- Painting so small is not what I do! I’ve always thought bigger paintings have more impact – I still think that’s true, and it’s why we’re asked to group our small paintings into a grid later on- individually at A5 they’re not likely to be significant enough to stand alone. If I’m going to display my small paintings grouped as one larger painting however, it could give an extra expressive dimension to play with. For instance I can tell a story, introduce an element of time etc.
- Another great aspect of painting small – it makes me less precious. I’m not thinking of a big statement picture, I’m thinking small and quick, no need to labour over it, and that helps keep it fresh and alive.
- I enjoyed painting faces and figures, and bold, colourful patterns the most. I enjoy other subjects – still life, natural objects, landscape etc – more if painted in a bold, colourful, semi abstract or pattern way rather than watery or semi realistic.
- I enjoyed all the media I used, whether opaque or transparent; my watercolours were less successful, but I’d like to work on that because I think the media has a lot to offer. I think it’s more a matter of picking the media I feel most complements the subject and which produces the effect I want. I particularly liked the effect of semi glossy spray paint in the background coupled with a mat opaque media (gouache, acrylic). I also really like the stained glass paint – it glows with a luminous transparency. I made my own oil paint by adding grated pastel pigment to oil based varnish, and it worked well, if slightly gritty! The pure varnish work didn’t add much to my work – I feel I’ve missed the point here somehow.
- Some of the paintings took me 1 hour or more, some took 5 mins. Some were done in a more painstaking fashion than others, whether or not the subject was complex. That I find tiring when doing so many paintings. My observation is that my quick, intuitive paintings can be as effective or more effective than the careful, detailed ones, so I’d paint simpler and quicker more often next time.
- I’d like to develop the masks (look at Emile Nolde’s), possibly paint more family photos, develop a series of portraits and/or figures and explore colourful patterns!
- Incorporating the pre-prepared backgrounds in my painting short circuited the process of painting of the image. The ‘splodged’ backgrounds were particularly effective in adding atmosphere and texture to the painting.
- Learning the Ropes, Eric Newby
- A Twelve Thousand Year Old Civilisation, Anatolia
- Bruce Chatwin Photographs and Notebooks
My found images are mainly digital and organised in albums in my own storage, only on this blog if I’ve painted them. A few are on my Pinterest board and I’ve found some Instagram boards with inspiring images which I follow. I have bookmarked some images in a couple of books too; and I’ve also cut out a very few culled from various other printed sources and taped them to a physical board.
Making the backgrounds
Made 20 rectangles of A5 paper, 4 each from different papers, not all watercolour paper but all reasonably smooth and 300gsm or more. Exception was canvas pad which curled up when wetted – but I flattened it under a weight and used it to paint with drying media.
Gathered acrylic, gouache, watercolour, Indian ink, marbling ink, stained glass oil colour.
Paint splodges on three pieces of paper, then paint 2 each entirely black, white etc. Left my 20 backgrounds under a weight overnight to flatten.
Reflections on the individual paintings roughly in the order I made them (I deliberately didn’t set out with a theme in mind; one of my objectives at this stage is to find out what I most enjoy painting) :-
5. Carnet de Voyage 400 gsm smooth wet wc paper – Black acrylic background. Painted American Indian masks using white gouache. I’ve been longing to paint these, and I’ve got lots more images of them! They’re brilliantly made and designed, each one different and imaginative. White on black works well..makes them more scary! The media worked well together.
16. Strathmore mixed media 300gsm – old discard, already painted with blue-grey acrylic, so painted reverse side with background v dilute purple gouache. Paper curled initially but dried perfectly flat. Painted 2 faces using white and black gouache. Chantal Joffe often paints portraits of members of her family in simple, but honest terms – I think I’ve captured something of that feel.. The white reactivated the purple background and gave a greenish grey which I hadn’t anticipated. Didn’t finish ‘painting-in’ as I was happy with the focus on the faces and their expressions, and didn’t want to spoil by over-working. I think the diagonal marks give impact anyway. The pencil lines remaining from my quick under-drawing indicate the exagerrated foreshortening of the child’s arm, torso and leg. I like the effect of monochrome painting on flat coloured background here, incorporating the background colour as tone in the subject.
9. Strathmore mixed media 300gsm. Added white spray paint to lighten tone. Bird painted in white & black gouache. Note spray paint made some areas satin-glossy, giving effect of reflecting water! The outcome reminds me of Tim Gardener’s realistic paintings of the landscape, perhaps because of the blue/grey palette, and the inclusion of water as a major element.
12. Dalbe Aquarelle 300gsm. Very pale burnt umber (Rowney Georgian dried up tube). Not sure why two edges are darker. It’s a v old wc block, maybe to do with sizing. White & black gouache double portrait Influence of Alli Sharma’s monochrome portraits done in thin black oils or ink. I like the black & white portrait against the bronze effect background. Tiny bits of the bronze appear in the portraits. They’re not good likenesses but no matter..the way the skin under the sunglasses is suggested is successful, and their expressions, especially the right hand woman, are convincing and lively.
8. Strathmore mixed media 300gsm – old discard, already painted with blue-grey acrylic, brushstrokes showing. Coloured gouache totem pole painting. I love colour and pattern, but maybe wouldn’t have thought this a subject for painting if I hadn’t looked at Sarah Morris’s work, which is colourful, geometric, carefully painted pattern. Gouache on acrylic worked well again
17. Dalbe Aquarelle 300gsm. V dilute green gouache. Again, dark patches appeared on two areas. This paper is like blotting paper. Painted two turtles in the water, layering with watercolour and some white gouache. Here again the watercolour must have reactivated the gouache underneath, but as the background was an analogous colour, it didn’t muddy the painting. Watercolour worked well with this watery subject.
6. Galeria acrylic pad 300gsm – White acrylic. Painted 2 green doors with watercolour. My approach was to make scribble marks; I’d been looking at the ‘doodles’ of Gia Edzverade. Watercolour is good on white background, unpainted areas shine through as highlights, add light and space.
7. Carnet de Voyage 400gsm smooth wc paper. Zinc white acrylic paint. Masked and added titanium white stripes. (Learned – don’t add masking tape till paint is cured). Painted woman in dark jacket, using indigo watercolour. Annie Kevans influence in the way I painted the face and hands. Faults with the drawing of her right shoulders & upper arm but a successful painting because it’s open, natural and lively. Again, I like the effect of a monochrome painting on a flat coloured background, using the colour as tone in the painting (cuts down on the work too!)
13. Galeria acrylic pad 300gsm – V pale vermillion (Rowney Georgian watercolour) Painting Nestle chocolate label in watercolour. Toirac made paintings of posters advertising Coca Cola, opium perfume, Marlborough cigarettes, making political commentary by subtly altering them. I chose a chocolate wrapper, but only because I like chocolate! White gouache provided highlights to mimic the reflection from the gold embossing. Not very successful painting – I feel too much pale background, and the design not strong enough, also rather uninteresting just to copy a chocolate wrapper!
3. V wet Dalbe Aquarelle 300 gsm. Orange, lm yw and white thinned acrylic background. Painted insects and leaves in watercolour. In choice of subject I was thinking of Mimei Thompson but also the photorealist painter Mark Fairnington. The colours and abstract nature of the background are influenced by looking at the work of Eleanor Moreton and Cecily Brown, but on to that I’ve superimposed a realistic interpretation of the insects photographed chomping at leaves in my garden.
4. Btanyo canvas pad – Black acrylic – support curled so dried with a weight on top. Painted striped pattern from painted planks of wood (a shed?) in acrylic. Ian Davenport’s poured vertical stripes made me feel this was a worthwhile image to paint. Great influences on my colours from the black background, despite using acrylic paint. The tonal contrasts make this painting sing.
18. Btanyo canvas pad – Soft grey pastel, brushed in with v watery brush Paper immediate curled right up, but flattened under a weight. Painted a striped pattern in acrylic. Again the tonal contrasts make this work..but also the complementary contrast of blue juxtaposed with orange, and green with pink.
1. Wet spray Carnet de Voyage 400gsm smooth wc paper. Thinned alizarin and yw ochre wc splodges. Drop ultr blue and white ink in with pipette. Too busy for a background so white spray paint. Watercolour beaded on the glossy surface, so Painted figure in a hat in acrylic. Left the t-shirt as background – worked well. A touch of Elizabeth Peyton in my choice and treatment of the subject, because she’s young, beautiful, maybe a celebrity, and I’ve captured her bored, nonchalant, catwalk gesture. Love the glossy background with the mat, watery acrylic.
20. Strathmore mixed media 300gsm – Orange stained glass oil based paint. Should have thinned with turps. Dries to a mat finish, v quickly. Used turps to clean brush. Painted flowerpot in thin black ink. I liked the strong pattern of the railings and their shadows and reflections in a puddle. The orange paint glows transparently, and the black lines reference the lead in stained glass windows – a good outcome, a quick, fresh painting.
2. Carnet de Voyage 400gsm v wet paper. Background brown, white and blue thinned gouache. Spatter with orange and white thinned acrylic. Painted ‘bomb woman’ in watercolour; the background works well with the subject, and her expression is suitably dazed and fearful, but the painting’s let down by the chin and hairline which are too heavy. The form of the head doesn’t feel right; I’m sure it’s because I painted it with the support horizontal, so got the proportions distorted. Not a good outcome.
19. Btanyo canvas pad – background soft pale yw ochre pastel, brushed in with alcohol, which evaporated before paper could curl much! Painted carved stone face using yacht varnish. The high-gloss marks alter as I move around, reflecting the changing light. Simplistic, not a very interesting outcome
11. Galeria acrylic pad 300gsm – Yacht Varnish background. Couldn’t identify suitable thinner, so varnish is thick and patchy. Painted dock crane in blue household enamel, with imaginary shapes (circle, triangles) to complete my composition. I like the abstract, geometric design, it’s good, balanced and quite interesting. The glossy enamel works well for the subject and treatment.
10. Dalbe Aquarelle 300gsm. Yacht Varnish background. Painted boy’s portrait in yacht varnish mixed with grated brown soft pastel, thinned with turps (successful invention!). Subject and treatment influenced by Toirac’s red wine portraits. Also Annie Kevans’ portraits of dictators as young boys. My portrait is simple and effective, although the varnish background doesn’t add much. The jumper and neck don’t work 100% but overall the portrait is sensitively done.
14. Galeria acrylic pad 300gsm – background thin black India ink. Painted my dad, step mum and dog in ink (black, brown and green) and white gouache. From a poor quality early 1970s photo. Painted realistically, but at the same time painterly (Tim Gardner feeling). It seems to reflect an intense feeling of sadness that grew on me as I worked on it. They’re gone now those souls who were so vital, a real and important part of my life. In the painting they’re looking at me from the past, unreachable, distant, as they were, perhaps, in life too.
15. Galeria acrylic pad 300gsm – thin black India ink (both dried a lot lighter than painted). Painted a woman, in acrylic. Trying to adopt Brian Alfred’s approach to the portrait, I used flat acrylic painted in as few as possible carefully selected and coloured shapes, trying to express the woman’s feelings as best I could. It was surprisingly difficult to achieve a simple result, to match and subtly alter tones of flesh, to find the exact eloquent line or curve, and not to put anything unnecessary in. This painting took the longest time to do. I haven’t captured the full extent of her grief and tears, or achieved as pure and simple an interpretation as I aimed for, but pleased with what I did achieve as a first attempt.