After undertaking the still life painting workshop, I was forced to think about an object that linked to my theme of the city. It took me a while, but I suddenly thought about how many people wear headphones when walking through the city. I started thinking about how if everyone around you in the city was wearing headphones to avoid its loneliness and to avoid facing the fact that you will interact with no one, then the people who don’t wear them must feel even more isolated.
I wanted to portray these ideas and experiment with firstly showing how common it is to see people wearing headphones in the city, and secondly how alone someone would feel in a city surrounded by “headphone beings”. I started sketching.
I was really happy with these quick sketches and felt as if they accurately portrayed a body wearing headphones that you do not interact with and just passes you by in the city. I wanted to work these beings into a piece and decided that using actual headphones within the work could be interesting
As an experiment, I think I have successfully explored the idea of being surrounded by people wearing headphones in the city. However, I think the concept of being surrounded by others but never conversing with them and the thought that they may as well just be silhouettes is more successful. I do not think this is a particularly successful piece and to me it looks quite amateur. I feel this might be too literal and is not an area that I am going to continue to experiment with. I am glad I experimented here however, I learnt that thinking about how people avoid loneliness makes others lonely is not a route that I want to take my project down. I will now start thinking about finalising final pieces and consolidating my project as a whole.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The work of Nesta is highly relevant to my project. She portrays the loneliness of living in a city within her work and as I have done in my work portrays the figure as a white silhouette. However, she focuses on the fact that she may as well be invisible in the city and how she feels alone and I have looked at this subject from a different perspective.
“Alone in the City is a digital collage series based on my experiences living alone in London, I hoped to capture the day-to-day happenings of living in a big city by yourself.” -NESTA
I am focusing on everyone else around you in the city and the fact that they may as well not exist because of the loneliness and the zero conversation that occurs. I had already thought about making the figures silhouettes and white in colour to create a ghostly image, but her work confirms to me that it makes for a successful outcome.
Here I have attempted to illustrate being alone in the city, and feeling overwhelmed by its mass structure and buildings through combining the drawing of simple city outlines and my photography of people in the city.
I have experimented with a few different medias when creating these kind of collages including pencil, fine liner, black indian ink, nut-brown ink and ball point pen.
I think the outcomes show the figure to be isolated and I like the contrast in detail and complexity between the drawing and the photography. I am enjoying exploring displaying urban loneliness artistically and even though these are simple images, they do portray being alone in the city.