Jackdaws At Dusk

Jackdaws At Dusk

Monday, 21 March 2011

Barnett Newman and Franz Kline

Uriel, 1955, by Franz Kline and Zinc Door, 1961, by Barnett Newman at the Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany. Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Education.

Reading the book Abstract Art by Mel Gooding I became interested in the work of Barnett Newman, which seemed to have such an immense scale and an interesting use of splitting the canvas up unto smaller strips, which were called "zips." Seeing them in a book is very different to seeing the real thing, and this photo form the Bridgeman site gives a good idea of the scale of the painting. It's dimensions are 243.8 by 548.6cm which is impossible to visualise from the close up photo of it which is also on the Bridgeman site.

Uriel By Barnett Newman, photo courtesy of the Bridgeman Site.

However this detailed photo does give more information about the colour and construction of the painting, again showing zips on the side, though instead of the standard one zip in most of his other paintings, this time there are five; two black, town white and one blue.

This painting stood out for me as an abstracted view of the ocean and shoreline, even seen with the lines vertical it seems to shine with light and water. Viewed on its side, so the stripes are horizontal, creates an even more convincing illusion of the sea. This also fed into my interpretation of a Minimalist Seascape.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Paint a Minimalist Seascape


I've decided to do the Minimalist Seascape project for this part of the course. I was drawn to it at the thought of booking the day off from the children to go and draw by the beach. But reading the coursebook I realised that representing the view isn't the primary aim of this project. So I filled pages of my sketchbook with images based on splitting the rectangle into different shaded sections.
The colours and the application of paint came next and this is where Elfyn Lewis' work came into play. I copied a few of him images in my sketchbook and even tried to emulate the way he drags the paint across with the scrapers and squeegies that he uses. But there's nothing like the real thing, and this link above shows a selection of his actual work in a recent exhibition.
The third painting down (or third on the right of the small boxes on the bottom of the page) is called Moel Y Mor which is welsh for mound of the sea. Admittedly the painting doesn't look much like a mound or the sea but it has really intriguing use of paint and a solid sense of movement because of the way the paint has been dragged, so the allusions to water are there in an abstract way. The tonal contrast also really draws my to it and I see it as a valid beginning to experimenting with the Minimalist Seascape.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Working on The Finished Painting

I added another layer of thin oils here, using Sansodor, a low odour thinner by Windsor and Newton, rather than turps.

The hand is looking a bit odd because it wasn't added in the original charcoal drawing on the canvas, so is a different colour to the skin on the face, plus the shape and size is wrong in composition to the head and body.

I added more layers of charcoal on top of the original layer of oil as I wanted it to mix in and accentuate the texture form the canvas.

More detail was added to the face, hair and hand. I wasn't able to change the proportions of the hand because it was already close to the edge of the canvas, plus the angle of the arm couldn't be changed any more because it was already bent quite far in. So I ended up making the head smaller which has made it look more in proportion to the body and hand.

I painted the detail for the eye, nose and ear quite quickly with thinned down paint. The ear was just a few squiggles, painted from memory, and I'm pleased with how much it looks like a ear. The contour and shadows on the face also work really well.

Keeping the bottom part of the painting loose and thin was important for me, having seen and studied the work of Augustus John and Eugene Carriere. The charcaol was left quite conspicuous here, which acts as a contrast to the detail in the top half of the figure.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Oils on the Portrait

This is the first layer of paint, not that I'm planning on adding many more layers as I want to keep it thin and translucent like the work of Augustus John and Eugene Carriere. I purposefully didn't prime the canvas, just sized it with a layer of slightly watered down PVA glue. I did this for a few reasons.
Firstly I wanted to keep the texture from the canvas grain (it's heavy weight canvas with two threads woven in each direction) as this adds flickr to the texture of the paint, a bit like the texture of watercolour paper, where the paint doesn't sink into every part of the paper.
Secondly I wanted the more natural colour of the canvas to show through, as opposed to the clinical looking white primed canvas. I thought this would add to the skin tones, and also I've been inspired by the work of Augustus John who purposefully didn't paint every single part of the canvas or board, which I find interesting.
Thirdly, inspired by the later paintings of Gwen John, I wanted a dry matt finish for the paint, as opposed to glossy and shiny. There is a painting by hers called Girl in Profile which I'm slightly obsessed by. It's on display in the Museum on Cardiff and the texture and dryness of the paint fascinates me. Finding out from information in the Museum that she created her own chalky ground to paint on, which absorbed the oils from the paint, was really interesting.

Sketches and the Beginning of the Portrait Project.

Following on from researching the work of Eugene Carriere, Augustus and Gwen John and Paula Modersohn Becker, and after numerous sketches with different people in different poses I decided to make a start on the Portrait Project.

This is the sketch I decided to work from for the painting. I like the diagonal elements in the composition, especially where there is a v shape created by the angle of the face and the shoulder. The strong contrast that will result from the pale white sheet and the darker tones in the clothing and bedsheets is also what drew me to this image above the others that I had sketched.

When I came to sketching it onto the sized but un-primed canvas, 50 by 75 cm, I became aware that the area in the bottom right was just too empty. I had thought it would be an "interesting" emptiness, creating a contrast to the rest of the painting, but it just looked odd. So I added an arm (drawn from memory, not observation at the time) coming out at a right angle. This balanced out the composition well and I was happy to add the first layer of paint.

Having also been studying the work of Lucian Freud for my critical review (and group portrait for the last project) I decided to include a lot of charcoal into the layers of paint, that's why it's been applied so thickly on the canvas sketch. I also realised, just as I was about to start painting, that subconsciously I've probably absorbed his subject matter into my choice of subject matter, namely the reclined figure, half asleep. I was worried that this choice of child asleep would be seen as sentimental, but I'm hoping that by following in his vein, and keeping the colours muted, and the tonal contrast strong it will come across as more interesting than sentimental.