Part 3 introductory research point: Monotype and loose paint in creating portraits

20/21/22 August 2017. In order to gain the most from my research, I decided to get a quick overview over the artists listed in the research point on p. 66 of the course guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015), then select those with the best connection to my own work and look at these in depth.

Annie Kevans (*1972, France/UK)

My impression is that Annie Kevans’ technique of portraiture with thinned oil paint (Kevans, n.d.) on canvas always follows the same principle. Human perception is selective and Kevans appears to highlight those parts of a face, which our perception is most attracted to and can gain the most immediate appreciation of gender and mood, that is eyes and mouth. Also, the portrayed persons mostly look directly into the eye of the viewer, which is fascinating in its own right, because it is possible to stare back without breaching a social convention. Apart from the more detailed parts of a face Kevans leaves the head as a loose and rough, though highly sensitive, sketch. The paint is used in various degrees of dilution and the light brown mix used to paint the initial sketch combines the colours used in the highlights. Both result in harmony and allows the viewer to focus on the message the faces send. It should be possible to draw on her technique in my first attempts at creating a monotype self-portrait.

Note:
Here the technique of creating a monotype portrait as described in the course guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015, pp. 67-74) comes to mind. When I place a photo under my glass plate, paint that photo and make a monotype print, the result will be a mirror image of the original. This means that the likeness of the printed portrait may suffer. In case I want to use a photo I should take care to print the photo as a mirror image first, then use that as basis.

Alli Sharma (*1967, UK)

When I first saw the work by Alli Sharma at the start of this course, I did not feel too much connection except for some of her black and white oil portraits (Sharma, n.d.). Their style is quite different from that of Annie Kevans. The persons invariably look away from the artist, an approach that has been, in my opinion, used excessively by too many artists in recent years. What makes them interesting are not so much the facial features but the distribution of light and dark and the coarse brushstrokes using dilute oil paint. With some experience the latter are probably a good basis for a beginner’s series of monotype experiments.

Note:
As we are required to produce a series of self-portraits using ink, I will have a variety of brush sizes ready, including a wide flat one.

Eleanor Moreton (*1956, UK)

Again I could not find monotype work, but only the skillful application of dilute paint, which can again be used as a basis for planning my own painting work in preparation for printing. Her work reminds me of Annie Kevans. This is especially evident in her “Absent Friends” series (Moreton, 2013-14). One particularly haunting painting is “Bet/h I, 3”, an oil on canvas portrait from 2008. The portrayed person comes in the colours of a clown, but since it is so blurred I am left with an assumption. I have never been able to enjoy what clowns are and do. Their bizarre behaviour and painted grin belying the true mood of the person in the clown’s costume are enough to leave an uneasy feeling. Apart from that the technique of applying paint here may be well worth trying in monoprints.

Note:
I might try and develop my own idea of using coloured shadows in my self-portraits in that direction.

Geraldine Swayne (*1965, UK)

As with all artists I researched so far in the list I could not find any work declared monotype. Swayne specializes in miniature paintings on enamel or metal surfaces, although on Saatchi online (n.d.) some of these paintings are listed in the printmaking category (although not monotype). Superficially her portraits may look somewhat traditional, but on second glance they leave an unsettling afterglow. Swayne’s use of paint is far more prolific than in all of the above artists and the intiguing effects created with enamel paint on metal are something to remember.

Note:
Although we are advised to use oil paints for making our monotypes, I need and want to stay with my acrylics and water as well as gloss medium to dilute. For Practice of Painting I made a still life (Lacher-Bryk, 2016), where a certain degree of dilution and application to a dry layer of acrylic paint caused the paint to behave in a way similar to that of the enamels used by Swayne.

David Bomberg (1890-1957, UK)

I found some fascinating, coarsely painted portraits and self-portraits, whose weird combination of colours to depict light and shade I want to remember. My favourite among the portraits I saw was “Talmudist” (Blomberg, 1954) (Fig. 1 below).

Bomberg, David, 1890-1957; Talmudist
David Bomberg (1953) “Talmudist”. Source: David Bomberg (1890-1957), photo: Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. Available under a CC BY-NC-ND licence.

Tracey Emin (*1963, UK)

As suggested on p. 66 of the study guide I had a look at the drawings available online from Emin’s monotype collection “One Thousand Drawings” (random images coming up in browser). To be honest, I am not too happy with what I see. The drawings look like careless scribbled notes capturing thoughts passing through the mind. It is very obvious that Emin would be far better at drawing than that, and she is not doing justice to herself here in that respect. Of course I am aware that many contemporary artists use deliberate neglect to raise attention, but I am not advanced enough at developing a reliable critical view to be able to see a further purpose behind her particular style.

Note:

This is not what I would want to test in my own monoprint series, but I may want to think about including text.

Michael Craig Martin

The most important message to take from Martin’s 1995 essay “Drawing the Line: Reappraising Drawing Past and Present” is probably the one found in an extract shown by Occasional Press on their homepage as part of advertising the book “Drawing Texts”: Martin emphasizes the observation, which is not at all surprising, that drawing as a distinct art form can only be appreciated as such in our time, when finished artworks are supposed to exhibit all that drawings have always contained, i.e. “These characteristics include spontaneity, creative speculation, experimentation, directness, simplicity, abbreviation, expressiveness, immediacy, personal vision, technical diversity, modesty of means, rawness, fragmentation, discontinuity, unfinishedness, and open endedness” (Occasional Press, n.d.).

Note:

I will try and get hold of the whole article. It will probably contain an explanation for the praise Tracey Emin receives for her drawings.

Albrecht Rissler (*1944, Germany)

He was a lecturer in one of the courses I attended at the Bad Reichenhall art academy some years ago. Rissler is a fantastic draughtsman (Rissler, n.d.) and introduced our group to a very simple monotype technique. Although it was based on drawing I still remember the great effect of having a more or less uniform dark grey background (printing ink as far as I can remember) into which Rissler drew with some added pressure on the back of the paper, while it was still on the glass plate, a little valley reminding of an ancient hollow-way.

Note:

Although I am aware that we are expected to use monotype in a much more painterly way, I might try and include drawn marks into the prints once I have acquired a certain minimum knowledge in preparing a suitable bakground.

Kim Baker (?)

I am not sure whether I found the correct Kim Baker, since there are several of them. The only one I think comes anywhere near the subject of Part 3 creates series of colourful flower “portraits” with bold brushstrokes, owls and other birds (Baker, n.d.). A few other Kim Bakers are painters in the USA, but none of them makes portraits or monotypes either. Will leave her for the moment.

Overall this research helped me to define a first idea of how to approach my monotype experiments. Again I will remain with my reduced colour palette and carry over my subject of shadows. In this respect the approach by Alli Sharma would be quite suitable for me, but I would probably try and carefully include colour in places in a way similar to Annie Kevans, but at the same time testing the unnatural, e.g. coloured shadows, and their effect on the character of the portrait (thinking of the Marilyn Monroe print series by Andy Warhol, but less gaudy and with a psychological message to the colours, if possible). I think that this way a strange series of self-portraits might emerge. On Pinterest I found a number of wonderful monotype portraits and techniques, including some brilliant ones by Edgar Degas. These I will not discuss here, because they will appear as printouts in my sketchbook and I will have a closer look at them while I work on my monotype series. Some of the above connect in a way to my Assignment 2 umbrella project (Lacher-Bryk, 2017) and might help me in planning my approach.

 

General references

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Part 4, project 5, exercise 1: Working from drawings and photographs – painting from a working drawing [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 24 November. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/part-4-project-5-exercise-1-working-from-drawings-and-photographs-painting-from-a-working-drawing/ [Accessed 20 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) 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 20 August 2017]

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

Annie Kevans

Kevans, A. (n.d.) Art

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[online]. Annie Kevans, [n.k.] Available from: http://www.anniekevans.com/art [Accessed 21 August 2017]

Alli Sharma

Sharma, A. (n.d.) Paintings [online]. Alli Sharma, [n.d.]. Available from: http://www.allisharma.com/allisharma/Paintings.html [Accessed 21 August 2017]

Eleanor Moreton

Moreton, E. (2008) Bet/h I, 3 [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k], [n.k.]. Available from: http://www.eleanormoreton.co.uk/beth-i-3 [Accessed 21 August 2017]

Moreton, E. (2013-2014) Absent Friends [online]. Moreton, [n.k.]. Available from: http://www.eleanormoreton.co.uk/absent-friends-1/ [Accessed 21 August 2017]

Geraldine Swayne

Saatchi Art (n.d.) Geraldine Swayne [online]. [n.k.], [n.k.]. Available from: https://www.saatchiart.com/geraldineswayne [Accessed 21 August 2017]

David Bomberg

David Bomberg (1953) “Talmudist”. Source: David Bomberg (1890-1957),Available from: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/talmudist-70525/search/actor:bomberg-david-18901957/page/2 [Accessed 21 August 2017]

Michael Craig Martin

Occasional Press (n.d.) Drawing Texts Extracts: from Drawing The Line by Michael Craig-Martin. Occasional Press, [n.k.]. Available from: http://www.occasionalpress.net/drawingtext/dtextract3.htm [Accessed 22 August 2017]

Albrecht Rissler

Rissler, A. (n.d.) Albrecht Rissler [online]. Albrecht Rissler, [n.k.]. Available from: http://www.risslerart.de/ [Accessed 22 August 2017]

Kim Baker

Baker, K. (n.d.) Paintings [online]. Kim Baker, [n.d.]. Available from: http://www.kimbaker.co.uk/portfolio.php [Accessed 21 August 2017]

Artist research: Marlene Dumas

15/18 July 2017. I came across Marlene Dumas (*1953, South Africa) before in preparing for Assignment 5 of Drawing 1 (Lacher-Bryk, 2015). Her haunting portraits are based mostly on photographs. They are done quickly using dilute watercolour or oil and by selectively wiping off pigment, leaving ghostly sketches of her subjects. Most are not intended to portray a person truthfully, but rather an emotional state (Moran, 2015). Her technique reduces a facial expression to its absolute essentials. This lack of diversion by unconnected secondary messages I think makes the portraits so strong. When I compare them, a great many appear to radiate trauma in one way or another. Maybe it is my own experiences which make me (hope to) see a hint of something similar in the faces of other human beings, so that I may not alone, which leaves the hope of being able to share the emotions intact. It is horribly fascinating to see that a child’s face, without the everyday traces of having lived visibly engraved, can radiate as much trauma as that of an adult’s (see e.g. Dumas, n.d.). Since these shadows from the past are central to my own projects also, I will tackle exercise 2.2 of this course and very likely Assignment 2 with Marlene Dumas in mind.

References

Dumas, M. (n.d.) n.t. [online] [watercolour drawing]. n.k. Available from: postmedia.net/dumas/dumas5.htm [Accessed 17 July 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A, (2015) Part 5: Personal project – more research [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA study blog, 5 December. Available from: https://andreabrykoca.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/part-5-personal-project-more-research/ [Accessed 17 July 2017]

Moran, F. (2015) Close up: Evil is Banal by Marlene Dumas [online]. Tate, London, 3 February. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/close-up-evil-banal-marlene-dumas [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Assignment 1: Twenty 15×15 cm Shadows

4 May 2017. During the final weeks of Practice of Painting I had realised that I would want to continue working with shadows in this course as well. My assignment subjects will all be related to this area of interest.

For the first assignment we were required to choose the materials liked best so far to produce a series of twenty 15×15 cm square paintings on watercolour paper. When finished we were to arrange and rearrange them, to compare the relative effects before settling on an arrangement to submit (Open College of the Arts, 2015, p. 44).

Sequence of preparation:

  • selection of twenty of my found images, which I had already pre-selected to include a large number of shadow-related views
  • preparation of paper squares from 600 g watercolour paper
  • selection of attractive square views from found photos (was done using my square viewfinder)
  • cutting out photos to choice of view
  • selection of fitting materials and painting styles for each photo, intuitively restricting myself to 4 different painting styles overall, so 5 paintings per style

My grouping the 20 paintings into sets of five felt appropriate, because a typical arrangement into 4 rows of 5 would be possible in a believable way. Also, I have the intention of telling a story in my sequence of images, which this will depend on the overall impression achieved by each tested arrangement, overall it will be one of how light and dark influence and structure the life of human beings through the day.

The selection of painting style was a mix of what I discovered for myself during exercises and styles I came to like when doing my artist research:

  • 5 paintings in a negative space technique discovered when painting with dilute white gouache on black acrylic background
  • 5 blurred shadows of diverse origins requiring additional research for “eroding” technique
  • 5 paintings using white and black ink in Brian Alfred style
  • 5 coloured paintings in Cecily Brown style

8 May 2015. Over the last five days I spent a very long time preparing my paintings. They were great fun to make, but I am glad to have been able to muster the energy to more or less work through. The results are more homogenous, having in common a particular atmosphere and mood, which might have got lost if I had allowed myself to take breaks.

Here are the individual results, grouped into their 4 sets:

  1. Negative space technique (Fig. 1-6)

I had discovered the technique during Exercise 1.2, when working on my black and white found images (Lacher-Bryk, 2017). When painting on a dry acrylic background with dilute white gouache paint, the paint dries up leaving distinct highlights along the wet/dry boundaries and in dents developing in the wet paper. To me the effect is wonderfully mysterious and given the right amount of practice can be used to create intriguing patterns. I tried various degrees of dilution in my sketchbook first (Fig. 1 below). The heavy watercolour paper I used for my finished paintings did not quite have the same efficiency regarding the weird highlighting, but was attractive in its own way.

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Fig. 1. Sketchbook: Testing effects of various degrees of dilute gouache on black acrylic background
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Figure 2. Painting 1: Shadow of a bicycle on a tent
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Figure 3. Painting 2: Entering a cave on a sea shore in Curaçao
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Figure 4. Painting 3: Playing Frisbee
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Figure 5. Painting 4: Krampus run
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Figure 6. Painting 5: Family shadows (this painting is not as dark in reality, but was impossible for me to correct on the computer)


2. Blurred shadows (Fig. 7-14)

In our bedroom street lights and lights in the houses around us at times produce the most beautiful shadow images of the plants we have on our windowsills. I spent hunting  for the best photos for nearly a year, as conditions change and plants get moved, so I had to wait a while to come up with a good set suitable for this part of the assignment. I had never produced deliberately blurred paintings before and the artists to be researched in the study guide do not do this either, so I spent some time looking what I could come up with myself. There do not seem to be too many painters working with blurring, but I had a look at J.M.W. Turner and his “Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway” (Fig. 7). While I greatly admire his incredible skill at staying indistinct over most of the painting to emphasize a few selected spots, this was not what I had in mind. Gerhard Richter’s “Self-portrait” (Fig. 8) came much closer to the effect I was after. The descriptions of the techniques applied by him were however also different from my idea, so I did my own practical research here (Fig. 8 and 9). In the end what I came up with was a white acrylic background covered in a thin layer of gloss varnish, then in grey gouache when dry. Again, when all three layers were dry, I used a very old, word-down small flat brush, water and a piece of cloth to wash away the sections of the background I wanted to highlight. This worked beautifully, allowing both precision and blurring as required.

Assignment1_sketchbook2_08052017
Figure 7. Sketchbook: Investingating blurring effects (1/3)
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Figure 8. Sketchbook: Investigating blurring effetcs (2/3)
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Figure 9. Sketchbook: investigating blurring effects (3/3)
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Figure 10. Painting 1: Shadow of plant on windowsill no. 1
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Figure 11. Painting 2: Shadow of plant on windowsill, no. 2
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Figure 12. Painting 3: Shadow of plant on windowsill, no. 3
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Figure 13. Painting 4: Reflection of wooden candle holder on flatscreen TV
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Figure 14. Painting 5: Moon shadow


3. Clear ink paintings (Fig. 15-20)

When doing my Part 1 artist research I decided that Brian Alfred’s particular flat style does not correspond at all to my intentions, but the attempt at recreating one of his paintings with materials of my own choice produced a result (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b) I wanted to explore further in my third set of assignment paintings. Since the technique was straightforward to apply (grey acrylic background, ink line drawing, then water-soluble black ink and water-proof white ink), I placed the focus on testing the white highlights in my sketchbook before attempting the final paintings (Fig. 15).

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Figure 15. Sketchbook: Testing the placement of white in the paintings (thumbnails)
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Figure 16. Painting 1: Lense light in our bedroom and window
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Figure 17. Painting 2: Holocaust memorial in Berlin
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Figure 18. Painting 3: My workshop lights
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Figure 19. Painting 4: Fire station
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Figure 20. Painting 5: 24 hour video EEG

Coloured Cecily Brown style paintings (Fig. 21-27)

This was the most demanding of the four sets. Cecily Brown and her approach to integrating the figurative and abstract into one painting is a very attractive concept to me (Lacher-Bryk, 2017c) and while I know that I am not yet able to work in this way consistently I felt that this style was required to complement the three more figurative black and white sets. I had chosen five photos, which I needed as figurative starting points to what was to become abstractions (Fig. 21).

Assignment1_set4_original_photos_09052017
Figure 21. The photos selected for the Cecily Brown set

I then prepared white acrylic backgrounds to paint on these with an intuitive selection of colours of acrylic paint. In my sketchbook I made thumbnails first, which helped me to find initial ideas for the abstraction process (Fig. 22). The rusty parts on the deck of a boat became a bathing scene, the wooden fence and shadow in our garden turned into attacking soldiers, the shadow of a tree on the street became a coral reef, some flamingos and their weird shadows turned colourful and the shadow of a tree on a building stayed what it was, but was painted upside down to result in a view I would not have been able to make up without turning it upside down in the first place – here I included some very valuable insight gained in exercise 1.4 (Lacher-Bryk, 2017d).

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Figure 22. Sketchbook: Thinking about possible abstractions from original photos (thumbnails)

9 May 2017. Here are the results for this set:

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Figure 23. Painting 1: Bathers (derived from image showing rusty deck of boat)
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Figure 24. Painting 2: Flamingos with coloured shadows
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Figure 25. Painting 3: Coral reef (derived from image showing shadow of tree on street)
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Figure 26. Painting 4: Attacking (derived from image showing wooden fence)
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Figure 27. Painting 5: Tree on wall

Today I arranged the paintings in grids and, overall, given a nearly endless number of possible, plausible and attractive arrangements, I decided that I would need to place my focus on the most important aspects. These did not include, as I had first planned at the start of this assignment, a story. Any sequence would have allowed any number of stories to be told, which is a consequence of selecting images as instructed by “wanting to paint them”. So I tested black and white backgrounds (Fig. 28 and 29 below). Of these white was more neutral towards the placement of my coloured paintings, so I continued with white, although I liked the stabilising effect of the black. I might have included any number of possible grids like single rows, double rows, pyramids, diamonds, patterns including the background, whatever. It was overwhelming to even think of these, so I stayed with the rectangular, testing narrow, wide and no gaps (Fig. 28-34), landscape and portrait versions (Fig. 33-34) as well as “quiet” and “loud” impressions (Fig. 30-31 appear particularly “loud” to me). It took me a while to come up with a solution I liked, which was overall quiet enough to allow a viewing of the individual images. The rest produced interesting patterns when viewed from a distance (difficult to test in my workshop), but invariably made my head burst when trying to see each single painting. The – what I would call them – energy clashes running along the individual borders appear to determine the overall impression to a greater extent than the contents of each painting. Also, all grids are far easier and more pleasant to view on the computer. What looks nice and sorted in the photos below was mostly none of the two in real life.

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Figure 28. Testing on black background, paintings in sequence of production, narrow gaps
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Figure 29. Testing on white background, paintings in sequence of production, narrow gaps
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Figure 30. White background, no gaps, random order of paintings except for strategic placing of coloured images (horrible effect, gaps are very important obviously)
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Figure 31. White background, narrow gaps, placing “loud” images at strategic positions
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Figure 32. Creating a quiet centre and plaing directional images to make them point towards the centre. This alone is sufficiently stable to give the loud, coloured images the “rest” they require.
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Figure 33. Same sequence as above, but widening the gaps (less attractive on the computer than Fig. 32 above, but better in real life, optical illusion of black circles in gap intersections only present on the computer)
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Figure 34. Same sequence and gap width as in Fig. 30 above, but turning the paintings to make a portrait view (less attractive on the computer, nearly impossible to take a good photo, but my preferred version in real life)

The version from Fig. 34 above is the one I want to present as my Assignment 1 piece. I would not be able to tell which particular combination of factors works here, but I am pleased with the outcome. I could spend weeks rearranging my paintings, as there are so many interactions to learn to see, feel and consider. When assessment time comes up, I will prepare a set of preferred sequences and present them together.

Self-assessment for Assignment 1 to follow in a separate post.

References

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017a) Part 1, exercise 1.2: Using found images – black and white [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 3 May. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/part-1-exercise-1-2-using-found-images-black-and-white/ [Accessed 9 May 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017b) Research Point: Painting Style – historical and contemporary painting [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 3 May. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/research-point-painting-style-historical-and-contemporary-painting/ [Accessed 9 May 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017c) Part 1: Own experimentation supplementing introductory research point [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 3 May. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/part-1-own-experimentation-supplementing-introductory-research-point/ [Accessed 9 May 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017d) Part 1, exercise 1.4: Look at what you see – not what you imagine [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 3 May. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/part-1-exercise-1-4-look-at-what-you-see-not-what-you-imagine/ [Accessed 9 May 2017]

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