I’ve chosen to do a still life of a favourite ceramic sculpture that has been in my lounge for 22 years since my 30th birthday. The sculpture is made of terracotta and glazed with matte underglazes which have been roughly painted on. It’s a comical piece with good organic structure and colour. The ceramicist was inspired by birds, rocks and gems which can be seen within the sculpture. I chose to use acrylics to try to replicate the matte colours and chose a light grey background for the turquoise blue green tones to stand out. I worked quite freely to keep a joyful vibe to compliment the humour of the sculpture. Using Wedgwood and white for the back ground and a pallet of Phthalo turquoise, prussian blue, alizarin crimson, emerald green, burnt umber, cadmium yellow and white. I mixed these colours to achieve the tones of the sculpture and layered the terracotta tones in first then the blues on top. The finer detail I used burnt umber and prussian blue and a fine brush, dry on dry for the fine lines.
Below are a sequence of pictures of sketchbook and the painting in progress.
Choosing the composition I decided on a portrait format to position the sculpture enabling me to create the paint textures of the sculpture.
Feedback from Assignment One and Reflection
I felt inspired and excited following my google hang-out tutorial with many thoughts to help me progress in this journey. I’ve found that sometimes I’m working through the exercises robotically rather than pulling them into what I want to do and achieve. I think it’s because they are actual exercises with an objective to do to work through the course. I was remembering how I felt with part five of the ‘Drawing Skills’ course where the brief is pretty much a free rein to create and work through the final assignment and I felt I was more fluid in achieving what I wanted to achieve. So after my conversation with Ilsa discussing How I felt, she explained to pull the course into my work, to take techniques I learn along the way and how I can use it to develop the way I wish to work.
I asked Ilsa about the meaning of contextual research following my Drawing Skills Assessment saying: “Your contextual awareness is underpinned by consistent but at times limited research. Try to synthesis more how your contextual research supports your practical outcomes as this will help drive a more personal and independent voice.” I needed clarity on what this actually meant and now I have a better understanding that its about what I’ve been influenced by through my research and how I can pull this into my own work. So I will bear this in mind now and ask myself why I like certain works or ideas, and to question more about the context of the piece as well to gain a deeper understanding.
Ilsa suggested to keep other sketch books to be able to capture snippets of thoughts and inspirations. I do keep sketchbooks, but I find my ‘working life’ can sometimes get in the way and sometimes the stresses of every day life can get in the way of how I feel creatively! I find that sometimes I have good creative thoughts when I’m falling to sleep at night or waking in the morning before ‘outside’ influences have tainted them, so I find it’s good to keep my smaller sketchbook by the bed 🙂 I will also reflect more on what I have learnt while working through the exercises. I think also If there is a particular technique I have learnt then I will bring into my work as I develop.
“You have created an image with a lot of character and presence. Although very simple, you have considered each area thoughtfully, and the decisions you have made hang together coherently. There is a lovely balance between the more washy background and the more solid object. To take things further you need to reflect on the piece – which aspects are you pleased about? What do you want to achieve with your work?”
I’m pleased with the overall detail of the object in particular the detail and texture. I wanted to capture the comedy of the piece and I’m glad that has come through. I made the background more of a wash so the object would stand out.
Ilsa suggested that I arrange my learning log into individual sections; Assignments, coursework etc., but I’ve tried to do so and I’m not very experienced with websites and feel I’d be spending too long and perhaps doubling up on my ‘screen time’ which I’d rather spend more time on the practical work. My log runs in order scrolling down as though its a story of my journey through the course. I will try to do a section for the Assignments.
For this assignment I chose to focus on an area of my bedroom and the objects within that space which I find relaxing. The inspiration came from the exercise ‘Quick sketches around the home’ but also from the still life exercises. I chose to paint these objects as they bring me joy each morning I wake up and it’s part of my room which is calming. I wanted to keep the tones and hues mellow and found it great to use the techniques I’d learnt in the graduated tone exercises as this really helped to create depth to my composition and the shadows. I decided to use acrylic paint for this assignment, as even though I wanted to paint in oil for this assignment I feel I haven’t spent enough time working with oil be confident enough. Perhaps by the next assignment I’ll feel more happy to.
I started by sketching the composition from sitting on my bed and I tried to include part of the landing through my open bedroom door. I didn’t include too much of this view as I didn’t want to take away emphasis from the still life it self. I placed the perfume bottle and the buddha head apart to create some space in the painting. I wanted to convey a calm relaxing mood and I think having space between the object would help to create this.
My view point is slightly looking down on the chest of drawers and the light source is coming in from the left creating some shadows on the right of the objects. I started off with using mid tones to plan and paint the areas of the painting and then parts of the still life. I then built up in layers other tones for detail and then line work in darker detail and highlights. I found with the shadows I had to lighten these as when I started to work on the buddha head a bit more I realised that these greys were darker then the shadows. I realised this was all part of the learnings from the graduated grey tones and how they differed when placed next to each other. I painted with the paint thicker than I would usually do to make it feel flatter in texture. I really enjoyed painting the bottle especially and feel fairly pleased with the outcome.
Feedback from assignment 2 and reflection
I chose to tackle my self portrait again for this assignment as I enjoyed the self portrait exercise earlier on. I noticed with my previous self portrait while drying in the lounge, that there is a white sheen over the skin tones and I think this has happened while trying to lighten the tones and highlights using more white. So with this in mind for this portrait I painted the mid tones a more orange and red tone. Also it was a real challenge as I decided to use a mirror to work on this portrait which I’ve never tried before. I made some sketches and at on point I was going to include the mirror as a surround and even other items that can be seen in this photo below. But as I got to work on the portrait I decided to just keep my fave and chest and to leave anything else out as it would be overcrowded, busy and take away from the portrait it self.
I’ve made a few errors with this portrait and I’m really not pleased with it. I used pencil to draw in the composition and detail which made the first layer of paint dirty. I should have used a neutral conte stick or drawn in with oil like I did with the figure nude paintings. The other error is that the portrait doesn’t actually look like me! The eyes are too big and a bit close together. I don’t know whether it was because I was looking in a mirror and I was at a strange angle and also trying to paint and only move a small fraction to view. I’m not sure the lighting helped in the kitchen as I had started the painting during the day and then went back to it in the evening so the light had changed. These are all steps of learning and progression though.
I think in the end though the painting technique has progressed with colour mixing, brush marks and hues. I personally think my previous self portrait is better and stronger in composition and a good likeness.
Feedback from assignment 3 and reflection
I’m enthused with my written feedback from Ilsa and feeling like I’m making some progress. The biggest achievement for me during part 3 was getting to grips with oil paints and getting more confident as I used them. I’ve also really enjoyed them too; they actually feel more suited to me compared to acrylics as I’m quite a slow worker. I liked the oils for the time they remain workable to be able to add another tone and continue working with detail.
“It is good to hear your enthusiasm for working with oils as you develop the paintings with tones and colour. I feel oil as a medium suits your sensibility and allows you to take charge of the transitions with greater control. And it is good to see you making the actual stroke of the brush help you describe the form as well as the tone and the colour. Remember the opposite aspect of this – while a visible stroke can help describe volume and form, a quiet smooth transition can help you describe areas that recede.
Your self portrait has a strong presence and good control of the tonal and colour relationships. I feel this is your strongest piece in this unit – well done. With oils, as they remain open for a long time, you also have the opportunity to manipulate them once they have been laid down. There are place where the edges need to be softened – this is easily done with oils where you can gently press down the paint with a clean soft brush. This would help, for instance, the right hand edge of the face which is a bit harsh as it turns into the hair.”
I’m so pleased Ilsa thinks my self portrait is the strongest piece in this unit, as I’m personally pleased with this portrait and I think I surprised myself! and I did enjoy painting it and learning how oils behave.I’m looking forward to the opportunity of softening edges within my paintings with a soft brush which will be a good technique to learn.
“I feel with the portrait of your daughter you wanted to capture energy and so are looking for expressive marks. Some of the colour relationships of the skin tones work well, showing dramatic cool/warm shifts. Elsewhere though the description is a little flat – for instance in the eyes and around the neck.
I did struggle with the treatment of the eyes and neck in Georgia’s portrait. But I do like the way the colours have come out in this portrait. I think the colours have come out more intense and darker than when I first laid them down, but that’s the nature of acrylic paints. I think it will be more successful in future using oils.
“Your figure in an interior painting is well considered and effectively simplified. You have considered the composition in terms of shapes, overall tones and colour relationships rather beautifully – well done. To take this further you need to consider how you treat edges, where one form meets another, more carefully – choose where you need to make strong contrasts and where you need to soften them.
Your telling a story painting has some beautiful moments in it – for instance, the light touch with which you have treated the face and the hat is lovely. However, it seems like a beginning, a study, rather than a completed piece. I feel you could develop this into something much stronger by considering how to focus it, where to simplify it, where to add detail. This can be done for the imagery, the composition and the colours.”
My telling a story painting I decided to paint in a loose sketchy manner, however I’m now considering how to continue with the painting. I think I would focus on Josh further and simplify the areas around him, the background and plants. But I am worried I could then ruin the feeling that is already there with the painting.
Assignment 3 piece feedback: “This piece has some good points – the way you have described the hair falling around the shoulders, the sense of volume of the head, the quiet confrontation of the expression. However, I feel it is the piece with the least presence in it. There seems to be the least struggle but also the least joy in it. However this may be because you are exploring a different idea, a different feeling, a different depth. I can imagine this piece, taken further, could have a compelling strength of a different kind – a subdued, quiet, calm observation. It is important that you take the time to look at your work and compare the different results you are achieving to work out which direction you want to explore further with your work.”
I did struggle with this self portrait and I wasn’t feeling so confident working from my reflection in the mirror. I thinks it’s interesting that Ilsa noticed “the least joy in it.” As I didn’t enjoy working on it as much as the other paintings. I think the other portraits of my son and daughter have joy in them as I feel passionate towards them being their mum, compared to me not having quite the same passion for myself perhaps?
With my sketchbooks I want to develop my ideas and try to aim for the these exercises to help my aims, but sometimes I still feel I’m doing the exercises and then my own work. Really I am trying to bring them together.
Learning Logs and Critical essays
“You are recording your experiences well and some of the learning that is taking place. Spend a little more time reflecting on the results you are achieving. It seems you are looking for accuracy but you are looking for something else too – try to spot where you are achieving it and where you are not. The more you try to articulate what that something else might be in each piece the more you will be able to determine the next steps you need to take.”
This is helpful advise to look for the extra aspect I am looking for in my direction of work through my reflection. I have learned a lot during this unit and I do need to record the learnings more thoroughly for me to look back on.
For this assignment I’m going to work on a larger painting drawn from my inspirations of the bluebell woods. Having painted these woods in a couple of the exercises I was trying to achieve the dappled light of the leaves and the lights and shadows falling on the carpet of bluebells below. I liked trying to get the linear perspective of the trees with the footpaths going through the wood. I wonder also if it is possible for me to paint a sense of distance with aerial perspective as well. The sense of being in the woods is as though you are in a room, it’s an enclosed space and you have the feeling of being inside, even distant voices sound different. In contradiction to being inside there is also a light breezy feel through the sunlight coming through the leaves.
I’m going to hopefully work quite freely. Looking back at some of my pieces of work I like some of the textures I’ve achieved using scrafito by drawing into the paint and using a spatula to lay on thicker marks of paint for leaves and extra texture. This can be seen in my olive tree in the ‘View from a window or doorway’ exercise and also in the linear perspective exercise in the bluebell wood. I’m going to square up for this assignment as it was useful for the composition. I’ve photos and sketches from the previous exercises I can work from as well. It was during Coranavirus lockdown and on our allowed one hour exercise walks that brought me to these woods and I made quick sketches. All the bluebells have died back now.
I like some of CY Twombly’s work ‘Wilder Shores of Love’ and ‘Hero & Leandro’; with the layers of runny paint with drips and quick sketchy brush marks as well as the scrafito drawn and scribbled into the paint. I feel some of these textures will lend them selves for the interpretation of the woodland bluebell landscape. I also like the work of Gustav Klimt and his mosaic of marks creating his landscapes. Over the years I’ve admired David Hockney’s landscapes. I visited Hockney’s exhibition at the RA in 2012 ‘A bigger picture’ which focused on his homeland the Yorkshire landscape. I remember at the time being surprised at the amount of work he’s made. I like his modern style, and he comes across as being very down to earth. Hockney’s interpretation of landscapes are freeing to me and not about making a precise representation of a view. I like the way he has painted so many of his large scale paintings separated over several canvases even up to eight or twelve to fill a wall at the RA. Hockney separated them to be able to work in situ in the woods and to still be able to get the canvases into his car and back to his studio! Some of his landscapes use the alignment of trees for perspective and I love his use of bright colours. Even the roads in his landscapes are painted in purple or dusky mauve. Hockney wrote in this exhibition that roads aren’t just grey, they have colour as well. There is a good film of the exhibition on my research page.
I felt a few weeks ago I might’ve had to do the same (but on a much smaller scale) as I had to order a 60 x 80cm canvas as the shops still closed and deliveries delayed due to the lockdown. I was thinking of working on squares of paper which could then be joined to make a larger composition. I’ll try this in the future as it does interest me and my canvas has arrived!
I started off by squaring up the canvas to make it easier to map out the composition and then I started painting the trees to give me some structure to work with so I didn’t get mixed up with the squares.
I started to lose my way a bit while painting the trees and leaves, it was quite hard to see what to paint next and I also found that while mixing the colours I’d forget which bit I was painting. I decided to paint square by square to help and then before long I found I was looking more at my painting rather than the detail of the photo. I then painted in blocks of colour to give a base to the rest of the painting.
I’ve been enjoying painting with oils as they give me so much more scope than acrylics. I like painting wet on wet as well as I can keep blending each time I revisit a painting over a few days. I like using a soft dry brush to soften edges and blend colours in gently. Thank you Ilsa for telling me how to do this.
I’ve really found this a challenge but feel I have achieved what I set out to do. I wanted to capture the dappled light on the bluebells and to get a sense of depth to the woods. I worked on the areas of dark patches of the bluebells to depict shadows and painted some of the leaves shadows on the tree trunks. I painted the trees light in colour to create highlights to show the sun shining through the leaves. Some sky could be seen slightly through the leaves towards the top and in the distance of the woods. My painting doesn’t quite have CY Twombly inspired marks but I think it does have elements of Hockney with the use of bright green and mauve and some detail painted in illustratively.
I’m pleased with this painting however I do question how some artists are able to splash the paint around and make spontaneous marks and still make a painting that would still give the same information. It would be great to achieve a far looser style of painting, perhaps I can achieve this in my next paintings if I continue with landscapes. For part five I’m thinking of focusing on the florist windows or back street shops of London and other cities – I have quite a few photos I can work from as it is still restricted as to where we can go and what we can do.
Feedback from assignment four and reflection
My video call with Ilsa recently went well with good constructive guidance and points to thinks about. I’m pleased I have a few strong pieces of work from this unit with the aerial exercise landscape of Sulhamstead and the painting outside landscape.
You have pulled together a lot of the learning that has taken place through the exercises in this unit into this assignment piece – well done. You have managed to get much more description than in previous pieces as you have taken more care with the colour and tonal relationships. We talked about the necessity to understand how to make more descriptive detail in your foreground.
We talked about looking through your work to think what you are after.
You are contemplating the artists in terms of what you appreciate, but you need to dig a little deeper to consider how the works that you admire are managing to convey these aspects.
You are recording your experiences, the challenges you are facing, and where you feel you are making progress. Spend a little less time recording inconsequential details (this is not a diary) and more time with constructive reflection – look for the clues you need to help you decide what it is you are after. We talked about the importance of recording the observations you are making – e.g. about not wanting to be twee – to help you direct yourself.
I’m looking forward to looking at these artists and experimenting in part five with new ways to paint and draw landscapes.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with oils during this course which was one aspect of what I wanted to achieve. I feel I learnt a lot with the head and figure part and enjoyed exploring with oils for the nudes. I’m pleased with my self portrait and the portrait of my son Josh situated inside a room. I love working with oils now and will choose them over acrylics now as they feel luxurious to work with and more successful with colour blending. I almost chose nudes as my theme for this assignment, however I decided to do landscapes as I feel I’ve learnt a lot form the last part of this course and concentration on ‘Looking outside’. Also I’ve just been getting to grips with being more experimental with textures, mixing materials into painting and abstraction. I’ve gained great respect for the abstract artists now as well, realising how difficult it is to achieve without looking a ridiculous mess!
I’ve been aware all the way through this course about trying to ‘be present’ in my paintings since Ilsa my tutor said she could see I was present in my study of peppers very early on in the course. I think I’ve got to know how it feels to be present as I’m aware to stop and think if I feel I’m painting away for the sake of painting and not really working at what I’m trying to do.
Ilsa suggested a few artists for me to look at, being Tessa Coleman and Hannah Woodman a contemporary Cornish artist, both of which I like particularly Hannah Woodman. I thought I could try to work like her for my next landscapes but it proved more difficult than I thought.
My inspirations at the moment are road verge side flowers as part of the landscape. I think as well after working with mixing materials into paint I was interested in working with the theme of verge side flowers for this series of landscapes. During my furlough time and when lockdown was starting to be eased I drove out early in the mornings (to avoid lots of people) to Henley and a certain part of the road has many wild flowers along the edges. There’s no pavement and so you can only appreciate them and the view while driving by. The landscape itself in the distance is interesting as well as there are curves and bends. I’m interested in how the flowers become a blur as you drive by however some are in focus as your eye fixes on on point for a moment.
I took a few photos from the car as a passenger and caught a few interesting shots which I can parts of each photo as reference to use in my paintings.
Poppy fields on the same road to Henley, so much inspiration…
References of wild flowers from another footpath I could get to on foot. These are a beautiful mess of colour and texture.
To start with I looked through my photos, sketches I’d made and experiments I’d worked on earlier (which can be seen on ‘Part 5 course work’ page) and drew a few composition sketches to see which orientation to do them. As these are intended to be loose and non representational, I felt happy to work from different parts of the photos and my memory.
I wanted texture in the paintings wanting to use the techniques I’d found while working on textured grounds. I used the textured medium and moulding paste which I used for the road texture and also in the grass field. I kept some grasses I’d picked as well to be included.
I wanted one of the paintings to have more focal point so I painted the poppy heads with poppy pods and then the road side flowers keeping them loose with small brush strokes and the palette knife to create sgraffito to pick out some of the flowers and also for the landscape to to keep more abstract with just colours laid beside each other and over lapping.
I started with a preliminary oil sketch to try various drawing techniques and laying the paint, then I started the three pieces of work on canvas board (16 x 12″). I was working fairly quickly with the under painting and making colours to portray the hot dry summers day. Apart from the opium poppy (‘Road Side Flowers II) the other two paintings are of warm coloured hay fields or just dry grass; their was a pink yellow glow which I wanted to capture with bright green that could be seen in contrast. I tried to create movement as though travelling by the verge. I included the road surface to show that these are road side flowers.
I wasn’t sure whether to include the 50 mile sign as it was in one of the pictures I’d taken. So many decisions to make! I feel this is a subject or theme I can take further to develop my paintings.
Canvas boards textured grounds
I kept the texture in the foreground for the road side flowers and to keep the distance of the landscape less noisy and to fade away. I still wanted to achieve aerial perspective to create depth.
Final pieces for Assignment 5
They’ve almost come out how I intended but not quite. They’re not abstract enough and as loose as I’d intended, they’ve developed naturally into how they are and I watched them evolve with some pleasing effects. I think I wasn’t brave enough to paint them too abstract and so the paintings are perhaps too representational. However I do like them.
Details from the three paintings
I love seeing the paint and textures enlarged like this; they become abstract paintings in them selves completely taking on a new look and atmosphere from the original whole composition.
Feedback from assignment five and reflection
My zoom video call with Ilsa last Thursday evening was very good and I came away feeling very encouraged. We spoke of how I can take some of my ideas and thoughts and develop further into other work. Through our conversation of discussing abstraction and how difficult I now realise it is, I was enquiring how I could replicate the cropped in pictures of areas of my final paintings of the verge ‘Road Side Flowers’ as they are exciting to look at and I love the detail of the paint. The cropped in detail of my paintings become abstracts in themselves. Ilsa explained how Franz Kline had worked on his abstracts with the same idea, starting off with parts of his work and investigating how he could enlarge these areas of his paintings. So I will be looking at Franz Kline soon.
You have completed all the exercises of this unit with a clear determination to explore and discover. What is particularly good to note is that you are taking care to notice what is pleasing you, what you are excited about, and using this to push your work further – good for you.
We talked about your lemon paintings – how you began making the work, trying things out and then became interested in the spacing of the lemons. The last painting has a clarity of intention that gives authority to the work – nicely done.
You have enjoyed exploring different ways of adding texture and experimenting with layering and mixing techniques. You have used some simple motifs as imagery rather effectively.
There are some interesting moments happening as you play with the imagery, the brush work, the collage and the pencil work on top. We talked about the details you have zoomed in on and what it would be to scale them them up – this could lead to some interesting work.
I am excited and encouraged to continue working with layering imagery and different mediums, mixing drawing and paint to create interesting paintings. Also my thoughts are how to enlarge these details to larger works.
We talked about how to get to an abstract piece – it is a process. Start with dedicated observation – make studies to spend time with the object to get to know it intimately – tones, colours, textures, colours etc. From this close observation you will become interested in certain aspects – simplify and distill this information. Distill again, play around, and see where you can go. The work you have made with the poppies have a lot of potential, there are some exciting moments, but overall are a little bland and uninformed at the moment.
From our conversation I am excited to pursue working with wire bent into shapes of the poppies and incorporate in my paintings of mixed media and texture.
There is some beautiful observational work with the cafetiere, particularly with the colours in the lid, and the description of the spout. We talked about the possibility of choosing not to include information where you don’t want it – e.g. in the middle part of the painting. At the moment this area is a bit confusing and distracting – think about what you want to have there, rather than feeling you have to use what is there. You can manipulate and be in charge of the information, to use as you please.
I like the idea of being able to make decisions of what to include or leave out. While I was working on this painting I realised I could see a lot of background items through the glass of the cafetiere which was making the composition busy so I place a piece of white paper behind it which gave me the flat areas of muted colour where the glass is. I think now though I could have also decided not to include the central metal pole as this is perhaps unnecessary in the painting.
After a few days looking at this piece of work I decided to work on the middle section and to paint over some of the detail by the lip of the glass jug as it was fighting against the nice curve. I also repainted the rod of the cafetiere making it paler and narrower to push into the background slightly so the detail of the lid and the bronze metal below could stand out more. I’m more pleased with this outcome.
It is good to see you take on an investigation – you went in search of your reference material, getting the blurred photos of road side plants. And then looked at how to respond to this imagery, using some of the techniques you have acquired with this unit. There is something very intentional about the three paintings you have made, which lends them (again, as before) a convincing authority – well done. For me the middle one is the most successful – there is a lovely balance between a primitive, child-like quality to the description of the flowers and a more sophisticated delicacy. And the way you have treated the receding space is rather mesmeric, especially the way it all recedes to the one spot of the brightest and darkest blue – nice work!
I’m so please with the feedback for the middle poppy painting and like Ilsa’s observation of the bright blue drawing the eye into the painting’s horizon. This is something I will certainly take further into other paintings. I like that they have a childish primitive quality as the actual poppy field brings joy as you stop to enjoy it. Many people would stop and take photos of it. I like also the that Ilsa described it as sophisticated, I really like that balance.
The other two require a little more sophistication in the description of the foreground flowers, as well as attention to brushstroke – but they both have potential.
These two paintings I was trying to keep more simple in terms of trying to abstract the information but hasn’t come out that way, so I’m thinking of working further with them but trying to decide what they need.
It is interesting how much you enjoy the blown up detail – remember this is what inspired Franz Kline too – we talked about, again, seeing what it would be to paint these details on larger scale.
I’m pleased to learn that the interest of blown up detail inspired Franz Kline and I shall look at more of his work. I believe there is one of his paintings in the Tate Modern.
Your sketchbooks are looking good, and active. We talked about the importance of capturing any fragments of inspiration in your sketchbook – e.g. the wire, bent into a shape. Keep finding different ways you can add to what you do with them.
I’m looking forward to spending some more time in my sketchbooks before enrolling on the next course. I’m currently going through my other sketchbooks and pulling pages to bring altogether.
We talked about how you are enjoying the research and it is helping inform your practice.
Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
You are reflecting well on what you are doing and this is helping you to direct yourself.
Have a listen to some of these videos with artists talking about their motivations for making work, where they get their inspiration from, and how they go about making work – it is very informative and interesting ‘Art21 New York Close Up’ videos interviewing contemporary artists of all different backgrounds and aspirations:
Just keep going to the next one.
Well done Samantha – it has been a pleasure working with you through this course.