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Today, in the Monday paint workshop I have been attending, we started thinking about creating a shaped painting. We looked at artists to influence our pieces and to gain an idea of what a shaped painting was and how it might look. We looked at the works of Anthony Green mainly, David Hockney and loosely touched upon the work of Patrick Hughes.
I was highly drawn to the work of Anthony Green. I find it highly interesting that he uses shaped paintings to play with perspectives. He inspired me to think about creating an irregular shaped piece rather than a generic one like a circle or oval. He inspired me to think of a scene to do with my city project and map out an interesting outline of how it looked to cut out of board to create the canvas for my shaped painting. His work is incredibly clever and really made me want to work with an irregular shaped painting as I wasn’t really able to visualize what I might achieve before.
David Hockney (Tea Painting)
We looked at David Hockney’s shaped painting – “Tea painting in an illusionist way” as an idea of a more geometric shaped piece. The picture employed a shaped canvas, the first work by a Royal College student in which the stretcher departed from the traditional rectangle. Hockney made the stretcher himself. His intention was that, if the blank canvas was already illusionistic, he ‘could ignore the concept of illusionistic space and paint merrily in a flat style – people were always talking about flatness in painting in those days’ (Stangos, p.64).
Patrick Hughes’ work looks simply rectangular but when you look at it from a side view, it is actually incredibly shaped and 3D, his work inspired me to think about creating a relief effect within a shaped painting and maybe building more shapes on top of a shaped piece to create dimension, this is something I could certainly look into in the future.
We started by drawing out the shapes that we had decided to cut and went down to the woodwork area to cut out the pieces using a band-saw. I decided to paint a city scene from Cardiff with a view to painting loneliness within it and silhouettes of figures. I chose St Mary’s street with the castle at the back as I felt the turrets would make for an interesting shaped painting to be cut out. Then, I just started cutting. I am very happy with the shape I created and look forward to painting it very much. I started priming the surface of the shape today also, ready to produce an underpainting on top.
I have never done this kind of thing before, and tend to always paint on rectangular or square shapes, so I feel I will be learning a lot when producing this work. I spent the evening in the studio, drawing out my piece ready to paint it. I am keen to get stuck in and start painting my shaped piece. I will be working in the studio this week creating a green underpainting just like I did when creating my still life piece ready for next monday’s session.
I have spending my evenings working in the studio, I have now finished my still life painting that I have been producing in and outside of a paint workshop I have been attending every Monday and I highly pleased and proud of the result. At first, I was unsure of the benefits of underpainting, especially using green tones but I have been pleasantly surprised. The green tones coming through under the colour I have dry brushed over the top has definitely helped add depth to my painting. It has also changed the colours on top and undoubtedly helped inform my decisions when painting in shadows and highlights.
In my opinion, this is an incredibly successful outcome and I have learnt so much about painting that I didn’t know before. I think the depth in the work and the three-dimensional quality it has is one of the most successful elements. The addition of a dotted pattern in the chair and thin line work on the book edges has shown me how to create subtle detail and add texture to my work when working on a flat surface. This has been such a valuable exercise for me and I will definitely be using underpainting and techniques such as dry brushing within my work in the future and within this project.
Previously, I have drawn on top of tracing paper to portray the fact that everyone else around a person in the city might as well not exist and to show the ghostly bodies of the city that move around you with zero interaction or conversation. I have now experimented with cutting a single figure out of the tracing paper and placing it over my photographs which I feel is more successful in its portraying my concept but not as visually appealing as drawing on top is.
As with my more recent photo manipulations, I started experimenting with ways of showing that vice versa, you may as well not exist to all the others around you and that not being noticed or acknowledged in the city can make you feel extremely lonely within it. The manipulation below is highly unsuccessful in my opinion, It hasn’t really worked in showing that you may as well not exist and looks unprofessional as the tracing paper shows the glue underneath it.
Due to this being unsuccessful, I experimented with cutting out all the people in an image apart from one. That one person is definitely unnoticed in the image and I feel this method of manipulating the tracing paper accurately shows that to all the other people in the city you might as well not be there. I am glad to see successes coming out of my exploration and continuous working.
I am glad my tutor suggested I continue experimenting with these materials as I believe I have created some successful outcomes here. I have also learnt what doesn’t work and progresses within my project.
On reflection, painting on a variety of grounds has definitely aided my learning and expanded my knowledge as an artist. Below I have highlighted the successes and failures of working with six different grounds. I have also noted my thoughts and potential uses for the grounds that haven’t been successful for this project work.
Burnt Umber – Dark Brown
Dark Brown is definitely the one of the most successful grounds for this kind of painting. It was incredibly effortless to create shadows because I didn’t have to paint the dark areas, I just used the ground to guide me. It was easier to paint and focusing on the highlights allowed me to create a far more successful image than if I was simply working on white.
Mid Tone Ground
A mid-tone ground worked quite well, but it didn’t allow for a dark feeling painting. It is quite unsuccessful really and does not heighten the feeling of loneliness as much as a darker tone ground. Also, I found myself using the ground to guide the highlights in the image which I feel made the image look quite flat and I don’t feel there is enough contrast between the figures and the surrounding here. I am incredibly surprised by how much a ground beneath a painting actually affects the outcome in the end.
Red Textured Ground
This textured ground made it very difficult to paint the straight edges of the buildings and figures within the outcome. However, I feel quite an interesting effect has been created here. To me the red ground made the scene look almost apocalyptic which isn’t exactly the feeling I was trying to create, so in that respect it is unsuccessful, but using a textured ground was a valuable insight into effects that can be created with grounds and demonstrated to me what my tutor meant by making more work for yourself when painting on an uneven ground.
Cadmium Yellow Ground
The cadmium yellow ground did weird and wonderful things to my painting. I like the effect it created and the yellow highlights peaking through as if the sun is shining, but it does produce a positive feeling so is unsuccessful in aiding the portrayal of loneliness in the city. In the future, if I am thinking about light or painting sun light, I will consider using a cadmium yellow ground.
Dark Brown Textured Ground
Textured grounds could definitely be interesting to explore and would undoubtedly benefit an abstract piece of work, but in this painting, even though I like the effect created, it was difficult to paint any straight edges because of all the lumps and bumps. I kind of feel that the attention is detracted from the subject a little bit by the interesting textures and palette knife work highlighting the surface.
Black Emulsion Ground
The black emulsion ground is also incredibly successful. It is between this ground and the dark brown as to which one has worked best. Again, It was effortless to create shadows because I didn’t have to paint the dark areas, I just used the ground to guide me. I would say this is so successful because the highlights and white figures really stand out and the darkest areas are black so there is a lot of contrast within the work.
On reflection, painting on a variety of grounds has undoubtedly been a valuable exercise. I have learnt first hand, how the colour or texture of a ground can affect that final outcome. I have also learnt the importance of choosing the correct ground to work with and how some grounds can make the painting you are producing easier to paint or vice versa. It is important to consider how the ground that you choose could affect the mood of the piece as here some of the grounds have helped heighten a dark mood and loneliness and others haven’t. The textures grounds definitely made it more difficult to paint figuratively but could be incredibly useful and valid for abstract works. Now that I have experimented with grounds, I will produce a large piece on a dark ground to add to its success and highlight my findings from these explorations.
In the tutorial that I had this morning, I was glad to be told I was working well and to be given some direction. The tutor suggested that I looked at the works of William Hogarth’s series “A Rakes Progress” and a set of drawings by David Hockney produced in response to Hogarth’s series of works.
As I am producing a project that is very much out of my comfort zone and includes people, It is refreshing to see how others have represented figures within their work. Hogarth’s figures are timeless and very realistic. I think he influences me most compositionally, as all his pieces convey a story and narrative yet are very balanced in their composition.
I am not particularly drawn to these works by David Hockney, but it is interesting and influential to see such an expressive style of drawing. The figures within these works are incredibly inspiring to me, they are very loosely drawn and I will take influence from them in my drawings and paintings incorporating white figure shaped silhouettes.
My tutor also said that the tracing paper experiments and photo manipulations are something that I should continue to work with and so I will be experimenting with these techniques and materials further this week.
We were asked to bring our Green tone underpaintings along to this session with a view to working on top of them with more realistic colours. The idea was to see how the underpainting informed the painting produced on top. The tutor showed us an example of a green underpainting that he has been working on and showed us a few techniques to think about when painting on top of our pieces. He asked us to think about pattern, and how using pattern in painting can be effective. He used the example of wood grain within our still lifes and delicately showed us how to apply thin brush strokes using a small brush. Next, he showed us a technique known as “dry-brushing”, which is when you almost scuff the surface with paint. It is best to use an old brush for this and it was a valid way of applying paint for us in this workshop, because the highlights, lowlights and green tones of our underpaintings could show through the new thin layer of paint being applied.
We were then left to experiment with these techniques and start building up a more realistic image of our still lifes using more accurate colours. I started my piece by observing the texture of the surface that it was on, this week there were no tables left and I had placed my items on an orangey brown canvas chair which worked out really well for adding colour to my painting. I used a dotting effect and spotted pattern to render the chair and then used the dry brushing technique to add a scuffed orange colour over the top, allowing the green to show through slightly. Dry brushing over the pattern also gave emphasis to the dots themselves and it started to look highly textured and effective.
I continued employing these techniques and built up a substantial amount of colour within my work. It was really interesting how I found myself being informed by the shadows and highlights that I had thought about when producing the underpainting in the first place. The green tones showing through also seemed to give my painting a lot more texture made it look more three-dimensional. The green underpainting definitely effected the colours that I painted on top. For example, The photograph that is laying on the book was painted in dark greys but when applied on top of green, pink tones were emerging, which was highly interesting.
I have learnt a lot from these sessions and underpainting and dry brushing are definitely techniques I will be using in my painting in the future. I will now continue working and finish this piece in my own time ready for the next session on Monday.