Category Archives: Assignments

Assignment 5; thinking, planning, research

Rough preliminary notes, initial thinking about the Assignment and my personal voice

Think about what I feel most attuned to:

  • Which media would i like to use –  I’m drawn towas water based media in summer heat.
  • Which techniques – I enjoyed monoprinting, would like to develop he processes I discovered in part 3
  • Which subjects, what things, would i like to depict – aspects of my neighbourhood

 Experiment and create a lot of work

Look at my environment with a detached, meticulous eye, as if seeing it for the first time

What am I drawn to…how do i want to focus on my environment – mainly to the people (neighbours) and their lives and our landscape

What do I find visually exciting – people, landscape, found images, objects, textures, plants….

 Make work – could be:-

  • Paintings
  • Drawings
  • Photographs
  • Found images
  • Found objects
  • Text
  • Written 
  • Spoken
  • Video
  • Ink sketches
  • Oil sketches
  • Coloured pencils
  • Felt tips
My collection of work – how will i edit it and display it? (In a cabinet?)
  • Think about using printouts / photocopies as reference for making drawings and paintings
  • Think about depicting life size
Consolidate on work in previous parts
Part 4 – Tondos (eg fisheye lens; coloured pencil (shoes); very fluid paint (Cozens blot technique); adding thicker paint over thin paint; depicting objects from unisual viewpoints so they’re hard to recognise
Part 3 – Quick portraits in fluid ink, Monoprint, Trace monoprint, Paint on fabric, Text – mixing different scales & styles
Part 2 – Painting on metal
Painting on 3d objects, line painting, painting on painted surface, painting with coffee
Part 1 – painting thinly –  some quite successful ones, try to build on these.  Black & white – cropping, assymetry.  Paint quick. Paint quick and upside down.
Later, through my research, talking to my tutor, and reflecting on what I wanted to do, my thoughts developed:-

I’ve been contemplating making a series of portraits of my neighbours.  Partly this was inspired by looking at the work of Christian Boltanski, and researching his ideas and motivations.  I live part-time in a small, self-contained community in the Aegean region of Anatolia,  a region with a history of civilisations stretching back 5,000 years or more, and I have a sense of the continuous dying and re-birth of people over the millenia.  People die and people are born, each one an individual.  They come, grow and are gone very quickly, leaving their name and memory for a short time, but they also form part of a continuous thread of human occupation of the region.

Boltanski ‘collected” portraits of individuals, displaying them together in memorial form, the viewer left to speculate on their identity and stories.  He would have liked to have somehow collected all the people who ever lived and died!  Somehow, my portrait collection has to be focussed, and I’ve chosen to make paintings of those who have died and those who have been born in my neighbourhood in the thirteen years since I’ve been part of the community.

The community has defined me and my life during that time.  Warmly welcomed, I’m still a yabancı, an outsider, arrived here from England in 2004, and living on the outskirts of the community.  Although I speak Turkish, I dont know the strong Aegean dialect, and I will never be a Turk with their shared history and culture.  That has its advantages for me as an artistic anthropologist!  It means I can stand a little apart and observe, see things as if for the first time, appreciate the beauty and the humour, notice the unsightly, value the ordinary.

So I can go out and about with my painting materials and be tolerated by the neighbours for my ‘specialness’, while an actual village female might be thought less of for not fulfilling the normal role expected.  I can venture into their gardens and houses and paint, and be welcomed, fed and watered.  I can paint their portraits, and those of the departed loved ones, and be thanked for my efforts, without any expectations!

The question arises of eventually how to display my group of portraits, and whether there should be similarities for example in composition, colour etc.  Should they be face only portraits, or full body?  Colour or monochrome?  

Some answers (with the input and help of my tutor) 

  • The new children will be painted from life in water based media (some painting will be done in people’s homes and I don’t want the smell of oil based media) in a limited palette (as I’ll be painting quickly, away from the studio, a moving fidgety subject).  I’ll try to make several drawings or paintings of each child of both head and shoulders and full figure in action, and see where that takes me.  I may work on and develop paintings back in the studio, perhaps using gouache, graphite, pastel and charcoal etc.
  • The portraits of those who have ‘gone before’ will be made from photos, using thin oils and a monotype process, in monochrome or limited palette, and, constrained by available source material, will be head and shoulders only.

Ass 5 – neighbours who have died

These are portraits of neighbours who have all died since I have been part of my community.  I knew them and have good memories of them.

The final portraits











Reflection on my process and outcomes

Compare outcomes – did I achieve my aims in bringing out the individual character of each person?  On the whole yes, I did succeed in portraying my neighbours’ characters as I knew them.  Ayşen comes across in the portrait as an uncomplicated, open and cheerful person (I think this is one of the best of the five, her eyes follow you, her expression is one of a simple joy).  Sergül looks vacant; her flat eyes and her broken teeth and the hand on her neck tell part of her story (this is a very effective, moving portrait) ; and Birdal a solid young man, a loner of relatively few words.  Eyüp could have been portrayed with a more obvious twinkle in his eye.  Feride looks calm and venerable.  

I brought a lot of learning and experience from my part 3 portraits to this, using a range of techniques and tools to paint my glass plate, both additive and subtractive methods, and added different media (coloured pencil, oil and water soluble crayons, charcoal and soft pastels, pen and ink, marker pen, watercolour, more oil paint and more monoprinted layers) to each portrait after printing.  I remembered how the oil paint in a monoprint can act as a resist to water based paint layered on top, to produce texture and optically mixed colours, so I was able to use this in a more refined way. Monoprinting in layers was also a technique I developed in part 3 and refined here.

Im happy with my decision to use a uniform size and format; with their wide, decorative borders the paintings become icons, a tribute to the people portrayed (thanks Adrian Eaton for that insight). The colour choices – the planning I did, my reflective thinking while the project was in progress, and the experimental tryouts all helped create a set of five cohesive paintings.

I’m aware the unprimed paper will slowly deteriorate in a few years from the use of oil paint.  I chose not to prime the paper because leaving it raw can give unpredictable, and beautiful results as the paper absorbs the paint so readily.  Also it seemed appropriate to the subject – the idea of people dying and their memory diminishing over time, as the portrait will also slowly dissolve.


What I did

These portraits of neighbours who have died inevitably had to be made from photographic sources.  I collected photos I’d taken years ago, as well as others taken by their families, after I’d explained what I had in mind.  They varied from highly detailed large size images, to a blurred id card photo about an inch square.  In Photoshop, drawing on my learning in part 3,  I was able easily to alter them to a similar size, play a little with positioning,and print flipped versions in colour and black and white.

My intention was to make monoprints of all five, then review and decide whether to add paint to the prints.  I was quite taken with the idea of framing each portrait in a painted border.  This idea came from an exhibition I visited of a series of prints by Munch, The Madonna.  Each version of the black and white portrait is hand painted in colours which echo the colour of a three-sided border.  In the border, there are patterns and shapes painted in line.  Each of my borders, I thought,  might be developed to say something, in images or text, or a simple motif, about the individuality of each of my subjects, things that were important or joyful in their lives.   Robert Priseman frames his paintings of houses, emphasising their precious nature.  Another recent example of borders used to contribute to and elaborate on the image is in William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience – I like how he weaves the tendrils, leaves, birds etc of the border into the image itself.

I sat and thought and reflected on each person, remembering what I knew or thought about them, what was good or beautiful in their lives,  and jotted down a list of words that popped into my mind.  I would try to keep these thoughts in mind and to bring them out in my portraits and in the borders surrounding them.

Ayşen –  beloved child, bread, warm love hold caress help give aşure laugh food water herbs peach green forest  smile laugh lace embroider fish ( motif embroidery) 

Birdal – Bird sky blue sun cool earth flash blue sheen gold bronze flutter honey sound mother   (motif, bird in flight)

Feride – Daughter child Ramadan bayram clean wash water bread all together pray teacher lemon quince honey walnut olive good good hold fast Ramazan Eid (motif olive) neighbour 

Eyup – Walk café village friend road hello! A thousand thanks snake man woman young dance drink merry (snake motif)

Sergül – Walk go search sky road neighbour far away golden sky blue breeze cool free gentle pomegranate field distance girl not-mad mountain water (text, or herbs motif)  gezme ayrıl, ufuk ara, gök mavisi, yol komşu dalgın altın esinti serin hür nazik nar çayır gelin dağlar pınar


Here are the five untouched monoprints and a ghost print.

The image sizes are identical (20x25cm), and the supports are 32.5x30cm to allow for the border, and vary from 40g Kozo, through to 300g card, and from smooth to textured. I used oil paints diluted with turps.  I had some technical challenges; the temperature is high and I’m running a fan, so the paint dried on the plate rather quickly, but I learned to compensate.  I forgot to remove masking tape from the plate before taking some of the prints, so the edges weren’t always sharp and clean.

Thoughts on the untouched individual monoprints

  • Ayşen –  mum of Volkan.  I like the composition, her simple, happy expression, the dark background which I may glaze to a darker tone.  There were a couple of faults in the printing – the registration slipped during  burnishing, so apparently she has two sets of eyebrows and lips – and I forgot to remove the masking tape from my plate before printing, so the edges are ragged – but both these faults can be worked with and if anything add character. Her border will contain motifs of the turkish embroidery she made, and in the bottom left corner a drawing of her son.  
  • Birdal – shot by his own hand by accident while hunting, I didn’t know him all that well.  I may darken the background and tone down the marks I made around his head.  Also darken the hair.  The face is relatively unblended, but I dont want to interfere with it too much as the print is a good likeness and characterisation. The border will contain stylised marks representing the birds he was stalking, who had the last word in the end. 
  • Feride – sweet neighbour, stern mother, a friendly and pious, sometimes cantankerous, old lady.  Printed on matt side of cheap card by mistake (thought it was my mixed media paper).  I like the strong burnt sienna background, echoed in her scarf and features.  Need to add definition to the headscarf and under chin, possibly to face too.  Her border will contain the olives she grew.  Border Artbar, Sharpie.  Portrait Artbar or acrylic paint, marker pen?
  • Eyüp – roguish character, jolly and laughing, wheezing his way to and from the cafe each day.  He was a ‘snake man’ – a villager who’d inherited the skill of extracting venom from both snake and its human victim.  Painted all over my glass plate then brought out the portrait by removing paint.  Printed in a mixture of black, white and burnt umber on textured watercolour paper.  I like the graphic quality. Sucessfully used a cook’s silicone pastry brush to make texture of hair and bristles.  Again forgot to remove masking tape before printing, hence ragged edge, which I’ll try somehow to incorporate into the border.  Border watercolour, pen and ink. Portrait Charcoal, soft pastel, water?
  • Sergül – my late next door neighbour.  The touching thing about this image is the hand of her son – or husband? –  on her neck, steadying her – or controlling? –  as she stood for this tiny id photo to be taken.  By then, she’d lost her mind, to the imprecations of a drunk husband and an untreated illness.  I took a ghost print on 40g kozo.  Her border will contain the fractured words, the images and impressions which I like to imagine may have flitted through her mind as she wandered away o the road for the last time.

I laid the monoprints out together.  Most were faint but lifelike and promising.  I decided all had potential for development – but using what colours and what media; how might I make the five into a family of paintings which could be displayed together cohesively; and what will the borders look like?

Choice of media to use for developing the monoprints – need to take the qualities of the support into account – ie how robust is it; will it take water based media without buckling; does it have tooth to hold dry pastel, etc.

  • Ayşen; 100g Shiramine would buckle with water media; a quick tryout in the corner of the portrait with coloured pencil felt successful, and seemed delicate in keeping with the character of the person.    
  • Birdal – 40g Kozo would buckle; oil pastel felt suited, and potential mark making in keeping with strong marks of the monoprint.
  • Feride – cheap card won’t take much water; would possibly take acrylic paint, maybe marker pens, or Artbar; could monoprint the border – undecided
  • Eyüp – 300g Canson Montvaal fine grain cold pressed wc paper will hold charcoal and soft pastel, both could be used to enhance the graphic quality of the print
  • Sergül – 300g Canson Montvaal fine grain cold pressed wc paper – watercolour is a good choice for the support, and also for the vulnerable character of the person.
How to link the colour palettes of the group of paintings together – Remembering that I would want to display these portraits togetherr, I needed to look at the images as a whole, including their borders.   I made 5 sketches on A6 paper, quickly copying what I’d printed, then started playing with enhancing some of the colours and playing with drawing the borders and designs in coloured pencil.  A colour palette theme of red-brown and blue-green emerged, echoing between the paintings.  The portrait of Birdal seemed problematic until I lightened the tone of his shirt.  I ended with a set of sketches I was happy formed the basis of a cohesive group for my paper museum:-
Adopting Munch’s idea in Madonna I outlined the edges of the 3-sided border of Eyüp in black acrylic marker (freehand, not worrying about imperfect lines).  I liked the hand-drawn look of the line, and I think black will be very effective in highlighting the portrait and drawing the viewer’s eye into the image.  The other portraits will all have similar outlines.
I decided against monoprinting my painted borders, worrying about registration being off.  Instead I made a series of tryouts, below, which helped me to find media suited to the support, and techniques for the effects and colours I wanted to achieve for each of the portraits’ borders.  I arrived at the colours by reflecting on each portrait – for example, I wanted Ayşen’s skin tone to have a gold hue, so I chose to echo that in her border.  
Developing the monoprints 
I chose Ayşen to develop first.  The border went as planned, in yellow ochre and gold Prismacolour colour pencil, then I used that colour and others to develop the portrait.  With light-handed touches of colour a head with three dimensions, and a very alive expression emerged from the monoprint.  The small portrait of her son in the corner is again a nod to the character in the corner of Munch’s Madonna.
Reflecting later, I feel the portrait can still be improved; the background could be darkened around her white headscarf, and her right shoulder looks two-dimensional.  
Leaving it for now I started work on Feride, using Artbar as planned, adding blues and greens (plus minimal water) to the border, and drawing sprigs of olives from observation of a live example in front of me. I like the outcome so far; the colours are fresh, the image retains the looseness of the monoprint.  The area under the mouth could do with a little more modelling later, and maybe the nose too.
Reflecting on Eyüp, the only monochrome print in the series, I’m concious that in the OCA Discuss forum recently Peter Haveland wrote:

‘The problem with mixing colour and monochrome is that unless there is really good artistic reason for it, it breaks the unity of the set. In photography at least each assignment needs to be seen as a cohesive set of images not a group of individual photos.’

With that in mind I added colour; I laid in the border, a red-brown soft pastel brushed in with a little water, then repeated that colour in the lips, eyes and background, also using charcoal and white pastel (sparingly) to define and adjust the portrait.  I’m happy this image will be seen as part of a cohesive set, now it has a third colour to add to the black and white.  The snakes were fun to draw, and they have touches of warm colour too.
Sergül‘s portrait will ultimately still have a pale and vulnerable look, and I thought a light hued border would help, so thick black outlines seemed a bit jarring.  Instead I drew the outlines in blue/green coloured pencil, the added wet in wet blue-green watercolour wash in soft patches (no gouache). Her monoprinted portrait was faint, so I added watercolour, struggling a bit to depict the hand round her neck in a recognisable way.  I put a strong wash of deep red over the background (which I knocked back a bit later), then with a bamboo pen and yellow ink ‘scrawled’ text from my musings above over the border.
I knew very little about Birdal – as a person, so how to develop his portrait was the most difficult of the five to decide about.  I had decided on using oil pastel however, inspired by the background swirly marks.  I lightened his shirt, changing the colour to lilac, echoing Aysen‘s headscarf, and thinking of the lilac haze we often see in our distant view.  Then I darkened the background around the head with shades of dark green, thinking of his last venture into the forest.  The only changes I made to the head were small touches to the eyes and hair.  The portrait was left like that for a few days while I thought where to go next, and made some sketchbook studies of birds in flight, trying to hone them to a few simple lines.  Eventually I painted a border on glass in a deep blue-green, weaving lines into the oil paint with my brush, then printed these on to the paper around the portrait.  To my relief it had a successful outcome, the combination of process, paint and paper combining to produce a beautiful, unpredictable texture.  Finally I painted stylised bird-in-flight lines within the border with a yellow crayon.

Ass 5 – neighbours – who have been born


My portraits of children who have been born while I’ve been in their community have been made in charcoal and watercolour from life, and in indian ink and acrylic ink in the studio.  It’s interesting to compare those made from life to those made in the studio from photos.  Generally, the life studies are more sketchy, fresh and simple, with more visible alterations and changes of pose.  The studio ink portraits vary – the first is fresh and flowing, the next two progressively more carefully developed.  The same applies to the charcoal sketches of Kerem.  Both practises are helped me observe and learn the subjects as I worked, but in different ways.  When I paint portraits in the future I’d definitely do lots of preparation in both ways, live and from photos that I’ve taken.


My first subject is nine year old Beyza, who is physically and mentally a livewire and generally wears tumbling hair and form-showing shorts and t-shirts, so I was keen to draw and paint such a character.  She and her parents agreed to a portrait session in their courtyard.  I took watercolour and A6 paper, and Beyza was produced.  Her hair was brushed and scraped back and she was taken to change into her best frock and told to sit still.  I made the best of the mismatch of ideas and painted three watercolours sketches which I can work with, although there isn’t a very good likeness – but perhaps this doesn’t matter.  It was agreed that next weekend we’d spend the day together at the beach, so my hope was that I get another chance at depicting the ‘real’ Beyza, or how I see her, but this didn’t come to pass.


Later – I keep returning to this watercolour – Beyza in a red dress – it seems an honest and natural piece – reminds me slightly of a Rodin drawing.


Above – not a good likeness at all, she looks older and the features hard, the washes overworked


Above – simple and effective monochrome study, fresh


I was asked back to do some more at her home though; this time the preparations were more relaxed, and I managed to do a 10 minute charcoal sketch which I was pleased with; together with some photos I now have some useful source material, and the process of drawing from life had given me familiarity and an empathy with the person, which I hoped to capture in a larger painting.

Above – a good likeness, an attractive sketch lacking in personality


Annie Kevans painted many portraits of children, notably her Boys (dictators) series  They are made in thin oils on paper, colour is applied with a very light, delicate touch, palette minimal (mainly brown, just a touch of blue in the eyes or red on the lips). The darkest dark is reserved for the eyes (iris/pupil and upper eyelashes) – then the line of the chin, and sometimes the hair.  Other than that the washes are very thin, with hardly any tonal differentiation – this seems to suit the depiction of children, with their clean-sheet-of-paper characters. Kevans’ compositions are uniform – head and shoulders only, full frontal, gazing at the viewer; and they’re displayed in rows of heads.


Kadir and Özgür

My next attempt was two brothers.  The work had to be done in their living room, which was handy as they were sedated by the tv, but not good as the light was failing.  I tried to asopt Annie Kevans’ approach, using understated, limited palette washes for faces and features.  When I looked at my watercolour sketches later I was disappointed to see how hard the edges of my washes were in the second (chubby boy), but in my own defense the light was really poor.  I soaked him in the bath but the washes didn’t soften or lift, so I decided to add news layers instead, and achieved more a feeling of form, but at the expense of the simplicity and freshness I wanted.

Above – simple watercolour washes, the pose hard to decipher


Above, painted in poor light



A newish baby, I made lots of charcoal sketches and one ink one, and thought about proportions.  In this one his head goes into his body only one and a half times.  Childen of all ages have big heads, more so the younger they are.  It’s one of the ways we recognise they’re children and not just tiny adults.  Even though I measured I still drew his head too small.

The next one reminded me that, unlike an adult, the eyes are positioned over half way down the head.  The features generally fit into quite a small space.


In the next one I made the head too big and ran out of space at the bottom, but I’m pleased with the result, it captures his current look and personality well.  I like using the velvety soft willow charcoal, which can be smudged and lifted, applied hard and black or soft and pale, and be very expressive.  In making paintings black ink could be as expressive; if I go that way, the more familiar I am with the subject the better when it comes to floating confident ink washes on to the page.


The ink sketch below (I like the zoomed in composition; there’s a good 3d feel to the sphere of the head) has given me the idea that I could perhaps make a series of large fluid ink or watercolour portraits of the children.  I could do it by carefully layering thin washes to develop the portraits.  But I would really like to aim for portraits made with a few confident, very liquid washes like Marlene Dumas does with beautiful, clear, articulate results.  (Refer back to part 3, here)



More quick charcoal sketches of Kerem made from life: here he looks about seven, instead of six month!


Below – nice, curious expression  – the features aren’t bad, shape of head and body slightly weird.


High viewpoint – I captured the placement of hairline, ears and features reasonably well.  


Good baby expression, nice big head.


Small Birdal

Named after Birdal, his uncle, who features in my series of neighbours who have died, small Birdal represents a link between the two series.  I made an A4 painting, holding a photo in my left hand while painting, just using fluid black ink floated in wet layers on to stretched watercolour paper (Bockingford Satin Grain 300gsm).  I liked this quick, fluid, intuitive process.  It was done in the studio from a photo after having another look at the excellent video Marlene Dumas in the Studio.  Not a bad result, his right ear is too big, mouth slightly too low for his age, and I’m puzzled about the feathering of the ink edges into dry paper.  Later I painted the background out in titanium white acrylic mixed with a little naples yellow, painting out the massive ear and some dirty marks.

Small Birdal


Encouraged by small Birdal I now made ink paintings of Beyza and Kerem on A4 stretched watercolour paper.  This time I let the first overall pale wash, defining the shape of the subject, dry before adding further layers.  The process is still quick and simple, although not so fluid or spontaneous as Birdal.   The ink isn’t flowing on the surface of my support as in the Dumas video, but sinking in quite quickly, limiting my ability to manipulate the washes by tilting, mopping, and pushing them around.




I noticed in Dumas’ work, her portraits are often composed with the face filling the support, with the top of the head cropped.  I had a go at that approach, making a larger charcoal drawing of Özgür on gessoed 300g 34x48cm mixed media paper .  

Özgür, charcoal under drawing


I like this composition, it describes the twisting movement of the head and the cheeky expression of the face, although the tombstone teeth are distracting.  The drawing shows a bit too much my efforts to achieve a likeness, and I decided to semi-obliterate it in order to use it as a kicking off point on which to layer a more fluid painting.  I sprayed the charcoal, first with satin varnish by mistake, then with fixative, and then squeegeed white gesso all over.  Indian ink pooled and beaded on the gesso surface, so I made a paynes greyish mix of acrylic ink, and poured, brushed and dabbed it on to my support, sculpting the head out of dark and light tones of the paint.  After the monochrome painting dried I painted a warm background, then glazed a thin tint of those colours in the light parts of the face.




Özgür, acrylic ink painting over charcoal drawing







Assignment 5 – Research, and displaying family collections

My Part 5 paintings work together to suggest a story of our village.  They could be shown together with ‘objects:decorative and functional’ (see Marie Eastman’s 2011 exhibition  In the village great value is placed on functional as well as decorative objects, whether made from traditional materials or cheap plastic.  Things are repaired.  If someone chucks something out it’s put by the side of the wheelie bin and adopted  by another family.  Really useless stuff is often just carelessly abandoned – an armchair, a mattress left on a piece of unused land – bottles and fag packets chucked on to the verge – fags dropped where they’re finished.

My paintings could be clustered together on walls or just laid on a flat surface – table, shelf etc, as Andrew Mania has in work shown in . Here he shows assemblages of frames propping each other up, with his drawings laid flat underneath them.  Mania recycles found objects, vintage photos and curios in his installations where the setting of each drawing is carefully stage-managed

Nadia Hebson works in painting and installation, appropriating from many sources.  Clothes often feature in her work.

Karen Kilimnik is also described as a painter and installation artist.  On her web site there are images of quite a few of her past exhibitions.  In Chicago 2008 drawings were hung conventionally or propped up against white or black walls, while on the floor scattered in seeming disarray there were found objects, detritus, more drawings, old photos, all quite cluttered, untidy.


This initial research generated many ideas.  I thought about a recent Kilimnik exhibition where each room of a stately home contained the artist’s work.  How could that relate to displaying my own collection?  I thought of the portraits of my neighbours, children and adults; some were related to each other; some of my work for the exercises showed things I had seen in and around their homes.  Perhaps I could display the portraits at the homes of my subjects, together with other works that seemed to have connections.  The idea of an art trail of my small hamlet began to germinate; work could be installed at several homes and / or other locations (indoors or outdoors); the viewer would walk from place to place and see the work in its context (it reminded me of an art trail I had followed in Collioure in the south of France, where Matisse and Derain had produced many of their fauvist artworks; seeing their paintings in the place that inspired them introduced an additional emotional quality to viewing the work).

So this is what I did, and I describe and document the ‘trail’ below.  I embarked on this project not knowing how it would turn out, and at the end of it, looking back, I feel it was successful.  I would definitely do it again, as I believe it gives access to the viewer to art in its own context, and the experience is all the more pleasurable and meaningful for having a walk and a window into another way of life!

Note, no props were used in constructing the displays; all objects were found in situ, and very few were even moved from where they’d been left by their owners.


Before I set off I laid out all of my work for Part 5 at home and arranged together pieces that had strong  connections with each other.  Here are some of the combinations I produced as tryouts, and put together on various backgrounds.

With a toolbox of bits and bobs I’d need to help display my collections, and a portfolio case containing the work, I set off to the two brothers’ home and set up a display in their family courtyard amongst the objects of their day to day life.

Özgür and Kadir collection, with found bench, bowl of dried beans, string of dried red peppers, grill, electricity meter

Actually I didnt really find anything, it was already there, and couldn’t have looked better with my displayed collection if I’d added or taken away anything.

I dismantled and set up again on the family’s chicken-coop fence, using bulldog clips.  The chickens are an important part of the family economy and mealtimes.

Özgür and Kadir collection with found chicken and walnut tree

This display appealed to me more, but is perhaps less easy to view in the light conditions, vulnerable to bird droppings, and probably in the chickens’ way.  The first display is more practical, and less distracting to view perhaps.

I went on to Feride’s daughter’s house and created a display on the wall, framed by two windows.  This is a good, small and elegant display in the relevant context of a peaceful, orderly home.  I’m realising however that the impact of my two series of portraits is being altered by separating them.

Feride collection with windows, flower bed and shade from roof tiles

Following day to Beyza and her late grandfather’s home to install a collection of their portraits outside the house, where Eyüp  used to sit.  Arrived late as the sun was now casting a shadow over half the display area I’d decided on – a rusty barn door, the background to his portrait.  Neighbours gathered for the entertainment and advice re hanging couldn’t be ignored, particularly to hang the Grandad above the portraits of young Beyza.  Eyüp however wouldn’t stick to the door and kept tumbling down, so I had an onlooker prop him up in the rightful hierarchy.

This is the best – I suppose it’s a sort of hybrid art display; painting-cum installation-cum performance art:

Eyüp and Beyza collection with Eyüp’s widow and brother

Changing lighting conditions need to be considered for outdoor display: what works in the early morning may be completely different later on as the sun moves.

On to Kerem’s and his late grandmother’s house where the best choice was to display the collection of their portraits in a corner of the living room, among some family photos.  I also laid out my sketches of Kerem on the floor, with an eye to Andrew Mania’s installations.  Kerem himself is part of the performance.

Ayşen and Kerem collection with family photo, Pampers and plastic flowers

Kerem installation



Next, to Sergül’s erstwhile home with her daughter-in-law, picking a moment when the husband Osman is out.  I arranged my Sergül collection at the front of the house.  I particularly like the arrangement of three landscapes (hedgerows, from exercise 5.3) in the window, and the reflections of the landscape in the upper part of the glass.  In the last photo I’m not keen on the way the paintings are in a row, and I’d probably remove the two below the portrait another time.


I decided not to display a collection at Birdal’s family home, as they were remembering him on the anniversary of his death.  In any case, I felt I’d explored many ideas and gained good experience for different types of display and I now wanted to make a final collection showing the portraits in series in one place.






Ass 5 – the beekeeper’s hut

Having played with my collection of paintings, splitting them up in various combinations in different locations, homes of neighbours, I now thought I would bring the collection together, distill it down to a smaller number of pieces, and display the series of portraits as sets.  A phrase used in the course manual for this project ‘outside the white cube gallery’ chimed with me – I’d photographed a white cube on one of my daily morning walks, a bee-keepers hut.

The hut, surrounded by empty bee hives would make a good setting for displaying my collection of work ‘outside the white cube’ .  Reconnoitring, the best time to photograph the work would be just as the sun came up; there would be light where I wanted it, and as long as I didnt leave it too late I’d be able to photograph the display without my own long cast shadow in the picture.

The final collection I selected included the two series of portraits of the newly born neighbours in ink and of the recently dead neighbours in monotype and mixed media; the set of three wild boar skulls painted in oil on copper; the set of three watercolour hedgerows; and a group of four A6 sketches (chickens, sunflowers, olive grove) made while out on my neighbourhood walks.  I didn’t include the charcoal and the watercolour portraits as although some are successful, they didn’t seem to contribute so naturally to making the display cohesive.  I also left behind many A6 sketches – as curator of this exhibition I didn’t want it to be overcrowded.


I quickly attached the children to individual bee boxes (first two photos below).  I was remembering my research into the art of Christian Boltanski and how he displays portraits attached to stacks of metal boxes.  The shapes and textures of the boxes, and the way they were stacked precariously added to the feeling of life and movement in the children and the temporary, changeable nature of their developing identities.  The baby Kemer seems too far back but I think the perspective is exaggerated in the photo. 


I fixed the ‘gone befores’ to the east-facing side of the cube.  Compared to the children they are shown as part of a static, more permanent structure, grounded in the earth.  The rusty textures of the hut make an interesting backdrop, complementary not distracting, and it’s good to see the whole set displayed together.  My work in making them into a coherent set can now be seen;  apart from having a regular size, shape and borders, colours are repeated from one to the other, drawing them together.

Round the corner, my three hedgerow studies were displayed as a set, the landscape in which they originated forming the background.  I suppose I’d be inclined to frame them in the same colour mat if I did this again, but then again maybe I’m thinking too much inside the white cube!  The sun can now be seen to be rising and strengthening, casting a light on the dry grass which echoes the gold in the middle painting.

The stack of small studies in the next photo look as though they should have a common theme, but they’re only loosely linked – they’re pieces with individual appeal, and it may have been better if I’d displayed them on individual stacks with hindsight.

I moved the Özgür painting to the rusty ladder leaning against the wall of the hut, from its first position hidden around a corner on its own.  The ladder provides an interesting scaffold, and by hanging the piece there both ladder and portrait become integrated more with the installation.  There are metaphoric connections between the ladder as a sturdy workhorse and symbol of physical exertion, and Özgür’s emerging characteristics.

My set of three skull studies were added to the hut but I felt they competed for attention with the portraits there.  Casting around for a better place I noticed a jumble of old honey frames on the ground, underneath my three hedgerow studies.  They reminded me of the Andrew Mania installation here  where paintings are laid on the floor under propped up empty frames.  I laid my three studies at random on the honey frames.  They belonged there well because the pieces of the skeleton were originally found lying on the ground in the margin between forest and garden, where the animal fell, unwanted, unvalued and despised by the villagers.  I had juxtaposed this remnant of the wild pig with a reference to another creature nurtured by the same villagers, highly prized for its honey, propolis and wax.



Ass 5 – My neighbourhood art trail

My family collections and beekeepers hut displays together comprise a neighbourhood art trail, where the viewer walks from place to place to see the work installed in the environment its is of. I thought how I’d set out to depict my neighbours, the stuff of their lives and our shared landscape, how the media I used was influenced by how I saw and what I thought about each subject, as well as the conditions in which I was working and what reference sources I had.

  • Painting portraits of people who’ve already died meant I had to use reference photos, but I also injected into the work my own memories and feelings for each person.  Using a monotype process meant welcoming unpredictable effects which I could then develop after printing, using other media, which I’ve explained in detail in my learning log.
  • Using a fluid, flowing media like ink seemed to allow me to capture the flitting movements and impetuosity of the children.
  • For the wild boar skull, I chose a rich, glowing media and support, oil paint on copper, to help transform a piece of detritus into something precious and to pay tribute to the persecuted animal.
  • The landcape of my neighbourhood is created by water, great rivers and torrents of it flowing through close underground from the mountains to the sea, evidenced on the surface by a green, fertile landscape. Watercolour seemed the right medium in which to paint it.

There are many aspects of my neighbourhood environment yet to be depicted and I’d like to carry this theme through with me into level 2. I’ve been influenced by Boltanski in the way he thinks about and depicts the individual, how people are born, and die in succession and each has a unique identity. His means of display are as much or more the ‘art’ as the pieces themselves, and that appealed to me.  I was also influenced by my research into Richard Wentworth which I wrote about here.  He shows how the details of the ordinary are extraordinary, and worth making art about; his influence led me to incorporate found objects in my displays in a way that may nudge a viewer to look afresh at the mundane.

Here is my final collection – my neighbourhood art trail.


Ass 5 – Reflection

Here I earlier reviewed my work for the exercises, thinking about how I could link it to the Assessment criteria.  Having now completed the final assignment I’m thinking about how well I’ve done against the criteria. 

In The View From the Studio Door, the author Ted Orland talks about the distiction between Creativity and the Creative Process.  Creativity, as in new, different or innovative is not essential, or even common for successful artists he claims…whereas, having command of the creative process is.  This means, the ability to find your own and not someone else’s subjects and materials, and a way of living that enables you to engage repeatedly in the things that matter to you.  

Above all, Orlando writes, being productive is essential to the creative process, as each piece you make carries you down your own path. In the UPM course my productivity has stepped up a gear, and making art has become ever more a part of my daily life,  Instead of a small number of individual set pieces, I’ve made lots of work and many series of work, and each piece I made has carried me along my own path towards making better work and finding my own subjects. By the end of the course I now feel I am making work that honours the things that really matter in my daily life – my neighboirhood community and landscape. 

Setting up my final collection as a neighbourhood trail, incorporating family collections and the beekeeper’s hut was great fun, and showed I can present my work in a coherent and also a creative way.  The Trail wasn’t something I set out to do, rather it came to me through making the work and reflecting on it.  Afterwards, when I was writing up my learning log about the display, I realised retrospectively that it expressed all sorts of facets of my world and how I think about it – my artistic voice emerged in the way I displayed the work as well as in making the work itself.  My personal vision of the world resides somewhere in that work and how it was displayed.

I feel I’ve done reasonably well against the visual skills assessment criteria.  In my assignment work I developed and refined my use of the monotype, and experimented with composition by integrating the portraits with quite strong, innovative borders, giving them a precious icon-like feel.  The work I did on the children’s portraits was a good exercise in observation and painting from life.  I felt my use of ink was quite daring and successful particularly in the Small Birdal portrait – it was a development of my part 3 work, and I’d would like to continue to develop it in the future.

Weaving together in my learning log my work and reflections with my research is now an important part of my practise.  Each helps inform and develop and improve the other.  The work I am making informs the research, and the research feeds into the art work. The essay is also about an important part of my creative process; the subject came from making lots of monotypes, and the reflective process of writing the essay has generated new thoughts and ideas about how I want to develop my work in future.


I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Understanding Painting Media.  It’s opened up to me new ways of thinking about painting, collecting and display and really broadened my horizons and what I now think is possible!