Paint Box

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Take Two Influences (6 Hours)

The first studio task has been, how shall I say...a challenge. I’ve always found it difficult working to a brief and I suppose when you start something new you want to make a good impression, which added to the ‘pressure’. Then I remembered ‘be playful’ and stopped giving myself a hard, Isa Silva and Gerhard Richter were my inspirations, paint my medium (although I did play with some photography to extend my understanding of colour balance and composition.  I have started  three paintings and completed nothing, although I have reached a happy pause with all them for the purpose of this task. They are not supposed to be a literal response to the artists; I have tried to capture a little awkwardness from Richter and some of the directness of Silva, as well as my own sense of what each figure needs. I have exposed my process in this blog entry, to try and give examples of the stages of work but I must stress that they are incomplete and that this is a difficult thing for me to do. Looking back at the images, there isn’t a stage before now that I wish I had stopped at, which leads me to believe that there is still quite a way to go with each piece.
I started as always with drawing and a yellow wash base to knock back the white. Figure is placed quite high up on the canvas in response to Silva's compositions; drew in two humming birds which I later realised were far too 'Disney'. Additional layering and darker tones to follow, trying to build up the colour and maintain the white. However, desperate for a canvas, I foolishly re-primed a previous painting which results in having a particularly grubby surface. The trace of the previous painting and uneven priming have stunted the flow of the paint and created a thicker surface than I intended. I had trouble with the colour balance in this piece, maybe because I was looking at the bleached out figure and dark background used by Silva. The process of layering and wiping away is always important in my process, however I couldn't achieve the cleanness that I wanted. Also the mouth seemed too full and bloody for the rest of the painting. Adjustments to the chin made through drawn paint lines to give more definition.

The hummingbird in Native American culture, is a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible - also a sense of freedom. Spent sometime painting the bird with linseed mixed in for a smoother finish. Quite pleased with it at this stage but later became clear that though in the planning it seemed like a good idea, this symbol worked against the simplicity of the composition I was trying to recreate from my two influences. Also a seemingly phantom bird has emerged in the bottom left, adding to the hideous grubbiness of the piece. Background darker, bird erased, bloody mouth wiped away. Much happier with the overall look of canvas now, bringing it back to the source inspiration. However, background colour seemed odd, too brown and dirty looking. Had another look at 'Betty' (1977) - Richter; great use of the primary colours so thought I would introduce blue to the background as already had the pink (red) and yellow, and unusually for me the eyes are not blue which seems to have thrown me out a bit. Just experimenting and layering to to develop the surface. Also really put off by the time, so at this stage chose to start another two pieces, to take the pressure off the first. Added my favourite Prussian blue to the background which seemed much better. However, revisited it after a week and decided it looked a little too much like it had come straight out of the tube so added a little white and veridian for softer colour as in collar of 'Ella' (2007). This is better but need to sort out hair, neck and ridiculous nose. I reckon I am halfway there...

To take the pressure off the first, I started a second and third painting which kind of work as a pair. I was interested in the way my influences seem to work in series, either through pieces which belong together, or revisiting the same subject over a period of time. 

First stages, sketching and yellow base. Working on two smaller canvases, not intended to hang together initially but prefer the way they look as a pair.

Layering up skin and hair - unfortunately through desperation had to buy canvas from well known retailer which had a disgusting greasy residue on it, again preventing the application of thin layers. Used a layer of white oil to try to create a layer to work on, had to leave this for a week to dry. Quite like the awkward angels of the heads, although they probably need to be positioned the other way round so they show some sense of belonging together, but distant and disjointed at the same time.

Before leaving them I added some darker areas, with a focus on the eyes, so important in my work and my chosen influences. They are over dilated which I hope references the use of photography, and with more work I hope to draw the viewer in;  slightly Lolita-esque perhaps...although the bleeding mouths at the moment are slightly too vampish.

This is where I leave the pieces as the end of the task, far from finished but a reasonable pause and feel I have captured the expressions I wanted. May have lapsed into 'bad' painting momentarily but quite enjoying the way the newly positioned heads have a balanced curving line which runs, untouched between them.

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