Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Tutor Report following Assignment 1

Tutor Report Form

Student name:
Syliva Philpot
Student number:
Course/Module title:
Painting 2: Exploring Concepts
Assignment number:

Overall Comments

Thank you for forwarding the work for your first assignment, together with the preliminary work and your logbook and sketchbook.  I also looked at your blog which seems to contain exactly the same information as you sent as paper copy.  As you intend to continue to keep your logbook as a blog, there is no need to send the paper copy in future, as I can continue to access the blog to look at your logbook notes and research.  As you intend to submit your work for assessment at the end of the course, I can confirm that your painting,  together with the accompanying written work, is of a good enough standard to do so.  I am pleased that you were able to work to the target date we agreed and you have tackled the exercises methodically.

Feedback on assignment

It is unfortunate that you forgot to include any of the still life paintings in your parcel of work, which means that I have had to rely on the photographs you emailed to me.  These do not give me an idea of the scale of your work - did you paint these actual size or larger than life?  Your watercolour painting of a small object in detail is successful, as the apple appears to be solid and three-dimensional.  For the second painting, it was a good idea to light the group of objects from different sources in order to create interesting shadows and the composition is well considered.  I would have thought that the range of tones could have been greater, if aiming for a realistic painting of detail.  If you half-close your eyes, you will see that this is a very light toned painting, without great depth to the shadows.  You say that it was difficult to obtain a really dark hue, but it should be possible to create this in watercolour, as seen in Karen Armitage’s painting ‘Anemones in Green Glass Vase’. 

For the painting based on a dream, I agree that the second painting is closer to the brief, with some of the elements of the styles of Dali and Tanguy and a healthy amount of humour. 

Although you say that you have made comments on the OCA website about the iconic nature of traffic lights, you will need to refer to this in your logbook notes to explain your thought process, especially as they reappear in your work.  The assessors will not be looking at the student forum for evidence of your development of ideas.

For the photomontage project, I am pleased to learn that you have used this experience to consider a new creative way of developing ideas and juxtaposing images.  Watch for the occasional typing error which can creep into your notes, e.g. your reference to the screen print of Richard Hammond instead of Hamilton – perhaps it was the car perched on the top of the iceberg in your final image that led to this slip-up?

Your painting from a photograph has been successful, although you had some difficulty due to the different sizes of your photograph and canvas.  This is where working on canvas board is restricting and a paper ground is much more practical as you can crop the paper to the exact size you need.  You managed to overcome the problem well and your imagined section of the leaves is seamless.  You have been able to mix the colours well, using acrylics to get close to the colours in the photograph.  Although you found this to be a stultifying and mechanical process, it is important that you understand how this is achieved and there may be occasions when you will find it helpful to use this method when scaling up an image.

With regard to the photorealist painting from a projected photograph, it is very unfortunate that you did not read the brief correctly and produced such a small painting.  However, you have produced an interesting painting from the photograph of the girl taken from the television.  You say that you found it difficult to achieve the graininess and it may be that working on a larger scale would have helped.  As discussed in our email correspondence, if you decide to submit this particular piece of work for assessment, you should paint another version on A1 to show that you have been able to project the image and increase the scale.

I would suggest that you think more about how you use your sketchbook, as sections of it at present appear to be more like a scrapbook, with the exception of the well observed figure sketches.  The sketchbook is your visual diary, used to explore ideas for compositions and to make drawings of subjects you will incorporate into paintings.  It is not clear why you have included so many large photographs and newspaper articles without any accompanying notes on their relevance to your work.

For your first seasonal painting of ‘Spring’, I hope that you enjoyed working through all of the exercises.  You certainly rose to the challenge of responding to the idea of spring cleaning in a comical way.  The pastel and mixed media drawings have great energy and you were successful in conveying movement. 

Your experiments in Pointillism have also been successful and you discovered the importance of modulating the size of the dots and considering colour combinations very carefully.  Your small landscape has depth and allowing the colour of the paper to show through has provided harmony.  You have used oil pastel much more sparingly for the pointillist approach to the vase of daffodils, but you have done enough to show the form of the vase and the flowers.  The direction of the light source is clear and I would agree that both of these images create a feeling of spring.  You also sent me a large pastel drawing of the same subject and I agree that this has the vitality you were aiming for.  With regard to replacing your white pastel, it is worth investing in good quality materials – and you will have learned to keep a record of the name of the manufacturer and the colour code in future. 

It was a good idea to select the subject of crocuses for the exercise in spontaneity, as you have been able to create an impression of these flowers in the grass, without a lot of detail.  This small A3 acrylic painting has a great deal of energy, but I would have liked to see what you could have achieved if you had made this painting A2 size as suggested in the text.  You are not expected to work on a large scale but at present the 30cm x 40cm boards you are using for the exercise work (approximately A3) is particularly small and I think your work would benefit from increasing the size of your paintings.

I am glad that you are inspired to produce extra paintings such as the small landscape in the style of Van Gogh, as well as those suggested in the course book, but you should not send these to me as part of your assignment work.  There are also three mixed media pieces which I cannot link to any of the projects or to your notes, so I have returned these without comment.

For the final painting, I have not been able to find any of your preliminary work, either in your notes or on your blog, to let me see how you developed this idea.   You say that you produced a sketch for the large painting, but you have not included this and it is essential that you let me see this work for future season paintings.  There is one rough thumbnail study in your sketchbook, but this is similar to the final painting and does not show any alternatives you considered.  How did you decide on the format of a square and the structure of the composition?  You say in your notes that you amended this for the final painting to give a more circular composition, which was a good decision, and I would have liked to see more evidence of this learning process.  Although you have written plenty of notes to explain how you made the link to spring, I did not realise that this was your seasonal painting until I read this in your notes.  At first glance, I had assumed this to be your painting of a dream as I did not pick up any reference to spring, with the exception of the pale pink blossom.  You say that you used contrasting yellow and blue for the main colour palette as ‘spring’ colours, but I did not react to this colour combination as you had intended.  These colours have an intense hue and my first reaction was that this painting was set in an arid desert landscape, suggesting more of a ‘summer’ palette.  Perhaps the dandelions mature considerably later in Scotland as I have never considered the dandelion ‘clock’ to be a spring scene.

It will be some weeks yet before the seeds can be dispersed – although I appreciate that you were using this as a symbol of time.  You say that you struggled to blend the acrylics but I hope you will persevere in using this media as you will gain confidence through experience. It is encouraging to read that you have developed an interest in Surrealism as a result of your research and the ideas you have included in your painting are well considered.  I particularly like your explanation of the different faces of the children.

Learning logs/critical essays

It is helpful for me to see your learning log notes giving your own thoughts on your progress through the course, in particular your responses to the ‘Check and Log’ questions.  It is very good to see that your research into the work of other artists also looks at contemporary artists and includes your personal response to their work, not simply biographical information.  Your notes are comprehensive and well illustrated and I can confirm that you are on the right track with this part of the course and you should keep working in this way. 

Suggested reading/viewing

I am delighted to see that you are carrying out such a considerable amount of research into the work of other artists, particularly on Surrealism.  There was an excellent exhibition of Surrealist art in Edinburgh last year and you will find information of the artists included at www.nationalgalleries.org - enter ‘Another World’ in the site search.  For the next assignment dealing with the figure and the self portrait, keep following up the references to the artists suggested in the course book and try to find contemporary examples of figure drawing and painting, such as ‘Retrospect’ by Graham Flack which is approximately 3 metres square. 


I hope that you are enjoying the course work and you should be encouraged by the results you have achieved so far.  It is only necessary to send a selection of your work from all of the exercises in each assignment, rather than all of it, to let me see how you are making progress.  It should be possible to reduce the weight of your parcel quite considerably and I will email separately to offer advice on this.  It is absolutely essential that you put your name and student number on the back of each piece of work.  I will suggest a target date of 31st July for Assignment 2, but if you have any difficulty with this suggested timetable, please let me know. 

Tutor name:
Jane Mitchell
10th April 2011
Next assignment due
31st July 2011

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Global Summer Paintings

Exploring Concepts

Part 6 – Parallel Projects

Project: Summer

Research: Global Summer Paintings Compare and Contrast

I suppose the Western European will tend to think of the Impressionists as being the artists who capture the light of Summer best.  Though of course the Fauves, in their exploration of colour would be another group to think about, particularly Matisse.  Picasso was also working in the South of France and some of his work gives an idea of the light.

Going further afield, to Africa and South America, the iconography of the area seems to feature more in their work.  Though the African art is possibly more primitive which is why Picasso was so interested in African art.  Gauguin too adopted a primitive style in his work whilst living in the South Seas.

When comparing the work of Matisse and Picasso we see the use of pure colour to represent the brightness of the Mediterranean light.

 Matisse, The View of Collioure 1905
©Bridgeman Education Library

                                                    Picasso, The Bathers, 1918
©Bridgeman Education Library

However, I think it is noticeable in the Picasso that whilst the figures are are brightly painted the see and the sky are rather dull, and I wonder to what extent this relates to the period.  It was painted in 1918 just as the first world war was coming to an end.  Picasso of course spent a lot of time on the beach resorts of St Tropez and Biarritz, so the subject chimed with his persona. 

The Matisse on the other hand is much brighter and in the Fauvist style, it was painted in 1905, quite different from the Picasso, who apart from his Cubist period, did not fall into any particular school. 

The use of the window was a feature of the time and it is interesting to compare a Matisse with a Picasso.

 Matisse, Landscape viewed from a Window, 1913
©Bridgeman Education Library

                                                 Picasso, Pigeons, Cannes 1957
©Bridgeman Education Library

The use of Yellow and Blue predominate in both paintings, but the Picasso is painted with much more verve than the Matisse.  The use of these colours are the obvious ones to use when representing sunny pictures, i.e.’ sun sea and sand.’  The passion may have arisen in the painting for Picasso because he was by then 76 and no doubt reflecting on his life and remembering his father’s love of pigeons, a motif which appears throughout Picasso’s body of work.

 Sisley, Church at Moret ©Bridgeman Education Library

Sisley, uses the same yellows and blues in his warm painting of the Church at Moret, though in his painting the sun is lower in the sky. Likewise Cezanne's painting of the Bay and L'Estaque

 Cezanne, The Bay at l’Estaque 1879-79
©Bridgeman Education Library

Sisley, paints a delicious view The Banks of the Loing, which exudes heat and the liquidity of the water is unsurpassed.  Sadly, an artist often in the shadow of Monet.

 Sisley, The Banks of the Loing, Saint-Mammes, 1885, ©Bridgeman Education Library

The Impressionists, explore light through the control of their brush strokes, and modulation of the paint rather than the use of pure colour.

                   Monet, Woman with a Parasol, 1875 ©Bridgeman Education Library

I always think the Impressionists didn’t so much explore light, as define “air” in their paintings.  Even with limited perspective, Monet’s painting above is full of atmosphere and you feel you can breathe the air, likewise in the Sisley.

 Monet, Artist’s House from Rose Garden 1922-24 ©Bridgeman Education Library

A less well known painting, the above is treated in the same way as the water-lilly series of paintings, it has an exuberance and flow which is exciting and as well as handling the paint enthusiastically, the use of colour gets the same treatment.

Russian Art

I would like to include a couple of Russian artist here to show how they might paint a summer scene.

Alexander Mikhail Semionov

Unfortunately, there is nothing on Bridgeman for this artist, but his work has great texture and interesting use of colour.  I very much admire the application of paint with a palette knife which renders smooth planes and patches of colour, again there is a great sense of light and atmosphere as with the Impressisonists, but the application of the paint is very different.

Konstantin Korovin 1916 ©Bridgeman Education Library

This painting has touches of Cezanne’s style of brushwork, but the effect of the light,  is dazzling.

African Art

My knowledge of African art is very limited, but I found the following on the internet.


Aswani, Small Market

I have no idea if this is a reasonable reproduction of the painting, but the colour and composition is exciting and reflects the interesting African textiles sometimes seen today.

Bulinya-Maasai Children on Black

We can see similar patterns of textiles in both of these paintings, but the Bulinyar-Maasai, makes me think of Giacometti sculptures, which only this week are being auctioned at Sotherbys.

South American Art

I felt the remit for both of these huge continents was rather too broad with so many artists in the various countries, which are mostly contemporary, and not always of a particularly high standard.  It was not possible to find a specific school or tradition of painting, although I am sure it exists.  Various galleries are listed but not the work housed in them. I spent a lot of time following dubious links which didn’t reveal anything.  However I chose at random the following:


R-Erickson , Pyramids near popo
R-Erickson, Life

This artis is from Mexico and the Inca/Aztec symbolism is in his work. The colours are bold and there is a strong use of pattern and motif.

Diego Rivera, husband of Frida Khalo are two more Mexican artists whose work has filtered through to Europe and the Calla Lilly features in both their work, though Frida is probably best known for her self portraits with the joined eyebrows.
With these paintings we see the ethnic motifs recurring and appearing to be of significant importance, much more so than would be the case in the West.

Dennis Esteves, a Brazilian artist, exhibits paintings that have a quality like the work of Chagall, yet his style is quite different, I couldn’t find a particularly summer painting amongst the works exhibited on his website.  However these are interesting in terms of the use of colour, composition and texture.  His figures, that is all there is on the website, are formed in a semi-cubist way and have a plasticity that in a sense denies the expressive, and are reminiscent of Picasso.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Russian Painters

Ilya Repin (1884-1930)

I was inspired to look at Russian Painters on the web because I had a book, in Russian, with some wonderful figure painting and portraits of people with extremely expressive features and strong painting and I wanted to find out who it was.  By a process of elimination (the Russian alphabet is Cyrillic) I eventually worked out the name of the artist.  It was none other than Ilya Repin (1884-1930).  His portraits rival those of Rembrand’s self portraits, in my opinion. There are one or two paintings that have the draughtsmanship skills of Degas.


There is a gutsy feel to the figures he paints and you can read the individual expressions and personalities with no difficulty.  He paints pathos, The Barge Haulers on the Volga being one of his moving paintings.  The Unexpected Return is one of the paintings that reminds me of an early Degas. His undoubted oeuvre is portrait painting.  He is an artist painting on a monumental scale.  The Reply of the Zaporozhian, is an example of this.  The Repin Institute, The Leningrad School introduced other painters to his style.

Alexander Mikhailovich Semionov (1922-1984)

Semionov paints landscapes in an interesting way, his colours are bright, yet muted at the same time, a bit like Van Gogh, he paints in patches of colour sometimes with detail sometimes not, his style is very fluid and there is a great sense of movement and light, somewhere between the Fauves and Impressionists. He is from the Leningrad School.


I really like his work, there is something about his palette, which is different and I can’t put m finger on it.  Perhaps it is because he uses earth colours which are often missing from Impressionist work and the artists they later influenced.  I know that Kandinsky became a professor in Russia at one stage but I am not sure where.  I would love to have been able to include paintings in this blog but the link is above.

Michail Evstafiev (1963-   )

An artist and photograph, Evstafiev is a sort of Russian Jackson Pollock come Gerhardt Richter.  He is also a photographer as well as painter and was inspired by his sculpting lineage.  He spent time in Afghanistan and has written about the Russian campaign and now lives in Vienna, and has also become a writer. His urban compositions are a fusion of realism and abstraction, and I shall certainly be looking at his work when we come to explore Abstraction.

Lev Russov, (1926 – 1988)

Another interesting portrait painter particularly  in his later period, typical of the exploratory human condition exemplified by Russian artists.  He studied at the Repin Institute.

Vladimir Baranov-Rossine 1902–1903

A perepetetic Cubo-Futurist with a complex origin, Russian, French, Jewish. He develops military camouflage techniques, an optochphonic piano which plays colour,  and invents a fizzy drinks machine.  His work is equally interesting, exploring Futurism and Cubism combined. Sadly, Baranov-Rossiné moves to France and because of his heritage is deported to a concentration camp where he dies.


Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1938)

I have rounded off my brief exploration of some Russian painters by looking at Marianne von Werefkin who was taught by Repin.   She damaged her right hand in a hunting accident and took sometime to recover but then reached perfection in realist painting giving her the reputation of a “Russian Rembrandt”, inevitable after studying under Repin I would say.  She met Alexej von Jawlensky with whom she had a child.  She painted with Kandinsky and Munter and became part of the der Blauer Reiter school formed by Kandinsky and Marc.  Her work is very strong and bears the hallmark of the artists from that school, as well as  Max Pechstein, and I can see some of the sweeping curves of Kirchner in her work. Rote Stadt painted in 1909, is an electrifying piece of work.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marianne_von_Werefkin_-_Rote_Stadt_1909.jpg

Emotional Effect of Colours

It is important to think about the emotional affect of colour when considering a composition, this is particularly relevant with abstract or semi-abstract painting as the composition loses the object normally presented to the viewer and will therefore rely on colour, texture and line to provide a subject, if indeed there is one. These are generally accepted emotional values associated with colours. 

As I have been thinking about colour a lot since reviewing the colours used by Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso, Derain and others, I felt this was relevant.


Mars (Warring Planet)

Warning (when with Black)








Over the years I have collected some quotations which I would like to share:
(Art is) Logic of the visible at the service of the invisible – Odilon Redon

A landscape doesn’t exist in its own right…for me it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives objects their real value – Claude Monet

I want to represent things as they are, or as they would be if I didn’t exist – Gustave Courbet

Art is a form of play, a double remove from the truth – Plato

People make images because of their wish for knowledge – Aristotle

People make images to indulge their desires – Plato

I may be excused for painting bones and joints out of their place, as painting is no longer imitative but creative – James Jeffrey 1770’s

Symbolism: expressive not imitative taking art beyond the picture frame into the world. - Anon

As habit (or familiarity) weakens every impression, what a person recalls to us most vividly is precisely what we had forgotten, because it was of no importance, and we had therefore left it in full possession of its strength. -Marcel Proust

My painting abstract? Why? Painting is concrete: colour, forms, dynamics.  What counts is invention.  One must invent and then construct – Serge Kupka

The essence beneath appearances – Der Blaue Reiter

A work of art consists of two elements, the inner and the outer.  The inner element on its own is the emotion of the artist’s soul.  This emotion is able to bring out a basically corresponding emotion in the soul of the viewer. - Wassily Kandinsky

The unbounded unbounded warmth of red has not the irresponsible appeal of yellow, but rings inwardly with a determined and powerful intensity.  Blue is the typical heavenly  (spiritual) colour, the ultimate feeling it creates is one of rest. -  Wassily Kandinsky

There are no facts, only interpretations – Nietzsche

Painting can attract admiration by the resemblance of things, the original of which, we do not admire – Pascal

Art should stand alone, and appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear, without confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to it. - James Whistler

Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better. - Henri Matisse

The art of painting – original arrangements composed of elements taken from conceived rather than perceived reality. - Guillaume Apollinaire (The Beginnings of Cubism)

Colour and I are one.  I am a painter. -  Paul Klee

The important task of all art is to destroy the static equilibrium by establishing a dynamic one. - Piet Mondrian

An emotion ceases to be as soon as we form a distinct idea of it – Spinoza

The artist should paint not only what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also refrain from painting that which he sees before him. Otherwise, his pictures will be like those folding screens behind which one expects to find only the sick or the dead. Caspar David Friedrich

There is silver blue, sky blue and thunder blue. Every colour holds within it a soul, which makes me happy or repels me, and which acts as a stimulus. To a person who has no art in him, colours are colours, tones tones...and that is all. All their consequences for the human spirit, which range between heaven to hell, just go unnoticed. Emil Nolde

The horizontal belongs to nature – the vertical belongs to man, which means, that any place where snow and rain are falling down vegetation has to grow free, roofs have to become forests, streets have to become green valleys, the relationship man – vegetation must take on religious extents. Only if you love the tree like you love yourself you will survive.Hundertwasser

There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion - Unknown

Realism should be defined as the antithesis of art.  It is of far greater importance for the artist to approach closely the ideal within him, that is unique to him, than to reproduce, the fleeting ideal which nature can present. Odilon Redon
Art is the mind speaking through the eye Sylvia Philpot

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Seasonal Painting - Summer

Exploring Concepts

Part 6 – Parallel Projects

Project: Summer




My ideas for this series remain the same concerning subject matter though have become slightly refined in the Summer painting.  They need to be viewed as a series as they cover not only the Season in terms of climate but in terms of life. 

The series uses the square format 60 x 60 cm.  Painted in acrylic using the colours of Summer which I researched for Matisse, Derain, Picasso and Vlaminck.  The colours which appeared in Summer paintings by these artists often included: Cobalt, Cerulian, Yellow, Viridian, Pinks and lilacs and a strong red. My painting is a ‘flat’ painting incorporating these colours and includes touches of Cubism.

The sunny,  summer of life when people are knowledgeable and have experienced things, some good some bad.  There is irony in the painting with the bowl of cherries for the picnic.  Life is not always a bowl of cherries, even in the warmth of Summer. Will they have children and be fruitful? The male has lost a leg, perhaps in the Afghan conflict and wears an amulet on his thumb for “Help for Heroes”.

The woman is strong, whereas the man is weakened by his experience but is nonetheless determined.  The index finger of the large hand doubles for the man’s arm.  The leaves are almost like objects which have rained down on this couple, Will they make it through their traumas?

The flat checked table cloth was inspired by Bonnard who used it a lot in his paintings, and is reminiscent too of a gaming board.

The composition has a basic pyramidal construction and has repetitions throughout, and there are lots of triangles. There is the suggestion of a rift down the middle of the painting which is where  ambivalence occurs.

 This ambivalence between the couple is suggested by the arm movements: does she have her arm around him supporting him, or is it on her hip suggesting tired resignation?  Does she reach for her drink or the crutch to help him? Does she support his leg as he reaches for the beer?  Despite these ideas, the painting has a simple quality, almost primitive, which conceals the meaning until the viewer starts to interpret some of the language. The bright summer colours are also a contradiction for this couple and is indicative of the oft repeated phrase: "Life goes on"

The Summer painting picks up on some of the elements of the Spring painting: for example the tree (only a seedling in Spring) now a tree hinted at behind the two people picnicking, the trunk doubling as the woman’s hair; the traffic lights, this time showing amber and indicating past present and future by their aspect; and the hand, this time reaching for the beer, one of the few pleasures left to the man. 

Check and Log

  • What are the differences between painting directly from life and outdoors, as you may have done in your summer project, and painting from photographs or abstracting images, as you have done in your other projects?
I believe the first difference is the vastness of the panorama and making a decision regarding the area to be selected for the painting. Then there is the light, and therefore the shadows which are constantly changing so it is important to fix on a point and time of day. There is also the question of reflected light from the canvas, which is why I chose to use a red background to avoid the dazzle. Obviously when painting from a real scene as opposed to a photograph the issues of perspective have to be worked out, whereas a photograph does that for you, similarly you have to make judgements about colour and tone.


  • Which method that you have used in your seasons work seems most flowing and natural to you?
I suppose because one is in a natural environment the outdoor work is the most natural and because one is using direct observation more than cerebral processes it is possibly more flowing. Abstract and Surrealist work requires more thought and creativity, whereas outdoor work is based on perspective and looking. You are literally painting what you see. If the style is re-interpreted from pure representational work to a different technique, i.e. cubist, impressionist, palette knife then another element interposes itself on painting en plein air, which in turn might affect flow, and indeed make it feel less natural; so style is therefore influential.

  • Which season presented the most challenge in terms of pictorial representation? Do you know why this is?
Winter has been the most challenging because I have tried to incorporate two different styles in one painting.  I am not sure if it worked.  I could have used the hard edged style of painting through but the symbolism would not have been conveyed.  The alternative would have been to use a figurative style throughout which would not  have had the impact I was trying to achieve. Determining the composition was also more complex than a conventional composition.