Post second tutorial, it is clear that a similar trend is emerging. I seem to be incapable of expressing the conceptual content in my work, or articulating how I construct my images. So what I need to do is go back to basics and think about how I make decisions about my work. Always having been very aesthetically driven, currently, background and colour decisions are predominantly made for visual balance, looking areas of dark and light, and complimentary colours. I still want to use sweet colours and an underlying presence of red, yellow and blue. Looking at some traditional paintings and then some more contemporary images, I ahve made notes on how they address backgrounds and symbols. I love Hogarth's 'The Graham Children', posed towards the viewer, dark background and with vanitas like symbols - hourglass and scythe - showing death. Also, the cat about to pounce on the caged bird, unsuspecting and already trapped prey. Common decisions seem to be dark and plain to draw attention to the face, landscape and objects creating or suggesting events or narrative.
More recently, artists like Paula Rego and James Ensor have used props and a sense of crowding in their compositions to give context to their figures. I particularly like the way that Rego makes props and draws from constructed scenes to plan her work. Some props are representative of concepts, some play a narrative role. The background can be stuffed with objects, furniture and resemble a domestic room or studio. The way that Ensor has used plain blocks of colour and then integrated masks on the left in 'Self Portrait with Masks' is really simple but also has a quirky element where the innanimate masks seem to be interacting with the artist's paintbrush.
So my challenge from Caroline is to make a painting where all my decisions are made conceptually rather than aesthetially and where the background draws the viewer in, and could possibly almost take over the figure(s).