This week I felt I struggled a little bit, both in the painting workshop session and in my own practice. The workshop was interesting, working collaboratively, large scale, with projectors etc, however our group didn’t produce much actual painting because of difficulty setting up the projectors and time restraints on using the project space.
I think that I often find collaborative tasks difficult because painting, for me, is a very personal experience and we were all on different wavelengths about what we wanted from the piece/the activity in general; there was no real translation of the ideas onto the paper. Personally, I feel quite a lot of disconnection from these workshops because of their abstract nature, I find learning technical skills more useful as it is something I can combine into my own practice – so I’m unlikely to continue working on any of the workshop projects for now.
I had a few days sick as well this week, and had trouble finding any sort of flow in my studio work. I had planned to paint portraits – only for a short period of time for experimental purposes, however I underestimated how long it would take to paint such pictures and haven’t really found the motivation to make anything of any value -I haven’t really made anything yet. I had a brief meeting with my tutor about this, and found that I’ve been overthinking a lot of elements in my practice. I’d been trying to combine my ideas about art in a domestic environment and paintings that include imagery and connect with the viewer – but in doing so, had reached a sort of dead end; although conceptually I had a lot of ideas, this was not coming across in my work. The challenge for the next few weeks is to try and make rather than conceptualise, and form ideas about my work during my work, rather than making work that communicates a certain message or answers a question.
I’ve starting working on this painting based on a photo I took that I found really interesting. I respond quite a lot to images like these, so I think regardless of the direction I decide to take, I’m going to try and start documenting people and scenarios to have readily available reference materials that are interesting in themselves.
This week’s workshop was focused on using oil paint in different, and in some cases quite challenging ways – one using monochrome high gloss paint, and by using a very diluted oil solution by mixing the paint with a lot of turps. I found it really hard to work in this way – I don’t really have an affinity with abstract painting and so when working from an image I found it really frustrating that the paint wasn’t doing what I wanted it to. Personally, I don’t really like the results of this experiment, the flatness and sheen of the surface and the black and white colours really don’t appeal to me, and again, because I was unable to produce something that looked like the image I was working from I became really put-off. for this reason I might leave the painting for a while and then possibly come back to use it as a ground.
The same goes for the other painting I produced in the workshop – although only in its early stages, I really don’t like the abstractness of the work the techniques produced – I think perhaps I’m quite intimidated by the idea that because my work does not represent or look like anything, in my eyes it looses some of its worth and is unable to communicate anything of significance. I may also end up using this painting as more of a ground – although I think I need to be careful not to complicate the message of my paintings.
Also this week I’ve been working on portraiture. Initially last week I asked a flatmate to sit for me and attempt to work from life, but it really didn’t go well and I think unless there is a clear and necessary reason for me not to, I might continue working from photographs – just because I find that before I have even started to paint, there is an image with its own light, composition and arrangement that I can work with – and most importantly, take my time over.
These images are of my failed attempt – I think part of the reason it went so wrong was because I used acrylic and the water took the primer straight off the board. I’ve now sort of wiped the slate clean and can make a new painting with a potentially interesting ground.
I then started work on this piece, based on a photo of the same person. I’m a lot happier with the results, however there isn’t a lot of interest in the image. Although the ground and the faded effect of the white is quite appealing, I don’t think the piece really says anything about either the subject or the idea of painting in a modern context. As I still have a few more boards of varying sizes to work with, I’m probably going to work on a few more portraits, and try to play with the composition and the structure of the ground to see if I can make something a little more out of the box.
This week began with the opening skills 6 workshop and also an individual tutorial. The workshop centered on technical skills involving making a casein primer and using matt structure mediums in acrylics. I found the workshop very interesting, I like the fact that traditional, ancient methods can still be utilised today, which ties in with this idea within my practice of painting being a very conservative and arguably outdated artform in the modern world. I spent the majority of the week experimenting with casein; but none of my attempts to make it in the studio were that successful.
I think another reason I felt inclined to use casein was because it tends to be very transparent and leave a very flexible smooth surface, and I loved the effect of this on plywood. I think my painting practice is starting to move towards working on unconventional surfaces, so I think working onto textured woods and leaving the grain exposed as a starting point is a good idea. In my personal tutorial this week we discussed ways of offsetting traditional mediums/subject matter in minimal ways to create some sort of interest, so I’m looking at artist Micheal Borremans as a starting point for my research. Personally I’m quite drawn to portrait painting because I feel it gives me a very direct way of communicating with a viewer, immediately a human face is recognisable and can produce a reaction.
After the difficulties I had with casein I then mixed up some rabbit skin glue; again, the traditional and relatively cheap nature of the primer meant that I really wanted to use it on some plywood offcuts I managed to find. However, I’m now limited to use of oil paint, which although is arguably more traditional, means the painting process takes more time and if I want to build up lots of layers, it means I can’t really work quickly and make work in quantities. Overall though, I’m happy with the rabbit skin finish and will probably end up using it again.