Saturday, 26 March 2011

Sketchbook March 2011

Just a few more sketches from my sketchbook :

Influence of Watteau

Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle's Yard


Fitzwilliam Museum – Art Galleries
Kettle’s Yard

On the 25th March 2011 I visited Cambridge to see the exhibits in the Fitzwilliam and Kettle’s Yard.

I was interested by the paintings by Bonnard, Vuillard and various other artists of the period.  I have always liked the way the Nabis reduced their work to flat colour but kept the subject matter clear.

However, Afterlife was one of the special exhibitions with prints by Jake & Dinos Chapman, Paul Coldwell, Mat Collishaw, Jane Dixon Paul Morrison, Hughue O’Donaghue and Marc Quinn. 

Whilst touching on mortality themes, the exhibition was so named because of the print process transfiguring and re-cycling nature.

The Prints of Mat Collishaw were particularly exciting, although I did not know the print process.  What I found particularly interesting was the way in which the digital image had been used:

I also found the Italian Drawings interesting.  It inspired me to use some of the methods and materials used.  For example the blue paper with black pen and wash and white gouache.  Also the brown paper with black ink, on brown wash with white gouache.  As well as the brown ink and wash  on white paper.  It reminded me of the drawings of Watteau which used red black and white chalk,  on white paper.  The possibilities are endless but it made me more aware of the use of washes when using pen.

I have simultaneously been reading about Gaudier-Brzeska’s sculpture and paintings, so a visit to Kettle’s Yard was a must.  The cottages themselves, the former home of Jim and Helen Ede, are a delight and are filled with marvellous work of various avante guarde artists including Ben Nicholson, Joan Miro, Constantin Brancusi, Willliam Congdon and Alfred Wallis.

The Dancer, a beautiful bronze is a reproduction, the original having been sold, but it demonstrates perfectly the idea of potential energy which interested Gaudier-Brzeska.  The sculptures of  Birds Erect, The Mermaid, Bird Swallowing a Fish as well as a relief of The Wrestlers.  In terms of actual artwork there is a large painting of a man in Blue, it is reminiscent of Klimt and Scheile.

Gaudier-Bzreska uses pure line with pen and ink, also with charcoal or black chalk, his later work is influenced by Picasso whose work he would have seen when he was in Paris in 1909.  The amazing and sad thing is that Gaudier Bzreska has produced all this work yet he was killed in the first World War at the age of 23years.

I am particularly interested in the idea of potential energy and hope to explore this further in my work.

William Congdon’s Venice, Istanbul and India were also exhibited there and whilst these were rather dark paintings they were full of energy and life and used metallic paint in a way that I want to explore.  I have used metallic paint in the past but the way Congdon uses it is much more interesting, it is applied with a palette knife mixed in with the darker brown paints, he then outlines with the end of a brush to create the subject matter and this technique appeals to me.

It was a pity one couldn’t take photographs but I am hoping these few notes will remind me of what I saw and also to explore some of the artists on the internet.

Gaudier-Bzreska Birds Erect,
© Bridgeman Library

     Female  Nude Seated © Bridgeman Library    

 Gaudier-Bzreska,   Crouching  Monkey, © Bridgeman Library

Italian Drawings 

                                                           Carracci,  Head of a Young Woman,  © Bridgeman Library

This drawing is just to remind me of the Italian Drawing Exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, so that I can use similar materials, i.e. red chalk, black ink, brown ink, washes: brown, black, red; paper: blue, cream, white.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Spring Cleaning


Part 6 – Parallel Projects

Project: Spring

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

What does Spring mean for me?  It is not a time for house-cleaning but rather gardening to get ready for the coming Season.  I think that spring-cleaning is a pretty out-moded concept anyway, which is why my Spring Cleaning picture is set in past times.  I enjoyed trying to create something amusing, I had thought of drawings springs going around picking up rubbish, but then I thought of how my cats might figure in a painting. Using A3 beige tinted pastel paper, I used Yellow, Red, Grey and Green pastel rubbed off in places with limited use of black pen.  The curtain is knotted, as was the case in the past during spring cleaning, though why I am not quite sure.  I had several attempts at this producing a drawing initially, then the pastel and eventually a mixed media image; the pastel seemed to work best so here it is:

Spring Optimism Check and Log:

  • Have you managed to convey a sense of lightness and humour in your work?
I would like to think I have created a sense of fun a humour and it is produced in a light way using pastel and just a little pen and ink. 

§    How does the colour palette you use affect the mood of your work?
I have used yellows, soft greys and to try to introduce a bit of sparkly fun soft red and green contrast.  My picture is meant to convey movement in almost every aspect so I needed to include fairly strong verticals and horizontals to stabilize the picture.



Friday, 18 March 2011

Impressionism Research (Monet/Sisley)

Exploring Concepts

Part 6 – Parallel Projects

Project: Spring

Impressionism Research

This movement was responsible for the idea of painting ‘en plein air’, it was actually Boudin whose way of working started the idea within the group.  Monet, a Norman, knew Boudin who also lived and worked near Le Havre. Their idea was to capture a scene as it initially presents itself to the artist using small brush strokes to capture light and the spontaneity so redolent of the Impressionist style.

Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
Sisley, of English parentage, made an easy introduction into the world of art as his parents were relatively wealthy, however that changed during the Franco Prussian war when his father’s business went bankrupt.  He painted landscapes mainly on the Seine and his style whilst true to the Impressionist genre.  In his youth he had been influenced by Constable and Turner as well as the Dutch landscape artists. Unfortunately Sisley was unable to earn a living selling paintings, and he had to move his family from house to house due to difficulties with rent.  He eventually decided not to send work to the last 1886 Impressionist Exhibition but to work quietly in the countryside.  It is now accepted that his work was undervalued during his lifetime. 

Sisley never allowed his subject matter to be subsumed or faded into the paint as Turner and indeed Monet did.  His early work is influenced by Corot using flat planes of colour, but later he adopts the short brushstrokes characteristic of the Impressionists.

 View of Montmartre from the Cite Des Fleurs, Les Batignolles, 1869. © Bridgeman Library

 He also uses the colour palette synonymous with Monet, Renoir, Manet and Degas, nonetheless his doesn’t achieve the same looseness of others until about the mid 1870’s.  He paints some excellent winter scenes.

                                          The Walk 1890, ©Bridgeman Library

 Perspective and realism remained important to him throughout his life, although there is the hint of change in his late pastel painting of the Goose Girl when he was suffering with Cancer, just before he died.

                                           Goose Girl, Pastel
                                                        © Bridgeman Library

There is no doubt in my mind that his work was and to a certain extent still is underestimated.  It is interesting to draw comparison between Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series with Sisley’s work of the Church at Moret, Frosty Weather, 1893.  Sisley did a similar painting in 1894 in Evening Light, and about 13 others of the same subject, so he too was interested in different atmospheric affects, on the same subject, but never explored the essence of atmosphere for its own sake as Monet did.

                                         Church at Moret, Frosty Weather, 1893
                                                       ©Bridgeman Library

Claude Monet (1840 - 1926)
Monet’s early work is quite representational and does not have the impressionist feel that he later developed although his ability to capture light is evident; it is also interesting to note his signature “O”scar “Monet” on his early work.

                                           View at Rouelles, 1858. ©Bridgeman Library

Later we see the development of distinctive short brush strokes which permit more light to be introduced into the painting surface, a prime Impressionist trait.

                                      Woman with Parasol, Mdme Renoir and her son, 1875
                                                    ©Bridgeman Library

Whilst living at Argenteuil, we see in Monet’s work of the 1870’s an amazing output of work in the Impressionist style, works such as On the Beach at Trouville 1870; Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877, Madame Monet, 1875, which is exuberant and joyful in its presentation.

Monet painted alongside Sisley on occasions, as well as Renoir and others.  He worked side by side with Sisley on The Seine at Argenteuil, La Grande rue at Argenteuil, Boulevard Heloise at Argenteuil and they both painted pictures called Snow at Argenteuil.  When Sisley encountered financial difficulties towards the end of his life Monet arranged the sale of Sisley’s painting to help support his remaining family.
 Life at that time was good for Monet. His interest in Japanese prints which was a fascination for many of the Impressionists, also influences his work, although the companion piece, Mme Monet in Japanese Costume, to the Woman in the Green Dress, was said by the artist to be a “caprice”, and you can sense he was having fun painting it, with the tricolour on the fan, and his wife’s blonde wig.

                                           Mdme Monet and Child 1875 © Bridgeman Library

The death of Camille, in 1879, brings about a change in Monet, who had by then moved the Vetheuil.  Monet is depressed  at this time and his work indicates this, The church at Varengeville, 1882 displays little perspective but an almost Expressionist approach to paint. In 1883 he moves to Giverney.

1886 sees another change in Monet’s work, he personally is more relaxed and his work becomes less tense.  He begins to explore atmosphere and the effects of light in detail through his  Haystack series, and Poplar series of 1891, later to be followed by the Rouen Cathedral series, of 1894.  London paintings of 1889-1904 during his visits to England, also incorporate London Bridge paintings which explore atmosphere.

These series paintings dissolve in light and become almost abstract, and eliminating perspective.  Indeed Kandinsky commented on ‘the power of the palette which had been hidden from him’ after seeing the Haystracks in a Moscow Exhibition.

Monet developed his series paintings of Rouen Cathedral with 30 in all painted between 1892 and 1893.
Apart from a trip to Venice to paint, Monet eventually settles down at Giverney and begins to paint his famous waterlilly series, lasting some 27 years, which for him represented a period of peace and contemplation, though failing eyesight.  He had lost his second wife in 1911 and his son Jean and almost gave up painting.  To overcome his grief he was encouraged by Clemenceau and set up a huge new studio to accommodate the canvases used for the waterlilly paintings.  These paintings, and indeed the garden itself, become the focus of Monet’s life. Panoramas of light, atmosphere and sky suggesting space beyond the borders, infinite views where the waters are deep and mysterious topped with capricious water-lillies sparkling in the sunlight.  Therefore quite unlike Sisley his painting style develops over time, and as with many artists it is marked by changed personal circumstances, which inevitably must affect emotional responses to the world. He was an innovator who wasn’t prepared to allow his art to stand still.

Anderson, Janice: Life and Works of Sisley, Parragon Book Service Limited, 1994
Seitz, William C:  Claude Monet, Thames and Hudson 1960, 1984

Monday, 7 March 2011

Photorealism, Projecting from a Photograph

PAINTING 2: Exploring Concepts
Part 1 – Painting in Detail

Project: Photorealism and Hyper-realism

Exercise . Photorealism – Projecting from a Photo


Ralph Rugoff, the Hayward’s director presented an Exhibition  “The Painting of Modern Life 1960s to now”.  He asserts that abstraction equates to the new academicism.   Artists such as Gerhard Richter, Richard Artschwager, Vija Celmins, Malcolm Morley and Andy Warhol, choose for their subject matter images culled from newspapers, film, and the media in general.  By producing paintings from these images a new slant of the subject matter is produced, often expanding the original idea, sometimes distancing the viewer from the reality, whereas Celmins brings an emotive quality to her work.  Rugoff, whilst being impressed with the exhibits feels that Photorealism is a dead end.  Dead End or not, there are a lot of artists out there pursuing this style of painting, maybe because it is not as demanding as elemental creativity. 

The image I chose to work with for this project was a photograph taken from the BBC Television programme Human Planet.  A young girl living in the desert was trained by her grandmother to find water.  There was only one watering hole and the desert was vast with seemingly no landmarks except to the trained eye.  Although only 12 years of age the girl leads her tribe to the spot where a single tree indicated the existence of water.  She had achieved this difficult task.  One of the images of her on her camel made me think of the mother earth figure that is exemplified in many cultures throughout the ages, including the Madonna image which for me, is one of them.  The redoubtable figures which carry their traditions, cultures and families into the present day.

I enhanced the photograph to make it more grainy and wanted to achieve the graininess of Richard Hamilton’s, Swingeing London, 67.  I found this difficult to achieve despite having found it quite easy when performing house decoration with a roller and emulsion paint, the same effect couldn’t be replicated with oil paint and I spent more time on this than on the actual portrait.

The revised image is pastel on black paper and turns the Desert Girl into a Madonna, and for fun I did a semi Cubist style pastel.


Check and Log

  • The image was perfect for what I had in mind but I did decide to create a halo effect with the enhanced graining from the photo.
  • For me the image was iconic and I was very happy with that.
  • The portrait of the girl herself was, I felt sufficiently subtle and interesting but as mentioned above, the graining which I had hoped to render did not work as well.
  • I think this method of scaling up is not as detailed as grid lines and allowed for more interpretation, but I may well use it again.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Sketchbook February 2011


This is a drawing of my grandson sleeping, using coloured pencil, which I found quite pleasant to use.

This is a sort of sketch idea from trampoleening sketches

An ink sketch of myself which I found quite difficult because of the inability to use intermediate tones, one could only hatch and/or cross hatch. I have just been reading a book on Gaudier Brzeska, and admired his minimal sketches in ink and charcoal.  My outline was not successful enough to leave as a minimal outline and could only add sculptural qualities of form to give the drawing some substance.

More drawings of Freddie asleep using coloured pencil.
I quite liked this quick sketch of me, it doesn't really look like me but I was feeling upset because my hair is now so thin, and it made me feel miserable, so I thought it a good idea to catch a different mood.
Trampoleening stick people.

Freddie Sleeping

Spring Sketches - Field Painting

I decided to do some sketches of crocuses, the harbingers of spring, although it still feels more like winter.  I used Acrylic on acrylic paper 40 x 30.  I had been reading about the "field effect" which Jackson Pollock was beginning to achieve, adopted by Willem De Kooning and and later developed by the minimalists, including Mark Rothko, Clifford Still and Barnett Newman. 

These artists are also included under the banner of Abstract Expressionists.  The latter movement was conceived at a time when Existentialism was understood as a philososphy and artists perpetuated the idea of authenticity and free will, two tenets of the philosophical ideas of Jean Paul Sartre, through their gestural style of painting which enabled them to express inner feelings in a free and personal way. 

In an attempt to de-mystify these seemingly inward processes, artists turned to Pop art by re-introducing an element of realism in their work therefore subject matter appeared in pictures again. The work of Roy Lichtenstien, Andy Warhol, David Hockney amongst others created an immediacy and directness that was a reaction against earlier Abstract Expressionism. 

Since the 1960s a number of  various movements have appeared at an increasing rate, so much so that it is almost impossible to keep up with the changes and reactions to preceding ideas, hence the name Pluralism identifies the variety of ideas proliferating at this time. With the phrenetic pace of change in the art world, particularly in the United States, under the influence of Clement Greenberg the renowned art critic of the day, commercialism  started to have a stranglehold. Consumers sought the very latest style of art to decorate their walls.  During this period, the "flat" form covering a surface  became the quintessence of painting and through Ellsworth Kelly, who explored geometric shapes reflecting modern architecture, Hard Edge Painting developed.  These trends have been running parallel to the domination of "consumerism" in Western society, so much so that many artists have abandoned the idea of producing works of art that are easily purchased in favour of Conceptual Art,  Performance Art, and  Field Art  hence "installations" which cannot be bought and sold, although Damien Hurst seems to have bucked the trend, particularly with his Skull creation.