Category Archives: Part 2

Ex 2.1 Unusual painting media

Here are some of the paintings I made for this exercise.  Experimenting with unusual media and using collections of ordinary objects was a great experience.  Together, these two aspects of the exercise led me to make some abstract paintings with elements of representation (and vice versa!); in other words, I felt freed from the need for a painting to be one or the other!

Here’s what I did :

Ice – Paint with ice or on ice.  Experiment with effect of ice, paint and salt

Painting on ice –  painting with time-based outcomes – transition from solid to liquid, from marks and lines drawn to organic shapes  as ice melts. From figurative to abstract.  As the ice melts, multiple variations of the painting form.   Take a print on paper of the painted ice sheet, and take a print on to the ice of a painting on paper, and watch it melt.  Try drawing with inktense, artbar, charcoal and graphite.  Try painting with watercolour, acrylic, gouache.

I froze some sheets of ice in a baking tray lined with cling film.  Also tried lining with bubble wrap for a different surface to paint on.

A thinner sheet broke as I handled it, and I used the two smaller pieces to paint on to.

First this one below, using my swimming costumes image as reference, with watercolour, adding inktense pencil and artbar crayons as it melted.  Greens, blues and yellows seemed suited to the subject as well as to the support

Then this one below; the ice having already melted slightly when I began, watercolour appeared too wishywashy.  I turned to acrylic ink applied with pipette.  Later added inktense crayon, then green ink applied with turkey baster.

I found it mesmerising to observe as the surfaces melted and colours softened, merged, formed bright veins of pigment which followed their own mysterious tracks, perhaps to do with the texture of the cling film impression on the ice.  I actually like the broken, irregular shape of the ice sheets (calling to mind David Dipre’s paintings on broken shards of pottery) and their edges, and I like the pigment-free parts of the ice around the edges.   What a wonderful concept to develop further.  I could see the morphing of the image as the ice melts as a metaphor for change, decay, loss.

Next I used images from a collection of photos I made on the day following a forest fire. I picked up lumps of charcoal, and photographed the charred landscape.  A few weeks afterwards I returned and found green shoots – the landscape was regenerating itself.  Here are some of the photos I took at the scene:-

I had in mind when I took the photos that some day I’d paint a series showing the landscape burnt and regenerating…little did I know I’d be representing my idea on melting ice!  Painting fire (or the results of it) on ice seemed poetic.  As the ice melts, the parched landscape cools, green starts to appear, then flowers, blossom  and more fresh foliage recreate the forest.

The initial painting was done picking up grated, tinted charcoal (picked up at the site of the fire) and graphite with a brush.  As the ice surface started to melt I started grating more black, white and coloured charcoal, graphite, inktense and artbar crayon directly onto the surface.  My image changed, developed until the barren scene had become a blurred, frest, rainy forest.

The photographs here become the work of art.  I would display the prints on a wall as above, showing the transitions and developments from stage to stage.

Painting with ice – I half-froze diluted acrylic ink, acrylic paint, watercolour, gouache, China ink, pastel pigment, in plastic pill organisers, stuck a cocktail stick in as a handle, and put them back to finish freezing.  Prepared some black and some white A3-A4 surfaces, donned some latex gloves, and had my images of collections of cotton reels, pens and socks in front of me.  I extricated the ice cubes from the little containers, and started by holding the cocktail sticks and pushing the cubes around but soon got stuck in with my fingers.  In any case the cocktail sticks came away as the ice melted, so then I stamped and pushed the melting cubes around with my hands.  I mixed colours and media, working fast, responding to the images in front of me, but relinquishing any idea of replicating them…the idea of them was all I could hope for as the ice was melting quickly.  When all the frozen paint had melted away I found that by mixing very liquid pigments and different media, interesting puddles were developing on my uneven surfaces.  As these slowly dried, pigment granulated out producing some beautifully subtle variegated washes.

I liked the feel of the slushy, creamy-textured paint as it melted.  The watery washes are gorgeous, the unpredictable element exciting.  These are the source images for the paintings above


Paul Westcombe paints with coffee, on his brightly coloured coffee cups.  This portrait, of my great grandfather, Walter Percy Cook, from a collection of old family photographs, was made quickly in my sketchbook with instant coffee, which felt like watercolour or ink to use.  I was very pleased by its simplicity and the sepia look;  the painting is not a bad likeness either.  I like the grittiness of undissolved granules here and there.  – I always find it hard not to be seduced by colour, so it’s nice to use a monochrome media.


I struggled more with the great-grandmother, Henrietta Millgate (should have stopped earlier) – this is on rough watercolour paper, showing how the initial painting responded to soaking in water, then with final adjustments.  The faded version in the middle looks pleasingly enigmatic…the memory of a face fading with time perhaps?

Pomegranate juice

Now is the season for pomegranates, so knowing it’s staining quality I squeezed some juice from the seeds of two types; my own fruit yielded a bright carmine pink, and my neighbour’s, a different species, was virtually colourless, although irresistibly sweet tasting.  I made a tryout on watercolour paper, using the carmine coloured juice; pomegranate concentrate; diluted red pepper purée; diluted paprika; and the pale pomegranate juice.  The paprika and purée were lumpy, but could be mixed smooth another time.  The molasses dried sticky and glossy, it has such a high sugar content.  Any of these colours could be painted onto an icing surface, as could coffee, chocolate and food colouring.  I may be making a Christmas cake soon…

However, for now I wanted to try painting my perfume bottles and jewellery collections with the pomegranate juice onto fabric.  I mounted a piece of hand-woven cotton in an embroidery frame and painted it with a pva glue solution first (I thought this would make the fabric less absorbent).  The colour seeped through the threads of the loose weave before it was dry, and lost all intensity.  I tried again with a tighter weave, an old embroidered cotton napkin, without pva this time – this time the colour stayed carmine-pink, although by the time the fabric was dry the objects were quite blurred.  Next I tried polyester cotton shirt fabric. I drew the main objects with coffee and a brush, then added pomegranate to depict strings of beads and to colour the objects.the coffee lines remained sharp and gave the painting definition, while the carmine coloured juice spread and softened.  The result is decorative and delicate, apt for the subjects’ ornamental character.

I’m excited by the circular format (I’ve since found Craig Donald’s installation with a painting similarly mounted in an embroidery frame, here – on black fabric).  It made a refreshing change, and challenged me to search for a different sort of composition (as did the ice shards ground).  The painting is offset well by the black background, but with hindsight may have been a tad better on a deep brown, complementing the deep coffee coloured lines.  Painting on fabric is lovely – I’ve always loved working with fabrics and I like the feel of it in my hands.  There’s much scope for experimentation with ground, media and technique here.

Marble dust, pasta, cloves, chilli seeds – Antoni Tapies mixed various earthy materials into paint… and incorporated objects such as string, cloth, paper.  His paintings grew on me the more I studied them.  There’s a preponderance of subtle earth tones, no bright colour, which I find very attractive, but hard to avoid the siren call of bright colour in my own work (see below!)

I went out and bought a kilo of white marble dust from a local industrial estate.  It turned out to be quite coarse and gritty (I’d like to find or make a finer dust so I can make my own gesso & putty – see recipes at bottom of post), good for creating rough texture or textured relief on my support, when mixed with pva and water (and white acrylic paint) in different proportions.  I applied a fluid mixture onto an old 35x50cm canvas, creating a rough all-over white surface, then applied the same mixture with blue and yellow paint using a palette knife to create circular shapes.  They reminded me of my image of a collection of plates, so I decided at this point to develop the painting using that image as my source of inspiration.



I continued by adding gobs of a very stiff mixture of the marble dust at random over the canvas, creating a 3D relief surface, then pressed paint-tube-rings of dried acrylic paint into the thick paste.  With my palette knife, with some difficulty I made 3D arcs of paste for the rims of plates.  After drawing dark lines and circles – the planks of the table top, and the edges of plates – I remembered some good sketchbook work I did in POP1, involving mixing stuff into paint, so raided the kitchen and mixed chilli seeds, vermicelli, cloves, soup pasta into paint and spread it onto the ‘plates’.  Some of the textures I skimmed over with a contrasting colour to highlight them, creating depth in the valleys.  Work in progress gallery below.

I felt a bit like a builder on a small scale, trowelling on cement mix, and found the feel and sound of the gritty mixture a bit hard and jarring.  My painting has all-over texture, giving it an earthy, granular look and feel which I’m not all that fond of, but it seems to work ok here.

Would enjoy studying the work of Tapies in more detail, and developing the concept of building other materials into paintings.


Putty recipe – marble dust plus paint medium (acrylic medium or linseed oil) plus (optional) egg yolk.  Mix paint into the putty to extend and make it lighter, without whitening it.

Clear gesso recipe – 83g water, 63g marble dust, 120g pva glue (e.g. For making a toothed surface)

White gesso recipe – Add 125g pva glue to 250g water.  Whisk in 750g marble dust gradually.  Whisk in 120 ml white paint. Adjust thickness by adding more marble dust or more liquid.  I tried this but the result was very coarse, I need to find finer marble dust for a smoother gesso finish for general use.


References (how to make clear gesso)  (how to make white gesso)



Ex 2.2 – large scale line painting

My painting for this exercise is in collage, gesso, ink and acrylic on A1 300gsm mixed media paper.  There are all sorts of objects from my collections in it – light bulbs, scissors, specs, cables.  My main context references – which I talk about below – are Arshile Gorky, whose work I looked at at the Abstract Expressionists exhibition, and Eleanor Moreton, who I studied on Part 1.



I think I stopped before I went too far, so that there is still an unmuddied freshness, but enough interest to keep the viewer engaged.  For example some of the shapes and the patterns they make are quite intriguing to look at closely, such as the shape immediately to the left of the black rectangle.  There are some good negative shapes too.  The other thing I’m noticing is the objects seem to have taken on a life of their own, they seem alive and whirling through space, I like the humour of that!

The collage support still shows through as underlying texture, still legible in places, which I like.  I noticed the entire newspaper seemed to be about consumerism – adverts and articles encouraging the reader to buy, buy, buy – my superimposed objects seem to be participating in the frenzy, breaking up and spinning out of control!  An idea rich with possibilities?

If I were to start again I’d think about the colour palette (the colour trials I did got forgotten somehow in doing the painting) – I’m feeling my recent paintings tend to rely on primary colours for their impact.  Looking again at some of Gorky’s work, some are based on primaries, but others make use of lovely palettes containing secondary and tertiary hues.



My first move was to consider my surface, as the course book advises: I felt that with a line drawing on this scale some background texture, colour or interest generally would be a good idea.  In this painting Gary Hume’s subject, being human, has enough interest on a plain green background, with white lines painted repeatedly on top of each other.  I feel my subject, prosaic household objects, needs more background interest.  To begin building this up I prepared my A1 300gsm paper with an all over collage of torn (colour) newspaper and coated it with a thin white wash to subdue the content, then acrylic medium to stabilise the surface.  I would make my line drawing on this surface and later add background colour.


I tried to think of other artists I’ve admired who paint in line, and remembered the work of Arshile Gorky which I recently saw at the Abstract Expressionists exhibition at the Royal Academy.  In the yellow and black compositions Landscape Table 1945 and Garden in Sachi 1943 lines were particularly evident, providing a “graphic scaffold” to the paintings.  He draws shapes and forms (perhaps derived from real, remembered objects) with black line on a grey, textured background, then adds colour, and later scumbles around the forms with a different background colour.

I laid objects from my collections on a table and drew some coloured thumbnails in my sketchbook.

As I worked on a thumbnail after Gorky’s Drawing (Virginia Landscape 1943 I was reminded of my visual sketchbook response to Eleanor Moreton in Part 1.  The palette, shapes and vertical format seem quite similar.  The palette in The Plow and the Song II 1946 is also reminiscent, but here the shapes have crisper edges. Agony 1947 is a much darker composition; ochres and burnt earth colours scumbled on to a very dark ground, on top of which red, yellow and black shapes are defined by thin black lines

Considering the lines in my composition; they should vary in intensity and thickness, and reflect the form of the objects – disappearing with distance for instance.  I wanted to draw without slavishly copying the objects, so I decided to make a black ink drawing using twigs cut from the garden…this would reduce my control over the lines and help me to respond to the objects, deriving (hopefully) interesting, ambiguous shapes from them.  Or to quote Matthew Gale “balance calligraphic precision and liquid spontaneity” !

For my colour media I made a few trials with inktense and artbar crayons. Inktense’ advantage is that lines can be drawn on top after drying, but the colours tend to be quite intense, and from my colour thumbnails I knew I wanted a subtler palette.  Artbar is a water soluble wax crayon, and difficult to impose a clear mark on top of, but the colours are transparent and subtle tones easily achievable. I found the effects quite exciting and decided to go with that.

I made another page of trials of different inks, using different twigs to make the marks, just to get an idea how this would feel.

When I had the objects in front of me as well as my sketches and photos, some twigs of varying length and diameter, and some pots of black ink of different dilutions, I began to draw the shapes and contours I saw. I distorted and exagerrated some of the lines, responding to the objects and what I liked about them – the delicacy of lightbulb glass, the tactile curves of glass spirals, jagged sharpness of scissor blades, patterns of spectacle lenses.  This wasn’t an attempt to copy a formal arrangement or even an already worked-out composition, more an instinctive exploration (or interrogation) of the objects.


I set my easel up outside, as the sun was warm, and the studio a bit cold and gloomy.  The gallery below shows my setup and me, and some work in progress.  Things didn’t quite go as planned.  The ink was easily reactivated by subsequent layers and the artbar didn’t really take to the surface at all, but glided over the top.  My trials had been on plain paper, whereas my large surface was coated in acrylic medium.  Artbar was a non starter therefore, but I decided to persevere in laying down some colour with inktense crayons and water.  Some of the earlier black lines got smudged, but I didn’t mind, as it created a different quality of line here and there.

I added colour as the mood took me, leaving lots of white space, scumbling on white acrylic with a rag to brighten the background and heighten the contrast with the black and coloured areas. At some stage I decided to turn the painting upside down; the large black rectangle at the top together with the scissors pointing down was making me (the viewer) uneasy, it felf as though everything was falling.  The green leafy end of my small twig dipped in ink made a good brush to add fine, hatched, scribbled marks. Generally I tried to create interest using a variety of marks and textures.  When I still thought I could do more I called a halt, while the painting still looked fresh and uncluttered.

Note about my photographs – what a difference the light makes!  The first two photos of the painting were taken in shadow outdoors, the final, more accurate one in full sunlight.  



Arshile Gorky by Matthew Gale, Tate Publishing 2010

Ex 2.3 painting on 3D surface

Looked at the paintings of Alison Moritsugu – classical landscapes painted on the cut surfaces of logs – the individual paintings are very fine, with clear, bright colours.  The log can be thought of as part of the landscape.  The visual impact is multiplied by the beautiful, thoughtful way in which they’re displayed in groups of dozens together, forming organic, natural  vistas.  The group as a whole forms a landscape of a more fractured nature.

What this research showed me was that how the work is displayed has a tremendous effect on how it might be viewed.  In this case, an individual log painting is interesting, attractive, a curio.  But displaying them in a large group in the way she has is not only visually more appealing, but provokes the viewer to think about ideas about the land, its resources and how we use them, our view of the landscape as a resource on one hand, and an idealistic place with nostalgic connotations on the other.

Light bulbs

I prepared some light bulbs for painting on:

Classic clear glass lightbulb – painted all over with Pebeo Vitrail (used in Part 1 Ex 1) orange stained glass colour (thinned with turps)

Large plastic sphere bulb  – white shop bought gesso followed by black acrylic.  

Pink factory coated bulb – dilute pva glue

Clear teardrop shape bulb – white home made gesso (using marble dust). 

The surfaces of the lightbulbs, I realised pretty soon, need to be carefully prepared if they’re to be sound, so I allowed 2 undercoats with plenty of drying time.  


While waiting, I gessoed all the surfaces of the inner container of a matchbox, and painted a tonal white acrylic background (representing a table top) to prepare for painting some of my collection of white objects. Then I painted the outer sliding matchbox cover in gesso and black acrylic.  Now waiting for those to dry  it occurred to me I could put something painted in the matchbox – matches perhaps?  I dipped the phosphorus tips in pva to disarm them and left them to dry.

I was now thoroughly engrossed and discovering more potential in my matchboxes than I’d thought.

Back to the inner matchbox I painted some of my white objects on to the surface and four sides – a table lamp, bowl and china bottle – in miniature with the smallest brush I had.   I then painted kitchen utensils on the first side of the black outer box and my collection of pens on the second side.  Then the matches themselves received colours and patterns. 

The whole object was now ready for assembly.  The individual components looked ok; the matches chimed well with the painting of pens; the white objects and kitchen utensils also looked ok as a unit.  But they lacked cohesion as a complete group.   All the parts of the object should speak to each other; as it was I had up a group of individual paintings which were rather mystifying when put together!

The solution (of course) was a second matchbox, so I could put together the elements that complemented each other.

Eventually I had made two sets; one of brightly painted matchsticks in a matchbox painted (inside and out) with bright colours (depicting collections of embroidery threads, sweet papers, utensils, pens) on black surfaces; the other of painted buttons in colours complementing the pastel toned miniature depictions of my collection of white objects.

Here’s the button set:


And here’s the matchstick set:


I varnished everything as protection against handling and the abrasion of sliding and rattling.

Back to the light bulbs 

They will have to wait for another time…I enjoyed myself and spent far more time on my little matchboxes than I’d planned, and must now move on to the next exercise to keep within my schedule.


As I worked I really enjoyed the feeling that I wasn’t just painting a 2D or even a 3D surface to be only looked at, but also making something, a tactile object, that could be handled, taken apart, put together again in different ways by the viewer, and at the same time enjoyed visually.  There is even something to appeal to the auditory senses as each box also rattles!

When painting a 3d object it’s easy to wander into the realm of decoration / illustration.  I’m not entirely sure I’ve avoided the temptation, and perhaps if I did such an exercise again I’d think a bit more about what concept or message i was trying to get across.

Ex 2.4 – painting on a painted surface

By the end of my allotted time for this exercise I’d made 4 paintings.  I’d like to continue, but as my deadline for completing the assignment looms I have to be disciplined and not run over on the exercises.

Two of my four paintings were more successful than the other two.  Painting 2 (bird, pan, coffee pot) is imaginative and bold, with a strong design, good use of line and tone, and an interesting palette.  In painting 6 I’ve turned everyday objects into another imaginative assembly of objects whirling in space; it owes a debt to Gorky and Miro particularly for the colour palette, and also, I’ve since realised, to Klee, particularly his paintings Fish Magic and Bird Garden.

Painting 4 (pink, jewellery) is ok, pretty but a bit empty I feel.  Painting 1 (perfume bottles)  I left at a stage where it has plenty of room for improvement, as I felt at the time I was getting nowhere except towards a rather pedestrian, amateur representation – but that could be remedied with time (to spare, and to distance myself).

Here are the four finished paintings.

I’m really happy with the way the exercise went, because I learned a lot about new possibilities: different ways to approach making a painting (one on top of another); a more imaginative use of colour (you don’t need just bright primaries to make a bright painting); ways of depicting collections of objects that conjure up imaginative worlds.


Here are the notes I made as I went through the process:

The remit asked us to concentrate on tone in this exercise, and to use water based medium but ‘feel free to experiment’. I’d like to experiment with some of the following ideas

  • Ink / gouache resist
  • Ink / oil pastel resist
  • Watercolour with salt, cling film to create texture
  • Collage
  • Acrylic with thickening gel and using sgraffito

The exercise can also be used an opportunity to experiment and play with layering paintings, so the thin wash of colour mentioned in the brief could be developed from a simple background into a painting in its own right – using a mixture of media and techniques, including accidental developments where the media is allowed to flow – dribbling, spattering, wet in wet splodged of colour for example.

The initial background paintings I made are described below.  The tone and colour contrasts in some of them would need to be subdued in some way to work as backgrounds for new paintings.  Sanding, bleaching, soaking in water, scraping on a layer of gesso or acrylic paint are some of the ways I could do this.


Background painting no.1 A piece of paper was wetted and splodged with watercolour – crimson and ochre – then scrunched up stretch wrap pressed onto the wet surface and white acrylic ink injected underneath with a pipette.  Weighted and left to dry – nice texture! Thoughts for painting collections on top: colours are delicate and texture lacy, perhaps collection of perfume bottles.  Second idea – make use of white areas to paint lightbulbs collection.


Background painting no.2. Derwent xl charcoal was rubbed into a piece of canvas paper and fixative sprayed on.  White acrylic ink splattered on and encouraged to run, then left to dry.  Then wet paper and dropped in dark red and brown W&N ink.  Thoughts – white objects collection –  I see a saucepan shape bottom left – use the white lines to suggest kitchen pans & utensils?  Or turn it through 90 degrees and I see a white table lamp, coffee pot &c.


Background painting no.3. A support I made long ago and never used – dark reddish/brown pastel pigment rubbed and painted into a piece of fine black sandpaper.  On to that I now grated inktense block colours and sprayed with water (a bit like my ice painting), then white spray paint, and finally more inktense, applied with the block direct into wet areas.  Thoughts – the tone contrasts in this are so great it’s hard to see how I can adapt it to a new painting without subduing it first; it would just be too distracting as it is.  Turned upside down I can see my swimming costume collection there if I try hard.

Background painting no.4. Soft edged washes of magenta, violet and carmine watercolour, using hairdryer to create runs.  On a separate piece of paper, I made magenta and green splodges, printed on top with bubble wrap, tore the edges roughly, collages this on to my painting and added black ink lines.  Thoughts: this could be the foundation for painting my jewellery collection; I can imagine  pearls, chains, a pendant

Background painting no.5. Hard edge washes of W&N inks (vermillion and ultramarine, runs created with hairdryer, salt (table and crystal) dropped on.  Non-stick mat painted with blue ink and used to print chequer pattern.  Circles of magazine print collaged on, black ink outlines added with brush, a chimpanzee face collaged on top.  Thought: again, too much contrast to easily make a background.  Perhaps the collaged circles could be incorporated as sunglasses somehow.

 Background painting no.6. A mixture of objects from different collections (scissors, buttons, socks and reels of cotton) painted in white gouache on white paper; when dry and cured the support was completely covered with black ink and left to dry and cure again.  Gouache resist washed away (with difficulty), leaving some nice textures and approximate edges.  An opaque medium would be suitable for the painting on top, perhaps painting thin and transparent over the white objects and opaquely over the black areas.

Here are the paintings I made on top of the background paintings:

Top painting no. 1. Back to the first background painting though, which, offering a more homogenous background, could be painted onto directly. I drew perfume bottles lightly with a pastel pencil and painted in watercolour and white gouache, paying attention to tone.  The white gouache was needed because the background was midtone, and transparent washes on their own weren’t effective over it.  I concentrated on tone, and found it quite a challenge to depict the form of the glass bottles with their many reflections and refracted light.  I stopped this painting and moved on, at a point where it’s still very much unresolved.

Top painting no. 2. I couldn’t quite form a vision of what the second painting could be like, as the dark areas on this under-painting were distracting me from imagining the painting on top.  I could see a way in though, so started by stating the white and dark areas depicting the large pan, with a ‘see what happens’ approach.  It turned out quite unexpectedly, colour palette and choice and interpretation of objects suggesting themselves from the painting beneath, and changing from one thing to another in the process.  The distortions of the objects were made in playful spirit.  In fact I found the constraints of the background painting helped free me from a literal interpretation.  I would never have made such an imaginative painting had I started with a plain support.


Top painting no. 3. I painted bleach onto the third background painting.  Either the bleach was too concentrated or I left it on too long, because when i washed it the whole inktense painting washed away down the sink, leaving me with the original pastel ground with some black sandpaper peaking through!  I’ll leave this aside for now


Top painting no. 4. I painted strewn pearls and a cameo pendant, gold chains and a bee onto my pink collaged painting.  Perhaps I needn’t do much more, except crop it to a wide format which emphasises the idea of the jewellery having been strewn out of its purse from left to right. Doing this painting showed me how two paintings can be combined to form one cohesive work;  so this has altered my earlier ideas about needing having to subdue the underpainting.


Top painting no. 5 Chimpanzee painting can stay as is.  He’s somehow become associated in my mind with the unbearable sadness of space animals. I can’t bring myself to obliterate him.


Top painting no. 6. Gouache resist painting; for the palette, taking inspiration from Joan Miro’s Still Life with Old Shoe I painted the objects against the black ink background, using acrylics.  But instead of bright colours I looked at Arshile Gorky’s Garden in Sachi Motif, and used similar but toned down hues.  i also coloured some of the background, dark blue /mauve top right, khaki green lower down and left. I scratched and added a grid of faint lines – it seems to contribute a little structure to my chaotic universe.  The vertical line attached to the moon/button at top anchors it in the image, stops it floating away.  The scissors and other objects are whirling into a vortex, pulled towards and into the central blackness.  The socks provide a sort of stable frame to the  whirling activity.



Reviewing my work for Part 2


The brief for this review says that many artists are concerned that everything has been done already and worry that making new work is therefore impossible.  But in his introduction to Painting: Documents of Contemporary Art, Terry Myers quotes Eugene Delacroix: “what moves men of genius, or rather, what inspires their work, is their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough”.  He goes on to list some of themany ground-breaking developments in art since then, as well as many deaths and re-births of painting in the face of other, newer forms of expression.

So I am convinced we can all find new ways to present our ideas, make our work unique and personal.  I’ve read other students’ Part 2 – UPM blogs and found their work to be very different from each other’s and from mine.  I’ve felt envious of their ideas, but realise my own work reflects my motivations and the context in which I am working…still, I wish I’d thought of painting on a hat!


The brief in the introduction to Part 2 of the course suggested some everyday objects to collect and I followed this in lieu of any other inspiration, never having been a great collector of stuff.  My collections, although they were of ordinary objects, took on a life and character of their own as I observed, drew and painted them during my work on the exercises.  So I became much more aware of the visual potential in the everyday, and I can see this has fed into the way I’ve depicted my collections and expressed my responses to them.  

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills,

The materials I used, such as ice (for painting and as a support), pomegranate juice, coffee and other kitchen stores, marble dust, pva, fabric, newspaper, metal, cardboard and fabric as well as more traditional media and supports (inks of various types, acrylics, gouache, watercolour, gesso, paper, canvas) gave me lots of scope for experimenting with new techniques during Part 2, informed by research into the materials and plenty of trial and error.  Unusual tools – turkey baster, grater, twigs have contributed to my experimentation.

I experimented with many new compositional ideas, such as the circular painting on fabric; painting on melting shards of ice; painting on a multi-part 3d surface (matchbox!); through to my abstract composition in a large scale line painting, and on to paintings composed on top of other paintings.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a

coherent manner with discernment.

Some of the work was quickly made, like the paintings with ice and on ice.  Working so quickly intensified my concentration, and generated work that is mostly fresh and unpretentious, but which captured my ideas about the subject.  For example the lusciously colourful forms of cotton reels, and the gaiety and touching humanity of the display of socks – both painted quickly in bright, gooey watercolour ice lollies.  Such techniques work well to express a joy in the present, whereas other techniques might be better suited to more contemplative, introspective ideas.

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

Imaginary worlds emerged in some of my pieces for the exercises.  I depicted socks, cotton reels, scissors, with a life and character that I created by playing with colour, composition, form, line, perspective and making them seem to defy gravity.

I’m concerned I haven’t done any sketchbook work outside of the exercises, and that even that is sparse.  I should have used my sketchbook much more to develop my ideas and to play, then I’d be able to refer to and interact with the sketchbook when developing paintings.  Instead I worked out ideas in my head for days, or rushed straight into the work.  Will aim to remedy this for Part 3.  Even though the exercises are experimental, there’s plenty of scope for sketchbook work to contribute to composition ideas, familiarisation with subject, for example by making continuous line drawings of the subject.

Context – Reflection, research (learning logs).

My contextual research has been broader and deeper.  I’ve looked at the work of a range of artists working with unusual materials, those suggested by the course manual and others.   In response to my tutor’s suggestions I’ve looked at the work of Juliette Blightman, Craig Donald and Maria Theresa Keown for ideas on arrangement and display of work;  Elsheimer, Vermeer and Melita Denaro for an appreciation of small formats; Mona Hatoum and Paula Rego; Muybridge, Duchamp, Francis Bacon and Idris Khan on depicting movement in the human figure.  I’ve visited the Abstract Expressionists exhibition at the RA, London and as a result researched the work of Arshile Gorky in depth, and adopted some of his ideas and techniques in my own work, as well as linking these to some of the work of Joan Miro and Paul Klee.

I’ve looked at some contemporary artists paint on metal, especially growing in appreciation of Geraldine Swayne and Geniève Figgis; I wonder if I can make monoprints on copper in Part 3 – should be possible.

 My reading has become wider as I’ve started to explore (and write about) suggested texts by Walter Benjamin, Freud, Terry Myers Documents of Contemporary Art, Art and Today, Artsy Magazine.