Artist Research: Kimsooja: A Needle Woman

The artist Kimsooja was brought to my attention by one of my tutors. In particular, it was suggested that I looked at “A needle woman”,  a video installation of the artist standing in the middle of busy streets in different parts of the world as people pass her by and walk in the direction of the camera. She is a feminist artist and is approaching women’s labour of sewing within this work but I believe it definitely applies to the concept of my city project even if being alone or singled out amongst others in the city was not the artists original intention.

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This work made me think about the hidden loneliness of city life and the notion of being surrounded by others in the city but alone. She is standing in the middle of many people, but no one is interacting with her, she is being overlooked and people are just passing her by. She is an insignificant figure to them and at the same time all the people around her may as well not be there at all. The feeling of loneliness if highly evident in this work and I believe her video showing herself surrounded by others who are not interacting with her or even acknowledging her existence is not dissimilar to my project imagery of a coloured figure surrounded by white silhouettes.

This piece is highly inspirational and influential to my work, it confirms to me that you can be surrounded by others in the city but at the same time singled out and alone. It sort of highlights the ideas I have been working with and in supporting them adds to my works success.


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”


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”


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.

Tutorial: Artists to look at and Direction for progression

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.



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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.

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.


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.



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.


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.

Initial Group Research: Collaborative Drawings

Now that we have decided to become a collaborative drawing collective and create a mass piece, we thought it would be relevant to do some initial research into artists and existing initiatives that create artwork  and drawings collaboratively.

Below are some of the practitioners and groups that we felt inspired our ideas and encouraged us to be experimental and work together to produce a collaborative drawing.





This collective groups work made us think about what drawing really is and that we could use a variety of media’s within our piece. Here paint, charcoal, pencil and other generic materials have been used, but also they have stuck paper on top of the piece, added colour and just played about with it which is something we are keen to do. We want to express our own individuality as well as our group ideas and learn from one another. This also inspired us to be expressive and just enjoy creating the drawings rather than worrying about what the outcome is going to look like.



This exhibition was born from five days of collaborative drawing. The result is an exercise in exploring and pushing the boundaries of drawing. This collective posed the question: “how do four artists mold a collaborative work through such an intensive process and still leave their individual “mark?” which is something we are keen to explore. Materials used for the work in this show include spray paint, latex paint, graphite, charcoal and even plaster, this highlighted to us the versatility of drawing and how we can combine many medias from our different disciplines. Four unique artists have come together and managed to make a cohesive offering through their solo works and the epic collaboration piece that takes up nearly an entire wall.

“Even our individual drawings have an aspect of collaboration to them because we’ve done all the work right here in the gallery and while we’re working we’re just going around talking to each other about each other’s drawings,” – As a group we have thought about making a diary of our collaborative drawings and experiments leading up to the big final piece. We hadn’t considered that our individual drawings could also be done together in the same room and added into this book.



We found this piece really interesting. Here one artist has drawn something, posted it to the other artist and he has finished off the picture. It is an interesting idea, doing a drawing and them giving it to someone else to complete.


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This collaboration work is visually stunning. We were all really fascinated by it when we came across it. Mica Angela Hendricks has collaborated with her 4-year-old daughter to create these pieces. Like Kenny and John, she has drawn something and given it to her daughter to finish off. We were really drawn in by the child like quality and individuality of the pieces. It is useful to be aware of how different artists work and what kind of people collaborate to make art. It is great that there are such versatile collaborations around and a wide range of different people and age ranges participating. This is a very unique and successful collaboration in our opinion.



En Masse is a Montreal-based collaborative drawing initiative that makes huge, beautiful, black and white murals with a revolving and ever-evolving cast of artists. In our group, Rachel was particularly interested in this initiative being from an illustration background. They perform at a ton of festivals, art fairs, and other cultural events in Montreal. This led us to think about performance and maybe drawing live in front of people. It is a different angle that we could explore.

All of these artists have given us a valuable insight into collaborative drawing. We have already learnt a lot about how versatile and expressive we can be with this idea and are excited about creating work. We plan to start by making small collaborative drawings to get a feel for drawing together whilst having coffee.

Leonardo Ruggieri – It’s a Lonely City

Whilst researching, I came across the work of Leonardo Ruggieri with particular interest in his piece: It’s a Lonely City.

Most of Leonardo’s paintings are about people and urban settings of daily life. They capture life’s most unusual settings and moods with strong realistic passion. Loneliness within Cities is not a usual or common painting subject so it was interesting for me to see how this artist had portrayed this notion.


This is a very unusual piece and I’m not really sure how to interpret it. It’s title suggests it is about being alone in the city. Maybe he is portraying the idea that because no one talks to anyone in the city and there is a hidden loneliness, you may as well just be on your own with the birds that inhabit the city. I also thought the artist could be making a statement about wanting to escape the everyday lonely routine of city life. Although I am unclear of its meaning, I think there is a disturbing element to this piece, It convey’s loneliness to the viewer and makes me think about how many people may want to leave the city because they feel they are living a lonely life there. There is something quite odd about the vibrancy of the piece. Maybe the artist is showing us how vibrant life out of city and how enjoyable it can be to get away from it for a while.

This artwork has made me consider including vibrancy within my work. Combining bright colours with a lone figure could compose a juxtaposition between how social the media displays the city is and how lonely it can actually be.

JANICE JONG – Lonely Metropolis

I have started looking at artists that have explored the loneliness of being in the city. It surprised me to find quite a few artists that were interested in this subject. For me it is absolutely fascinating that there are so many people and the city is so busy but it is such a lonely existence for many. Especially being from a rural area and smaller community where even if the person next to you on the bus is a stranger you would still say hello to them or acknowledge their existence, whereas in cities that just is not how life is.


Lonely Metropolis

Lonely Metropolis by Janice Jong shows the loneliness one can feel in a city where there are a million things vying for your attention but none of it is actually real. Looking through Janice’s work, you see both the beautiful and the lonely sides of a city. To me, this image shows how city life really is. In this typical city scene, there should be loads of people bustling around you and walking past, but they never acknowledge you or interact with you in anyway so they may as well not be there. This is a highly interesting concept to me and one that I want to investigate within my city project. This work also highlights how many people feel in the city, alone. It is fascinating to think that somewhere with such a massive population can have loneliness but it is coming the norm.

I read an article stating that stated city loneliness was now a health problem up there with high blood pressure, lack of exercise and obesity. Urban loneliness can significantly shorten your life expectancy it is said. Janice Jongs piece also makes me think about how overwhelming the city can be for someone. For me, being a student moving to the city was quite a lonely for a while and I definitely felt slightly overwhelmed by the large buildings etc. I think Janice’s work is a success, it highlights the loneliness of city life and shows exactly what she as trying to state incredibly accurately.