PAINTING: Working with Monochrome and Being More Gestural

After attending a tutorial on Monday, I was glad that the tutor gave me some direction and new ideas and techniques to work with. After looking at my work, she suggested that I work with Monochrome and use the tones of grey to enhance the feeling of loneliness and make the individual coloured figure appear even more singled out and alone.

She also felt that my work was not really gelling as a whole and that I was working with three different realities and had to express the relationship between the figures, the single figure and the architecture. She said she thought the detailed buildings that were included in my work detracted from the figures and from the message within the pieces. She suggested that I experiment with contrasting colours, monochrome and full colour as well as contrasting languages, the gestural and the more realistic. I was encouraged to make marks and shapes that represent the buildings and to make them more gestural rather than focusing on every detail, window or door etc. I have experimented with making less detailed marks to create the city landscape with both brush and palette knife.

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I feel that working with a palette knife definitely helped me be less controlled and more gestural but doesn’t really gel with the figures painted with a brush and therefore is unsuccessful so I have experimented with more gestural brush work.

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I think this is far more successful and the monochrome definitely heightens the feeling of loneliness and the colours of the lone figure. After producing this piece, I decided to experiment with how much of the surrounding is seen within the painting, because even though the technique is successful, I feel that the buildings still are overwhelming the figures here.

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This definitely puts emphasis on the lone figure and draws the viewer to wonder why they are the only one not painted as a white silhouette and consider their loneliness rather than being distracted by the buildings in the piece.  These are highly valid experiments and have inspired me to create a final piece working with monochrome rather than the sepia alternative I have worked with previously. I feel this colour palette and deeper contrast portrays a more negative vibe and adds to the feeling of loneliness within the work.

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Initial Colour Experiments Portraying City Loneliness and Reflection – Inspired by Elena Romanova

I have started working with brighter colours and attempted to portray the hidden loneliness of the city within the vibrancy. At the start of my project, when I was investigating artists that were inspired by the city itself, I came across the work of Elena Romanova, who combines wax resist techniques with inks.

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Above: Elena Romanova’s work

I decided to employ her influence and produce some brightly coloured wax resists using crayons and vibrant drawing inks. I have worked with city skylines and a lone figure to start with and then moved on to thinking about a lonesome figure among others surrounded by silhouettes just like I have in my darker works and photo manipulations so that I can analyse which colour palette is more effective in portraying my city theme.

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REFLECTION: I think the white crayon is more successful than the coloured crayons in terms of wax resist, but I do not think that these are successful images at all. I don’t think they portray the hidden loneliness of city life, and the figures within them simply don’t look lonely surrounded by vibrant colours. I am already seeing that the colour palette of my work affects the success of the message and how lonely the people are massively. I was going to experiment further with brighter colours, but I do not see the point anymore. The use of bright colours to show the loneliness of city life  is unsuccessful even when one figure is surrounded by others that may as well not exist and the imagery is showing that you are alone even around others in the city. I have experimented with this idea and found it not beneficial to my project and so I will continue working with a duller and darker colour palette.

Now that I have clarified this, I will work on a darker piece inspired by the artist I saw in the Urban spree gallery and user Shoe18’s piece on deviant art incorporating my successes within this hidden loneliness in cities exploration so far. I will portray the idea that you feel lonely even when surrounded by others and to them you may  as well not exist because I feel it is the most successful portrayal I have explored. I will also include cut out silhouettes inspired by my photo manipulations and have one person singled out in colour influenced by the girl in the red coat in the movie Schindler’s List. I will employ techniques such as dry brushing inspired by my paint workshop and work on a dark ground as I felt this was highly successful when I was influenced to work with one by the grounds workshop I attended.  I am hoping this will make for a highly successful outcome and am keen to start working on it.


Hidden Loneliness in Cities – Colour Exploration – Artists That Have Explored Urban Loneliness Through Brighter Colours

After producing quite a successful and substantial body of work focusing on the use of monochrome colouring and sepia tones, I have decided to investigate whether these colours are affecting the loneliness of my work. After producing my green shaped underpainting, I started thinking about the fact that the figures didn’t appear to look as lonely as in my darker works and so I would like to clarify this by briefly investigating and producing some brighter works and analysing their success in showing the hidden loneliness of city life.

To start, I thought it would be beneficial to investigate whether existing artists have attempted to show loneliness in cities through bright colours. I have come across a few, but I do not feel that the figures within them feel as lonely, because darker colours create a negative atmosphere and bright colours a positive one, so the figure seems to look like they are just happily walking through a colourful city even though they are alone, rather than feeling down and depressed by the fact that they are.

Leonid Afremov – “Alone in the City”

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I am really drawn to the technique adopted by Leonid Afremov, however, in terms of portraying loneliness, I just feel that the figure looks as if they are walking back from somewhere by themselves. In my work, I am investigating portraying loneliness in the city where there is others around you. It is horrible to think that there are so many people but you interact with no one which heightens how lonely you feel in my opinion. This is a beautiful painting but I am not sure it portrays the same message as my work or is successful in showing loneliness in the city, partly because of the bright more positive colours and partly because there are no other people for the figure to feel lonely around or feel like they don’t exist to.

Miki De Goodeboom – “Lonely in the Big City”

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I think the abstract nature of Miki De Goodeboom’s piece is highly successful, even though there is no city like imagery behind the figure, because of the square and geometric shapes our brain seems to associate them with one. Here, I do feel that the figure looks lonely, I think it is because of the chaotic looking city and the figure seems to look overwhelmed being alone within this chaos. Also, the colours here are not as bright as in Afremov’s work.

Casoni Ibolya – “The Rainbow City after Rain Alone”

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I like the softness of the work here, Even though the colours are not as vibrant as the other two artists I have looked at, the artist has still used brighter colouring to portray inner city loneliness. Again, here I feel that the figure does look lonely. I think this is to do with the fact that the world around them is colourful and they are painted in blacks and greys. The work makes me feel as if the figure feels alone and as if they don’t belong in this environment.

After exploring how existing artists have portrayed loneliness in cities through the use of brighter colours, I am going to investigate it myself, I will produce some coloured works and experiment with the idea of there being lots of people around you but no interaction, just as I have in my darker works. I will then analyse the success of this and decided whether it is more affective to paint Urban Loneliness in bright or darker colours and continue to work with whatever the verdict is.


PAINT WORKSHOP: Session 2: Colour, Pattern and Dry-Brushing

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.

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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.

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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.


Working with Grounds

After undertaking a grounds workshop and learning that the colour and texture underneath the paint affects the outcome, I want to experiment with working on different grounds.  I usually just paint onto a white surface but recently I have been working with darker colours and I learnt that working on a dark surface like black emulsion or brown could dull the colours I’m using and give my images more dimension.

I have produced six grounds to work with: black emulsion, burnt umber, a mid tone beige colour, a cadmium yellow  ground and two textured grounds, one red and one brown.

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In the workshop, we talked about how grounds can make painting easier for you, and that it can also make it harder. I predict that the textured grounds are going to make painting more difficult for me but they undoubtedly will produce an interesting effect and created texture within my painting that I produce on top.

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I am really interested and excited to work with these grounds and to see how they affect my outcomes, I plan to paint images portraying loneliness in the city, in monochrome and sepia tones on all six and observe how the grounds effect the colours and if the surfaces and textures create a desirable or undesirable outcome.


Field: COLLABORATION: Stop Motion Animation – Collaborative Drawing

Here is the Stop Motion Animation of a collaborative drawing that we all created together. We got together to create the drawing and took pictures of it from above every few seconds. It was really difficult to take a picture in exactly the same place as the previous image, and as a result the stop motion does jump around a little bit. This is only a practice animation, but when we come to make one for the final outcome, we will definitely need to set it up and use a tripod to hold the camera in place and prevent this. It is really interesting to see the development of one of our drawings through photography and animation and to be honest, as I had never animated such a large, collaborative piece before, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to turn out, but for a first attempt we all felt it was better than we expected. It really captures the journey of our drawing and highlights our collaboration by showing all the different parts of the drawing collaborating at once.

Now we have had a practice, and are happy with the process of producing Stop Motion Animations, we will produce a more professional standard of animation using a tripod to keep the camera still. We are thinking of including little clay models of people on top of the collaborative drawing (incorporating Chelsea’s ceramic influence further) and animating, then painting bits out with white paint and redrawing on top and animating that as well. We are keen to be a bit more experimental and look forward to producing a final animation piece.


PAINT WORKSHOP: “Working with Grounds”

In this workshop, I explored and made notes on the use of grounds in painting. It is a subject that until now I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable of. I was aware that different coloured grounds were used under paint but it was interesting to learn, that we use grounds in painting for a vast variety of reasons.

Painting a coloured ground onto a piece before you produce the painting changes the colour of the paint applied and as a result changes the outcome of the work. For example, to achieve the maximum luminosity of colour and to create a vibrant outcome, you would paint a white ground to work on. Impressionists introduced the idea of working on a white ground as they desired extremely bright colourful  characteristics within their work. I learnt that working with mid-tone grounds can be beneficial for darker paintings and make the colours you apply look duller and more subdued. An artist that sprung to the mind of the tutor that uses mid tone and dark grounds to work on was Rembrandt. Rembrandt is famous for creating  a lot of depth in the backgrounds of his art. This is down to the use of many thin glazes and painting on many thin grounds to build up a dark background that you feel you are looking deep into. To me, the background of Rembrandt’s work looked as if he had made his own Black and worked with it. It was intriguing to find out that this wasn’t the case and that so much effort had gone in to working into a part of the painting that many of us don’t consider to be as important.

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Rembrandt, Hendrickje Bathing in a River, 1654

Using a ground, changes the colour of the glazes you apply. Green was the last colour to be produced/manufactured and was extremely hard to get hold of. Artists cleverly used a Blue ground and painted a yellow on top to create the green tones that they desired within their paintings. In this workshop, another thing I learnt was that using a Cadmium yellow ground does extremely odd things to the colours you apply on top. Painting a cadmium yellow ground is traditionally something you don’t do, but for some artists the outcome is a preferred and desirable effect. Many artists work with a tinted ground, usually a white base with a hint of colour added to it.

Interestingly, I found it fascinating that you could use two different grounds on one canvas or panel. For example if you were painting a landscape you may want to use a mid-tone ground for the foreground and a blue ground for the sky area.

As well as to achieve certain colour outcomes, I found out that grounds are also used to control the absorbency of the surface of a board or a canvas. Gesso grounds are highly absorbant, they absorb oil colour incredibly well and almost make it look like watercolour.  Gesso ground is only to be used with Oil paint, all other grounds can take oil paint too as long as they are fully dry. People use specific materials that have man-made surfaces because they desire the fact that it has no absorbance, a quality you may use if you liked the paint to stay wet and move around on the surface a lot. When painting, the surface has to have some sort of texture. Canvas has a texture, working on different surfaces changes the mark that is made.

I was informed that grounds do not have to be a flat surface, you can use textured grounds and make them up yourself. For example, glue and sawdust. You may want to work on a ground that contains brush marks or sand to achieve a certain result from working with a particular texture. Acrylic grounds dry incredibly quickly, which is both an advantage of them and a disadvantage. Obviously you can work on top of them quickly, but if you don’t like them later on you cannot just take them away. Gesso ground have a lot of preparation to them and dry incredibly slowly. How you apply a ground is highly important, for example, the brush you use has an effect on the surface of the ground. The ground is also different depending on how it is applied, it would be a completely different surface if you applied it with a palette knife. The way you use the materials affects the ground too, long brushstrokes would give a vastly different result to stippling.

Even though a ground is usually considered to be painted on and remain underneath the paint on top, I realised in this workshop that you can still have some of the ground showing in your final result if you desire.

We talked about the endless possibilities of grounds, you could paint a ground and draw into it with a sharp object or nail to produce a ghost image as a guide for your painting. You could also use chalk which would create a more smudgy effect when paint was applied on top. It is completely acceptable to stick things into acrylic grounds like newspaper and photographs as long as the material isn’t organic. You can work with oil paint on acrylic grounds but not the other way round.

In terms of my project, the tutor and I talked about possibilities within my hidden loneliness theme and how I could apply my newly found knowledge of grounds. Working with Black emulsion or layers of dark or mid tone colours like Rembrandt did could be an interesting pathway to explore and something I will consider. I was encouraged to think about the fact that taking away paint off a piece, can be as interesting as putting it on and therefore revealing under painting. Working on dark surfaces or fabrics could be interesting to explore within my city work.

We moved on to consider the fact that Canvas in itself is a ground, even though you haven’t specifically done anything to it, you have decided to work on it. Brown Linen canvas would give you a different outcome to a white one. The choice of something can be a ground, the surface of timber is technically a ground.

I was fascinated when the tutor mentioned that grounds can make your work easier and that it could help you along. And example of an artist that makes the work harder for himself is Julian Schnabel. He uses broken crockery as a ground to work on, the bumpy surface must be difficult to paint on, but he is setting himself up a very interesting outcome. He produces a completely opposite ground to that of traditional portrait painting, he takes risks within his work and they have obviously paid off. Creating difficulties by making a ground such as crockery can make for a more absorbing, charismatic and overall successful piece of artwork.

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Work by Juian Schabel

Anselm Kiefer is an example of an artist that replicates real surfaces when producing grounds. Tar and bitumen are prominent materials within his work. However, they are slow liquids so his work can move and in exhibitions of his you may literally see bits falling off his paintings or parts that already have below them. People accept that Kiefer’s work has a sense of impermanence.

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From this workshop, I have learnt that working with grounds is all about experimentation. I have gained a knowledge on the reasons we use grounds, the key reasons are to achieve certain colour effects, to create surface or texture and to control absorbency when making paintings. I found this workshop incredibly interesting and inspiring. I will definitely be experimenting with the use of grounds and will think a lot more about the surface I am working on and choose it appropriately. I am already looking forward to the workshop next week where I will be researching painting mediums and glazes, the stage of painting after producing a ground.