Part 2, exercise 2.2/2.4: Unusual materials: collections – large-scale line painting/painting on a painted surface

18 July – 4 August 2017. I think that I am finally beginning to understand that the study guide instruction “make a painting/drawing” in this course is most likely not to be taken literally, but will include extensive preliminary investigation, theoretical and practical. After having completed my research on Marlene Dumas (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a), I decided that I would choose my collection of photographs (Fig. 1) from the past for my line painting using my selection of different inks as suggested by my tutor (Fig. 2). In order to become more familiar with large-scale painted sketching I started with smaller-scale preliminary work to be able to use a large format convincingly. I also kept in mind my tutor’s advice to pay attention to the quality my lines and work over the paintings until I am satisfied with the result (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b).

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Figure 1. Sketchbook – Collection of photographs from the past
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Figure 2. Sketchbook – Testing a selection of inks and effects of varying lines in painting

I did like the above results for their dynamics. Also I was very happy with being able to think up a variety of believable body postures without reference to anything but my mind. Still I realized that they lack the essential emotional quality I want to find in my finished line painting. I then had a look on the internet to find line paintings that show just this quality (Fig. 3).

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Figure 3. Sketchbook – studying an ink painting by Sylvia Baldova (Saatchi online)

With Baldova’s example in mind I chose some of my photos, which I believed held some real emotional potential and made some preliminary sketches to identify areas of light and dark (Fig. 4) and possible ways of translating those into dynamic line paintings.

Figure 4. Sketchbook – Two photos selected for emotional quality and contrast and investigatory pencil sketches

After some difficult days digesting my not-so-brilliant POP results and some invaluable help provided by my fellow students I think that there might be light on the horizon regarding my sketchbook problem. I will be trying to pace my mind using a mind mapping technique. The first attempts were awkward and they felt hurried, not well contemplated, but after finishing each of them I noticed a certain calming down of my storming brain (Fig. 5). The greatest problem will be to make myself use the information gained, because usually new loads of images and impressions and ideas to work on swamp the efforts made.

Figure 5. Sketchbook – my very first attempts at working with mind maps

Below there are my two attempts at producing two very different ink paintings with a main emphasis on emotional quality, the first to show intense communication between by sister and a black cat (Fig. 6) as well as the lost impression a great-uncle of mine used to leave (Fig. 7).

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Figure 6. Sketchbook – ink painting on A4 smooth sketching paper, background black water-soluble writing ink, line painting white waterproof ink
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Figure 7. Sketchbook – ink painting on A4 smooth sketching paper, background waterproof white ink, line painting water-proof Persian red antique ink

While I think that sister + cat was quite successful and I will definitely come back to painting something similar in the future, I am not so sure about my great-uncle. The particular hue of antique ink makes for a time lapse feel, but I was not successful in telling something with the lines I used. This was the first time during this exercise that I had an uneasy feeling about my choice of photos and choice of technique as being erratic. In order to sort myself out I switched tasks to making a background. I wanted to develop further one of the techniques I had discovered during Part 1, i.e. using several layers of paint including structured gloss medium and rubbing some of it off.
One of the goals I had set for myself for this exercise was a coherent account of both method and story development and I hoped to find a viable solution. Thus, first of all, I looked for other artists depicting weathered surfaces in painting and photography and found, on Saatchi onlione, a most impressive black and white image taken by Gregory Grim of what I guess is a bit of street leading to a shop, coming with a leaning door leaving indelible traces on the concrete over what I felt must have been decades (Fig. 8).

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Figure 8. Sketchbook – Gregory Grim’s black and white image of a well worn shop entrance to be used as a reference guide to my design of a background

First I tested watercolour paper covered in gloss medium using coarse brushes, cling film and thick lines made with gloss medium as well as scratches and grooves made with the wooden end of a paintbrush. When more or less dry I covered this in a grey mix of gouache and partly removed the paint after waiting for it to dry (Fig. 9). While doing this I realized that what I was after was a method of having my photos embedded in a “pavement of memory”.

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Figure 9. Testing backgrounds using scrap heavy duty watercolour paper, gloss medium, gouache and, on the far right, black water soluble writing ink

Since this worked better than expected I repeated the above, this time taking care not to produce a too dark first layer. On this I added a layer of placeholder “photos”, covered it in gloss medium and gouache again, added another photo layer, treating it in the same way, then added black, white and Persian red ink to increase the worn look (photo sequence in Fig. 10 and 11 below).

Figure 10. Sketchbook – a-i: sequence of testing a background of “memory pavement”

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Figure 11. Sketchbook – two of Brassai’s famous Paris graffiti photos, serving as inspiration for own background

Although I was quite happy with some aspects of the resulting structure (which could well be a finished painting on its own), I knew then that I would not want such a heavy background, literally and figuratively. It would have to be lighter, both in colour and structure.

Since I felt stuck again, I resorted to making further mind maps to get the developmental process started again. I had a closer look at the aspects influencing my choice of photos and found out that I would want emotion to be a prime selection criterium (Fig. 12) and have them distributed in their respective layers in a semi-random way to reflect the workings of memory (Fig. 13). Then I looked at the possible painting techniques (Fig. 14) and options of layering (Fig. 15). The latter two showed me that my approach would become far too complicated with five layers, of which, in the end, not a lot would be visible. I felt then already that I would need to reduce the background to one well-designed photo layer.

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Figure 12. Sketchbook – top: mind map identifying photo selection criteria, bottom: a first attempt at stacking them in my memory pavement according to the strength of emotion associated with each photo, the most faded emotions to be buried deepest
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Figure 13. Sketchbook – top: mind map testing layout options, bottom: thoughts on constructing the bottom layer
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Figure 14. Sketchbook: mind map showing the options for painting techniques
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Figure 15. Sketchbook – trying to visualize layering options

Next I started with a series of small pencil and ink sketches in order to see how I might depict the relative emotions found in each of my selected photos. Since at the outset I had identified the strongest emotion in the image of my grandma, I started off with trying to transport a sad feeling at seeing her so feeble and removed from the world (decades of wrong medication had made her a quasi Alzheimer patient, which she would not have been if her doctors had taken the time to have a closer look at her). A line drawing by Djochkun Sami, found on Saatchi online, helped me start the experiment (Fig. 16).

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Figure 16. My grandma and an ink drawing by Djochkun Sami (Saatchi online)

Instantly, I noticed that my smallest paintbrush and ink would not allow me to create such fine detail and I started using gouache and acrylics to see whether I would be able to create a mix of line and tone, with very little success (Fig. 17). I was extremely happy about how the broom looked at an intermediate stage (Fig. 17b), but wanted to forget about the rest. The drawing/painting looked awkward, random and unhappy, not at all like the wonderful painting by Kayo Albert in Figure 18 below, which I had had in mind for the development of my sketch.

Figure 17. Sketchbook – a-c: painted grandma not developing well at all

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Figure 18. Sketchbook – top: “INK-103” painting by Kayo Albert (Saatchi online), bottom: failed sketch of my grandma

I then had another attempt at making a memory sketch, this time using a gouache background, a first sketch with white waterproof ink (Fig. 19) worked over with Persian red, Sepia and black ink (Fig. 20, top), and covered in semi-transparent paper (Fig. 21). This paper I then covered in a layer of gloss medium, leaving only my grandma’s silouette uncovered, then painted over the dry gloss medium with grey gouache. This produced something like a fading effect, but the many different types of paint and techniques made for an awkward result. I started feeling both angry at my grandma for not cooperating :o) and also, interestingly and cruelly, a loss of emotion for her weak state back then.

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Figure 19. Sketchbook: Acrylic, gloss medium, gouache and white ink sketch
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Figure 20. Sketchbook – top: above sketch worked over with ink, bottom: faded line gouache and gloss medium painting
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Figure 21. Sketchbook – sketch from Fig. 20, top, covered in semi-transparent paper, gloss medium and grey gouache

When looking at Fig. 20 (bottom), however, I found that the horizontal lines surrounding my grandma’s non-existent body, were much more successful at depicting her state than all the other attempts. Also, the same day I took a photo of some interesting display dummies in a shop window (Fig. 22), whose bodies were wrapped in what I think will have been strings of LED lights and which gave me the idea to use horizontal lines not only for the surroundings but also for the persons as well.

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Figure 22. Display dummies in a shop window, lines of horizontal light define the body

The same instant I knew that I would have to change my approach. I looked through my photos again and chose the one with the new strongest emotion, which was, not surprisingly, my newborn son nearly 25 years ago. I made a quick line sketch in my sketchbook, found this exercise incredibly easy to do (Fig. 23) and made a new plan for the final painting (Fig. 24). Lesson to learn: never choose a subject with whose emotion I cannot totally identify.

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Figure 23. Sketchbook – watercolour sketch of my newborn son
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Figure 24. Sketchbook – plan for final painting

All of a sudden the individual pieces I had been struggling with started to make sense. First I made another watercolour sketch, this time on A1 paper and a hesitant attempt at adding colour in a way similar to Kayo Albert’s style above. The latter I did to guide the viewer into the painting by emphasizing the area of greatest emotion and warmth (Fig. 25).

Figure 25. left: A1 watercolour sketch, right: emphasis added

Next I prepared my background with the technique described above, taking care not to make it too dark. I added some deep grooves to increase the impression of a heavily used pavement (Fig. 26 and 27 below).

Figure 26. Left: A1 watercolour paper, white acrylic, gloss medium and grey gouache, right: finished background after removing part of the gouache

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Figure 27. Finished background, detail with heavy scratches

Next I selected the final photos I now wanted included in the final paintings, which were those past influences I felt were important to who my newborn son would eventually become. I arranged them all in one layer, taking care to place them where I felt their emotional connection to be strongest. The selected areas I covered in white acrylics, painted them with horzontal lines then added some highlights with white and Paynes’ grey acrylic (sequence of steps in Fig. 28 and detail in Fig. 29 below).

Figure 28. a-d: Final painting – preparing the “memory pavement”

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Figure 29. Final painting, memory pavement, detail

On this background I sketched in, with gouache, the outlines of my son’s body and me holding him. I noticed instantly that the careful preparation had helped me to produce coherence between background and line painting, although as this is a first attempt there is ample scope for improvement (Fig. 30).

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Figure 30. Final painting – gouache line sketch on prepared background

Finally I added colour as intended in my first watercolour sketch above, using a mix of orange and red gouache (Fig. 31 and Fig. 32).

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Figure 31. Finished painting
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Figure 32. Finished painting, detail

Resumé

Looking back at a very intense two and a half weeks of planning and carrying out this exercise I can only marvel at the difference the introduction of mind mapping has made to the previously hopelessly erratic approach I had to most of the projects in my OCA courses to far. From now on, every time I feel stuck, undecided or overwhelmed with options,  I feel that mind mapping can make a real difference to my development. Many thanks again to my OCA fellow students, who drew my attention to this technique.

Regarding the outcome of the exercise above I feel that I discovered some key aspects about project planning and development and some important things I never knew about myself. I am also happy about the subject I chose and, despite the many inputs to consider, the appearance of the final painting.

 

References

Lacher-Bryk, S. (2017a) Artist research: Marlene Dumas [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/artist-research-marlene-dumas/ [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, S. (2017b) Assignment 1: Tutor feedback and reflection [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/assignment-1-tutor-feedback-and-reflection/ [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Part 2, exercise 2.1: Unusual materials: collections – unusual painting media

13 July 2017. Taking a deep breath and getting back into course mode.

When looking at the works of artists using collections and my own preparatory photographs I find that am attracted more by regular patterns or those that allow me to focus on, then wander without getting confused or distracted, such as the giant wall created by Julian Walker (Fig. 1 below and Lacher-Bryk, 2017). I kept this aspect in mind when selecting from my collection of template photographs.

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Figure 1. Sketchbook – top half: Investigating the properties of collection items presented in regular grids

I am also attracted by unusual surfaces to paint on. In Painting 1 I produced a self-portrait with acrylics on aluminium foil (Lacher-Bryk, 2016) and was intrigued by the interplay between opaque and shine-through parts. I returned to aluminium foil, but used ink instead of acrylics this time, since my tutor had advised me to concentrate for the time being on investigating the properties of ink. I chose one of my soup cube images to start the series (Fig. 2). Although I thought all of the soup cube interactions worth investigating, I decided to stay with a grid and one that allowed to keep an eye on shadows, i.e. the last of the four.

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Figure 2. Sketchbook – Soup cube options

In order to get acquainted with painting with inks on foil I went through a sketchbook serie of tests. Unfortunately it was nearly impossible to produce a truthful photo or scan of that page, but here it is anyway (Fig. 3).

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Figure 3. Sketchbook – Testing Plaka gold casein paint with gloss medium, water-proof antique ink, water-proof white ink and water-soluble black ink.

There were quite a few attractive effects, especially where paint and ink tended to pull out of some areas but not others. I could not identify the reason for this behaviour, since I had taken great care not to touch the foil with my fingers. Maybe there were some minor differences in the physical properties of the foil, if only slight denting or similar. With the above results in mind I covered a piece of high quality A4 sketch paper in aluminium foil, taking care to produce a smooth surface without creases, then painted a section of my soup cube pattern using Plaka Gold (Fig. 4). My tutor had advised me to keep working quickly, so I tried not to spend too much time with this. Again the paint pulled out of some spots:

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Figure 4. Painting on aluminium foil with Plaka gold casein paint.

When the Plaka layer was dry, I continued using Persian red antique ink, water-soluble black ink and a water-proof ink pen (Fig. 5).

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Figure 5. Working with Persian red antique ink, water-soluble black ink plus water-proof ink pen

At this point I realized that these were no longer soup cubes but rather looked like flooded high-raise buildings. Since I love to grasp unexpected opportunities, I finished that painting adding reflections of sunlight on the roofs of the buildings, suggestions of windows as well as shadows on buildings and in the dark water (Fig. 6).

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Figure 6. Finished soup cube flooding painting.

The above is no great work of art, but it contains a multitude of attractive aspects of both design and painting media I will with certainty come back to throughout the course. It also offers many technical options of how to proceed with investigating the shadows I am thinking of for my Assignment 2 piece. I am happy to have kept in mind my tutor’s advice of making colour a secondary property for the moment.

Next I went to choose some painting media from the list on p. 55 of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015). Since I will always try and make life as hard as possible for myself, I decided to start experimenting with Coca Cola. A first attempt at using it straight from the bottle produced a very faint, though admittedly non-sticky mark. I then boiled some of it down as far as possible without burning it, then tried again. The resulting darker colour was nice to look at, but remained horribly sticky at every possible degree of dilution. I then had a look at the work of the artist mentioned in the study guide in connection with the use of Coca Cola, Marcel Dzama (*1974, Canada) (Zwirner, n.d.). I could not find any such paintings, but some using root beer. This most likely shares the stickiness, while Dzama did not share the secret. In order to find a solution for myself and at the same time see whether I could put the stickiness to some good use, I covered the painted patterns in crushed charcoal (Fig. 7). It would faithfully stick to where it was supposed to and after some experimenting with removing the loose bits I was able to create a pleasant irregularly faded look. I cannot say whether it is worth the effort to pursue further.

 

 

 

Figure 7. Sketchbook – experimenting with Coca Cola and crushed charcoal

I then wanted to move on to other painting media, but my husband suggested to make caramel colour by deliberately and carefully burning sugar, and, since he was already in it, by boiling down beetroot juice. While the beetroot juice proved entirely non-sticky and produced a beautiful dark wine red hue, the caramel colour came out thick as treacle (which of course it may well be) and every bit as sticky as Coca Cola. In order to contain the stickiness, I placed the caramel on a bit of baking paper and folded it up. The resulting matt look I think quite attractive and probably very useful for my future shadow projects (Fig. 8).

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Figure 8. Sketchbook – Testing caramel colour (top) and beetroot juice (bottom) inside folded baking paper


14 July 2017. The next day both caramel and beetroot juice had thickened somewhat. I tested their new properties. The beetroot had turned sticky and a deep red colour, while covering the viscous caramel in baking paper allowed me to push it around under the paper (Fig. 9, top right corner).

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Figure 9. Sketchbook – testing the higher viscosity of day-old caramel and beetroot juice

This effect reminded me of the magic drawing board I used to play with as a kid, and so I made one to test my white on white collection on (Fig. 10 below). I found that my own board suffered from the same limitations as the commercial one, especially the accumulations of excess stuff in non-ideal places, thereby limiting the resolution of the image, but more so the slow flowing back into the original position. The drawings made are thus non-permanent and need to be preserved on photo.

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Figure 10. My own caramel magic drawing board

Despite the limitations I decided to carry out one last experiment without the baking paper, pushing the caramel around with a palette knife (Fig. 11).

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Figure 11. “Painting” with palette knife and caramel colour, temporary result due to viscous flow

To me the resulting bear sketch looks energetic and somewhat fierce and I was quite happy with it. However, since I had discovered that covering the caramel with a thin layer of beetroot juice would result in a beautiful glow of the thinner caramel layers, I decided to try this technique on the bear. What had worked beautifully the day before, resulted in a disaster, because the beetroot juice had become too thick to flow quickly. It did flow, but took the caramel with it and destroyed the bear (Fig. 12, top). In order not to lose the idea completely, I added another layer of baking paper and painted bear and some other items from the collection on that with white ink (Fig. 12, bottom).

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Figure 12. Sketchbook – top: destroying the bear with beetroot juice, bottom: painting on the baking paper-covered image with white ink.

The result (Fig. 13) appears to me to be far less attractive than the original bear, but there is a certain floating impression, which I might be able to use later in the course.

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Figure 13. White ink bear on destroyed caramel and beetroot bear

Next in my series of tests I used my necklace collection and “painted” it using sand rescued years ago from our son’s sandpit and some blue deco sand I had been given by an aunt moving house. I prepared a background layer of sandpit sand, painted grooves with my finger and a palette knife and filled them with the coarse deco sand as quickly as possible. The result looks like something I might find as part of the summer decoration in a cheap jeweller’s shop window. Certainly needs a lot more practice and better quality sand plus a better selection of colours (Fig. 14).

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Figure 14. Painting my necklace collection with two types of sand

And since it IS summer and the painting temporary, I let a wave destroy it (Fig. 15):

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Figure 15. Sand painting destruction by wave action :o)

In order to test different backgrounds I next covered a carefully selected newspaper page containing an article on recruiting talents and thought it appropriate to combine this with one of my photos showing a selection of keys. I covered the newspaper page with gloss medium and painted on that using Senegal blue antique ink (Fig. 16):

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Figure 16. Sketchbook – Key collection on newspaper article

It is nearly invisible on the above image, but I like the rough brushwork preserved in the dried gloss medium, which is heightened by the ink. Painting the keys was a somewhat awkward affair, because the same grooves left by the brush used in spreading the gloss medium caused the lines to thicken. Also, in order to produce a working painting I would need to think carefully about where to place my objects in relation to the newspaper text and photos. As it is, background and foreground get in each other’s way in places. The bit working best in my opinion is slightly above and left of the centre. I am intrigued by the possibilities this technique may offer for my own shadow project and may come back to it when starting to work on Assignment 2.

And finally, to demonstrate that I will do anything to discover new techniques, an excursion into the joys of experimenting with a sheet of Nori alga :o). I love the dark green of this Sushi ingredient and thought that with a little background knowledge I would be able to paint on it by bleaching. I tried boiling it, adding lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid, white spirit and even chlorine bleach. In most cases the effect was zero, bleach and boiling caused the sheet to disintegrate but the pigment was not impressed Other than my T-Shirt, which promptly succumbed to a droplet of bleach, it remained as it was, a beautiful dark green. I gave up and painted a few lines with acrylic paint on the intact sheet (Fig. 17). This caused no problems, but had no effect I could not have achieved using more conventional means. I am thus looking forward to the beautiful Sushi the remainder of the sheet will eventually turn into.

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Figure 17. The pathetic outcome of a series of experiments using a sheet of Nori alga

Resumé

I think that I am getting better at identifying new painting media and observing  possibilities they may offer as a means of expressing myself. Also, I am less likely to give up on a superficially failed experiment, because I have more knowledge now regarding adapting techniques. However, a central area I will need to work on is the systematic inclusion of discoveries made into the planning of projects. I still find myself working intuitively, which results in “discovering” the same things over and over, which is not just annoying but highly unprofessional. Hopefully I will be able to find a working solution over the summer holidays.

References

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Part 3, project 2, exercise 1: Looking at faces – self-portrait [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Paintiong 1 blog, 7 August. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/part-3-project-2-exercise-1-looking-at-faces-self-portrait/ [Accessed 13 July 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Research Point: Collections and Unusual Materials
[blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 27 May. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/research-point-collections-and-unusual-materials/ [Accessed 13 July 2017]

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

Zwirner, D. (n.d.) Marcel Dzama [online]. David Zwirner, New York. Available from: http://www.davidzwirner.com/artists/marcel-dzama [Accessed 13 July 2017]

Part 1, exercise 1.2: Using found images – black and white

19 April 2017. This time I was determined to do my research in a way to allow me to directly focus on and take into my own work the work done by artists to be researched (Open College of the Arts, 2015, p. 36)

2 May 2017. The research mentioned above lies now behind me and it proved to be a very rich source of inspiration (Lacher-Bryk, 2017).

This exercise required us to prepare 10 postcard-sized backgrounds, 5 black and 5 white, acrylic on good quality watercolour paper. On these we were to paint one or more found images, a set of two each (black on white and inverted) (Open College of the Arts, 2015, p. 39).  Other than with the first exercise I decided not to stay with only one subject, but chose five different ones. These are the results:

3 May 2017. The first pair of paintings I made of one of the famous marble dwarves in one of the parks in Salzburg (Fig. 1). I have done quite a bit of realistic painting before and did not take me too long to do despite the detail. As always with paintings this size the tooth of the watercolour paper had a strong influence on the precision of the outlines painted, more so, interestingly, in the black painting on white than the other way round. I prefer the white on black by far, also because the white pigment has a tendency to accumulate near wet/dry boundaries, an effect which I find really attractive. I am not yet able to apply this consistently, but boots and legs worked quite well:

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Figure 1. Sketchbook: Zwerglgarten dwarf, in black acrylic (left) and white acrylic (right)

Another pair of postcard paintings was dedicated to the lovely raven, which has taken to visiting the nearby university campus to convince, using its beak if necessary,  the students sitting in the sun that sharing their lunch was unavoidable. It will even search your pockets if the sharing is not started immediately (Fig. 2).
A few months ago a former colleague of mine had posted on Facebook Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven”. The tragic contents of the poem has nothing to do with the scene I wanted to paint, but it made me remember the nice technique of image transfer using acrylic medium and decided that I would have a verse of that poem cross the raven’s body. I am no expert at transferring images, so this did not come out too beautiful, but in combination with the loose painting it looks interesting, especially in the black ink on white version. The second attempt was made with black ink on a black background. The poem was hardly visible after I had finished with it, but the ink left a most wonderful metallic sheen wherever it touched the acrylic background. Unfortunately this is difficult to see in my scan, but the effect is so attractive that I want to use it more widely.

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Figure 2. Sketchbook: The tame campus raven, first in black ink on white, then in black ink on black

Next came a painful memory my husband has of staying in Berlin for a week with his school group in the most horrendous youth hostel. They had merely checked in when they decided, in rare unanimity, that they wanted nothing more than go home (Fig. 3). I therefore made two desperate postcards, one in Jasper Joffe style in grey acrylic on white, the other in slick while dilute paint. Both results are not what I hoped them to be, but I was happy to see that I am beginning to connect to the research I do, to choose techniques and styles from a growing pool:

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Figure 3. Sketchbook: Wanting to go home, grey acrylic on white (top) and grey acrylic on black (bottom)

My fourth set comes from a series of photos we had taken shortly after sunset last December after having visited a Christmas market (Fig. 4). At first I had wanted to make a white gouache on white acrylic painting, but there was absolutely nothing to see on this piece of paper. So I went over it with some grey acrylic. Not surprisingly the inverted painting with white acrylic on black went far better, I also prefer the weird atmosphere produced as cars, trees and people seem to be illuminated by a ghostly light of full moonlight quality:

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Figure 4. Sketchbook: December sunset, grey acrylics on white (top) and white acrylics on black (bottom)

Finally, which has become my favourite pair, one of the nosy jackdaws up on mount Untersberg (Fig. 5). For the first painting I decided that I would make it a negative space composition. Again, this time using white gouache, the pigment tended to settle near the edges of the wet area and by coincidence it was just in the right places. The effect looks like the corona you see during a total solar eclipse. The second painting was made on dry white acrylic covered in a liberal layer of gloss varnish, on which I poured grey guache and allowed it to become semi-dry. On this slippy surface I produced my painting in darker grey. The paint will not stay in one place after the first application, but the paintbrush will produce grooves in the layer, which then dictate the behaviour of the paint. With more experience this combination might allow me to produce very attractive structural effects. Also something to remember!

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Figure 5. Sketchbook: Untersberg jackdaw as white on black negative painting in gouache (top) and grey gouache on dry white acrylic and wet gloss medium

I am beginning to get the hang of making these small experimental paintings and not too early, too. As I lost more than a month at the beginning of UPM for having to correct all my references in Practice of Painting, and another several weeks for various hospital and other reasons, I will have to keep working high speed to make it to my Assignment 1 deadline on May 31st. Which may be a good thing, because my work usually tends to improve when under pressure :o).

References

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Part 1: Own experimentation supplementing introductory research point [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 2 May. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/part-1-own-experimentation-supplementing-introductory-research-point/ [Accessed 2 May 2017)

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

Part 1, exercise 1.1: Using Found Images – painting thin and small

19 April 2017. It seems like an eternity that I signed up for this course and for various reasons it took me a very unusual two months to finish my first exercise.

Instructions required the preparation of A5 sized backgrounds on high-quality watercolour paper and painting on these with highly diluted paint based on found images. Since the study guide was quite vague regarding the nature of the backgrounds and the number of images to use, I asked the OCA. They could not help me either, so I decided to stay with what I felt was a good solution. I made around 20 backgrounds using diluted paint (acrylics, gouache, watercolour, ink, varnish) and based my painting on a single photo of my son coming out of the shower. Overall I think that it was a very rewarding exercise, since staying with the subject allowed me to make direct comparisons between outcomes for different materials and media. It took a lot of stamina, though, and around no. 17 oder 18 I found that I had had enough. Also, halfway through the exercise I started adapting the instructions to my own ideas, so there are some combinations included that are not part of the original set. After having been to Vienna last week to see Egon Schiele’s famous graphical work at the Albertina (Lacher-Bryk, 2017), I decided to try and include one experiment with was I think may have been Schiele’s techniques with watercolour and gouache on a weird, shiny sort of wrapping paper like baking parchment. This was not part of the instructions, but I wanted to do it anyway. The experiment was not sucessful with respect to learning out about Schiele’s technique, but I am determined to find out one day.

With regard to study guide artists to research and base my work on regarding loose and thin paint I was not happy with what I found (post on that research to follow!), so I took the risk and experimented on my own.

So here come the 20 paintings:

Ex_1_1_painting1_18042017
No. 1. Background: gouache splodges, painting: dilute writing ink
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No. 2. Background: thin black ink, painting: very thin acrylic
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No. 3. Background: transparent acrylic varnish, painting: very pale watercolour
Ex_1_1_painting4_18042017
No. 4. Background: black acrylics, painting: coloured watercolour
Ex_1_1_painting5_18042017
No. 5. Background: transparent varnish and shellac, painting: white gouache
Ex_1_1_painting6_18042017
No. 6. Background: grey acrylics, painting: pearl-white matte household varnish
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No. 7. Background: acrylic splodges, painting: black watercolour
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No. 8. Background: watercolour splodges on wet paper, painting: diluted pearl-white matte household varnish and added diluted black watercolour wash
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No. 9. Background: grey gouache, painting: diluted black acrylic
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No. 10. Background: dilute coloured acrylics, painting: coloured watercolour
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No. 11. Background: thin black ink, painting: dilute black acrylics
Ex_1_1_painting12_18042017
No. 12. Background: diluted pearl-white matte household varnish, painting: diluted black acrylics
Ex_1_1_painting13_18042017
No. 13. Background: coloured watercolour, wet, painting: dilute watercolour
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No. 14. Background: diluted pearl-white matte household varnish, painting: diluted shellac
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No. 15. Background: coloured watercolour, dry, painting: red wine, straight and boiled down
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No. 16. Background: boiled down red wine, painting: white ink
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No. 17. Background: very pale watercolour, painting: mix of white and black water-soluble ink
Ex_1_1_painting18_18042017
No. 18. Background: dilute green antique ink, wet, painting: dilute Persian red antique ink and paper towel
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No. 19. Background: white gouache, then green antique ink, dry, painting: dilute white ink and dilute black acrylics
Ex_1_1_painting20_18042017
No. 20. Background: dilute black acrylics on baking parchment, painting: mix of white and black gouache

This exercise certainly helps to gain a good first impression of the endless possibilities available using just a few standard types of paint. I could include any number of words about the experience gained with each of the above. Some of my thoughts I entered into my sketchbook together with the paintings. But the longer I look at them the more confusing my thoughts become. Many of the combinations have overlapping merits and problems and I think that my appreciation of the results changes from hour to hour, depending on mood and external atmosphere. I guess that I am not the type of artist to discover THE method working for me, but every time I start something new it will be totally different.

One particular combination, however, I would like to find out about regarding the chemical reaction that must have occurred. In no. 16 I used boiled down red wine as a background and painted on that – while it was still moist – with my water-soluble white ink. If applied carefully, a layer of ink would float on top of the moist layer of wine for a while, before it would start contracting and forming a craquelee-like pattern. If mixed with the wine, there was instantaneous coagulation. I had to heavily fix the ink to prevent it from flaking off after having dried. If used with a good amount of pratice and a fitting subject this could produce very attractive results. Will hopefully be back with the chemistry behind it!

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) Gallery visit: Albertina, Wien [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/gallery-visit-albertina-wien/ [Accessed 14 April 2017]