Part 1, exercise 1.4: Look at what you see – not what you imagine

4 May 2017. The last exercise in the first part of the course, another relaxed but highly rewarding and playful approach to learning something essential. On A4 or A3 paper we were to paint one 10-minute and one 20-minute copy of a found image put upside down, in order to practice close observation, avoiding the painting of what we think there is (Open College of the Arts, 2015, p. 41). Since the instructions were not restrictive regarding the quality of paint used, especially the degree of dilution, which was a must for the first three exercises, I decided to use gouache, which I would rarely choose these days, and take the liberty to add undiluted paint as well. I chose a photo we took at a fun fair, because in addition to exercise requirements it also looked a lot more dynamic when turned upside down:

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Figure 1. 10-minute painted sketch of a found image turned upside down, gouache on A3 watercolour paper primed with gloss medium
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Figure 2. 20-minute sketch of the same

I noticed that if 20 minutes was not a lot, 10 minutes was next to nothing timewise. Decisions what to include and what to omit I took on the spot and found at the end that I might have chosen a different focus. What is interesting to see in the finished sketches, is that the areas left white due to lack of time might have been left intentionally also, so are not all that badly placed. Turning the paintings back to the original position to judge whether any elements are out of place, I can see that everything is in its place and believably so. Which means that an immediate unprejudiced translation of an unfamiliar view into paint can work surprisingly well, although by turning the view upside down it is not possible to stop the stream of associations. I had to force myself not to think “Well, I know this is upside down. I just turn it back in my head and paint what I think there is.”
Overall, while certainly not the best work I ever produced, the 10 minute sketch is probably more successful regarding composition. In the 20 minute sketch I started fiddling a minute before the time was over. I thought “Oh, another minute to go, what else can I fit in?” and added the baroque window in the bottom left corner, which seems to put a brake on the momentum produced by the chains and upside down persons. This is certainly a lesson to remember: No need to use something only because it is there…

Now, finally, straight to Assignment 1. Time is running out again…

References

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:

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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
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No. 4. Background: black acrylics, painting: coloured watercolour
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No. 5. Background: transparent varnish and shellac, painting: white gouache
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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
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No. 12. Background: diluted pearl-white matte household varnish, painting: diluted black acrylics
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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
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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
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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]