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Looking at Faces 5 – Creating Mood and Atmosphere

For this exercise I chose  to do a self portrait and with the heavy atmosphere that we have experienced in Bangkok over the last couple of years, especially with the recent bombings, I already had a mood for the painting in mind I just wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.

Guy Denning September Dossier

Guy Denning September Dossier

I recently became interested in the work of Guy Denning a British urban artist who creates very expressive portraits using thick brushstrokes as well as scratching the paint to convey emotion. He also employs a variety of other techniques such as stencils, painting over newspaper and dripping paint. Looking at his work did give me some ideas and I was hoping that it would have an influence in this exercise.

 

 

 

I wasn’t too worried about the light source at this point in the exercise, what I wanted to look at first was head position. I noticed that the head in certain positions played a big part in the mood of a painting, so I began by making a few sketches in my notebook with my head in positions that I could still see the mirror and the screen of the tablet which I was also using as a mirror via the camera.

1 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

1 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

My first study was in watercolour (right) followed by another with my head in the same position which I drew in oil pastels over the watercolour paint this gave it a detailed sketchy look reminiscent of urban art portraits. By blacking out the eyes I gave the sketches a rather dead look (bomb victim?..maybe) as well as making the sketch look like I wasn’t looking down at a mirror.

 

1 Notes

1 Notes

With my head in this position it was also quite easy to paint and see the sketch book. They weren’t a brilliant likeness of me as I was working very fast as to achieve expressive studies.

 

 

 

2 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

2 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

The dead look got me thinking about the colours I would use, I always associated corpses with pale bluish skin and so I did two more drawings in similar poses but using to different colour schemes; one in warm colours and the other in blues to see how the colour would effect the mood of the painting.

The cold colours made a massive difference and if it wasn’t for the strong blue of the eyes the portrait would have probably looked

2 Notes

2 Notes

corpse like. If that was the effect I wanted to create in the final painting. One thing that I was concerned about was the stubble wich made me look Aryan/Iranian. A clean shave and maybe even a shaved head would probably be better.

 

 

3 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

3 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

I then made two sketches side by side, one with the head cocked back and one with the head tilted forward. The sketch with the head cocked back seemed to be more expressive. The left looked like a ‘Fauve’ painting with the green under the eyes juxtaposed against the reddish complexion, this did look great but it wasn’t a look that I had in mind.

I decided to go with the head cocked back but I still wasn’t sure about the colours, I did have something in mind but I would have to do more experimenting.

4 Watersoluble Oil Pastels on Acrylic

4 Watersoluble Oil Pastels on Acrylic

From here I did some more experimenting looking for how I could exploit the pose and experimenting with techniques and mediums. The first drawing here was water soluble oil pastels over acrylic paint. I bought the water soluble oil pastels as a solution for drawing over prepared backgrounds so I could erase the lines if i went wrong, rather than having to paint the background again. I also thought that I could experiment scribbling over acrylics to create an expressive piece later.

I drew in the eyes here but tried to keep the whites to a minimum, I think I did create some kind of mood here but Im not sure if it was ‘rebellious’ or a look of despair, the latter is what I was really trying to achieve here.

 

5 Oil Pastel on Black Pad

5 Oil Pastel on Black Pad

The next sketch was done in oil pastels in my black pad. With this one I kept drawing line over line until it made a shape and then built up the tone the photo here doesn’t do it justice, it looks nothing like me but it does look like it could have been edited from a photo, if that makes sense.

The idea came from Guy Denning’s sketches where he has built faces up from line, a technique I would love to develop although here it turned out to be nothing like I had intended.

 

 

 

Gerhard Richter

Ella by Gerhard Richter

Ella by Gerhard Richter

In my last tutor report my tutor suggested checking out the unconventional portraits of Gerhard Richter. Too be honest his work didn’t really create a good impression on me but there were a couple that caught my eye, particularly ‘Ella’ and ‘Basel 2’. These two paintings made use of horizontal line to create a blurred effect, an effect that I had previously thought about trying to create myself but had never had the opportunity until now, this exercise was perfect for ‘giving it a go’.

 

6 Oil Pastel on Black Pad

6 Oil Pastel on Black Pad

With this technique in mind I started work on what would become my final study, yet once I had built up the shape of the face using line other ideas started to flood in. The face started to look like it was facing upwards rather than just cocked back and with the lighter lines across the face it started to look like a transparent cloth over the surface of the skin.

I continued with this look by bringing the lines down off the side off the face until it began to resemble a veil or thin lace material draped across the face. With the eyes and mouth being blacked out it almost looks like a veil draped over a dead man’s face. Although others have said that it looks like a face coming up through the material.

This final study was probably the best and if I had to call it something I would probably call it ‘Veil of Death’. I took a photo of this and uploaded it to Facebook and Twitter and it has had the best reception out of all my drawings and even an inquiry, I am considering this for the assignment but could I recreate it in paint? I’m not sure, I think maybe my painting skills haven’t developed enough yet.

Although this was the best study yet I wasn’t sure I could recreate the look in acrylic and so I decided to go with an urban art style painting this way the painting would take on a life of it’s own.

The Final Piece

Choice of Background

7 Creating a Collage on Card

7 Creating a Collage on Card

I wanted to start with an expressive background and I did look at different artists and even thought about trying to recreate a similar background to Elizabeth Magill’s paintings that I covered in my Tutor Recommendations 1 Post. In the end I settled for something that I had wanted to do for a long time and inspired by Guy Denning’s drawings over newspaper I began to put together a collage background from the Bangkok post. It has been eventful 2 years with a Military Coupe and bomb blasts signalling the end of democracy and a military clamp down here in Thailand and we have all felt it from Farang (westerners) to Thai people and if anything was going to create a trigger for my release of emotion while working on this painting, then local newspapers would be it.

 

8 Covering the White Spaces

8 Covering the White Spaces

Once I had glued all the newspaper clips that wound me up to the backing board and wrote a few comments on it to how Thais perceived race and skin colour over the top pf the newspaper clippings to try and get my emotions stirring even more , I painted out the white space of the board below.

 

 

 

 

9 Dripping Technique

9 Dripping Technique

Before i started painting I wanted to ‘mess’ it up even more but in a way that it would add feeling to the painting so it had to be in a semi orderly fashion so I decided to create a dripping effect over the top of the collage.

To do this I added thick dollops of acrylic paint at the top of the support and then began to spray them with a spray gun then when they had run right down to the bottom I turned the board on the other end and let it run back as it was too runny.

Once the drips were dry I did the same with blue but this time I used a thicker mixture so I only had to run it one way.

10 Testing Colour

10 Testing Colour

Once that was done I drew in the shape of my head working from studies with water soluble oil pastels so I could paint over the top or erase the lines easy enough if I was way out.

As I hadn’t really decided whether to use skin tones or cooler blue tones here I painted in the shape of my face neck and traps with a skin colour and then sprayed it to let it run down below to see how it would work with the background and other colours.

 

 

 

11 Building up Tone

11 Building up Tone

After realizing that the lighter skin tones wouldn’t work with the background and other colours I decided on blue. I began by building up the tone with Prussian blue and white but I was left with the dilemma of the lighter colour drips below the neck and so began to ponder on how to correct this.

 

 

 

 

 

13 Painting Shoulders

13 Painting Shoulders

My solution was to paint the shoulders but in an expressive way that made it look as if the arms were lifting up. Because I hadn’t made any studies of my shoulders and it wass quite spontaneous I lifted one side up and then the other in the mirror doing my best to try to make them look as anatomically correct as possible. The light source was overhead coming from a ceiling light directly above but the shadows in my studies fell to the left in the painting so I had to try build up the shadows on the shoulders on that side.

 

 

 

14 Adding More Feeling

14 Adding More Feeling

I could have left it there but I thought that if I added hands to the painting I could probably create more emotion but to add the hands I had to lift the shoulders up even more in their natural positions and so instead of looking in the mirror this time I worked with my gained knowledge of anatomy to paint the shoulders, lifting them up and giving them more shape and feeling.

 

 

 

 

15 Painting Hands

15 Painting Hands

With the hands I cheated and took photos and then painted directly on to the background without any drawing studies, I figured this would give me the same results as working from life ass I couldn’t correct them after. With the hands I painted in the the dark solid shapes and then used an almost impasto technique for the whiter tones.

 

 

 

 

16 Adding Light

16 Adding Light

At this point it looked like I was drowning and the blue lumpy drips were like bubbles floating upwards while I sank to the murky . I showed a friend at this stage who said that the hands made me look like I was trapped inside myself trying to get out, at least I had created some kind of mood and emotion.

 

 

 

 

 

17 Finished Painting

17 Finished Painting

I wasn’t happy withe clash of colours, not that I didn’t want a clash of colour but because the red and clashing blues made it look like some kind of superhero cartoon and so reflecting on what I had learnt from Picasso’s Blue Period paintings in the previous research point I went over the background with a thin (but maybe not as thin as I’d liked) wash of blue which did look better although the newspaper clips aren’t as visible.

From there I continued to let myself be influenced by Picasso and started to add rose to the face and thin layers of red to the lips as well as painting in the teeth and a very small amount of the whites of the eyes. This really brought the painting to life and I felt that I had succeeded not just in creating mood and atmosphere to the painting but in recreating a similar technique used by Picasso in his blue period paintings.

17 Finished Painting

17 Finished Painting

 

 

 

 

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Looking at Faces 1 – Research Point – Artists’ Self Portraits

Rembrandt

The dozens of self-portraits by Rembrandt were an important part of his oeuvre as a painter. Rembrandt created nearly one hundred self-portraits during his lifetime including approximately fifty paintings, thirty-two etchings and seven drawings. – Wikipedia

Rembrandt self-portrait 1629

Rembrandt self-portrait 1629

Rembrandt’s  self portraits create a visual diary of his aging and progress as an artist over a 40 year period. In these self portraits he managed to capture various facial expressions and it is clear that many of his self portrait drawings were studies in capturing facial expressions for his paintings such as the painting seen here which he painted aged 23.

I can only comment on what I see in this photograph of the painting but to me it seems like he has painted this with almost blur detail as to depict not just facial expression but the movement of his head while laughing. The slight halo around his head and shoulders helps to portray this movement. Everything about this painting works, he wants to look jolly and he does

Gustave’ Courbet

Self-Portrait by Gustave Courbet a Desperate Man 1843–45

Self-Portrait by Gustave Courbet a Desperate Man 1843–45

Gustave’ Courbet’s brilliant self portrait ‘a Desperate Man 1843 is painted with almost photo-realism. In this painting he has managed to capture not just worrying facial expressions which is the theme of the painting but an energy. The light and shade in the folds of his shirt gives the painting even more life.

In this painting as with Rembrandt’s self portrait above the artist uses soft skin tones for the face but his emphasis on his red cheeks brings real emotion to the painting.

The title says desperation but with  the facial expressions and the position of his hands that seem to be going through his hair this could be mistaken for fear.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait 1889

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait 1889

Van Gogh is an artist who is well-known for his self portraits. Although painted in different moods, using different techniques and painted in  several different styles most of these resemble each other giving us a good idea of what the artist looks like or what he saw himself as. There are a few photos on the internet which people claim to be of the artist at different stages of his life although there is doubt about if they are really him is recognizable to us through his self portraits.

These paintings portray the artist in different hats, different clothes, with a pipe in his mouth, bandaged ear and even through some of his personal items without him being in the painting.

Van Gogh seems to paint his self in a fairly aggressive style, with thick paint and lively brush strokes, most of which to me seem like he painted them in an agitated manner, although colours and composition were clearly thought out.

Self-Portrait 1889 above was the one that stood out as I was going through the images of van Gogh self portraits, I try not to glance at SP with Bandaged Ear anymore, it’s like the boring part of a movie that you skip through to get to the good bit.

In the painting above like most of his paintings he portrays himself an artist I don’t kow what kind of an impression he tried to convey but serious, artist in thought is the impression we get or is it just because we know van Gogh?

Gauguin Portrait of van Gogh

Gauguin Portrait of van Gogh

Through this portrait of van Gogh by friend Paul Gauguin we get a chance to look at the artist through someone else’s eyes. In this painting Gauguin depicts him painting one of his famous sunflower paintings wearing a jacket with lined lapel that he can be seen wearing in his self portrait Spring 1887. The painting by Gauguin is painted at an angle that looks to be slightly from above as though Gauguin was standing or on a higher chair than his friend.

The painting does resemble van Gogh because we know it’s him and he’s painting sunflowers, however if the painting was cropped to just his face and I was seeing this image for the first time it would be pretty difficult for me to guess it is the famous Dutch painter.

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso Self-Portrait Negro Period 1906

Pablo Picasso Self-Portrait Negro Period 1906

Pablo Picasso like van Gogh and Rembrandt is an artist famous for his numerous self portraits. These self portraits were painted in different styles throughout the different periods of Picasso’s work. When I first saw this painting a while back searching for something completely different I guessed it was a Self Portrait by Pablo Picasso and then checked straight away to see if he was of mixed race typing in the words ‘Pablo Picasso’ and ‘Negro’, the latter being the first word that came to mind when I saw this painting.

I found out that the artist had an African Period which lasted from 1906-1909 and in this self portrait he seemed to be influenced by the masks and sculpture that influenced the rest of his paintings during this period. He was experimenting and I’m sure it’s not just me who sees this when we look at the painting. It’s hard to put a finger on the technique he used here, background first? Drawn last?

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1979-80

Francis Bacon Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1979-80

Francis Bacon painted his pictures ‘as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence… as a snail leaves its slime’ – Francis bacon. This can be seen in his self portraits. Unlike van Gogh we know what Francis Bacon looked like as there are many photographs of the artist and so looking at the three studies for a self portrait we can see some resemblance to the artist in all of the three studies such as receding hairline, parts of the nose and jaw and he has managed to keep these resemblances even after mutilating himself in the artist’s familiar painting style.

Lucian Freud Portrait of Francis Bacon 1952

Lucian Freud Portrait of Francis Bacon 1952

In Lucian Freud’s depiction of Francis Bacon painted in Freud’s very familiar style in which he uses a blocking-in technique to give the face great tonal qualities. Although I recognize  the features such as the deep set eyes, prominent eyelids, rings around the eyes and the shape of the face, together the portrait is not 100% recognisable as Bacon. Is that Just me, or do others see it the way I do?

 

 

 

 

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud Reflection -Self Portrait 1985

Lucian Freud Reflection -Self Portrait 1985

I really love Freud’s style though, his portraits have what i would describe as heavy, rubber-like features. He’s a fairly new artist to me as I only discovered him during my drawing course but I wish I had discovered him sooner. Like most o his paintings his features in his self-portrait are also heavy and rubbery helped along by the heavy brush and impasto technique that he uses in this and most of his other portraits

 

 

 

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud

 

In the ‘Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud’ right, Francis Bacon’s portrait of the artist in Bacon’t unmistakable style looks as though he has literally had his face smashed in with a paving maul, in his own words “If they were not my friends, I could not do such violence to them.”

An ear and a nose are the only features here that are recognisable but I think what he was trying to do in his portraits of others is to push the boundaries as far away as possible from the subject to do as much ‘violence’ to their features as possible while still keeping them recognisable to him.

How he got to these disfigured shapes, I can only guess that he daubed large amounts of paint on the canvas in a compact area and then spread it outwards like stretching Plasticine or Dough or that’s how they look.

 

Colour Relationships 2 – Successive Contrast

Successive Contrast

Successive Contrast

This is something that we encounter a lot but we don’t think about how it happens. The first part of the brief tells us to find or paint a large area of bright colour, stare at it for 30 seconds and then close your eyes and wait for an after image to appear. Because I chose red the after image that appeared was the complimentary colour green.

Successive Contrast - Flourescent Pink

Successive Contrast – Flourescent Pink

From there I painted an isolated square of my most vivid and intense pigment, which happened to be fluorescent pink, I did the same with this then after 30 seconds I shifted my gaze to a white space on the same paper, the after image that appeared was an intense turquoise, Its complimentary colour.

These effects are caused by the stimulation and exhaustion of the receptors in the retina. By Exhausting the receptors for red, for example, only the remaining combinations of colours that mix to produce blue green are seen when you turn from looking at red to looking at white.

White light, as Newton showed, is made up of all the colours of the spectrum. The human eye has full colour discrimination through the rod and cone cells. The rod cells in the Retina distinguish light and dark, while the three types of cone cells respond to red, green and violet which make up colours.

 

 

Still Life 3 – Still Life with Flowers

For this exercise I was to set up a still life with flowers that could remain in place for a day or two, keep the arrangement simple. Notice the outlines between things – Negative shapes – and try to create interesting and varied spaces and interesting intervals between the objects in my arrangement.

Subjects and Composition

Due to the shopping mall where I work being shut down for refurbishing I was a bit stumped on where I could find some flowers for this exercise but while having a stroll around my apartment complex looking for interesting flora to make a flower arrangement I came across a white flower with a yellow centre growing on a tree in the grounds of the next apartment which I know know to be a type of Plumeria called Frangipani so I went out when it was dark with a pair of scissors and clipped a few off.

When I got them back to the room I realised they weren’t enough by themselves so I went out and found another flower, Heliconia that when closed reminded me of a crab claw to add to the arrangement, These in a vase together with my christening silver and placemats that we brought back from England with us were all I needed to make an interesting composition.

Subjects used in the composition:

  • Silver serviette ring
  • Silver egg cup
  • Silver Spoon
  • 2 Simple floral placemats
  • Vase with Flowers
  • 1 Egg

By using the subjects I chose was to set up a fresh and simple narrative of flowers with breakfast.

Working in my small 1 bedroom flat I am limited to where I set up a composition and what I set it up on as I don’t have many shelves or units. I chose to set the objects down on a black chair which gave me a black background. I played with the subjects trying them in different positions and looking at them from different angles but there seemed to be only 1 composition and one angle from which this still life would work from and for me the first charcoal sketch confirmed this for me.

I wanted the silverware to look bold not delicate, and at the angle that I chose with the light illuminating the composition from the right hand side the eggcup looked goblet-like and the serviette ring almost regal. I deliberately placed the eggcup at an egg-cup’s distance away from the vase with the serviette ring between them both to create the most interesting negative shapes.

 

1 - Charcoal Sketch - Notes

1 – Charcoal Sketch – Notes

1 - Charcoal Sketch

1 – Charcoal Sketch

I had painted my assignment piece in landscape so for this one I really wanted to paint in portrait, adding the Heliconia behind the Frangipani meant that I could paint the eggcup and the vase on a large scale in portrait format while making the best use of the paper in this format.

Because I was using a black background but wanted to paint a fresh-looking still life I placed the light source very close to the composition facing down from the right, this gave me less shadows with light bouncing off everything.

Choice of Colours

There are certain colours that I associate with breakfast, light blue, salmon pink, yellow and light green and this composition seemed to have all of them but I wasn’t sure how the black background would affect the outcome. Thinking about the yellow-orange in the flowers and what I would describe as pink-orange tones of the egg I felt that a primary coat of light blue under the black would bring those colours out, making them a lot brighter. I tried this out in a quick acrylic sketch of the composition and I felt that the result was a positive one.

3 - Drawing in Paint

2 – Drawing in Paint

 

2 - Acryic Sketch

3  – Acrylic Sketch

From the quick acrylic sketch I managed to put together a list of colours which I used in the quick sketch and I stayed true to this in the finished piece. These were:

  • Primary Blue/White (Light Blue)
  • Titanium white (although I either mixed this with blue or c finished drawing to tone it down)
  • Titanium white buff
  • Orange pearl
  • Payne’s Grey
  • Ivory Black
  • Primary Red/White (pink)
  • Lemon Yellow
  • Orange Cadmium
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Burnt Umber

Scale

I thought about painting this on a small scale as that would have probably helped to develop my painting skills more but after working on the acrylic sketch I decided that it would be better to paint a larger than life piece so that I could capture all the detail.

2 - Acryic Sketch - Notes on Colours

4  – Acryic Sketch – Notes on Colours

Like the acrylic sketch I began the final piece by drawing in acrylic paint rather than pencil as I used to do before the Drawing in Paint exercise. It did take a bit of reworking but not much. This final piece took me about four days to complete starting with the flowers as I knew they wouldn’t last me long as they started dying as soon as I removed them from the tree, this was a wise decision as the rest of the painting with the reflected light took the longest time to paint.

I worked mostly with large brushes, painting thick layers this helped me too loosen up as I have so far been too worried about getting my paintings to look exactly like the subjects that I am painting, to me this looks more like an impressionist still life and that was the look that I was going for.

 

4 - Finished Still Life

4 – Finished Still Life in Acrylic

Still Life 2 – Drawing in Paint

Look around your house for an arrangement of objects that just happens to be there. Don’t spend too long looking. It could be things that you keep on a shelf, table or window ledge or a corner of your kitchen. Don’t choose objects that are too complex in appearance, but choose things that you find interesting to look at. Make any minor adjustments that you need to create a simple still life arrangement from what happens to be there.

There’s not much going on in my apartment but a few simple things left around and kitchen utensils, I move that often that I keep things to a bare minimum. However I did have a handful of things laying around.

The first objects that I laid my eyes on were my wooden manikin that I have never used and a Siamese football (taakraw) they were on a small white wooden table that I used in my assignment and other exercises so I placed them on a thin layer of wrapping material that was elevated with a plastic bottle to give the composition an interesting background. This arrangement had everything I was looking for really but I thought I would look at other things I had laying around.

First Sketch Manakin and Taakraw Ball

1 First Sketch Manakin and Taakraw Ball

The second sketch was of a Lacoste shopping bag on top of a case containing a drone that I have never used. This was also an interesting composition and will be a subject for a painting at some stage but for this exercise it was quite technical with the detail on the case.

2 Second Sketch - Drone Case and Lacoste Bag

2 Second Sketch – Drone Case and Lacoste Bag

My third sketch was of my camera on top of the case containing the remote control for the drone, This was very technical and so I decided against it and left the sketch unfinished.

3 Third Sketch - Camera and Drone Remote Case

3 Third Sketch – Camera and Drone Remote Case

For the third drawing i set up a composition of my acrylic paint basket and some material used for monks robes that I bought for my drawing course. I didn’t know how it would turn out but I couldn’t have asked for a better result. This would have been ideal for this exercise with the lines of the fabric folded behind the box and how the lines seperated the different tones of the colours on the box inside the tube…BUT…I liked it so much that i wanted to save it for my still life with man made objects.

4 Fourth Sketch Acrylics in Wicker Basket

4 Fourth Sketch Acrylics in Wicker Basket

Going back to the manikin and taakraw, I made the second sketch of my chosen arrangement in watercolour. I bought a watercolour set about a month ago and have been doing some urban sketching. I usually draw with a Rotring first and then do the rest in watercolour, this was my first 100% watercolour sketch. I started with the outline of the manikin and ball and then applied the colour followed by glazing for the shadow. For the ball I drew the outline in a fairly watered down mix then finished it off with a mixture of dry brush and glazing. I thought this would have given me enough practise for finishing off the ball in the acrylic painting but it proved to be much more difficult in acrylic.

5 Watercolour Sketch of Manakin

5 Watercolour Sketch of Manakin

The composition looks easy to draw but it wasn’t, it actually took three attempts to draw the two objects in pencil due to the dimensions of the two objects together. So when it come to drawing in acrylic I tore out the watercolour sketch from the XL pad and put it in front of me with the pencil drawing so I could work from real life with the two drawings as reference.

Unlike previous exercises I wanted to work small on an A4 sheet, I had never painted on a small scale before and I felt that this would help me develop my ‘drawing with paint’ skills. Painting on a small scale did increase the level of difficulty

I started by preparing the paper with an off-white first coat of acrylic and then once dry I painted the outline of the two objects with a watered down mix of yellow ochre and burnt umber. From there I made a couple of edits before applying colour.

6 Drawing in Acrylic Paint

6 Drawing in Acrylic Paint

Yellow ochre played a big part in the colouring of the mankin with different mixes of white for the lighter tones, then I used a mixture of dry brush and glazing techniques for the shadows and darker tones. My palette wasn’t too large but I did use a few different colours such as burnt umber, burnt sienna, yelllow ochre and titanium white (my tutor did warn against using titanium white but as of yet I have been unable to find zinc white here) as well as cadmium orange and chromium green.

Although I applied the colour very randomly switching from technique to technique as I moved through the manikin, I did work in a very structured manner, like the Dutch Masters I painted the manikin piece by piece first the head then the arms, body and so on.

Once I had finished the manikin the drawing of the outline of the ball looked way out and so I painted in the basic colours of the background, pink ( a mix of primary red and white) and then a very light grey (black and white), this gave me a rough idea how much it needed editing, which wasn’t much.

7 Manakin and Taakraw in Acrylic

7 Manikin and n in Acrylic

When working on detail of the ball it changed from a drawing with paint exercise to mixed media. Firstly I painted the light and dark tones of the ball and then I needed some kind of technique for drawing the woven sections. I came across ‘Hitofude Ryuu’ dragon with 1 stroke painting and thought maybe I could borrow something from this to paint the ball so I dipped a small flat brush in two different coloured paints, hoping that I could paint the detail of the weave as well as the shadow in 1 stroke. Unfortunately it didn’t work and I had to paint over it and start again but it was worth a try.

Eventually I settled for a dry brush technique with a darkened mix of yellow ochre which worked really well but it still needed detail which I thought I could achieve with black applied with a small brush. The brush snapped when towel drying it and so I tried applying the paint with the blade of a cutter with no joy and so I made the decision not to paint the black detail but to draw it with a black Uni-ball pen. the result of this can be seen above.

Research Point 4: Still Life from the Dutch Golden Age to Contemporary Art

Part 1 of this Research Point

Look at the work of some of the 17th century Dutch still life and flower painters. Make notes on paintings that you especially admire and find out more about the techniques that were employed at this time. Research at least one painting that has iconographic significance.  Which of the objects depicted carry particular meaning and what was that meaning?

I started by searching for names of 17th century Dutch painters making a list of the names of artists whose work caught my eye, these included Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Jacob Gillig, Pieter Claesz and Evert Collier as well as Jan Weenix and Harmen Steenwyk. From there I went onto research the techniques used at that time so I could come back and examine the works of some of these painters in detail.

Techniques of the Dutch Masters

Unlike modern painters execute their paintings as a whole, working in a standing position so that they can step back to visualize the painting in its entirety, 17th century artists worked in a master studio to a fixed step by step method. They divided the workload into separate phases so that they could take care of the all important components individually. The compositions of the still life paintings of the 17th century were much more intricate than today and therefore the Dutch masters paid far more attention to detail and perspective and so a more technical process was needed, completing each painting in a piece by piece fashion once the drawing and lighting had been worked out at the underpainting stage.

The artists of 17th century Holland also had far less pigments on their palettes than today’s artists as their choice of pigments were far less, usually having to be hand ground at the beginning of each working day, in addition to this not all pigments were compatible with each other and so had to be used individually. Complex painting techniques such as glazing, underpainting and using varying paint consistencies and application methods helped them to compensate for the lack of pigments.

For the 17th century painter there were several stages to producing a painting, these were: inventing (drawing or sketching), dead-coloring (underpainting), working-up (finishing/application of colour) and retouching.

One notable technique that I found was for painting patterned lace, Rembrandt evolved a technique where he painted lightly in black over white to show the pattern but the other way, one which particularly appealed to me was to paint in white over black then scratch off the white with the end of the paintbrush to depict the pattern.

Paintings of the Dutch Masters

Examining the still life paintings of this era is different from anything I’ve looked at before as I have to remember that most of these were commissioned and so I have to look at iconography in the painting, floral compositions, backgrounds etc.

Jan Davidszoon de Heem

Jan Davisz de Heem Still Life with a glass and Oysters

Jan Davisz de Heem Still Life with a glass and Oysters

I looked at several paintings by Jan Davidsz. de Heem but the first one that caught my attention was Still Life with a Glass and Oysters. However, it wasn’t the oysters that caught my eye, it was the bunch of grapes, and glass.

According to the paper Symbols of Change in Dutch Golden Age Still Life Paintings by Ellen Siegel, grapes in Dutch Golden Age Paintiings (DGAP), grapes were a religious symbolism or symbolism of purity and can also be symbol of trade with Spain. Glassware was symbol of wealth or moderation. The large luxurious glass in this painting is obviously a symbol of wealth and so I would say that the grapes rather than a religious symbol in this piece were the latter, a symbol of trade. Oysters in DGAP symbolism were a symbol of natural aphrodisiac and temptation. So i am thinking that person who commissioned the artist to paint this piece enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle and maybe parties with this piece on display for all to see.

Jan Davisz de Heem Still Life of Flowers

Jan Davisz de Heem Still Life of Flowers

Although we just see floral paintings as beautiful paintings, something to brighten up the room, certain flowers in DGAP’s carried a lot of symbolism. In the painting on the right ‘Still Life with Flowers, there are several flowers that have hidden meanings. Tulips are a symbol of wealth and beauty, originating from Turkey this maybe why in most of the paintings I have looked at by Jan Davidsz. de Heem the tulips point east, the white rose which can be seen in the bottom left is a symbol of virginity while the three petal pansy in the bottom right was a symbol of the holy trinity. White carnations have become a symbol of love but when that started is unclear.

Could this painting have been commissioned for a merchant’s wife or girlfriend? Could this have been commissioned by the merchant himself? Are the flowers in the painting really symbolising these things or is it just a painting that has been commissioned to display the wealth of the owner as cuttings from his luscious garden?.

Pieter Claesz

Vanitas with Violin and Glass Ball Pieter Claesz

Vanitas with Violin and Glass Ball Pieter Claesz

The first ‘vanitas’ painting by Pieter Claesz  that caught my eye was ‘Vanitas with Violin and Glass Ball’, but is this really a commissioned painting or a painting that was kept in his studio  for clients to see as they walked in, there seems to be far too much iconography for one painting Why is the reflection of the artist seen in the painting? Could this be to show the level of work that he could accomplish for his clients or to be shown off by the person who commissioned the piece, that ‘Pieter Claez really did paint this piece’!

In GADP symbolism  a voilin was often the symbol of learning, knowledge or warning against sinful life . The skull is a reminder that life is short and a warning to put more emphasis on spiritual rather than earthly cares while a spilled glass may imply moderation or fleeting life. If a commissioned, piece could it imply that the owner is a man of knowledge, an educated person (hence the who quill and ink) who is not simply wasting away his short time on earth but using it the best he can?

Part 2 of this research point

Explore the development of still life through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, For example, look at traditional still subjects were dealt with in some early cubist paintings by Brque and Picassso. Investigate how some contemporary artists are interpreting this genre.

Still Life in the 19th Century

I looked at four still life artists from the 18th century these were Jean Siméon Chardin‎, Jan van Huijsum‎, Jean-Baptiste Oudry‎ and Jan Weenix. There were certain differences that I noticed and I have noted them here:

Jan van Huysum Vase of Flowers

Jan van Huysum Vase of Flowers

With floral paintings, 18th century artists were now showing more of the vase than before, I’m not sure whether the vase itself now began to symbolise something other than a luxury, The attention to detail was still there but the paintings began to lose there hyperreal look, maybe the artists of the 18th century were now beginning to look at the painting as a whole, colours were brighter, this could have been down to more pigments being available and if this is so then artists of the eighteenth century could have put less focus on the techniques of the 17th century. Stalks, stems and petals were more expressive, and now showed a life of their own.

Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin Still Life with Bread

Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin Still Life with Bread

More still lifes of this century were painted outdoors, with statues, dogs and dead game now showing off the owners wealth and social status. Artists such as Jean-Baptiste Oudry were now combined superb renderings of the textures of fur and feather with simple backgrounds, While Jean-Baptiste Chardin painted small and simple compositions of food and objects in a most subtle style that both built on the Dutch Golden Age masters, and was to be very influential on 19th-century compositions. Vanitas and religious symbols had now been dropped from commissioned works.

Still Life in the 19th Century

The Luncheon II Claude Monet

The Luncheon II Claude Monet

Artists in the 19th began to break the tradition of the dark background with Claude Monet being one of the first to do so, Moreover, technique and colour harmony began to play more important roles than subject matter. ‘The Luncheon II’ left is a perfect example of this.

Van Gogh made one of the main contributions to floral still life in the 19th century with is ‘Vase of Fifteen Sunflowers.’ But other notable paintings by van Gogh were his version of a ‘vanitas’ painting, ‘Still Life with Open Bible, Candle, and Book’ and ‘Still Life with a Drawing Board’.

Vincent van Gogh  - Still Life with a Drawing Board

Vincent van Gogh – Still Life with a Drawing Board

This was a self portrait in the form of a still life which was a composition of some of his personal items such as pipe, a letter from his brother as well as onions and an inspirational book presented on a table.

Still Life in the 20th Century

Paul Cezanne - Floral Still Life 1914

Paul Cezanne – Floral Still Life 1914

The first few decades of the 20th century produced a string of overlapping movements, gradually reaching total abstraction in the mid century. Paul Cézanne started to experiment with geometric spatial organization using still life to demonstrate elements of colour, line and form.

Cézanne’s experiments lead to the development of the cubist still live movement in the early 20th century. Cubists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris deconstructed objects into pure geometrical forms and planes, their still life’s that often included musical instruments brought the genre to the forefront of artistic innovation for the first time.

Looking at Georges Braque’s ‘Still Life with a musical scroll’ below you can see that his still life composition includes many of the traditional still life subjects that have been present since the Dutch Golden Age of painting including musical instruments. grapes and other fruit.

Still Life with Music Scroll - Georges Braque

Still Life with Music Scroll – Georges Braque

Picasso - Still Life with Violin and Fruit

Picasso – Still Life with Violin and Fruit

Picasso’s Still life with violin and fruit, comprise of still life objects that are barely recogniseable as they merge into the background. This is an example of the synthetic cubist works which achieved goals almost opposite to those of traditional still life.

Still LIfe in Contemporary Art

Eliot Hodgkin Large Leaf 2 Tempera on Card

Eliot Hodgkin Large Leaf 2 Tempera on Card

Contemporary artists gain influence from past movements but they are also constantly developing there own interpretation of still life.

http://www1.umassd.edu/euro/2011papers/siegel.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_Golden_Age_painting

http://www.essentialvermeer.com/technique/technique_overview.html#.VPMKkfmUfjs

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nstl/hd_nstl.htm

http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/623056/vanitas

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Still_life

Understanding Colour 3 – Complementary Colours

Complementary colours are the opposite side of the colour spectrum. One way to learn about locating and mixing these colours is to make your own colour wheel.

Like the brief instructed I drew a circle on an A4 sheet of paper ( in my mixed media XL book) with a compass, drew a much smaller circle inside of that and then also with the compass as well as ruler divided up the wheel into 12 separate segments.

Then I tried to mix the colours from Chevreul’s wheel beginning with primary red, red-orange, orange yellow and so on. I worked on the colours I was unsure about several times on a sheet of grey prepared paper but the ones I was confident about I applied directly from the palette.

Colour wheel

Colour wheel

As I started writing this up, I realised I may have gone at it a bit too quick and that also laying them on a white background to pair them up may have been betters so I decided to have another go.

This time I tested out all the colours on a grey ground with colour mixes from each of the two colours on white. I could have probably done more colour testing with colour scales between  each but even with the flow-aid the paint was drying fast.

Testing colours

Testing colours

From there I applied the mixes to the colour wheel as I did in the first attempt.

 

Colour wheel 2nd attempt

Colour wheel 2nd attempt

The second attempt proved that I didn’t need to do anymore work on this exercise as the hues were the same even though the tones were slightly different. Now I had 2 colour wheels to use for reference in the coming exercises.