Monthly Archives: April 2016

Review of my painting course so far

Beginning the 5th and final part of my painting course is a good time to sit down and review what I’ve achieved so far, which projects I enjoyed the most and found most challenging, and what areas require more practice.  I’m hoping this will help clear my mind for the experiments that follow in part 5, as well as help me home in on a theme for my series of paintings for the final assignment.

 

What I’ve achieved so far

Technically I’ve come a long way from where I started with acrylic paints, which was zero experience.   I’ve learned to use opaque and transparent techniques; to apply paint in many ways with many different tools, working on a vertical support, holding the brush in different ways and at arms length;  varying the rythm of the work (eg starting fast, and then slowing as the work develops and decisions are more critical); used varying types and scale of support as well as coloured grounds; practised painting tonally and with line; explored chiaroscuro; applied texture to my paintings.

I’ve learned to work on several paintings at once, making series for the assignments and one or two of the exercises.  I started out thinking 50×70 cm quite an ambitious scale, and now have taken from A5 to A1 in my stride. 

Colour has been a major part of the journey.  I’ve studied the theory and ‘rules’ and then tried to apply them in my work, remembering that the rules are there to be broken.  I’ve learned about the limited number of acrylic pigments I have, how to mix them physically and optically, which are more or less opaque, which are warm or cold hued, which are the most intense etc.

Drawing 1 introduced me to ideas and techniques for perspective and composition, how to create an image from working drawings, photos, scaling up, working outside etc., and this course has reinforced and extended my knowledge.

Taking all this further, I’ve begun to use the techniques in my paintings strategically to express effects, atmosphere, mood, character, and narrative.  I’ve found in practise that not concentrating on detail (using big brushes, palette knives, rags etc to apply paint for instance) and allowing accident to have a role (runs, spatters, unexpected colours, very wet paint merging and dispersing on the support) has led to better outcomes.

I’ve been inventive in the way I’ve used shape, colour, pattern, perspective, composition, paint application and this has moved some of my work into a more imaginative realm.

In some of my paintings media and execution have worked together to affect the feel of the painting and add to its content.  Feeling the subject through the execution and ‘getting involved with the stuff of painting to carry the idea’ (tutor).

Overall, I’ve challenged myself, been ambitious, taken risks and had fun!

 

Projects I enjoyed the most

(Ive highlighted some words and phrases under this heading – they may be pointers in my approach to part 5 assignment)

In Part 1 the first three exercises, which involved experimentation with media and tools were very enjoyable.  The assignment was also good fun,  I hit on a subject which gave plenty of scope for colour, pattern and inventive ways of applying the paint.

In Part 2 I enjoyed experimenting with techniques for the thistle still life painting.  I also enjoyed doing the looser sketches I made for ‘drawing in paint’, and I still love looking at them – they seem open and unaffected.

In “still life using colour to evoke mood” – the mood chosen was ‘joy’, and I had a great time using bright, happy colours.  Acrylic inks diluted with water on damp paper was a great medium / technique for the subject and summer temperature.

Using the paint thickly and expressively with imaginative colours to describe form and working on the the nine pepper paintings at once was an enjoyable experience.

Assignment 2 was a series of four still life’s and again a pleasure to do.  I enjoyed the colours, and developing the theme, bringing it to an other-worldly point.  It was a subject I have fond feelings for.   I see re-reading my blog I said I wanted to develop the theme at a later date.

In Part 3 I enjoyed doing “telling a story” and my assignment series the most; they were based on a subject that had grabbed my interest and imagination. The first assignment painting was done in wet acrylic mode – lots of water, runs, washes blending – with vivid colours.  Zoomed in and the subject understated rather than spelt out, it gave me opportunity for expressive imagination.

Part 4 research points were about expressive landscape painters and I enjoyed assimilating some of the ideas I saw into my own work, such as imaginative colour and new ways of seeing the landscape.  I felt I was really starting to see that painting could describe ideas and feelings and not just represent a physical reality.

 

Tasks which were the most challenging

Portraits were challenging because of some inhibitions I felt about portraying the model (friends) in a non-flattering way, which stopped me expressing my own response to the person.

Landscape in general was a challenge;  although it’s a subject I love, I feel I haven’t yet found my way of translating what I see in three dimensions on to the two dimensional support ; although I understand theories of perspective I still struggle with ‘seeing’ the composition in two dimensions.  Addendum  – my tutors feedback on my landscape work, received after writing this post,  was very positive, the best I’ve had; so it seems I did after all win the struggle and came up with some strong landscape paintings.

 

Areas that require more practice

The first few exercises were to do with exploring the media – pastels and acrylic paint.  Looking back, I love what I achieved with pastels, sandpaper and water, and feel sorry I didn’t  follow this up later in the course…part 5 could perhaps give me a chance to do this.

Aerial perspective has improved but needs more refining.

Sketchbook work is limited to preparation for coursework – need to broaden my interests

My blog has improved since I started the course.  It’s easier to follow and contains less biographical detail and more about the work of other artists and how it relates to my practise.  I still need to do more of this…perhaps delving deeper into the links between my work and the artists who influenced it.

Also need to practise talking about my work objectively in my blog, eg qualitative discussion about the relative successes of my outcomes.

 

 

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5.2.1 preparing a textured ground

Here are two paintings I’ve done for this exercise

 

The experience of painting purely abstractly, with no outcome in mind, and on a relief surface was completely new to me in all respects.  In both paintings I followed the course suggestions, starting with an overall midtone, adding dark areas in the flatter parts of the surface, and then applying highlights to exaggerate the relief effects, and that worked, but I did fail rather to develop simple, coherent designs for my paintings.

I felt uneasy about having no design in mind at the outset.  The outcomes reflect my confusion, particularly the second painting, which is over-busy and lacks a coherent idea.  The first  painting is more successful because it has one definite characteristic, harmonious colour.

Nevertheless, the value of this exercise for me has been the experience gained in using textured surfaces, and making a first step on the road to abstraction.

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I started exploring the use of textured surfaces earlier in the course.  For the exercise ‘Telling a Story’ I scratched into thick gesso with harsh stabbing marks to make the connection between subject and use of media.  In part 4, in my Meadow painting,  I incorporated dried grasses, seed heads, flowers, texture paste and pva glue, some applied to the surface, others between layers of paint.  For his exercise I used 300gsm mixed media gessoed paper for both surfaces.

My first textured surface for this exercise has similar ingredients to Meadow, but applied before painting, and more thickly and densely, so that texture will become a more significant part of the composition.  I also scattered on some metallic beads, cutouts of card and globs of solid acrylic paint from the top of my tubes.  I’m not sure about a dried flower, which wouldn’t be glued down in the middle, leaving space between it and the support…we’ll have to see how that turns out.  I gave the whole thing a couple of coats of white gesso then collaged on two torn out butterfly images from a magazine.

 

 

I read that Jackson Pollock’s Full Fathom Five‘s 1947 incorporates nails, tacks, coins, buttons, key, cigarettes, matches, artists oil paints applied with brushes and palette knives, in its dense, encrusted canvas surface.  Pours of black and aluminium paint crisscross these under layers. Encouraged by this to be more ambitious, my second surface has a collection of rags, lace, tassels, wool and a zip; and buttons and beads set into texture paste, the whole crisscrossed with pva lines.  Two coats of white gesso were followed by a few images from a fashion page in a magazine, stuck on with pva.

  

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My surfaces were now ready. Painting with this amount of texture represents a whole new dimension for me, literally and figuratively, so I didn’t really know how to start; I decided to paint non-objectively..to follow my nose, choosing colours, tools, where and how to apply the paint intuitively, as the mood took me.  It would be a learning process anyway, and I expected to make ‘mistakes’.

Starting with the first prepared surface (above), deciding to go with the idea of a carpet of grasses, flowers, leaves etc, I mixed phth green and lemon yellow and quickly painted all over,  which left some parts white.  Then dribbled yellow and blue acrylic ink from the top.  Left to dry then quickly painted indigo in varying concentrations in patches using a wide, flat brush held flat, sort of dragging it softly from right to left over the surface.  This I found left lots of skips on the right side of raised elements.  I remembered the advice to place darks in flat areas to exaggerate the relief effect so went back in with indigo and placed some darks more carefully.  This had the predicted effect, and really highlighted the central flower head.  Following the suggestion to then add highlights I placed some of my original green mix, mixed with tit white, and then a tint of lemon yellow, with a palette knife, carefully highlighting raised areas of texture especially the scattered rice beads.  Standing back and assessing the effects constantly, I made more adjustments with darks and lights until I was satisfied. Here’s my painting at various stages, the final one taken after varnishing and lit from the side to accentuate the relief.

One observation is that with this painting it was harder to judge when it was ‘finished’…in fact I think perhaps I could never categorically say that.  I’m satisfied with the final stage…although I think the first version above is more unified.  Perhaps more subtle highlights would have been good.

The two butterfly images were almost obliterated, but remained just visible as a dark, warm contrast, which I accentuated in the final version with a few touches of burnt sienna. I think they lift the painting and attract the eye.

As for the process generally, I was quite amazed and surprised at the effects that were easily produced using a relief surface, brush  and a palette knife.  It’s a different way of painting that will be fun to explore, and that will need lots of experience to exploit to the full.

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The second surface is more extreme relief, over 1cm in places.  With no experience of painting on such a surface it was difficult to know where to start.  The theme is dressmaking, or my sewing box, so I thought I’d retain and exaggerate some of the shapes – teeth of zip, discs of buttons, triangular tassels, and the pattern of lace snaking through.  This time I wanted the collaged photos to be visible and form a focal point in the final version, so the paint colours I select should complement the colours of the photos.  All this seemed to call for a more controlled application of paint than in the first painting.

I started with burnt sienna painted overall, but leaving the collaged images and some white spaces untouched where the brush skipped over the relief.  a very dark layer of indigo/Prussian blue mix followed, leaving shapes created by textural lines. Now I thought about highlights.  Slowly I built them up in cad yellow, phth green, pr blue and pr magenta/napth red mix, just following my eye as I stood back and pondered frequently how my design was developing.  I could never call this finished; it could change forever like a chameleon and change character many times.  I left it at the stage above as I quite like the design of dark and light values, warm and cool colours, and intriguing shapes, textures and marks.  The collage integrates with the whole; the main image, the girl, remains the focus and anchor point in a busy surface.

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5.2.2 mixing materials into paint

This was a great technical exercise in which I started to experience the potential outcomes of adding various materials to my paint.  They’re described below, with my observations.  

I can see great potential for developing these ideas to use in real paintings.  Many of the textures would readily lend themselves to describing natural subjects such as elements of the landscape – trees, rough ground, grass and scrub.  They’d also enhance the interest in abstract paintings, adding a further dimension of interest and variety of surface.  

But the real advantage of these techniques and those in the previous exercises in part 5 (creating textured surfaces) is their potential to become a powerful expressive tool.  My mind keeps coming back to one in particular of my paintings – Man and Boy, which although a powerful subject competently painted, disappointingly lacked painterly expression.  I handled it then in the way of ‘painting in an illustration’, without feeling the connection between subject and use of materials.  If I were doing that painting now I’d approach it very differently, developing the techniques learned so far in part 5 to express and communicate my ideas more effectively.

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Mixing materials into paint…what I did

Collected some materials, mixed them with cheap acrylic paint and did some tryouts on scraps of paper, using a palette knife to apply the mixes.

 

The texture varied according to the relative proportions of paint and added materials; if I added a lot it became more solid, or mortar-like and harde to manipulate; less material added meant the paint was more spreadable. 

 

Looking at the textured effects, from top left to bottom right :-

  • Chilli pepper seeds and stalks.  Gives a natural look, could be used for texture in the foreground of a landscape to suggest eg leaf litter, soil etc.  Interesting using two different materials in one mix.
  • Coarse sea salt also gave a natural looking texture, clumping together in the fairly solid mixture I made
  • Loose tea leaves makes an even, rough texture with low relief compared to the previous two
  • Vermicelli is unusual – could be ordered to resemble grass.  An interesting one.
  • Little round pieces of soup pasta make a nice bubbly, high relief texture
  • Cloves are very big for this work, but could be used to good effect in a large scale painting with a thick, crusty surface
  • Granite flakes make a crackled texture
  • Black lava texture gel may be more noticeable in a more transparent colour – this opaque blue swallows it up, but leaves a gritty surface
  • Same gel plus chilli seeds mixed –  it could be interesting to mix materials of different sizes in one paint application, it gives more variety to the texture
  • Glass powder taken from a bag and of builders materials, also gives a nice gritty texture without the black of the lava get.  I made a lot of this mix so painted it on thickly and created further texture by pushing it around and scratching into it with my palette knife
 
Painting other colours over the textured areas, in patches and in washes.
 
Using a flat brush, held at a shallow angle to the support, paint adheres to the raised areas and skips over the valleys, accentuating the texture. (Pools of paint created by this technique need longer to dry, as I found by trial and error…I need to be aware of this if I want to keep layers of different colours from mixing.)
Using a palette knife to scrape the second layer across the textured area accentuates the texture even more.  This is the way to go if I want to paint my raised areas a different colour to the flatter areas.
 
I found I’d mixed in too much salt for the quantity of paint, and brushing loosened it – a lesson learned.
 
I painted both a solid patch and a loose wash over the tea leaves.  Because of the lower relief, the base coat was thoroughly dry before I applied the loose wash, and I got a good, distinct separation of turquoise over pink. 
 
I squeezed paint from the tube along the short edges of the glass powder tryout, and scraped them down the length of the paper towards the middle with a palette knife.  
 
 
Adding highlights
 
Now my textures started to really come alive with the simple addition of highlights in contrasting colours on the raised surfaces.
 
Yellow acrylic ink collected in the valleys between the granite flakes, while the flakes themselves were a yellow-pink blend.
 
I brushed a very dilute wash of yellow over the lava, holding the brush almost flat…yellow pigment collected around the small grits, creating an overall green textured area.  
 
The two different types of pasta took highlights very well with a palette knife, giving useful textures.   The cloves are really too big.
 
After the photo below I varnished a couple of the tryouts with dilute pva, and brushed another with iridescent copper paint to help highlight the relief.  I particularly like the copper paint; when I move around, looking at the surface from different angles, and lighting from the side, the image changes.
 
 

Research point – Abstract Expressionists

Abstract Expressionism is a form of painting developed by American painters such as Pollock, Rothko and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 50s, ‘often characterised by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making and the impression of spontaneity’ (www.tate.org). 

The aim was to make abstract art that was expressive or emotional, that came automatically from the unconscious mind.

One group of AEs filled their canvases with abstract forms and fields of colour – for example Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still.  Their compositions were simple but nuanced, designed to encourage a contemplative or meditative response.  This is now known as ‘colour field’ painting, where large areas of a single colour are used.

Another group of AEs known as action painters (tachists),  such as Pollock and de Kooning, would use large brushes, sticks, or pouring so to make large, gestural marks.  I suspect they combined spontaneity and improvisation with a huge amount of skill, planning and deliberation.  Having studied closely and tried to emulate some of Pollock’s paintings, I can confirm there is no haphazard hurling of paint at the canvas!  He poured, dripped, flicked and spattered liquid paint, but he had learned over years to control its flow to get the effects he wanted.  He would also have had to plan the order in which he created layers, what combination of media to use, wait between layers to allow drying.  In Pollock’s Summertime, the canvas is used as an arena he moved around, building up intricate layers of marks and lines.  Colours intermingle and swirl in different directions, echoing his physical movements in the impression of a colourful dance.  The canvas becomes more than a picture – an event.

Hans Hartung painted in oils and pastel.  His works are often monochromatic, made of a series of calligraphic, rhythmical lines and gestures, later scratched into the wet paint, and later still with dark, shadowy but more colourful areas.  His paintings also explore a variety of marks and gestures, experimenting with various unusual tools, including his wheelchair wheels.  Even so they could be thoughtfully planned and premeditated, sometimes carefully copied and enlarged from earlier, spontaneous drawings, showing control and technical skill.  I’ve collected some of his works in my Pinterest board here, and there’s a good collection in date order in Wikiart here.

 

Franz Kline‘s career as an artist started with figurative work, developing to the breaking down of forms into rudimentary brushstrokes, generalising his subjects into lines and shapes.  Inspired by de Kooning, he experimented with projecting small, abstract ink sketches on to a wall, enlarging them to canvas, then using house-painting brushes to turn them into big black and white gestural paintings with broad black criss-crossing on a white ground.   His brushstrokes combine to create completely non representative abstract motifs, with stark tonal contrasts of positive and negative space.  In the latter years of his life he was again exploring colour and starting to introduce it into his paintings again.

His work focuses on self expression, and the use of paint and canvas.  The paintings appear spontaneous and dramatic, but are actually the result of many studies and were thoroughly explored before approaching the canvas with a brush.  

There are collections of Kline’s work on MOMA  

 

References

http://www.tate.org

http://www.cheimread.com/artists/hans-hartung

http://www.wikiart.org

http://www.theartstory.org (Franz Kline)

http://www.moma.org

5.1.1 impasto

Prepared surfaces I haven’t used before; gessoed foam board and card board.

Using colours left from previous paintings, with cheap, hobby grade acrylic paint (no need to worry about using lots if it), and new to me Amsterdam acrylic thickening medium followed by Pebeo mat gel.  

Impasto with brushes

Firstly used equal parts paint and thickening medium, and found the resulting mixture thick as mortar and unworkable.  Read the instructions on the tube, only supposed to use a small amount!  Did as it says in the brief, smearing thick colours side by side.  Next instead of thickening medium I used mat gel, but found it doesnt thicken the paint, only increases its volume.  So used a combination of paint mixed with mat gel, then a dab of thickener added – good result, you get stiff paint, and it goes further!  The experience of painting on the foam board was good – plus it’s light, easy to cut to any size or shape, and cheap.

Here’s my sketchy bowl of lemons – looks like it’s floating on water!  I like the effect of the individual blue-green open brush marks in the background.  

Close ups showing impasto brush work below.  It’s easy to totally cover earlier layers if needs be, as the paint’s so thick; or, earlier layers can be left to show through or beside later layers.

   


Impasto with knives

Using foam board again I quickly drew a few simple lines of Gaugin’s painting “When Will You Marry?” – found on the front cover of a book I happened to have nearby – and scraped in the broad areas of similar colours with a credit card.  (I’d gessoed the board with a roller, which left an all over fine texture – I think I might have preferred a smoother base for scraping with knives and stiff paint.). The rest of the painting was done using palette various knives, and same mixture of paint, gel medium and thickener, generating a lot of texture. I was surprised to find it was possible to paint quite intricate shapes with the knife, though I tried not to fuss over detail, so the facial details are rather wonky – might have done better to leave the faces blank.

I found the more layers I added to the painting, the heavier and crustily the texture became – I read just this in relation the Pissarro’s brushwork, and I can now fully see why!

Details of impasto knife work below – it enlivens the surface.

  

 

Sgraffito 

This is a ‘scratching’ technique used widely in ceramics and wall decoration, which has also been adopted in painting since at least Renaissance times.  Sgraffito can be used in a painting  to add texture and to suggest movement and energy, particularly if the first layer (imprimatura) is a bright or complementary colour.  I used sgraffito frequently in the palette knife painting above, scraping through wet paint to reveal a lower layer, to add texture, to draw lines, to add contour lines and to outline.

A dry coat of paint (can be one colour or more) is covered with another coat (impasto gives better effect than thin paint), into which a design is scratched while it is still wet (use retarder with the second coat to extend workable time).  The line scratched is often thin, but can be broad, or even a shape or area. 

Sgraffito can be achieved by scraping through ink (try black) or watercolour over an oil pastel surface;  scraping through oil pastel over a watercolour surface; scraping through acrylic over an acrylic surface etc.   In a more complex method apparently derived from Paul Klee, “a line is drawn on the back of paper covered with oil pastel, which has been placed on top of another piece of paper covered with oil pastel on top of watercolour.” (bakergraphis.com)

To experiment with sgraffito tools and techniques in a more deliberate way I’m going to use my sketchbook rather than make a painting.

1.   Acrylic paint on white paper – As in the exercise brief, I added a few colours (leftovers) thickly allowing overlaps.  Scratched thru with end of paintbrush, palette knife, craft knife (fine lines but risk of damaging substrate), metal skewer, piece of serrated plastic to give parallel lines.  Some revealed the white paper, some revealed a lower layer of colour, in others colours were dragged into each other.  Had to work fast before paint dried.  I love the graphic quality of the page

 
2.   Acrylic paint over two dried contrasting colours – I scraped on blue and green separately but overlapping with a credit card and let dry.  I added yellow, white and retarder direct to the paper and brushed it out across the entire page.  Working fast and adding more retarder against signs of the yellow drying (nb. the thicker areas remained open longer), I scratched lines 
and marks with various tools.  The bowl of an old teaspoon made nice calligraphic marks.  A plastic needle made good, sharp marks.   A straight, flat edge flicked through 90 degrees produced wispy curved triangular shapes.  A wider straight edge pivoted on the spot cleared perfect circles and parts of circles. Because the paper was textured some of the yellow remained in the pits of the scraped out areas, leaving an interesting texture instead of just flat blue-green.

 

The following tryouts involve ink and oil pastel, and could be used in a mixed media painting with acrylics.

3.   Oil pastel over Koh-I-Nor black ink – the ink was disappointing in blackness 

 

4.   A sample sheet with oil pastel over different black media.  The black paint was the blackest black, followed by Talens ink.

 

5.   Black ink over oil pastel.  I couldn’t think how this would work, but I gave it a go.  I applied the oil pastel and rubbed it into the paper with a finger.  The ink painted over it separated into hundreds of droplets as I should have expected; they were larger where the oil pastel was thicker in the middle, and smaller round the edges.  I drew marks with the end of a paintbrush, and ink flowed into them and stayed there.  It dried like this – an interesting textural effect.

 

 

6.   Oil pastel on coloured paper –  In my first attempt (large green square), scraping the green hardly revealed the pink colour underneath at all;  the second attempt (small blue square), I first applied clear oil pastel, then the blue on top; when I scratched into the blue, the pink underneath was revealed successfully.  Then I transferred yellow and purple marks on top of the blue, using pressure on the back of a second oil pastel-covered piece of paper.

 


Looking at some work I produced earlier in the course, there are paintings where sgraffito could have been put to good use; for example in my first assignment painting to draw the veins and patterns on leaves; in a still life to draw the tassels on a cloth and rattan texture of a chair.  Impasto could have been used to improve my assignment 4 piece ‘Man with Boy’ – to make a connection between content and media, by using paint expressively.

References

wikipedia.org

https://hell2breakfast.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/art-journal-techniques-sgraffito-with-acrylics/

http://www.bakergraphis.com

5.1.2 dripping, dribbling and spattering

I’ve looked at some works of Jackson Pollock and tried to work out how he has made these paintings; the order I which he painted layers, media he used, how he applied the media and so on.  I made six paintings, each based quite closely on one of his; by copying, I was able to concentrate on how to achieve some of the effects without being distracted by issues of composition and colour too much.  As each of my paintings unfolded, they took on their own life and developed on ways I hadn’t necessarily anticipated.

Gallery – click to view larger

The paint behaved in different ways according to media and substrate.  Enamel paints ran together unexpectedly, creating blends and textures over which I added more marks.  I soon learned Pollock’s effects are far from random, spontaneously expressive gestures, but are the result of extensive trial and error over time, and a fair amount of deliberate decision making and careful control in the execution – they certainly couldn’t be done by someone’s five year old!  One of the trickiest things was to get the right consistency in the media to produce a clean pour as opposed to a line of drips; but on the other hand not to thin the media so much that it spreads and loses the clarity of line I wanted.  Using iridescent paint and high gloss enamel as well as mat media in one painting (The Maenads) added a new dimension to my repertoire of effects.

There was for me a clear finishing point for each painting at a point where I felt the composition was satisfying, and the painting had enough interest and variety to look at.  My earlier paintings (accidentally) departed quite a long way from the painting they were based on; as I gained experience and skill, I was more able to achieve the effects and outcome I wanted.  Some are more successful than others. The first two have great contrasts and variety of line and texture.  The black and red one has a strong focal point, like a vortex.  The yellow and black one is more like Pollock’s “all-over” paintings.  The next, based on Picasso, is less satisfying – it lacks a strong emphasis, the eye searches for and doesn’t find a resting place.  The frieze still amazes me – how just by pouring paint from a spoon with an idea in mind, the shapes are easily identifiable as dancers; they even have a sense of abandonment, movement and energy! The off white painting with black shape is intriguing and satisfying; it has depth, suggests form.  The last painting, with black runs, is the one I’m least happy with; the shapes and lines are messy and restless.

This exercise has been a wonderful journey of exploration and discovery for me.  There’s a certain sense of freedom and play in applying paint for its own sake, the joy of it, without having to strive for a good representation of something.  I discovered there’s a lot more to abstract painting than simply splodging paint on at random; the same fundamentals of composition, value, colour, shape, form, depth etc have to be considered to produce a satisfying image.  I also realised for the first time an abstract painting, by suggesting energy, texture, ideas, maybe a subject, can be very intriguing and satisfying to contemplate.

I can exploit these effects in my future paintings, abstract or representational, to help express and communicate ideas by increasing the range of marks and texture.

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Before attempting anything large I made some small tryouts on off cuts of cardboard using a variety of paints and consistencies.

1.   Poured blue acrylic paint diluted with water (no more than 50% or adhesion is lost); I tapped the card sharply on the table to create runs at right angles to the main pour line.  This dried quite quickly.  Added red and yellow marbling paint (which is quite liquid and has a pipette like acrylic inks) in rough parallel lines and repeated the tapping to make the lines run together, then at right angles.  A consistency like single cream is needed to get paint flowing.

2.   Tried to drip white marbling paint from the bottle, but ended up with larger pools of paint instead of single drops.  Painted it out and dripped brown and red acrylic inks on with a pipette.  Tipped the card and allowed runs and merging in various directions.

3.   Spattered – loading a stiff bristled brush with water diluted gouache (green) and tapping it sharply with a biro; loading a toothbrush (red) and spattering using fingers

I found paint mixed on the support, producing muddy blends when I tilted and tapped the support – I wanted the colours to stay more separate.  Waiting for them to dry would interrupt the flow of work.

I also found I couldn’t produce lines with any degree of control by pouring the paint from the bottle, or applying it with a stick.  Application with an acrylic ink bottle pipette was the nearest I got.  Pollock, painting on a large scale, used turkey basters as giant pipettes, merging drawing and painting.

In their description of Pollock’s methods in One, MOMA mention he used industrial paints as they flow more readily, and sometimes thinned them even further “producing a delicate stain of colour”, so that they effectively became tinted medium. This would imply quick drying, as the paint would soak into the (raw) canvas.   He may even have applied generous amounts of  medium (paint thinner) independently, pouring it on to wet, layered paint so that edges of colours flow into each other.

Now I felt ready to start the larger paintings.

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Pollock’s Number 23, 1948, is black and white enamel on 57×78 fm gessoed paper looks poured.  The black looks quite calligraphic with its varying thicknesses of line.

I put newspaper on the floor, took an A3 piece of gessoed foam board and set out to make a black, grey and white mesh of lines like Number 23. I used Marshall enamel paints, dripped and flung with a long metal kebab skewer black, white and a grey mixture (the two last thinned slightly with synthetic thinner), then a small amount of red.  A few drips of Blue Dyo marine paint added.  Unexpectedly the lovely white and grey lines merged and spread in the thinners I’d added, so I ended up with a grey background instead of black and white lines.  The support isn’t absorbent as Pollock’s canvas would have been, so the result was a blend of fluid paint floating on the surface, only the red and blue staying separate.  So I abandoned the black and white plan and continued adding paint, with red becoming the predominant colour.  Again the black, white and even blue eventually bled together. The wind then blew the newspaper onto the sticky surface, creating interesting textures when I eventually pulled it off.  I let it all dry, then continued pouring lines, blobs and spatters in black white and grey, drying between each colour bore adding another.  In this way my earlier layers became a background to the later marks.

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Tried again with a new piece of foam board (painted all over warm yellow with hobby acrylic paint) to realise my original idea, using the same enamel paint and colours, straight from the pot without thinners.  The lines bled less than before, but after a time the white started slowly bleeding into the black.  The red, unaccountably as it’s supposedly the same paint, stayed completely separate.  I’d imagined Pollock worked on a painting from start to finish without stopping…this can’t be the case, as layers would have had to dry to avoid unwanted muddying of colours.

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Pollock’s painting, Untitled, was made before his 1950s drip paintings, around 1943, in oil, pen and ink, and watercolour on 33×50 cm paper. It’s dripped, poured, spattered and brushed.  It seems the bright primaries have been painted first in fluid oils, then watercolour poured on in two areas as unblended mixtures which are allowed to run and merge on the paper forming organic shapes. The whole sheet is spattered with fluid paint or ink.  The pen and ink drawing looks to have been added afterwards, inspired by the outcome of the painting.

Close parallels have been drawn between some of Pollock’s compositions and Pablo Picasso’s – there are analogous forms and lines between them.  I took this idea and based the shapes for my next painting on one of Picasso’s compositions for Lysistrata, below

So using the process in the first Pollock I described, Untitled (link above), I made some initial shapes on A3 gessoed cardboard in simple broad brush acrylic colours, then when dry poured and spattered watercolour over in a few places, allowing it to blend and dribble organically.  When dry, more spattering with Sepia ink, and white line added with Rotring White Chinese ink, drawing with the nozzle.  When dry, drew gestural lines in response to the Picasso drawing, with dip pen, calligraphic nib and sepia ink.

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Summertime was painted by Pollock in oil, enamel and house paint on canvas in 1948, and is a huge 85×555 cm!   Mute colours are spattered on to a white ground. Black and grey lines are poured on.  Some shapes enclosed by these lines are coloured in with primaries.  I love the frieze format, it creates a painting with a time dimension, as my eye slowly scans from left to right – I had a similar feeling when looking at Ivon Hitchens wide format paintings in part 4.  Pollock’s painting has a rhythm and energy and hints at an underlying frieze of figures in motion.  In calls to mind a Bridget Riley painting I looked at in part 2, Red on Red, which while being abstract was partly appropriated from a Renaissance frieze painting of figures by Mantegna.

I cut a piece of foam board and attempted a frieze, 85cm long, based on the Maenads Dance frieze, using Pollock’s methods in Summertime, which could be based on a similar image.

I placed Iridescent bronze, and sap green marks on lower edge. Spattered sap green and Prussian blue tints. Added grey skeins of enamel poured from a spoon. Let dry!!   Black-green enamel poured on with a spoon, in blobs, lines and curves suggesting a slightly abandoned dance of seven women holding hands.  Random shapes made by the criss-crossing lines coloured in yellow, blue, crimson, mauve.


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Pollock’s The Deep looks like white paint over a black ground.  The black shape has been likened to an abyss, but I think it corresponds to the proportions of a figure…head, shoulders, torso, legs can be identified.

I painted with black acrylic over a canvas I used in part one for tryouts .  When dry dribbled a few skeins of white acrylic and white ink across the middle – when I looked a bit later, they also assumed the proportions of a seated nude female figure…not intended at all.  Then applied at random, pale tints of emerald green and lemon yellow with short stabs of a flat ended palette knife, and let dry.  Scraped zinc white (with a touch of lemon yellow) all over, leaving black negative space in the middle, leaving marks unblended.

 

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Looking closely at Yellow Islands I had a go at following Pollock’s process.  First, black ink painted and spattered on A3 watercolour paper, the support tilted to create drips, dried.  Sharp, thin white lines added with rigger brush, dried.  White acrylic added in blocks with a wide, flat brush, dried, then yellow, crimson acrylic added, dried, then partly covered with black inks poured on.  Finally a great black splodge in middle, allowed to drip.

References

http://www.artuk.org

Moma.org