Jackdaws At Dusk

Jackdaws At Dusk

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Henry Moore at the Tate

I know this is such a touristy thing to do, but it had to be done! This is me next to one of the Henry Moore sculptures that I saw when I went to the Tate at the end of May for the contextual studies workshop with Richard Lilley where we discussed and sketched lot of the paintings from the modern British art collection, I've written all about it in my logbook. I also went to the Henry Moore exhibition which was downstairs, and I've written about it in my logbook too because his sketches in particular were a source of inspiration to me, especially in the "Figures in an Interior" project.

I love his sculptures too though, and this figure stopped me in my tracks when I walked in to the building. She was so tender and monumental at the same time, a bit like a whale, if you know what I mean. I've read the book "Celebrating Moore" which has so many photo's of his work in it that it makes you giddy. I'd love to see some more, especially the ones that are outside like on big hillsides. I've been to the Barbara Hepworth Museum down in St Ives, and her work looks so wonderful when it's outside, which a lot of it is as it's arranged in her garden as she wanted it to, and the sculptures look like they're growing out of the soil, which I can imagine Moore's work being like when viewed outside.

Movement Experiment

This is the final image for another exercise for movement which I wrote about in my first sketchbook on page 69, but I wanted to include here to show it along side the previous movement painting of the swimming pool because of its similar flickering effect, thought here it was achieved through different means, which were suggested in the course book. It said to try cutting up a photograph or a drawing into thin strips and glue them down with thin areas of white showing in between. I took the idea a step further and took three separate paintings, all of kites which were painted from photo's that I took on holiday, then I cut these into strips and glued them down with the three separate images layed down in an alternate pattern. I'm really pleased with the effect this has given, again like the last painting, as though it's seen through a prism. It does make it look like the kite is moving and that the tail is flickering around. A very interesting effect and a worth while experiment. I also love how simple the image is, especially the colouring, which was inspired by the David Hockney painting "A Bigger Splash" with its pristine blue water and sky, and how such a flat slab of colour could still help to convey movement, maybe because it acts as such a strong counterpoint to the movement of the splash in the water, and here the kite in the sky.

Finishing off the Figure

Having completed the background in the previous stage, all that was left was to add the detail for the figure. I started off by redefining the highlights where the sun was hitting the limbs and torso, then added shade to the opposite side. Closer study of the photo showed me areas from the body that were being refracted by the water, and it's interesting to see how much of a difference it's made to the implied movement of the figure that there are areas around the arm on the right and the head and legs that have been split up like a prism, and the water has overlapped into the areas of the body.

I added more splashes, with a purer white, instead of the bluey white used previously, to the area at the bottom which has again contributed to the feeling of movement through the water because the splash is further away than the foot, suggesting the figure has already moved away from where she was.

I'm really happy with the image, and feel that it conveys movement very well, both of the water and of the figure. I'm also really happy with the level of realistic detail in it, but also how expressive it is as a painting with lots of gestural brushstrokes.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Ripples and Splashes

The effect of the water rippling is really starting to come together now, and the illusion of depth is quite convicing. Closer study of the original photo, which had previously been studied at arms length, as it was attached to the board, showed how much more detail there was to be found in the image, especially subtle, tiny ripples and reflections. This has added a lot more interest.

I used a softer sable mix brush for this stage, after having used a hogs hair brush up til this point, and started off with the larger brush to add the larger areas of reflections in the top of the painting, then a much smaller sable brush to add the tiny ripples of light on top of these larger areas. The section on the bottom right of the painting has particularly benefited from the extra ripples added there, because the detail in the top area of the painting was too dominant. The large splash at the bottom is also helping to equalize the interest in the different sections of the painting.

I've also added more definition to the figure, with more light and shade to suggest the contour of the limbs, though this is by no means finished, as it needs to be defined more clearly before it is then broken up by the refractions of the water.

Adding Detail

It's quite hard with this painting to see very much development, because all of the elements are already there. What I'm aiming to do is to tighten up the amount of detail that is there. I also want to add more depth, which will be achieved by adding a greater contrast between the light and dark areas. Looking at the original photo shows a lot more sparkle in the water, and the area at the bottom of the image is where the splash is taking place from the foot kicking up, so I will be using splatters and splashes to achieve the effect. This will be an interesting contrast between the area in the top left hand corner which shows the bigger ripples.

I've also added detail to the figure here, just to better place it in its context, and the addition of the goggles is quite and interesting feature, as it makes it look quite eery.

New Movement Painting

Following a recent holiday in Devon, where I unfortunately forgot to take my sketching equipment, I took lots of interesting photos which I was hoping would provide me with lots of images to incorporate into the "Movement" project. A wonderful set of photo's I took was of my children swimming in the outdoor pool, on a gloriously sunny day, which gave loads of ripples and reflections. My daughter was the most willing model for me, as being older than her brother she can swim under the water. So I was getting her to swim around so I could photograph her. What made this such a novelty for me is that where I live we are forbidden to take photo's of our own children in the local swimming pools.

There was one photo in particular which I took of her, that really caught my interest, where she fully submerged but looking up at the sky. This photo here is the beginning of my painting of it. I started off with a layer of ultramarine blue, but when I saw that the colour didn't match up with the turquoise of the water, and not even adding white made any difference, I decided to invest in a new shade of blue. A visit to the art shop helped me decide on Cerulean Blue Hue, which when mixed with pale green, ultramarine and white, like I've done here, has perfectly captured the rippling sun dappled effect of the water.

I roughly filled in the area of the figure, just so I could see it in its position, but I'm not being too precious about painting over it in areas, because there are areas on the legs, arms and head which are fragmented by the water, so this will help to give that effect. When I first started blocking in the areas of paint for the figure and the water I did my brush strokes going horizontally, but I realised that this deadened the image, and made it look flat and motionless. Changing the brushstrokes to diagonals, as shown above, has created greater movement, and made the effect of the sun and water rippling much more effective.

I'm again using acrylics here so I can layer the paint quicker than oils. I did think about using oil paints, but I was worried about how much smudging would occur between the paint. However I am planning on copying another one of the swimming photo's, this time of my son, for my own use (as it does not convey movement as effectively as this image) and I will try and use oils for this version, then I can compare the effects of both images.

Finished Painting

The finished painting converys a lot of the movement that I was hoping it would, both in the rippling of the fields in the rise and fall and the suggested movement of the wind from the growth pattern of the trees. The texture of the paint had a lot to do with the flow of the grass and the leaves, which is what conveys this movement so well. Working from the studies from home, after doing the preliminary work on site, was interesting because of the challenge it offered, and also the scope for developing the image beyond what was presented in front of you when sat looking at the hill.

If I had to do it again I would develop more detail in the main tree, because it does look slightly blob-like, also looking at the photo of it now I can see how the two areas of sunlit grass, on the left and the right, don't match up colour wise, the area on the right looks slightly more blue compared to the greeny yellow area on the left, but as the painting is quite large I didn't notice this at the time.

I'm glad I used acrylics, because the faster drying time enabled me to apply many more layers than I would have been able to achieve with oils. Having said that, I've never actually painted on site with oils, so that would be an experiance worth having. I know that project 12 offers another landscape painting, so maybe that will be my opportunity to experiment with it. I think I will invest in the seperators you can get, that enable you to layer the board you paint on to another board which prevents the oils from getting smudged in transport.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Adding the Tree

Adding the tree now as the main focal area has made such a difference to the composition, making it seem like a complete image. The way that the tree grows up to the left after having been pushed by the wind for so many years, is an interesting feature, as it mimics the flow of the land. The focus of the painting now is no longer just the rippling effect of the hill, but is also the implied movement of the wind. There's still a lot more detail to be added at this stage, both to the existing trees and to the trees which will be added to the left and right hand side, at the edges of the composition.

The photo here is not so good at picking out the subtle textural detail, but there are areas in the sky and grass which have benefited from the thick treatment of paint with the painting knife, even though I'd carried on using the hogs hair brush, because it's created ridges in the paint, which enabled me to create light and shade, and layers of depth, that to my eye suggested subtle clouds and the movement of grass. This is very interesting as it's not something that I'd planned, but is something that evolved as the painting progressed. It's an effect that I will remember for future use.

Changing the composition

The previous image was starting to make me feel uncomfortable with how much space the hill was occupying compared to the sky, and still the shadows looked too dark. So I decided to go back to the studies I'd done in the sketchbook, which had been produced as the sun was rising, so there were three different images with three different shadow patterns, and I decided to work with the latter of the images, which had the greater area of sunlit grass, but still showed the shadows created by the contours in the mountain.

Lowering the line of the hill caused problems because I'd used such thick paint for the hill side, it was now showing as unwanted textured areas in the sky, which you can just about make out in the photo here. I spent a while adding more paint to the rough area of the sky to try and blend it in with the smooth ares, and even though it took quite a few applications of paint it worked out quite well and is now almost imperceptable.

The lighter areas of the grass are now much more successful and not so oppressive, and I really like the way that using the brush (my new hogs hair brush!) to paint on top of the darker areas has created a really interesting effect, one that I wanted to keep and utilise, as to me it suggested the blowing of the wind and the rippling of the grass.

Developing the "Movement" painting

This image shows the work that was done in the house to try and soften the edges of the shadows. I worked this time with a paint brush, as opposed to the painting knife, as I wanted to give it a blurred effect, and to work the wet paint into each other. I also made the effort to lighten the shadows because the contrast between the light and dark areas looked too harsh. The illusion of dips and rises is now starting to look more effective.

I've painted this mountain before for the "Relating to Other Artists" course where we were asked to paint a "Composition of Greens" towards the end of the course. I also worked on site for that painting, and developed studies to work from in my sketchbook. But the composition then was quite different because we were asked to paint different shades of green, so I decided to include another hill into the composition, which is seen to the right of this hill, and is covered in deciduous trees. The contrast between the bright green of this hill, which was seen in direct sunlight at the time, and the darker bluey green of the other hill was quite effective. I also worked with a painting knife predominantly for that painting, using a brush for a small amount of detail, and my inspiration for the image was the work fo Kyffin Williams who was a great Welsh Landscape artist who also painted using a painting knife.

Project 4; Movement

I'd struggled for a while to come up with an image I was happy with for the "movement" project, and my sketchbook has many of my efforts at trying to find a satisfactory image. But the image that kept getting stuck in my head was "Cataract 3" by Bridget Riley that I saw on the cover of "Art and Illusion" by EH Gombrich. The rolling effect of the image was fascinating, and every morning I could see the same rolling effect on the hills visible from my kitchen window, caused by the rising sun casting long shadows in the dips and rises in the side of the hill.

I decided to make the effort to capture this effect, so early one morning I got up and out of the house, with my car packed with painting supplies (and my flask of tea!) and I settled myself down to paint the effects of the rising of the sun. I also made three studies of the light and shade effects and the colours for my sketchbook so I could refer to them later, when finishing the painting off in the house.

The photo here is of the layer of paint that was layed down on site. I applied it very thickly with a painting knife, and used acrylics for their faster drying time. The shadows here are very dark, and also there is a very abrupt edge between the light and shade, but I aimed to soften this effect with further work on the painting.