Thursday, 28 July 2011

Self Portraits by Various Artists

Francis Bacon © Bridgeman Library

I liked the original concept of the composition for this work and the way it hangs together despite being illogical.

 Balthazar Klossowski de Rola

The muted colours and the intensity of expression attracted me to this portrait.  The looseness of the style without eliminating detail, is one of those attributes I aspire to, and I feel this style of painting will be the most influential on my self portrait

 Picasso ©Bridgeman Library

Picasso’s portrait appealed to me because of the linear expressions which echoe throughout the portrait.  As with the Bacon “likeness” which for me is the whole point of a portrait is questionable, he could be Hitler!

 Van Gogh  ©Bridgeman Library

I just love Van Gogh’s portrait, and indeed his work generally, he has a strength of expression which is quite penetrating. It was just a pity his genius wasn’t recognized in his own lifetime.  The contrasting colours work so well, and there is just enough tonal work in the face but not too much.

David Goatley
Casey Childs

I liked the casual approach of Goatley’s portrait and I don’t doubt that it is like him.   Realism yes and some of his portraits are “pretty” but there is a sense of person behind them. Likewise Casey Childs.  Both artists paint in America. The sense of a real person will influence my portrait because I want it to look like me as near as possible.

Figure with Pattern

The Figure and the Self Portrait

Seated Figure with Pattern

This project turned out to be quite time consuming – my sitter didn’t have any patterned blouses so we did a round of the charity shops in my nearby town and managed to get one, but I wasn’t sure about it so we made a further visit and bought another. 

The actual figure, I felt would not present a problem but I wan the background the break new ground either by use of material or collage, but I visited the Summer Exhibition at the RA this week and there was a small picture exhibited which used newspaper “gutters” to product a layered effect with windows, and I thought this looked interesting.  I knew that a fellow student, Andrew Howe, did some great collages which I wanted to look at again then when I went on to his log he had similar “cut-outs” to those I had seen at the summer exhibition as his banner. So I may try something similar on the painting, possibly combined with collage, echoing the pattern in the blouse.

David Mach, who was exhibiting at the Summer Exhibition creates collages which represent real scenes with incongruous backgrounds and unfeasible underwater situations.  His Depth Charge, reminded me of my own attempts at collage and his work makes me realise the possibilities in this medium.

 I do not usually like to attempt sketches as I feel I loose the spontaneity of the painting and I usually have a pretty good idea in my mind as to how to approach a subject, but on this occasion I feel sketches will be an added benefit, in order to harmonize the effects I am looking for.

I researched various artists and paintings as follows:

Pablo Picasso – Large Nude in Red Armchair
Maurice de Vlaminck – Dancer at the “Rat Mort” and Woman and Dog
Alexander Samokhvalov -  In the Sun
Baranov-Rossiné –Seated Nude
Henri Matisse –  Woman with Pearl Necklace and Odalisque with Tambourine

All of these artists approached their model as a decorative subject, except perhaps Samokhvalov, rather than a realistic one, which usually means treating the subject as a ‘flat’ painting using colour in blocks with little tone. Vlaminck almost dissolves the image into the background in his Dancer at the “Rat Mort”.
The patterned blouse I chose had some interesting colours and stripes which I felt could be incorporated with some collage.  The initial painting was fine but I felt the collage was too weak for the strength of the blouse.  I had incorporated tissue paper in purple and its natural contrast yellow.  I also wanted to make the model herself look like a cutout, so I incorporated more collage and outlined some of the figure with black, strengthening the arm and cushion to incorporate the figure into the background I like the effect of “contouring” and Picasso has used it in the example shown.

Check and Log

  • What else could you have done to get more from the subject?
I could have tried a more dynamic pose, but it would not have been in keeping with the sitter.  I could possibly have included less tissue paper.

  • How did you relate the figure to the background
I incorporated some of the colours from the blouse but most importantly the collage stripes which were a feature of the blouse pattern.  I also found that by contouring the sitter I was able to make herself look like a cut out or piece of collage.

  • What problems or challenges do you need to discuss with your tutor?

Extended Seated Pose

This exercise proved difficult in that the person I am painting has very little time available to her as she is a police officer working a shift pattern, plus my youngest son was getting married and there was much preparation time required for this.  I spoke to my tutor who very kindly agreed to extend the time allowed by four weeks to the end of August, this helped immensely.

I thought it might be useful to do a series of pictures on how the painting progressed.

The initial sitting allowed me to get the outline in place.  I had been toying with the idea of a Whistler’s mother type of pose but because of my interest in potential energy (influenced by Gaudier Brzeska) I elected to go for the turning pose which gave a lovely diagonal across the canvas.  My initial idea is to complete the painting using pallet knife, certainly in the background using Acrylic paint but for the figure I feel a softer contrasting effect using oil and brush might give an interesting textural juxtaposition.  I feel the painting should use a minimal palette and for it to be fairly high key, but whether or not in carrying out the work this will change I don’t know.

(I don't know why this happens, the images are wrong orientation).

I found once I started to work on the figure that a mixture of brush and palette knife in acrylic and oil was the best method to adopt in order to achieve the looseness I wanted. Most of the time it was a question of tweaking measurements, for example I needed to lower the depth of the seat and get the figure seated into the chair.  I then needed to adjust the model’s left leg which was initially too broad. I also needed to adjust the colour and tone in the face but needed to take care not to spoil the initial spontaneity.
As far as the composition is concerned I have echoed the right hand in the cuff above, and the opposite cuff with the knee.  Movement has been achieved with the flick of the skirt hem and the ripples of creases extending down the left leg. As well as the atmosphere of a bright minimal space I wanted to explore movement.

The back lighting from the window is not the only source of lighting, as there is north light coming from the left. I wanted the legs of the chair to dissolve in the light and not impose themselves too much on the sweep of the diagonal. I needed to adjust the hand but was conscious of over-working.  I spent 22 hours on the portrait, not the 28 suggested.The back lighting from the window is not the only source of lighting, as there is north light coming from the left. I wanted the legs of the chair to dissolve in the light and not impose themselves too much on the sweep of the diagonal. I needed to adjust the hand but was conscious of over-working.  I spent 22 hours on the portrait, not the 28 suggested.

Check and Log
  • What does the colour combination you have used communicate about your model?
I have used high key, relatively cool colours, which help to portray the sitter’s  coolness and confidence which is what she needs as a police officer, but I like to think there is also the softness of the mother of my grandson.
  • In your next portrait, how will you tackle any difficulties you have encountered in this piece of work?
The only problems I encountered were relating to the initial drawing despite taking great care with measurements.  I used a crosshair tool and measurement by brush.  I marked the position of the chair and feet of the model on the floor, but because of the twist, it was sometimes difficult to re-locate the figure.  I may use photographs to assist with this.
  • Does your portrait work as a coherent whole or are there some areas or aspects of it that work better?
        I think it works well as a whole and I was particularly pleased with the way the skirt   conveyed movement, and a degree of opacity, the face itself came together relatively easily and is a reasonably good likeness.

    Thursday, 7 July 2011

    Collection of found Objects

    I wasn’t quite sure on reading this exercise what I would get out of it, it initially seemed to me to be an outdoors still life.  However, I did find it rewarding certainly on the second part of the exercise as I could see how one might attempt an abstracted painting in this way or indeed a surreal one.

     My initial drawing was of items from the garden, it was the time of year for preparing hanging baskets and tubs.  I thought it best to collect what was to hand at random without trying to select something that might be reproduced well.  I chose the items mainly by context, i.e. gardening objects, although the stone, piece of old brick and feather were there, so I picked them up. 

    Having collected the garden paraphernalia and some yellow petals I just heaped them up on to an old garden rug.  I didn’t particularly enjoy this part of the exercise, but I liked the colours because they included earth tones which I don’t usually use.   I stuck the feather inside the hose connector to stop it blowing away.  I chose to paint in a fairly traditional but loose way in acrylics on acrylic paper.

    The second part of the exercise was more interesting.  I decided to use a painting depicting the sea with a child sitting on the beach as the background.  I wanted more than anything to use the opportunity try out a different style of painting.  I changed to pastel on black paper and decided to try to draw in a style I had seen in a magazine which I pasted  in my sketch book earlier in the year.   It effectively uses colour and black minimizing any detail but accurately assessing the contour of the shadows to form the object.  I expect there is a term for this type of photo, but this is the effect I wanted to try to achieve, but using a variety of different colours.

    I am not sure if I achieved the effect but was pleased with the outcome, and it made me more disciplined in the application of the pastel, choosing a different way of working.  This time I arranged the items, and because of the size of the painting on which they were resting, I had to crop some of the objects and this in itself proved interesting.  I laid some items down and some just sat on the painting.  I think the outcome of the composition is a mix between surreal and incongruous. In some cases the objects appear to be sitting on top of the painting beneath, although I think some of the items appear to be actually incorporated in the background painting; for example the stone, flower pot, feather and hose connector, this I thought was interesting, also the yellow petals appear to form part of the sandy beach. Black or dark paper with pastel is always a satisfying way to work and in this particular instance because of the effect I was trying to achieve I think it worked well.  The combination of colours using yellow and blue with orange and black gave the picture impact.  Likewise the cropping which was determined by the size of the painting beneath was an added bonus, although I had to introduce a curve in the sky above the orange watering can because otherwise the eye would have been taken straight out of the picture.

    So what I thought would be basically a still life turned out to be a worthwhile and productive exercise.

    Check and Log

    • Was it easier to paint an ordered or a disordered arrangement? Why did you find one easier than the other?
    I found the ordered arrangement more interesting, not necessarily easier, and I think it was because it was a more creative approach to the exercise, by using the painting beneath.

    • Did you successfully depict your objects sitting within their summer background?
    I think I was successful depicting the object within and on the beach scene background which gave the piece an added interest.  The viewer was left with the question, are they part of a scene or an abstracted design.