Assignment 2: “An Umbrella Project”

18 July 2017. With my research on Marlene Dumas (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a) on my mind my project for Assignment 2 began to take shape. It is 10 years exactly today that the hospital made and hushed up the treatment error on our son. The aftermath is haunting us to this day. My intention is to depict the associated emotions in a series of paintings, from memory and from photos taken.  The above intentions mean that I may have to deviate considerably from the instructions given on p. 60 in the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2015), but according to my tutor this is not only allowed but encouraged. I will need to start collecting photos and the memories I want to include in this project. I will want to research more closely the approaches of other artists working with shadows. I also want to think carefully about the supports to use.

Deciding on a subject

6 August 2017. How quickly things can change. Only days after the above I started feeling strongly that we must not have our lives darkened any longer by what has happened and is still happening. There are forces in this world which are beyond our control. However cruel and unfair this is on our small family, there is one thing we know. The people responsible for the disaster cannot destroy our happiness without us helping them. So we won’t help them any longer. This means that we will have to write off countless hours of work and mountains of Euros spent in vain, but the hope is there that our son will, despite all the difficulties arising from the various disabilities inflicted on him, be able to lead a happy and fulfilled life after all. This is something we have realized we should be immensely proud of. I also know that without some of the events that happened in the distant past of my life we would never have got as far as this.

It is a horrid learning process for us to let go of something so essential that had to fail, because we are a real life David and the hospital are a real life Goliath, but I think that I can already feel a breeze of change entering our lives. So my project for Assignment 2 reads differently now. I still want to continue my shadows project, but will want to capture those shadows from the past, which accompany and protect me and gave me the strength I have today. Since this is about protection, I want to paint an umbrella (Fig. 1). Coincidentally, umbrella comes from the Latin “umbra”, which means shadow. So it feels right to proceed in this direction. In this way I can draw on the experiences gained in all parts of the course so far and tackle something that feels challenging – as I intend to continue using the umbrella with its new design :o).

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Figure 1. The quality :o) nylon umbrella I want to sacrifice for my assignment.

I am not sure whether I want to have portraits in my collection here, but symbols representing something like the Penates, the household gods protecting families in ancient Rome.

Testing the support

8 August 2017. Having had to leave my 2.3 can painting exercise (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b) for a while to get my next steps sorted, I decided to see whether I could find some information on how to use acrylic paint on fabric. Essentially, I would need to use gloss medium (which I have already got at home and worked extensively with), requiring some heat-seting the paint after 24 hours of drying naturally (Gemma, 2014). I read in several forums that acyrlic paint would come off with ease, but I wanted to see for myself and had a go using the umbrella’s nylon sleeve as test area. Here is my very first mini test of gloss medium, acrylics straight and acrylics mixed 1:1 with gloss medium (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2. Testing paint on nylon sleeve. Left to right: Acrylics and gloss medium mixed 1:1

After a few hours drying time I can say that all the above work well, none of the paint can be removed, even if I tried hard. So there was no problem on the support side of the project. The only concern iwa the ugly promotional print. I tried to remove it using nail varnish remover, spirit and white spirit. No idea what it is, but none of these worked and I definitely do not want to use anything stronger. I will just have to paint over it and/or incorporate it into the design.

Choosing my collection

I have never really spent too much time on finding the spirits that protect me. Left mostly to my own devices (which does not mean I was alone, the people surrounding me just could not help me) during many of the most challenging phases of my life I have felt that the best and often only protection is the one I can provide myself. Still I am very much aware of particular instances where an influence suddenly drifted to the surface of consciousness and I became aware of its presence. The most important of these are:

The most prominent of these was my extremely strong second grandmother, who was one of the first females in Europe who had been offered a managing position in the newly developing pharmaceutical industry and who had turned down the offer in favour of her second dream, a large family. She continued to be curious, critical and investigative throughout her life, but was hopelessly misjudged by the people around her. There are only a very few items in my possession which link back directly to her, but I will take good care to choose one. Also, I have always felt “earthed” somehow, which allows me to feel protected even under extraordinary circumstances. This feeling I want to transport in the little symbol I add to all my larger paintings, a small stone age horse.

Preparing for painting

When doing my first tests on the sleeve, I noticed that I would both need to take care not to have more than a maximum of 2 layers of paint, otherwise the whole undertaking would make for one very heavy object, and also I wanted my protective shadows to be coloured. With my tutor’s warning regarding the advantages of restricting my use of colour at the back of my head I decided that I would probably limit myself to a complemetary set replacing the black and white I tested in the previous exercises. In order to be able to judge the best combination I did some testing on the dark blue nylon fabric of my umbrella.

10 August 2017. Yesterday I was scanning a contract for my older son and since it was the wrong page I removed it while the scanner had not yet finished its work. This action produced a very interesting, agitated result. Since it tied in with my results for the line painting experiment in exercise 2.3 I produced a series of deliberate scans today. These I combined with cutouts made from a print of one of my painted cans and scanned the results again (Fig. 3, 4 and 5 below).

Figure 3. Agitated scans of a letter and a barcode

Figure 4. Negative space cutout of my can combined with different barcode prints

Figure 5. Positive space cutout of one of my cans combined with straight and agitated barcode print

These accidental effects obtained with the agitated barcode scan were quite striking, especially in combination with the black shadow person. If arranged with care I thought they might look extremely attractive on my umbrella.
I decided to continue experimenting in this direction, to include the shadow persons I used in exercise 2.3 after all, but in combination with the protective symbols I was collecting. First of all I chose an amethyst brooch my grandmother had given me when she was still alive (Fig. 6) and had a look on the internet to find out more about the esoteric (protective) powers ascribed to amethyst.

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Figure 6. Scan of my gradmother’s amethyst brooch

It is said to be a powerful healing stone used in dispelling anxiety, and relieving stress and such like (Haxworth, n.d.). While I want to emphasize that I am no esoteric person, I find the coincidences I keep experiencing in this respect quite astonishing. Either the brooch or the amethyst on its own will have to go into my umbrella painting, even if only as a colour. I had imagined early on that I would want a combination of orange and violet on my umbrella, so the amethyst hue would fit in perfectly with the umbrella’s dark blue.

The other symbol I wanted to include is the famous stone age horse found in the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany. It is said to be the oldest known sculpture of a horse and is made of mammoth ivory (Fig. 7).

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Figure 7. Anon [n.d] “Wild Horse” Mammoth ivory horse found in the Vogelherd cave [source: n.d.]
Anyway, as with the other two symbols I thought that I would not want the coin in my umbrella project for what it is, but for its beautiful colour alone, if at all. Suddenly it felt less important.

Figure 8. My 5 Schilling coin

13 August 2017. As I wanted to make it more of a habit to scan and post my sketchbook pages as well I have to apologize that some visual information contained here may appear redundant until I have found a better solution. Here is an overview over my sketchbook pages developing the barcode idea (Fig. 9 – 12).

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Figure 9. Sketchbook – using a scanner to distort visual information
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Figure 10. Sketchbook – combining a print of one of my can paintings with the shadows removed and a print of a distorted barcode, placed underneath
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Figure 11. Sketchbook – top: sleeve containing the shadows cut out, bottom: two more tests, this time with straight barcode prints
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Figure 12. Sketchbook – the last of my combination series, top: test with top black area removed, bottom: inverted test using the shadow figures and two types of barcode


Testing backgrounds and layering for my umbrella

Since I intended to apply layers to my painting again, I started with some preliminary investigation on the possible effects and interactions of the paints and inks I wanted to use. To this end I printed a photo of my umbrella seversal times and used it as a template for the following experiments. The first of these I used to test how my initial idea might work, including the following layers:

  1. background resembling surface structure and colour pattern of my ivory horse
  2. adding barcode pattern from printed distorted version, in white ink
  3. on top of that shadow figures from previous exercise
  4. a “protective” layer the amethyst colour
  5. maybe the 5 Schilling coin somewhere

The result of this experiment is summarized in Fig. 13 below.

Figure 13. Sketchbook – top left to bottom right: testing the initial layering idea

From the above I learned a number of important lessons, first of all that not everything that looks intriguing in my imagination turns out to be so great in reality. It is either my imagination, which cuts and pastes, or else a lack of skill to translate the idea into a working painting. Especially there seems to be a conflict between the barcode pattern and the superimposed shadow figures. Their relative weight needs to be better balanced. Also, the layer of violet, even though it was diluted with gloss medium, was far too prominent and drowns what is underneath. The experiment is summarized in my sketchbook (Fig. 14).

Figure 14. Sketchbook – first attempt at creating the intended layers

14 August 2017. In order to reset my mind, I did some research on the painting of demonic forces by contemporary artists. Many of these correspond to a cliché including skeletal hands and skulls, flowing gowns and a marshland setting. Some, on the other hand, transport the presence of demonic forces by tonal variation only as in “Flying Demon” (Fig. 15), painted by Mikhail Vrubel in 1899 or by applying symbols such as the raven (Fig. 16) or, even more closely, “I need a guide” by US painter and printer Alessandra Hogan (Fig. 17). All the latter corresponded better to the kind of language I intended to examine.

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Figure 15. Sketchbook – top: “Flying Demon” by Mikhail Vrubel, oil on canvas, 1899, bottom: a Huffington post article about the demon of perfectionism, which keeps haunting me as well
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Figure 16. Sketchbook –  top: “Demons inside you” by Daniela Hdz, bottom: list taken from a religious webpage dealing with anxiety and its sources
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Figure 17. Sketchbook – top: second test for background on umbrella shaped paper (mix of acrylics applied with foam roller), bottom: motion study by US artist Allessandra Hogan

I then continued to explore options for craeting a background resemling the ivory horse. I placed a rough mix of different colours in a tray, dipped my umbrella templates into them (Fig. 18), then spread the paint with a roller. After testing four different mixes (Fig. 17, top and Fig. 19), I decided on the lightest and used the roller to paint the background layer on the real umbrella (Fig. 20).

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Figure 18. Umbrella template in mixing tray
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Figure 19. Sketchbook – Testing colour mixes for suitability as background on umbrella

When trying out a few more paint mixes on my umbrella sleeve I found that white ink will come off the fabric, while acrylics and gloss medium appear resistant to wear (Fig. 20).

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Figure 20. Umbrella sleeve – 3: acrylic mix with white acrylic and white ink “barcode”, 4: white ink, 5: white acrylic

After this test I decided that the whole umbrella painting would have to be acrylics and gloss medium and quickly painted the background with the third mix from Fig. 19 (Fig. 21 and 22). Due to the dark colour of the fabric the finished background layer came out much more varied than on the template and resembled even more the ivory horse. The dark patches together with the folds and creases in the fabric came alive immediately and I started seeing human shapes in them.

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Figure 21. Umbrella with finished background layer
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Figure 22. Umbrella with finished background layer, detail: Dark patches and folds in the fabric clearly visible

Experimenting with the subject layer

The above discovery made me change my mind regarding my approach to depicting demons. In order to see whether I would make the right decision, I tested my barcode and silhouette idea on an umbrella template with the finished background (Fig. 23).

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Figure 23. Sketchbook – testing barcode and silhouette pattern on umbrella template

While doing it I realized that I had not taken into account that no viewer would see the umbrella from above unless I placed it on a wall. The barcodes viewed from the side look more like a conventional stripey pattern, while the silhouettes would suffer from both mild and massive foreshortening depending on their position on the curved shape of the umbrella. I discarded this approach.
Instead I continued my original research on demons and finding a way to “catch” them in the dark patterns on the umbrella (Fig. 24 and 25).

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Figure 24. Sketchbook – silhouette demons painted by contemporary artists, left: “Gave Shadow Demon Eyes” by PreciousNothin and “redlilith: being stripped” by Leslie Ann O’Dell
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Figure 25. Sketchbook – demonic-looking motion study by Dominik Schmidt

While I felt uncomfortable with the illustrative approaches taken by the artists in Fig. 24, I found the wonderfully carefree brushmarks in Fig. 25 very appealing and open to interpretation. In order to see whether I could start investigating whether my background pattern would allow a similar approach, I printed the facing part of one of the umbrella’s segments and tried to allow imagination to create a demonic scenery. What came out of this experiment reminded me somewhat of a stone age hunting scene and caused an immediate association with forces shattering my self-esteem as a child (Fig. 26).

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Figure 26. Sketchbook – creating a stone age hunting scene using dilute acrylic paint on a printed umbrella template

Seeing this crude result I realized that in order to make the most of the idea I would need to sit down and plan a structured approach. To initiate this process I printed all of the facing fields of my umbrella and put them together as they would appear on the umbrella. Straight away this reminded me, again, of William Kentridge’s processions. After some reflection I sorted the issues to be addressed (as listed in Fig. 14, left) in a sequence I felt to be correct, then tried to see scenes corresponding to each subject. It was a wonderfully intense and creative experience, which gave me a profound headache (Fig. 27 and 28).

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Figure 27. Printouts of the umbrella’s facing fields taped together in procession fashion, scene sketches added with pencil
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Figure 28. Detail of one printout depicting my relationship with my emotionally rather distant mother

As the above exercise had worked so well, I decided that I would have to start sketching in the scenes on the umbrella very soon in order not to lose the emotional charge. I used willow charcoal, which worked well on this background, allowing me to correct marks I felt were wrong or awkward. I did not, however, overcorrect, since I wanted the drawings to develop in a dialogue with the background patterns (example of the result see Fig. 29). On this occasion I could appreciate, for the first time, the immense importance to prepare well for a task like this. On the real umbrella I noticed that I would not have seen the emerging patterns with the same ease, as both the fabric and acrylic paint are slightly shiny, changing their appearance depending on the angle of light, and I had to keep referring back to my sketches.
Interestingly, not many of the fields now contain demons at all. In most instances I found it sufficient to place the acting persons in a particular spatial relationship to feel the associated emotion emerge. We’ll see whether other persons, when looking at the finished work, will be able to feel the same or something close to my original emotion.

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Figure 29. Umbrella – field with willow charcoal scene addressing the issue of feeling second rate

After completing the sequence of sketches I printed all of them and then experimented with the addition of a silhouette effect. I was not sure whether I wanted the persons to be the silhouettes or the negative space surrounding them. I knew that I would have to proceed with great care, feeling my way round the scene. What I also wanted to try out was the emotionaly charged mark-making by Dominik Schmidt (Fig. 25 above) I found so attractive as well as the addiction of the dilute amethyst layer. The original print (company name and logo) started to shine through after the background layer had dried, but rather than paint over it I decided to include the triangular logo into the message in each of the relevant fields.

17 August 2017. So, in order to pace myself again, I made another mind map exploring the options I thought adequate to allow the project to develop within the brackets of my  general subject of shadows (Fig. 30).

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Figure 30. Sketchbook – exploring my options of refining the charcoal sketches

I came up with four general directions, which I then tested on printed versions of the charcoal sketches on my umbrella.
When I first tested the painting of my sketched figures with a dilute mix of umbra, Peynes grey and dark green, I immediately saw that the lovely dark patches, which provide the essence of volume in the persons, would be completely lost. So, while I had to leave the original idea of a silhouette painting, I was more interested in not destroying this unexpected structural characteristic (emergent property, so to speak). So I tested my mix of paint to define stronger the negative space around the figures, including the addition of some more fine detail (Fig. 31).

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Figure 31. Sketchbook – testing the refining of the charcoal sketches: Adding a dilute mix of umbra, Peynes grey and dark green to the negative space around the figures

Next I tested the same in the next field plus adding some of the paint mix plus some white acrylic to create more volume on the figures (Fig. 32).

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Figure 32. Sketchbook – testing the refining of the charcoal sketches: Adding the dilute dark mix to background and figures as well as some highlights with white acrylic plus a test of the amethyst protective layer

The above was my favourite on the printed paper, but I quickly saw that together with the white the amethyst layer would create a pinkish mess, which I wanted to avoid. Third came an attempt at the quick brushmark painting method I had seen by Dominik Schmidt (Fig. 33).

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Figure 33. Sketchbook – testing the refining of the charcoal sketches: painting over the figures with dilute umbra to create the illusion of movement

Some of the effects in Fig. 33 may deserve pursuing further, especially e.g. as found in the second figure from the left. The acrylic and/or water reacted with the printing ink to produce a separation of components into light and dark. If placed with care the greenish edges help to create volume and an additional aestetic quality. This effect, however, would not be achievable on the fabric of the umbrella. Apart from that I soon realized that this kind of quick painting of movement would destroy the impression of shadows. Besides it needs a lot more practice in order to produce believable results. So I postponed the exploration of this option until further notice.

The last of my options was to quickly draw on and around my figures with different types of ink pen to compare with the result achieved with a paintbrush (Fig. 34).

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Figure 34. Sketchbook – testing the refining of the charcoal sketches: “density drawing” on and around the charcoal with ink 3 types of ink pen

I had to reject this option for the same two reasons as in the paintbrush drawing, i.e. lacking the skill in creating exciting variations in density while maintaining the storyline and unsuitability of the technique for the whole set of scenes.

After some indecision I settled for option 1. Due to colour translation inaccuracies between scanner, computer and printer the printed version of my charcoal sketches had a very attractive blue-green hue, which the original background on the umbrella lacked. I therefore changed my dilute dark mix to contain more green than it had contained before and applied it carefully. Unlike on the printed version the real charcoal marks were of course prone to extinction and I took my time to decide where to allow the marks to dissolve and where I wanted to keep them. This procedure I repeated twice, because the edges left by the drying paint increased the impression of an ancient surface while I also wanted the unavoidable differences in hue between the first field painted and the last to be as small as possible. An example of the result achieved at this stage is found in Fig. 35 below.

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Figure 35. Umbrella – one of the fields after applying two rounds of dilute dark acrylic

The result looked a lot more like the printed tests, but despite the care some of the charcoal had become subdued. I then went over the dried acrylic again with my willow charcoal stick to selectively strengthen some of the marks. When I was satisfied with the result I tested on my umbrella sleeve whether the charcoal would resist being painted over with a highly dilute mix of gloss medium and amethyst colour acrylic. I noticed that some of it would become subdued again, but I assumed the strength to be large enough to provide some resistance. I went round my umbrella with my gloss medium finishing mix with great care and achieved a satisfactory result. The amethyst hue helped to highlight some of the reddish patches in the original backgouond layer, which caused a tiny but lovely glow effect. Some of the charcoal was removed by painting over, but since the final goal was to produce a ghostly effect I stopped the work here (Fig. 36, 37 and slide show in Fig. 38).
It proved somewhat difficult to take good photos of the finished umbrella. The finishing layer reflects some light while the paintings themselves appear subdued when photographed in bright light. I therefore had to place the umbrella in a darkish corner and experiment.

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Figure 36. The finished umbrella from one side
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Figure 37. The finished umbrella as seen from the top

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Figure 38. Slide show – going round the umbrella (8 images)

Overall I was pleasantly surprised at the intensity of the journey from exercise 2.2 onwards and the new experience of a more structured method of working at developing a project. I no longer held onto my original idea as I used to, but finally managed to allow some sort of creative flow to happen. Before I had always feared that I would not be able to control such a flow, but mind mapping proved to be an ideal technique to pace and guide me through the experience. The resulting painting on the umbrella might serve as the starting point to a larger project or series of paintings within the subject of collections. Although I expect that the visibile outward change is not exceedingly large, I feel more at home now with the working methods we are expected to learn.

I think that the techniques I discovered for myself in this experiment may have the potential to develop further. They will require some adaptation, especially regarding the preservation of charcoal drawings, and refinement of the application of paint, but I am looking forward to carrying the experience over to Part 3 and beyond.

Self-assessment for Part 2 and Assignment 2 will be posted separately.

References

Anon [n.d.] Wild Horse [sculpture] [online]. [n.k.] [n.k.]. Available from: http://www.historyofinformation.com/expanded.php?id=3917 [Accessed 10 August 2017]

Gemma,  W. (2014) Acrylic Paint On Fabric: The Easiest Way To Make And Use It [blog] [online]. Udemy Inc., 22 May. Available from: https://blog.udemy.com/acrylic-paint-on-fabric/ [Accessed 8 August 2017]

Haxworth, C. (n.d.) Amethyst Healing Properties [online]. Caryl Haxworth, UK. Available from: http://www.charmsoflight.com/amethyst-healing-properties.html [Accessed 10 August 2017]

Lacher-Bryk (2017a) Artist research: Marlene Dumas [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA blog: Understanding Painting Media, 15 July. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1upm.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/artist-research-marlene-dumas/ [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Lacher-Bryk (2017b) 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 8 August 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]