Part 4 review of work

Here is a gallery of my final tondi

I’m pleased with how I managed to make an inventive, eye-catching painting from a pile of laundry, and with the range of pattern and mark within the Laundry tondo.  If I were to develop this further for the Assignment piece I’d continue to explore mark and pattern, looking in particular at Virginia Verran’s tondi.  My Interior painting has an imaginative and vibrant touch, and if I were to paint more following this I’d explore ways of loosening my use of the media and trying to suggest more of an atmosphere (Jacquie Utley). The Scissors tondo stands out for me.  From not very successful beginnings it is spare and elegant and I managed to achieve a sense of meaningful light and depth in the scene.

I looked at a diverse range of artists who paint tondi, and/or the domestic interior, and adopted some of their ideas and approaches into my work (noted in my log for the exercises as I’ve gone along).  A major influence was my visit to Saltaire and the David Hockney exhibition at Salts Mill, an affirmation in the joy of colour and play!  Colour and light motivate me and I like trying to express what I think about what I see by using distortion, exaggeration, fragmentation, pattern and marks.

In general I think I’ve improved my design and compositional skills in Part 4 by experimenting with a completely new format, because it’s forced me to think about composition in a different way (now I see my paintings all together in the gallery above though, I do notice there’s an – unintentional – preponderance of high and bird’s eye viewpoints, something I wasn’t aware of when making the work).   I started by taking a series of photos of ordinary, everyday objects around my home.  This was a good exercise in observation in itself as it taught me to see the potential for a rich source of subject matter to be found in looking at the overlooked – supported by my research into contemporary artists like Tori Day and Annabel Dover.

I chose watercolour as my preferred medium to work with in greater depth.  I’ve enjoyed using watercolour in the course so far; painting thin and small in Part 1; in Part 2 painting on ice and with coffee; in Part 3 making watercolour monotypes. It feels very ‘immediate’ in use, needing only water, paper and a brush, which I like.   For Part 4 I concentrated on watercolour while at the same time experimenting with bringing other media (gouache, ink, acrylic) into play, as well as pastels and collage combined with traditional watercolour.

In Part 5 I’d like to continue with watercolour (subject to it being workable in the hot dry summer months), and to continue to experiment with ways of combining it with other media.  Watercolour can be both loose and fluid, producing an ephemeral feel, and it can be used in quite a concentrated way to produce rich, intense passages. I’d lıke to exploit these qualities by making a series of loose, thin paintings; and then adding more vibrant touches with more concentrated watercolour pigment, and alternatively by adding gestural marks, pattern and texture with other media.


Watercolour medium – notes

The first Part 4 exercise was a technical learning curve.  My tondo surfaces were fairly large and the first challenge was to learn how to successfully stretch the paper.  The first few attempts were unsuccessful, and I went back to research techniques a bit further.  The breakthrough was to wet the board as well as the paper; and not to over-wet the tape.  After that, and with a few more tips and tricks, I finally learned to get a successful support to work on.

I read the advice for watercolour media in the course manual carefully and kept it in mind while working on my paintings.  The most important were leaving a lot of white space; not creating darks too soon; and finishing early.  Knowing I’d be able to develop the paintings further in exercise 4.4 helped me not to overwork my first five tondos.

I explored ways of creating texture in watercolour and tried to apply these in my Scissors tondo.  Results were not entirely satisfactory as the background textures were too strident and distracting.

Masking fluid was another area of frustration.  After struggling to remove it from my dry painting I learned the paper must be completely dry before applying it, and that it shouldn’t be left on too long.

My old stock of Schminke artists watercolour pans are good quality but the W&N tubes were somewhat dried out and had to be cut into.  It’s good to have artist quality watercolour paint with their high pigment concentration – I was able to get good strong colour washes without having to build up too many layers.

For exercise 4.3 I painted with instant coffee diluted to various strengths, loosely applied with a pipette, blown with a straw and tipped to create runs, and a limited watercolour palette applied with a big mop brush and  lifted with sponges.  I enjoyed the fluid  process, and the mix of hard and soft edges created by it.  My experiment adding varnish didn’t seem to add much and if anything detracted from the result – perhaps I missed the point here.

By contrast the coloured pencil drawings are tight and a bit twee.  The media is slow to build up, hence my choice of smaller format; and I approached the exercise in too conventional a way.  Next time I use them I would try to be more creative and gestural.

My favourite exercise was the fourth one because here I broadened my approach and started to add other media to the tondi, including enamel, gouache, pastel pencils, soft pastels, oil pastels, collage, inktense crayons, water-soluble crayons and watercolour pencil.  I struggled a bit to overcome a reluctance to ‘spoil’ what I’d previously done, and to envisage what changes would add to the already ‘complete’ paintings successfully, but in all five cases the final outcomes are an improvement on the initial tondi, and were fun to do.


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