REFLECTION: Painting onto a variety of grounds

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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Julian-Schnabel-Hopper-1991

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.


UPDATE: The Decay of Bread and Teabags in Perspex Boxes: 4 months

My moulding perspex box sculptural pieces are becoming even more interesting. I have never left items to go mouldy for this long before. It has been about 4 months now, you would never leave bread for example to mould for that long in your household fridge or home cupboards. Below are some images i’ve taken of the boxes at this stage in their progression.

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The tea bags seem to have reached a stage where they are not moulding rapidly anymore. They have a furry exterior developing on them and a greeny tinge growing on the bags but this hasn’t progressed as quickly as it was in the last three weeks. The bread box is a highly successful piece, it continues to mould day by day, it is no longer even recognisable as piece of bread, what has suprised me most that I never predicted would happen is the amount that it has shrunk within the box. There is an aray of texture and colour developing on the bread, the yellow spots are particularly interesting and an unusal surface is developing. I will continue to document these boxes and blog more stages of their moulding until my final assessment.


Does the Colour of Food Mould and Decay Add to the Stereotypical Repulsion of it?

DOES THE COLOUR OF MOULD ADD TO THE HUMAN REPULSION OF IT?
IF IT WAS A DIFFERENT COLOUR, WOULD IT BE LESS REPULSIVE AND THEREFORE MORE ATTRACTIVE?
IF YOUR FOOD SUDDENLY DECAYED IN BRIGHT, APPEALING COLOURS WOULD YOU BE LESS DISGUSTED BY IT?
These are some of the questions I asked myself when producing this series of six different coloured moulding canvases.

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To me, It is obvious which one of these paintings looks like mould because of its colour!

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In these six pieces, I have experimented with making mould in exactly the same way as I have in past replica moulding canvases. However, here I have painted them in more attractive colours as well as the stereotypical greeny brown colour that mould is. The textures and materials used are exactly the same in all of the pieces but the colour of the pieces definitely change how you think about them and their visual appearance a lot. In my opinion, this set of six as individual pieces and as a piece as a whole are highly successful.

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Although all of the pieces are incredibly interesting, THE GREEN COLOURED CANVAS IS THE ONLY ONE THAT REALLY LOOKS LIKE IT COULD BE MOULD. Therefore, the colour of mould DOES effect our ability to identify it and our repulsion of it. The fact that colour affects how we associate and see things is an interesting concept indeed.  My experimentation here was a success and my assumption turned out to be correct, colour is a massive contributing factor to our understanding of what something is or what something looks like.


Preserving a Moment in the Decay Process

LARGE TEXTURAL PAINTING CAPTURING MOULD AT A FROZEN MOMENT IN TIME

After a vast amount of experimentation, I decided to focus on creating textural replica moulds with materials such as paint and sugar. I feel that my previous fake mould pieces are some of the most successful artworks I have created within this project.
  I also feel this concept is particularly successful because of its relation to TIME. By Painting mould that looks real, I am almost PRESERVING TIME and capturing a FROZEN MOMENT in the decay process. Also, Mould would usually take a LONG TIME TO DEVELOP AND GROW whereas this only takes a matter of hours to produce. Time is deeply embedded within this artwork physically and conceptually.

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I decided to work on a much larger scale and create this substantial Painting of Bread Mould. I wanted to see whether painting mould on a large canvas and displaying it made people consider it more of an impressive art piece than some small insignificant paintings of something repulsive. I feel that this is an attractive painting that is associated with and looks like mould but has no where near the same level of disgust as if this was on your dinner plate. From asking a few of my peers, it does make them look at mould differently and consider it more as art when displayed like this. I think this is successful in any ways, firstly its relation to time comes from many angles and secondly, I have evidence that it could change the human perception of mould itself.

I would now like to experiment with the NOTION OF TIME even more and create a piece that COMBINES THE PRESERVATION OF TIME AND CAPTURING A FROZEN MOMENT IN THE DECAY PROCESS WITH THE CHANGE AND DECAY THAT HAPPENS OVER TIME. I think taking these two ways of looking at time and finding a way of bringing them together will definitely allow me to create something visually interesting.