Here is the last version of my painting for the exercise.
With no definitive plan in mind at the outset, I followed my intuition. During the process of making, the painting developed organically. This was quite unusual for me and somewhat scary – I usually have a vision in mind, a concept, or an idea, which directs my decision making and tells me more or less when I’ve finished.
The painting above is not as bold or dramatic as the A4 colour sketches below; but the point of the exercise has been achieved, and I’m happy with how it went overall.
I chose a pair of old fashioned bronze kitchen scales, inherited from my mother in law. The metal is dull and dusty, but the machined forms are intriguing. After drawing the scales, with their weights, I isolated each part and made individual realistic line studies in coloured fine pens.
So far so good, but other than knowing I liked the quirky isolated shapes of the parts I wasn’t sure where to go with this exercise. I tried taking photos of the scales to see if that pointed to an interesting interpretation.
The afternoon wearing on, the light wasn’t particularlay good in the studio, so I put the scales on an ink spattered white board and placed them outside on a wall. The setting sun created some long, complex and striking cast shadows, and I took many images, mainly from above, placing the individual pieces in different arrangements.
Inspired, I made a couple of quick A4 experiments using ink, tinted charcoal, acrylic paint, just exploring shapes and compositions. I even included the ink spatters on the board the scales were placed on in my studies, they add drama and interest.
The second one is quite abstract – an intuitive response to shapes and angles, blocks of tone; the first one assigns semi realistic colours to objects and shadows, the parts of the scales being disassociated, placed according to my feel for a composition; the third is a more realistic interpretation, lining up the elements of the scales in their proper places, alluding to form and three dimensions. I like these strong, semi abstract compositions, but now have to decide how to translate the ideas to a larger painting.
The long portrait format gives space for the subject and its shadows to be explored, so I decided to stay with that, and selected a 66 x 39 cm piece of mixed media paper. This was gessoed, painted with an initial background (buff titanium, white, violet), spattered with black ink, then I drew lines representing parts of the scales with a rigger brush and black ink. Drawing the bowl at top left, the heel of my hand resting on the paper smudged some ink lines, thus echoing its curve on another part of the paper.
This reminded me of a study I made earlier in the course of a birds eye view of a still life arrangement on a table; I’d liked it very much for its multiple tryout lines, overlapping of objects, and transparent layers.
My next step was to scrape roughly overall with a credit card a deeper mix of yellow ochre, buff titanium and white mixed with gel medium. The ink hadn’t completely dried, and several areas were smudged, others partly mixed with the paint. Another happy accident, to weave into the process! Since I don’t have a pre-determined outcome, or even a process plan at this stage, I feel relaxed about changing direction.
I decided to create background blocks of colours like my tabletop study, following hinted lines in this painting, and to paint the bowl a rich shade of red. With each layer of paint application I’m adding gel medium, for added transparency.
The red bowl balances the strong black lines contrasted with white, bottom right; these dynamics will alter as I continue to strengthen the lines of the scale parts again. I want to try and retain some pure white areas, and also some dark passages (missing at the moment).
To me this is looking good, it could be finished…there are overlapping shapes, transparent layers, the colour palette is successful, the marks are interesting, the tonal values create a satisfying composition. Without losing any of that I want to add some texture to one or more of the shapes; revisiting my tryouts in the exercise ‘mixing materials into paint’ I fetched some chilli pepper seeds and some loose tea, mixed them into acrylic medium and applied them to the surface. After leaving to dry, I dry-brushed colours, including a metallic bronze, on top. The final version is at the top of the post.