# Painting Outside 1 – Research Point – The Golden Mean

I’ve known about the Golden Mean for a while now and lately the Fibonacci sequence which was an easier way to understand it.

The Golden Ratio (Golden Mean, Golden Section, Golden Number) is essentially a proportion in which a straight line is divided into 2 unequal parts in a way that the ‘ratio of the smaller to the greater part is the same as the ratio of the greater part to the whole.’ OCA course material.

The ratio of the golden mean is 1 to 1.618.

The Fibonacci sequence goes something like this

0/1 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 5- 8 – 13 – 21 – 34 – 55 – 89 – 144……and so on, and so on.

You’ll usually find the golden ratio depicted as a single large rectangle formed by a square and another rectangle. What’s unique about this is that you can repeat the sequence infinitely and perfectly within each section. emptyeasel.com

Fibonacci spiral against the Golden Rectangle

Here is a diagram depicting the Fibonacci spiral on top of a Golden Rectangle.

The Fibonacci Spiral is commonly found in nature from the spirals seen in certain fruit to the spiral shape of galaxies and because of this it is also known as the divine ratio as some believe it is the finger print of the creator.

The Golden Ratio in Art

In the Renaissance period the golden ratio was known as the Divine Proportion was used by artists such as Leonardo Divinci. ‘All the key dimensions of the room, the table and ornamental shields in Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” were based on the Golden Ratio.’ www.goldennumber.net.

Other Renaissance artists who used the Divine Proportion were Michelangelo in his painting of “The Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Raphael in the ‘School of Athens’ and Botticelli in the ‘Birth of Jesus’. Coincidentally the canvas of  ‘the Birth of Jesus’ was also of ‘Golden’ proportions.

It is said that art based on the Golden rectangle is more attractive to the eye but it is not known why. All squares and rectangles but especially the those based on the Golden Rectangle contain areas inside where things become the most appealing. Those points are seen below and are called the eyes of the rectangle.

Eyes of the Rectangle

The Rule of Thirds in Landscape

Before starting the Drawing 1 Course I had never heard of the ‘Rule of Thirds’ but once I had I used it for a lot of still lifes and sketching outdoors. The rule of thirds is used to get a more balanced but natural looking composition. This is done by slitting the canvas or other support into thirds by way of a grid and then placing the objects of interest, maybe a farmhouse and fence or tree on a hill in the position where to lines cross.

In the diagram below the rule of thirds is seen in blue vs a grid based on the Golden Ratio in red.

Rule of Thirds vs Golden Section

Seurat-Bridge of Courbevoie

George Seurat is thought to have used Golden Mean in at least a third of his paintings. In the painting above you can see how the sale and the far bank of the river sit against the lines of the grid constructed of Golden Proportions. On the other hand when I look at paintings by Claude Monet it seems that he uses the rule of thirds in most of his landscapes here you can imagine the second tree from the right and the surface of the grass sitting on the grid lines.

Claude Monet – The Parc Monceau

Bibliography

emptyeasel.com

# Expressive Landscape 2 – Creating Mood and Atmosphere

For this exercise I wanted to create a completely new painting from one of the photos I took while up in Chiang Rai rather than re-work one of my existing paintings. I had made several sketches while in the northern province but there was a couple of photos that I thought would be good for this exercise taking into consideration the different artists I had looked at in the research point for this project.

1 Dark Landscape

The first drawing in water-soluble oil pastels in my sketchbook was a sketch looking onto to the mountain range where my girlfriend’s village is located. What I tried to do here was to try and draw something using similar colours to van Gogh’s darkest paintings such as ‘the Sower’ but from memory rather than look at his works. What messed it up was trying to draw the clouds using the dark tones, the original photograph was taken in the afternoon with a blue sky and white clouds.

2 Surrealist Landscape

This second sketch was drawn from the same photograph but this time I attempted to create a more surrealistic feel by lightening the sky and creating a more early evening feel to the drawing. The long shadows in the early evening reflecting the work of two of the artists I covered in the research point, Dali and de Chrico.

2 Inspired by Paul Nash

This third sketch was drawn not from the photograph but from the sketch above. There are slight differences but these were made deliberately  for the colours that I were using softer colours softer edges. The colours that I used here were supposed to be a nod to the ‘Wire 1918’ by Paul Nash. Again this turned out to be a surrealist style landscape and both would look great developed into a painting. However, I don’t know what type of mood or atmosphere I would be trying to create here.

One other thing about these last two drawings that I took into consideration was the effect made by the dimples in the paper, which can’t really be seen here in these photographs but it would be time consuming to try and recreate that with a pointillism technique.

4 Bamboo in Sketchbook

I went on to look at developing a different scene, a close section landscape. This landscape with bamboo trees on either side reminded me of several paintings in Vincent’s Trees, such as Avenue of Poplars at Sunset pg. 49 and Couple Walking Between Rows of Poplars pg. 24.

5 Expressive Bamboo with Sunlight in Large Sketchbok

The photo was taken early evening and this first drawing in my large sketchbook captures that time of the day with the sun shining through the trees on that sunny day when I took the photo. It’s a nice bright drawing but i wanted it darker, my idea was to use similar colours to what van Gogh used in several of his paintings Prussian Blue and Lemon, juxtaposing them side by side.

6 Bamboo at Dusk

So in this next drawing I went darker, I didn’t have prussian blue in the oil pastels but I did have navy and purple which gave me an idea of how they would look. I changed the sky to yellow and orange which changed the feeling of the painting and also the time of day as this change of colours made it feel later.

These last two drawings made my mind up for me to which of these scenes I would be painting but I still wasn’t sure which colours or what kind of mood I wanted to depict.

Showing these two drawings to my students in class I asked them which of the two they preferred, all apart from one student said the second one. When I asked that one student why he preferred the first one, he pointed to the second drawing and said I wouldn’t walk down there. to which I said ‘The second one it is then’.

The Final Painting

In the sketches above I had basically experimented with colours rather than techniques, scribbling the leaves of the trees in, dragging the pastels up and down the paper. I had no idea how I would depict this in the final painting. I had no ideas what would work or if I could make my painting anything like the sketches above or if I wanted to keep it the same.

Influence from other artists

7 Preparing the Background

I had some ideas of what techniques I were going to use in the painting, for the leaves of the leaves of the trees etc. I wasn’t even sure if the colours would work in the developed painting. What I decided to do was to throw my hat to the wind and let the painting take on a mind of it’s own, letting any influence from other artists take over in the different parts of the painting.

I started of with a van Gogh sun, lemon yellow on a darker yellow background moving out from the sun in circles.

8 Painting the Leaves

The next choice I had was whether to paint the leaves first or the bamboo first, I settled on working on the leaves or at least making a start on them as it would be more difficult to paint them afterwards. At this stage I also started to lighten up the sky so that the leaves would stand out more. I made a start on the bamboo, to see what it would look like over the top of the leaves.

9 Creating Perspective

At this stage I was just practising the long strokes of the brush and seeing which brushes were better for the job and to also see if the leaves looked anything like bamboo leaves. After a while I wasn’t too bothered about that.

I actually thought about making the leaves more dense or even painting them in van Gogh style with heavy swirls layered on top of each other.

I must admit that the bamboo did actually look like bamboo at this stage, that was to change.

10 Working on the Trees

From here I began to layer the colour on running my brush up and down the bamboo poles and also painting in the shadows. It’s a good job I hadn’t kept the lemon sun in the background as the shadows suggested the sunshine was coming in from a different direction.

The Prussian blue over the yellow turned to green so that was something I had to work on with more layers and that was probably the turning point. It now started to look more like a thick forest than a bamboo lined trail.

11 Photo taken on my tablet

At the next stage painting in layers of Purple and Prussian blue with Lemon to add light it actually started to look like the style of van Gogh.

I had the crazy idea to add leaves to the bottom of the bamboo on the right, applying the paint with the end of a pencil, it seemed like a good idea at the time but I was hoping for too much thinking that it would give me perfect hexagon shapes and it didn’t. What it did do though was give the painting texture.

The leaves were too dark so I begun to lighten them up with yellow and red which gave me the same tones as the leaves of the trees above. As I did this I realised that I had created a really nice 3D texture rather like that of Max Ernst and the mood of the painting was changing rapidly. It was becoming more of an enchanted, cartoon-like forest rather than a scary, dark path between bamboo trees and I was willing to roll with that as I liked what it was turning into.

11 Finished Painting

I begun to add more texture to it the path was too smooth, nothing like pebbles and so I painted over the whole thing with Prussian blue then going back over it with mixes of blue and purple and lemon and white for the light patches.

Then with a small detail brush I patiently began building up the layers of the hair like bushy grass with up strokes of blue, yellow and red, letting the colours blend together in the same way I did with the leaves above.

If I was describe the finished painting I would sum it up as unnatural, maybe even surreal. As the painting neared the end it was like I could see both the influence of Max Ernst and van Gogh coming together on the canvas and so I went with it.

Thoughts on the Finished Painting

• The finished painting turned out to be nothing like the studies, in a way I wish it had but it doesn’t have to be the end of it, I still have them and I can use them again later.
• The colours in the painting go together well but I did intend it to be darker.
• I was hoping the painting would feel more natural but I like the overall feeling of it so I am not going to change anything. I did try painting leaves down the side of the trees but they didn’t look right.
• There are definite signs of influence from 2 or more of the artists I looked at in the research point.
• If I was to do it again I would paint it quicker with more random brushstrokes for a more natural feeling.

# Expressive Landscape 1 – Research Point

I had recently made quite a few sketches and taken rather a lot of photos on my New Year’s trip to my girlfriend’s home town. I have already developed two of the sketches into paintings for the previous exercises and I wasn’t sure whether or not to work from those paintings on the upcoming Mood and Atmosphere exercise or to start a fresh. The best way to make this decision was to look at some artists and their expressive landscapes and to get some ideas of how I could go about the exercise and which of the sketches, paintings or even photographs would be best to develop into an expressive landscape.

I started with the surrealist painters two of which I was very familiar with, Dali and Ernst and one who’s paintings I had seen before but whose name was new to me, de Chirico.

I’ve always liked Dali and I’ve examined most of his paintings very thoroughly but the two paintings here are two that I have previously overlooked. The one here ‘Geological Destiny’ (page 37, Dali by Gilles Neret) shows a horse in the process of metamorphosing into a rock on a smooth almost glacier-like plane with mountains in the distance and a solitary figure who looks to be walking in the direction of a giant rock. The long shadows and the colour of the light, tells me it’s nearing the evening rather than morning and the whole painting makes me feel vulnerable, out in the open with no shelter.

Like most of Dali’s paintings, there are no apparent brush strokes at least not from the photograph.

Salvador Dali – Paranoiac Critical Solitude

The reason this painting Paranoiac-Critical Solitude is included in this research point is that it seems to be a nod to Max Ernst, appearing t have some very similar textures incorporated into Dali’s own surrealist style.

Max Ernst

Max Ernst The Forest 1927-1928

Like most of his paintings, in The Forest Max Ernst uses really strong almost wire like texture. This texture with the dark tones and height and close-togetherness of the trees he creates a stressful, claustrophobic atmosphere. I imagine that this is a painting where he has taken what he has learnt from frottage and used it here, unless he has been somehow able to transfer the information to the canvas before working on it.

Max Ernst Antipodes of Landscape

I can imagine Antipodes of Landscape to be the view that I get when I’ve finally made it out or above the Forest, a moment of bliss before you realise you’re in another strange land with prominent pipe like ridges pronounced by yellow light. A Rottweiler keeps guard laid down head upright with pricked up ears, probably relating to his time interned in Nazi Germany.

Paul Nash

Paul Nash – Wire 1918

Of the paintings I looked at of Paul Nash ‘Wire 1918’ was the one that really stood out as it was one that I could get ideas from for the type of scenery I was painting in Chiang Rai. Could I kill a tropical scenery into a ‘Killing Field’? What I liked about this was the way he uses the different grey tones with other lighter colours like rose to depict a cold, wet, post battle scene.

Gustave Moreau

Gustave Moreau and the Eternal Feminine

This painting, ‘the Eternal Feminine’ by Gustave Moreau reminded me of two different Dali paintings. The rock behind the ship, The Great Masturbator while the sail and the mast of the ship reminded me ‘Soft Construction with Boiled Beans.

Don’t ask me how I got there. They are very different from the mystical scene of Sirens calling a boat in to the alcove. The darker tones in the bottom right corner looks like the crew members maybe getting into some trouble.

Emil Nolde

Emil Nolde – Lake Lucerne, 1930

I had never heard of Emil Nolde before but this painting has a lot similarities to my painting in the Hard or Soft Landscape exercise with the feathery texture of the landscape, the lake and the light coming through the clouds. Only he takes what we both had and turned it into something magical, less colour but more light manipulation.

Graham Sutherland

Graham Sutherland – Western Hills

This painting by Graham Sutherland has again a style that could be used to paint the small but steep mountains of Chiang Rai. The patch work hills almost look like paddy fields with the subtle light from the low sun giving them an exotic feel. I really love the way he played with the light here with the warm tones of the sunspot.

Leon Bakst

A Romantic and idealized landscape design for Daphnis and Chloe

A Romantic and idealized landscape design for Daphnis and Chloe by Leon Bankst was the only painting of his that really caught my eye. Not really my kind or paintings, although I like the way he depicts the aerial perspective in this painting and you could imagine it would be really great as back drop on stage.

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt Garden Path with Chickens

This painting looks better on page 79 of Klimt by Gilles Neret. There were often bright days in England where light bounced off too many objects for my eyes to take in. This painting reminds me of one of those days. The amount of detail that has gone into the individual flowers, each one with its own dark outline shows how long it took and how large the original painting must have been. Too be honest I looked at this painting a few times before and I never stopped to notice the dark objects were chickens even though they really stood out against the light coloured path. A brilliant use of colour and contrast.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo Roots

Thailand is in one of it’s worst droughts ever at the moment and this painting, Roots by Frida Kahlo depicts that perfectly. It is said that Frida Kahlo’s paintings weren’t surrealist paintings but paintings that depicted her agony and disability. I can’t sense her agony here but it does make me feel uncomfortable.

de Chirico

Piazza d Italia – de Chirico

I’ve always liked the paintings of de Chrico with his white walled Mediterranean buildings, long shadows and burning sun that you never see that with the cloud on the horizon. He manages to create a great sense of distance in his paintings with very few obstacles.

van Gogh

van Gogh Wheat Field with Cypresses

It wouldn’t be right not to include at least one of van Gogh’s paintings. van Gogh was a master of expressing his inner emotions in his paintings and in Wheat Field with Cypresses there’s something there. You can’t quite put your finger on it but with the wild clouds and whipping leaves and branches of the trees and bushes you get a sense of frustration or anger or at least hyperactivity.

# Perspective 2 – Aerial Perspective

Albrecht Durer – View of Trente -1494

Albrecht Durer’s View of Trente, 1494 (watercolour with gouache on paper) is a good example of aerial perspective. Unlike some of his other paintings the fade out of the mountains in the background is a bit More subtle. Being up by the Meekong River examining this painting was helpful as it is  relevant to the scenes that I was sketching.

1 Meekong River facing laos

These two sketches were part of a series of sketches that I made up in Chiang Khong and one of three charcoal sketches drawn by the Meekong river on the border of Laos and Thailand. This one here show a lot of promise, I especially like the way the trees accidentally turned out to look like two dogs playing but there isn’t much of a fade out in the mountains in the background, which would be better for this exercise.

2 Meekong Facing Down River

This sketch, although drawn on the same morning and not long after the last one one looks a bit more mysterious, probably because the way I drew the mountains in the background makes it look misty. This was the main reason why I chose to develop this for the final painting. I was hopefully that the photos that I took while I was up there would help me with the colours of the trees and the sky as there were no photos taken of this actual area.

3 Final Painting First Sitting

Like the finished piece in the Hard or Soft Landscape exercise I finished this one up in back in my apartment in Bangkok. After the first sitting it started to look very different to the sketch. The horizon was the same height and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it looked different, not realising that it was because the trees and mountains on the left weren’t as deep.

This wasn’t a problem for me and it actually .gave the scene more height and distance so I continued to let it take on a life of it’s own.

4 Finished Painting

By the time I got the sky and the detail of the trees painted, it began to look even better than I expected. Painting thin washes of blue and white at the bottom of the trees helped me to depict mist on both sides of the river and I used the same scrumbling technique as I did in the Hard or Soft Landscape painting for the sky. Painting the clowds horizontally looked like they were (I think) lifting up in layers from the mist in the distance.

I’m not sure if I did a good job painting the mangroves in the foreground and I did go a bit wild with the solitary tree bottom right but the idea was to give them a lot of colour compared to the mountains and trees fading out in the background.

# Perspective 1 – Linear Perspective

Canaletto – The Grand Canal with S Simeone Piccolo

When I think of think of linear perspective in an urban landscape I think of Canaletto and his paintings of Venice and his wonderful interpretations of the canal systems and architecture.

They used to call Bangkok the Venice of Southeast Asia due to the network of canals  in and around the city, most of which have been closed off and made into open sewers. One of these canals is situated behind the Temple school where I teach and so to start this exercise I did  rather lengthy study of the canal and the buildings around it,

Bangkok

Canal Behind Debsirin School

1 Behind Debsirin School – Watercolour

This was the first and probably the best study in this exercise completed from life and in one sitting. I put it together in pieces like a jigsaw drawing the main lines and filling in the details one part at a time rather than drawing the lines of the whole thing first. The plants, bridge  and the outhouse at the end of the canal give the painting a lot of depth and it is very much a finished watercolour painting. It would have also been good to paint using really thin washes of acrylic using them as a watercolour medium something I haven’t tried yet.

Wat Makut Temple

2 Wat Makut Temple – Watercolour and Pen

Continuing with watercolour I went onto make this sketch over two pages in my Moleskine sketchbook of Wat Makut Temple at lunchtime.

This time I completed the expressive outline in Rotring drawing pen before ‘colouring in’ in watercolour. Usually on this style of urban sketching I would lock the sketch in first in pencil before going over in pen but this time I hgave up on the pencil after a couple of lines and completed the rest in pen making it a bit more expressive.

It wasn’t bad and is probably something I would like to develop in the future. However, it would have been better if I had used the book length ways capturing a cropped version scene of both sides of the temple as there are nice buildings on all sides here.

Koh Larn

3 Koh Lan Street in Pencil

I loooked all over Koh larn Island for a place where I could sit down undisturbed and spend time sketching without being bothered or being burnt to a crisp. It turned out that the best spot to sketch for this exercise was right near our hotel/guest house where there was a small passage way in between a resort and some traditional Thai island houses that lead down to the beach.

4 Koh Lan in Pen and Watercolour

Here I managed to sit under the corner of a canopy and look down the passageway from the road. The first sketch I made was in charcoal pencil, the second in pen and watercolour. The reason for the two sketches was to see how similar the perspective of the two quick sketches would be, if there weren’t that much difference then I would look at developing these into a painting with the information I had.

The Final Painting

Torn between the Canal at the back of the temple and the scene on Koh Larn I decided to go for developing the scene on Koh Larn to capture the memory, with it being my last year living in Thailand.

5 Painting the Outline

I started by drawing in the outline by dipping the handle end of the paint brush in a slightly watered down mix of primary blue, hopefully this gave me the same kind of control as drawing with a stick, nice and stiff but not too precise.

6 Applying the Washes

From there I applied a thin watered down mix of watered down blue fading into the white of the support for the sky and then began to apply thin washes of blue for the buildings.

7 Trying a New Technique

The brief for this exercise said that ‘the use of line by drawing with a brush or a drawing medium will be more important than your use of colour and tonal contrast’ but I wanted to use this opportunity to practice a new technique. I don’t know what it’s called or if there’s a name for it but I worked in the paint on the wall of the building in a criss-cross motion working the thin layers of red, blue and burnt Umber on top of each other.

8 Half Way Point

After painting the grass and the sand I carried  on working on the lines of the side of the shop and the wooden panels of the Thai houses with a small flat brush before moving onto the resort side of the passageway and the most difficult part, the wooden fence above the wall.

9 Finished Painting

The two sides of the passageway depict a contrast between the traditional lifestyle that the Thais lead and holiday island lifestyle of the visiting holidaymakers and travellers and I was hoping to show that clearly here.

The finished painting is not how I imagined it would turn out. The perspective is good but I imagined it looser and more fluid rather than tight and precise like it turned out. This was due to the left hand side of the painting being quite technical and I would have probably been better choosing a street or passageway with Thai houses on both sides as I like the way the wood on the Thai houses turned out.

The wall on the building on the right remind me of the early paintings of contemporary artist who paints on rusty old aluminium panels, the difference being my finished painting is a bit too clean. Maybe this is because the wall on the right is too clean, would it be better to mark it up in someway?

# Assignment 3 – Self Portrait – Painting

Study in Oil Pastels

First Attempt

As I said in previous post, Assignment 3 – Research, I would attempt to reproduce a similar style to that of Nikos Gyftakis, the study I produced actually reminded me of the works of Genn Brown. I wasn’t sure of the techniques, either artist used to create their paintings. I thought about a couple of techniques but I wasn’t certain if they would, one was adding the paint in different hues to get the swirling effect and to keep going at it until I was satisfied, the other was to add different hues to the same wide brush adding the different colours at the same time to create the swirling effect, I chose the first technique. I now regret not researching the techniques that they used.

I worked from both the study and a photo, (reversed) that I took of myself at the time, I first drew the outline in paint and then blocked in the base colours as a reference, I then began to work on the face. I had bought a heavy gel medium, that I mixed in with the paint to which I added, retarder and flow aid to the water the problem was though the paint was still drying to quick so I couldn’t really work it on the canvas as much as I wanted to.

After an hour the painting wasn’t going as well as I expected and I sat staring at it for a about another hour picking faults with not only the technique I had decided to use but with everything about it, the pose was weak and there was really no kind of feeling to it. I wasn’t happy with the way things were going and I remembered what my replacement tutor at the end of my drawing course said, ‘If you’re nat happy with the drawing, change it!’. And so I did.

2nd Attempt – A new pose a different technique

I searched for videos on YouTube looking for clips of Francoise Neilly at work. I couldn’t find anything only videos by an Artist called Voka. Both artists had very similar finished pieces but Voka used brushes rather than knives and so to see the way he worked was very helpful. The thing with both artists though was that their paintings weren’t lifelike enough for me and the eyes and lips on Francoise Neilly’s painting’s were just too perfect.

The old painting was too straight and too small so this time I wanted my head to be bigger so I could use a wide flat brush as well as a palette knife. I sat in front of the mirror in the bathroom with my camera on a tripod in the sink taking photos while checking to see if I could actually keep my head in the angle of the best photos as painting from life was better for this technique in the earlier stages.

Too start with I needed to paint over the existing portrait so with thick mixes of black, blue and white mixed with a heavy gel I roughly painted in my hat, face and shoulders using both a knife as well as a number 22 flat brush loaded with paint. The knife was more difficult to use than I imagined so eventually I developed my own technique of picking the paint up on the underside of the knife and splatting the paint on the canvas.

Correcting the Pose

This stage took about 25 minutes and when I was satisfied that it was ‘something like’ I covered the rest of the previous portrait with yellow, just u til I could work out what kind of a background I would be doing for this portrait.

The following stages were basically a case of thickening the paint up as well as experimenting with the juxtaposing of colours, both primary and secondary as well as seeing how they looked along side skin tones.

At this stage I stopped working from life and flipped a photo of a very similar pose that I could relate to so I didn’t stray too far from the source. I wasn’t satisfied with the colours I wanted to go a lot darker. The colours in the photos above reminded me of early 90s Shell-suit bottoms. I needed to go a lot darker and I found a great painting to use for a colour reference.

Study in Oil Pastels

70 % Complete

These two portraits are very different Neilly’s is very smooth while mine was very rough especially at this stage but what would help me is the colours she used under the peak of the hat.

Day two and I was still messing around with colours I purchased an opaque red and gold but I still had to layer them on with a palette knife so that the paint below didn’t show through. I added the gold to the hat and face and on the right hand side of the face I painted a thin layer of red over the gold, hoping that this would create the illusion that that side of my face and hat was catching the light from somewhere.

I painted the background in a dull medium grey which catches the light at certain angles so it does look like the light is shining in from the sides.

Conclusion

I am quite happy with the finished piece and have received some good feedback from workmates and friends. I am happy with the piece and that I was dared to try something different. The result was as I expected, a strong but unfinished piece and I’m sure that’s what the viewer would see.

Use of Colour

To me the colours do not take over the piece, the features are still strong and clear and the colours do their job accentuating the light, shade and features of the face.

Technique

I am quite happy with the technique that I used, the research helped and introduced me some really good techniques. I would really like to practice techniques that the other artists in my research used but I’m sure they will be time consuming and so I will have to set aside some time for that.

Conveying Character

There is character here and it’s pretty much the character I wanted to convey, a look of arrogance with the hat tilted to one side.

Mood and Atmosphere

I’m not sure what mood or atmosphere I have depicted here that will be left for the viewer to make up their own mind.

Choice of Background

I think I chose the background wisely with the colours that I used in the portrait, their may have been other options such as using the same technique with darker colours on the background and maybe depicting light coming in from the sides but I could have messed up the feel of the painting.

Finished Piece

# Assignment 3 – A Self Portrait – Research

For this assignment I chose to paint a self portrait, living alone that seemed to be the best bet. The painting was going to be in acrylics on a canvas panel, I wasn’t going to start using oils this far into the course especially on an assignment piece.

To begin with I began some self portrait studies in the medium I had started to like so much, water soluble oil pastels, these can be used wet or dry so I could do some experimenting with them here.

1 – A Nod to A Scanner Darkly

With the first study I wanted to continue playing around with line like I had in Assignment 2. I began by drawing in the outlines in pencil then drawing over strong outlines with a Pentel brush pen before adding detail and tone in water soluble oil pastels, wet for the face and dry for the clothes. I chose my background wisely with light shining in from a window (at school) and a bright orange picture board. I liked the way the light reflected off my head and used this in the study by leaving that part of my head oil pastel free with the line determining the outline of my head.

Up until now apart from the Conveying Character exercise I hadn’t really included any background in a portrait painting. Would I paint one in the final piece? I’m not sure where this would take me but hopefully the following research would help me to determine that. From here I went on to look at self portraits where the artists used line.

Self Portrait with Line

van Gogh – Self Portrait 1989 – Detail

My search for self-portraits with line took me in a different direction, while I was actually looking for famous self-portraits or portraits that had some kind of outline I came across artists who had created whole paintings using line, such as Vincent van Gogh.

In Self-Portrait 1989 (left) van Gogh uses thick brushstrokes to create a serious weathered look to his face and to depict hair and facial hair. The line he uses for the background is equally important, it turns a plain background into a significant part of this painting.

Nikos Gyftakis – Self-portrait 1 – oil pastel on canvas

Nikos Gyftakis, a 33 year old Greek artist, produces some amazing portrait and self-portrait oil paintings where he uses swirls of line to depict depth and contortions in the faces. A number of his portraits include background which he has also used the thick swirls of paint to distort, leaving the viewer to make their own mind up to what is actually in the background.

Self Portrait 1 (right) includes no background whatsoever and the entire canvas is filled up with the face and hands. I love this piece but I have to question, is this technique feasible with acrylic in the short time I have for this assignment? and would it be easy enough to replicate on a smaller canvas?

2 – Peaky Blinder

The next study was a result of this research. Using the same medium I drew myself this time using my hat as a prop using swirls of colour. I kmew I couldn’t replicate the technique perfectly with this medium but I could get some idea as to what the piece would look like in a painting medium such as acrylic or oils.

More Self-Portrait Studies

3 – Fauvism Inspired

Moving away from the window I set myself down so that I had the brightly coloured picture board behind me. Inspired by the research into fauvism in the earlier portrait reserach  I used quite a limited palette of fairly bright colours and carrying on with more experimentation into using line in my portrait I used only vertical line to complete the picture apart from the check on the shirt.

I really liked the way this turned out, it reminded me of not just the fauve painters’ portraits but with the texture of the paper it kind of reminded me of the pointillist portraits as well.

Fauvist Portraits

André Derain – Portrait of Henri Matisse 1905

Researching fauvism I came across the painters I had researched in the earlier research point such as Henri Matisse as well as some new ones. One fauvist portrait I really liked and in a style that would probably suit the study above was a  André Derain’s Portrait of Henri Matisse (1905). I later found out that Derain was the joint founder of Fauvism along side Matisse. His technique in this painting was very crude with what seemed to be a large flat brush and yet parts of the painting could have also been done with a knife. A keyword that I added into my search that took me to an artist that i had never heard of before, palette knife painter Francoise Neilly.

Untitled by Francoise Nielly

I love French palette knife painter Francoise Neilly’s  amazing use of colour and how she uses it not just to depict light and shade but all the features of the face. While searching for a video of her painting I came across another artist named Voka who paints similar portraits but mostly with brushes. The name he uses for his genre of art is spontaneous realism, I’m not sure whether Francoise Neilly would agree it seems like her paintings well thought out.

I looked on the web for amateur artists and students’ work painted in the style of Francoise Neilly and they hadn’t quite managed to pull it off, this made me want to take up the challenge. With the right pose, the right colours and props this style of painting would create a good atmosphere.

4 – Experimenting with Line and Mixed Techniques

I had an idea for my next study but I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. My idea was to complete a self portrait with the dry medium (water soluble oil pastels) and then to work in verticle strips of the portrait with a watercolour brush to see what kind of an effect the water blended pastels had against the dry. A friend said that it looked like water running down a pain of glass but to me something about this painting reminded me of Gerhard Richter’s portraits with the strips of distortions across the face. Although I liked this effect I wasn’t sure how I was going to recreate it with acrylics and so I carried on with my search for portraits using different colour techniques.

Pointillist Portraits

There’s no doubt about it, pointillism is a very time consuming technique I have done a couple of paintings myself using a very crude technique and they took weeks to complete the simplest of paintings so attempting to use it here would slow me right down.

Georges Lemmen – Self-Portrait 1890

However, the oil pastel on the mixed media paper I was using left white spots and did remind me of pointillism and so there was no harm in taking a look at some of the self portraits and portraits by artists using this technique. One of the strongest of these Self Portraits, other than Vincent van Gogh’s 1887 Self-Portrait was this painting by Georges Lemmen where he seems to use layers and layers of dots that are close knit rather than spaced out like the works of Georges Seurat. This seemed to be a quicker, less time consuming method.

Self-Portrait by Chuck Close 2002-2003

Chuck Close

My research into pointillist self portraits took me to a self portrait by an American Artist called Chuck Close, who actyally suffers from face blindness. When I enlarged the image I realised that it wasn’t a pointillist painting at all but what seemed to be a distorted photo-realist painting.

I was lucky to find a photo of Chuck Close at work, In the photo he was working from a photo of himself on a very large canvas and what he seemed to be doing was adding flesh tones into squares that were already painted with an array of colour and swirls to get this distorted effect that looks like he his behind a pane of patterned glass.

Conclusion

From the research above I concluded that I wouldn’t be painting a background in this self-portrait for assignment 3 but I would be relying on a strong technique to give the painting strength.

I really liked the paintings by Francoise Neilly and I wanted to have a go at something similar myself I just wasn’t sure if:

• Using this technique or at least something similar would demonstrate the skills and knowledge that I have acquired through this part of the course.
• Using a knife with acrylics would create the same affects as a knife with oil paint. Maybe I could use both a knife and a wide brush.

2 – Peaky Blinder

I also loved the technique used by Nikos Gyftakis and the way my self-portrait inspired by his paintings turned out. Out of all the new artists I have found so far he was my favourite. The problem as with Francoise Neilly’s technique how possible would it be to create something similar with acrylics.

What I decided to do was to go into this assignment attempting to create a self portrait inspired by Gyftakis paintings butI would have a back up plan just in case it wasn’t working out. Neilly would be my back up plan.

# People in Context 3 – Telling a Story

The brief for this exercise was to create a simple narrative, involving one or two human figures and produce a painting that gives the viewer the clearest idea of what is happening.

I came across a photograph of a monk reading a book and praying in a temple in Ayutthaya which gave me an idea for this painting and also ideas for how I would go about depicting the stone wall inside the temple. To avoid plagiarism I would adapt the scene to my own painting in myself as the monk and also adding a twist to what was going on. I wasn’t sure of how it would turn out but I was focused on what I wanted the end painting to look like the problem was getting there was to be very time consuming.

1 – Trying Colours

The first thing I did was to look at the colours I would use in the painting by drawing the main figure from the already existing photograph just to give me an idea of what colours I would use in the painting. I completed this in water soluble oil pastels, a medium that I had started to use a lot lately.

2 – Background with Dripping Technique

From there I continued to examine the photo to figure out which painting techniques I would use to complete the surroundings. I decided on a dripping technique to start with which would hopefully help me to depict the water stains on the ancient stone walls. As I stated in my previous post I begun this exercise before the ‘A Figure in an Interior’ exercise and so like most of the other exercises I completed it on backing board. I only wish I had painted it on a canvas panel to see how this technique would have turned out on a canvas support.

3 – Backgroud Detail

After first using the dripping technique I begun to define the stones themselves. These were very irregular with all different colours, shade and patterns so I wasn’t to worried about doing a brilliant job. When finished it did look like the wall was catching light shining through a window somewhere but the source wasn’t clear it was the figure in the painting that would help determine where that light source came from. I then went on to do some figure studies…

Figure Studies

4 – First Figure Study

With my camera mounted on a newly purchased but cheap tripod I set the camera up on remote and started to snap photographs of myself sat in my best attempt at the lotus position and the orange monk cloth, that I have used as a prop in a lot of previous exercises during the last two courses, draped over my left shoulder.

5 – Second Figure Study

I already new I was going to paint something in the window to the right of the painting and so I positioned a lamp to the left (my right) and faced in direction of the window in all of the photographs, making simple gestures with my left hand.

6 – Third Figure Study

Looking back at the these three drawings, which to me were really great studies, especially the ‘Shhhh!’ pose in figure 4. I didn’t really need to paint anything else apart from one of these very suggestive figures which had ample information to complete this exercise.

The water soluble oil pastels gave the drawings a really oily effect, which I loved and so I shall be working on larger paintings from these studies, hopefully in oils in some future project.

Painting in the Figures

7 – Painting in The Robes

After choosing one of the studies to work from, the pose with the pointing figure, I began to paint the figure onto the larger painting. So I wouldn’t mess up the already painted background I drew in the figure in the same oil pastels which could be removed by my battery eraser if I made any mistakes. I was to find out that I could actually paint over any section of the wall if I needed to with a thin mix of paint in thin vertical strokes to keep up with the effect of the water stains.

8 – Starting the Figure

With the  basic outline drawn out I began to paint in the robes using a medium paste mixed in with the paint to make them stand out more, then I started to paint in the figure. By this time I was having doubts to how the painting would turn out, the pose I had chosen looked quite weak but I carried on nonetheless.

9 – Painting in the Shadows

After painting in most of the figure I began to work on the shadow and other objects in the painting. Firstly I began to paint as though the floor was a mirror forgetting about distortions that would be caused by the ancient wooden floor. By this time I had already deleted the photo so I couldn’t copy it making the painting quite hard to paint I decided on painting the shadows by puling the brush down in a slight zig zag motion.

10 – Painting in the Second Figure

Once I had most of the reflections painted I set about painting in the second figure. At first I though about painting myself hising in the shadows with a lasso around the vase on floor attempting to pinch it, Then I thought about just a pair of evil eyes in the darkness but after another photo shoot with the girlfriend I decided on painting her standing in the shadows to depict the fight with the temptation that all men of the cloth in all religions must go through.

11 – Correcting the Pose

A this stage I realised the pose I had put myself in as the monk in the painting was just too weak and so resorting to looking athe photos I had taken earlier and the studies to see which would be a better pose I put together a mixture several poses.

Unfortunately then I had to spend a lot of time changing the reflections on the floor to suit the seated figure.

The Finished Painting

The finished painting was very time consuming. over a month with working 7 days and I still think that it is not really a finished piece but more of a study to something that I can can work on later.

My regrets are not working on the solo figures in the study rather than this larger scene as the solo figures were much stronger. The figures in the final piece seem weak, it was a great idea but it needed a lot more time to finish, this maybe something I will continue with but at this time I had to tell myself enough is enough so I can finish this course in time for submission.

12 – Finished Piece

# People in Context 2 – A Figure in an Interior

This was the first exercise of this project, however it was completed after the ‘Telling a Story’ exercise. The reason for me doing this was that the brief for this exercise gave me some interesting ideas and one was to put myself into multiple roles on the same canvas and so I was waiting for a tripod that I ordered.

Then things took a turn while I was doing a photo shoot with the girlfriend for part of the painting I was working on and stumbled upon this almost perfect pose with perfect surroundings and lighting that would help me demonstrate my painting skills and reflect on the previous research point.

At first I fancied painting something with subtle tones along the lines of Gwen John but with this change of circumstances I couldn’t get Hopper out of my brain.

It was late at night and I didn’t want to lose the pose so decided to take a photo and to work from the photo rather from life. The problem was I didn’t want to get back into the habit of producing paintings that were too realistic worrying whether that the painting was as precise as the photograph.

1 First Step – Underpainting

I looked at different techniques that would  help me to overcome this and stumbles across the phrase ‘Underpainting’ the technique itself was one that wasn’t new to me and was already one I had thought about using myself but I just didn’t have a name for it, I do now.

I had completed all previous exercises up to now on either Acrylic/Oil specialist paper or backing board prepared with Gesso. The latter warped a lot and to overcome this I painted the back of the board with a thin layer of paint so it would straighten out, the problem I had then was that paintings stick together when storing them away.  For this painting I decided to push the boat out and buy a canvas panel which are thin enough and light enough to send off for formal assessment.

2 First Step Completed

I prep’d the canvas panel with Gezzo and then a coat of Burnt Umber a colour which I have begun to use more and more of. From there I begun the underpainting process in mizes of Burnt Umber, Mouse Grey and White.

I loved the completed underpainting so much that I actually thought about leaving it in those tones and cleaning it up to give it more sharper detail as a nod to Gillian Carnegie’s paintings but I decided to push on to add colour and detail.

3 Second Step – Adding Colour

With the next step I was too thorough and lost one thing that I really liked about the painting in the first step. Although the floor is made up of square ceramic tiles in the first picture you can see that it looks like floor boarding an effect that I would have liked to have kept but in the third photo it looks like a dull carpet, I would have to come back to this and try and recreate that effect.

The skin tones were quite hard to reproduce here and took several pigments mixed together to depict such as yellow, yellow ochre, orange and rose, at times you can see the individual colours that I layered over the top.

I added most of the detail, such as the light on the curtain (impasto), the face and shadows which were too dark and so the next step was to tone down which i would do by painting over them with thin layers of colour namely pink and yellow mixed with white.

By the now I had also repainted the floor which took almost three hours to get it to how I wanted it too look complete with the reflections from the light on the curtains.

5 Fifth Step – Adding Detail and Props

I could have left it like this but the table was empty and didn’t look natural at all so from here I would add some of the items that were on the unkept table, a bottle of beer, a half empty glass, glue and some screwed up paper.

The bottle and glass were a challenge, I had never painted detail so small, the earlier Chiaroscuro exercises helped with this, particularly modelling the light around the glass.

6 Table Close Up

Finished Painting

My thoughts on the final painting are that overall I thought I had done a pretty good job and it was enhanced by the texture of the canvas panel.

Shadows particularly on the figure are a bit hard, they were any way but they do look a bit harder in the painting, I’m not sure whether I should try and soften the lines up a bit or leave them as they are.

The feet are a bit deformed making them seem smaller, hopefully this wont be a focal point for anyone, I will not continue to mess these up and will leave them as they are,

7 Finished Piece

# People in Context 1 – Research Point – Figures in Interiors

Look at some paintings of figures in interiors from different periods and choose two or three pictures that particularly appeal to you. At least one of these should be from the twentieth or twenty-first century. Consider what you think the artists’ intentions are and look at the technical and creative solutions that they’ve brought to the subject.

Two artists that came straight to mind for this research point are two artists that I have already researched David Hockney and Edward Hopper.

David Hockney

Mr and Mrs. Clark and Percy David Hockney

The relationship between the figures in David Hockney’s paintings are not exactly clear as he separates them leaving you the name of the painting to work this out for yourself.  His subjects especially in his 1970’s paintings were often wealthy, and in Paintings such as Mr and Mrs. Clark and Percy (left) you do get the impression that they are wealthy professionals of some sort.

David Hokney My parents

Linear perspective plays a big part in Hockney’s paintings. The subjects in his more familiar figures in interior paintings were often set in front of a flat back wall with a mat, table or chair painted in perspective to add depth to the painting. As well is this he also painted open doors or a view through a window to create depth.

David Hockney Card Players No1

When you look at the painting card players left you can see that he knew others were also aware of the linear perspective to his paintings. Here he reverses it adding a little confusion for the viewer.

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper Morning Sun (1952)

Edward hopper’s paintings portray the loneliness of life in America at that time, a big country that like Thailand probably had a lot of folk from the country to the city for work, where they knew no one. To get this loneliness across he painted lonely figures in almost empty apartments using cold colours to depict bare walls and it worked.

While browsing through hundreds of paintings for this research pint I came across this Armenian artist who’s approach to painting this subject has really opened my my mind up. Vadim Zanginian paints with wild, wide brushstrokes that don’t allow you to focus on the interior behind the model even though you are well aware of it and the furniture in the room.

John Singer Sargent

The Model Interior with Standing Figure – John Singer Sargent

A similar technique can be seen here in John Singer Sargent’s painting ‘The Model: Interior with Standing Figure’. This is probably one of the most beautiful paintings I have come across this year. At first glance I saw a wonderfully clear figure standing in front of a sketchy background with beautiful tones as I enlarged it I could see it was almost a tonal study, painted quite quickly or so it seems but very effective.

Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard – Model in Backlight

In the painting ‘Pierre Bonnard – Model in Backlight’ (left). The foreground and the model are solid but as you move towards the background the swirls of colour separated  by white spaces force you to see light shining through a window or patio door covered by a net curtain.