der-moderne-salzburg-william-kentridge/ [Accessed 16 August 2017]

Open College of the Arts (2015) Painting 1: Understanding Painting Media. Open College of the Arts, Barnsley.

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]