Monday, 12 August 2013

PAINTING 2: Mixed Media

Part 1 – Physical and Visual Texture

Project: Physical Texture of Paint, Exercises (4)

I wanted to try to paint four different styles of painting under this heading and chose, realism, semi-abstraction and abstraction and expressionism.

The first of the four exercises was a realistic painting of sunlight, candle and spirit light, so I called it Light.  I wanted to explore colour with a muted palette as well as texture so this subject afforded that opportunity.  Each of the paintings is on A3 paper over which I have painted gesso with a large house brush to give as much texture as possible.

 I used acrylic paint and didn’t follow any particular artists style but just used palette knife to explore the different textures in the painting.  The wax candle was very smooth, the wooden wall textured with knots and grain, there is the small edge of a wicker basket a carpet and the clay pot in the background which had pattern marks on it.  I don’t know why but I couldn’t help thinking of Cailebotte’s Scrapers, probably because of the perspective, floor and wood.

I felt in my comfort zone with this style of painting it is what I have been wanting to achieve in my work, i.e. less attention to detail and I felt I really learned a new technique with this image.  I painted it in my summer house on a really hot day.  I realize that I should do more preparation sketches, which is quite unnatural to me,  I prefer to work straight off to retain the spontaneity.  However, I did produce a sketch in my notebook which was to hand. I had to decide on the shadows as they were gradually moving round and affecting the

My second piece was influenced by the artist Pia Fries, I love what she does with paint and the way she works it into shapes which work in their own right.


I couldn’t begin to find ways of achieving this technique and eventually got side tracked into doing my own thing.  I will make further attempts in the future, but the amount of paint required is a bit off-putting. Also I suspect I would need to use some different kinds of applicators other than a syringe to achieve the “bundles” of paint which I found captivating.  She also uses screen printing, much as Rauschenberg did, and I am very keen to try to do this myself but I have never done screen printing before.  Getting the image into the canvas is what I want to achieve. I was always impressed by a Degas portrait of a Young Woman, which actually comes out of the canvas, as though it resides inside the weave. It is a stunning portrait in my view.

I used paint straight from the tube and tape, string, sacking, syringed paint, smudged paint all on plain white A2 cartridge paper with limited collage.   


My third painting was influenced by Auberbach’s technique of applying thick paint and outlining with charcoal.  I am not quite sure how he achieved this because I found the charcoal built up a residue of paint and didn’t apply any charcoal.  I have used acrylic and he may have been using oil.  I am not sure that would have made much difference.  I waited until the paint was almost dry then cleaned up the charcoal and did it again and it seemed to work.
I have not used the depth of paint Auberbach uses in his work.

 The idea came from some pebbles in my garden which I photographed.  I used the photograph as reference to paint from and just popped out occasionally to have a closer look at the stones.  I have intensified the colours a bit, for more visual interest.  I like the idea of outlining or contouring as it is sometimes referred to, though in this case it was to accentuate the shadows.


The final picture in this series was going to be influenced by Gerhard Richter, but I went on to a video clip of his work at the Tate, which I had previously been to, to refresh my memory.  He had done a painting of 9/11 in which I was very disappointed.  In fact I had to look for it because it was small and insignificant.  In the video the narrator said Richter almost didn’t know what to say about the tragedy…what can you say?  I thought his style would have been ideal to depict one of the worst terrorist outrages of our time, but he chose to paint a relatively small painting, his choice of course.

The clip reminded me of one of the iconic image to come out of the tragedy which I had always felt was something I wanted to reproduce in paint, possibly in shades of grey, like Richter’s photograph paintings, but it turned out somewhat differently.

This was an acrylic base with oil on top.  I am a great fan of John Piper and I think it has elements of his work and possibly an Italian artist, whose name I can’t think of, as well as having echoes of Anselm Keifer's work.  Influences work at a sub-conscious level despite attempts to follow specific artists.  Our brains act like sponges and we carry images in our heads that influence our work without our knowing it sometimes.  In some ways I think this is a better way of proceeding along a path than merely copying ideas.  I was quite pleased with how this turned out although at the time it was difficult to bring it to a conclusion and I thought it was heading for the bin.

I have not used any extreme media in these paintings, like plaster and sand etc. because I felt the object of the exercise was to explore the paint texture rather than additives.  They will come later I feel sure.


I had read some time ago a little book by Bernard Dunstan called Composing Your Painting.   Although I am now doing the Mixed Media section of the OCA course I thought I would look at the book again to see if any of the observations would apply to Abstract paintings and collage work. 

I paraphrase below some of the essential elements to good composition as outlined in the book and have concluded that regardless of whether the painting is a traditional representational picture or an abstract image, all the elements apply. The book doesn't mention texture very much, so I have added that myself.  I have given details of the book in the footnote in case other students viewing this page may be interested in obtaining a copy of the book.

  • Volumes, large and smaller ones balanced
  • Tone – Light against dark and vice versa
  • Golden Section
  • Linear framework – divisions in work by thirds, fifths, eighths etc.
  • Counter-change
  • Shapes in tonal areas to add interest
  • Use of colour to identify tone, small against large
  • Warm v Cool, warm in cool areas and cool in warm areas
  • Neutrals, i.e. greys, creams
  • Rhythm and movement through brushstrokes and texture
  • Static composition – symmetrical
  • Soft directional lines – les movement
  • Hard directional lines – more movement
  • Short directional lines connecting to others – more interesting
  • Right Angles and echoes locking and stabilizing effect or thrust and movement
  • Curved movement: energy; guiding eye left to right, place animal or human looking in a certain direction
  • Counter directions to add interest
  • Repetition: unity, movement
  • Lost and found lines
  • Texture, rough v smooth, tonal - ie visual
Composing your Painting by Bernard Dunstan, ISBN: 0289709032 Published by Cassell Limited 1979

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Physical Paint Texture - Research

PAINTING 2: Mixed Media


Project: Physical Texture of Paint - Research


Rather than compare just two artists I wanted to explore those artist whom I have been inspired by because of their ‘voluptuous’ and dynamic use of paint.

I am effectively following a route from Van Gogh whose work, though not appreciated at the time, caused artists to realize the potential of the painting media in ways that had never been anticipated before.  Van Gogh, using brushes of various sizes - usually larger coarser hogss hair brushes, invented a world that explored the sensuous charm of nature.  His brush strokes gave life to what he painted through texture.  The thickness of the paint enabled him to express his emotional feel for the object before him.  His series of sunflowers, the over exposure of which has caused the image to become somewhat hackneyed, use a variety of mark making to convey the petals, leaves and central seed head.  His style did not only apply to objects he was able to give movement to the skies he produced, particularly with his Starry Night:

“The meaning lies inside the paint” is what Van Gogh said of his work, it wasn’t just the meaning is was the quality of the brush strokes which helped to determine the value of his work.

Van Gogh therefore uses texture to reinforce his emotional reaction to the natural world.  Interestingly he is a precursor to many styles, pointillism, abstraction, futurism. 
Another artist whose work incorporates texture in a similar way is indeed the Futurist Umberto Boccioni.  He effectively follows on from Van Gogh’s idea of using sweeping and swirling strokes to indicate movement, speed and also chaos and noise.    Boccioni is quoted as saying, similar to  Van Gogh, “…to let the viewer live in the midst of the picture…” is what he wanted to achieve.

Both artists used traditional canvas boards but hogshair larger brushes, were probably included in their equipment.

Whereas Van Gogh was exploring the natural world, Boccioni, who had been influenced by Munch, as well as Cubmism and Expressionism was using texture as a dynamic tool to establish a concept, the concept of movement and speed. He was particularly interested in the movement of the horse, it is  therefore ironic that he fell from his horse and subsequently died at only 33 years of age,  Another of those artists of whom we say, I wonder what else he would have produced had he lived.

Moving into the 20th Century the next artist I want to include is Jackson Pollock.  He is renowned for his drip paintings but before that he explored mystical works, sometimes influenced by Indian culture.  His use of tools and materials broadened the approach of artists to the availability of items which might be used in the production of works of art: house enamel, syringes, sticks, house paint brushes, palette knife and so on.  He used large canvases on the floor for his drip paintings but otherwise used conventional stretchers.

For Pollock the expression of mystical and psychological ideas were partly achieved by his use of paint which was tactile by way of an extension of himself.  He too, talked about wanting to actually be ‘ in the painting’

We can give these movements whatever titles we like Abstraction, Abstract Expressionism, Futurism, but I think with all three of these artists they are trying to bring something out of themselves and into the canvas they work on, the paint acts as an extension from themselves, a conduit if you like from the idea in their minds to the support, it is almost as though their very blood issues from their fingertips in the form of paint to produce the creative energy and dynamism they so want to achieve.



Moving on to contemporary artists, I want to include Gerhard Richter

One cannot but be impressed by the work of Richter, particularly his abstract paintings which use texture in an unusual way.  Effectively as an overpainting technique on large scale canvases using rollers, scrapers, trowels, brushes, palette knives and various other tools to produce these fascinating works.  He uses paint almost in an automatist way to convey images which project the internal, unpredetermined ideas which develop to a point which satisfies the artist, and fulfils some potential reality.  “Art is the highest form of hope” Richter says.  As a concept it is difficult to understand Richter’s rationale, suffice to say there are many different realities some of which we cannot know and I think Richter is attempting to materialize or hint at unknown potential realities, transcendentallly in the same way that Pollock was exploring those ideas, but with his feet on the ground.  Richter seems to want to reach out beyond knowledge to the realities that may or may not exist and which are intrinsically within his work, as he says “the secret is in the painting”, and it is realized through the painting method.

One of Richter’s pupils, Pia Fries is my next choice.  An emerging artist of the 21st century, Fries negates the idea of painting being dead and interred during the 1960s and 1970s by Conceptual, Performance, Installation arts.  Artists like Fries have invalidated this idea.  Painting on a wooden board with multi layers of primer Fries paints with palette knives, spatulas, syringes, industrial instruments and application objects she makes herself.  Much of the pristine white of the canvas is left, sometimes she silkscreens images on to the canvas then overpaints them with textures which form abstract piles of paint twisting, interweaving smudging and folding one colour into another almost like ethnic jewellery. Her work is said to explore the musical harmonies of musique concrete. It will be interesting to see her work develop.

Futurism - Sylvia Martin, published by Tasken 2006, Modern Art, David Britt published by Thames & Hudson 1974, Van Gogh by Brian Petrie, published by Phaidon Press 1974, Wickipedia, Vitamin P, Phaidon Press 2002, Gerhard Richter Large Abstracts by Ulrich Wilmes, Hatie Cantz 2008