This exercise came to a standstill on a couple of occasions due partly to having a huge workload since Christmas and few sustained periods of painting time, and partly because I froze in a mesh of uncertainty about expectations and how to meet these. I came up with a possible way around this and wrote to my tutor and asked whether, rather than produce a specific piece of work for assessment 2, I could simply do my best with all of the tasks and then select one of these for assessment. She agreed that I could. This takes some of the stress off the need to “make a picture” and also means that every painting must be thoroughly documented, so process is emphasised. In the end, this may result in more work but, if so, I should learn more on the journey. I no longer know whether I want to pursue a degree course, even assuming that I were a suitable candidate; it makes more sense to focus on improving skills and to complete the unit without imposing another layer of stress with yet more deadlines, on top of those that constantly arise at work.
In this next exercise, a preliminary one in the Still Life project, I looked around my apartment for a group of objects that happen to be there. Initially, I chose a group of objects on a small box of drawers in the workroom. I chose them for their incongruity – a bunch of pencils made from thick twigs in a jar, a brass temple bell from India and a colourful image of Ganesh, my favourite Hindu God. I used a variety of pencils for the A4 drawing below. I liked the objects but there are too many verticals.
I then produced a contour image in fineliner to get a better sense of negative space and ways to break up the verticals. This improved the problem somewhat with a few more (slight) diagonals but the composition overall was too static.
Looking around for an alternative, I chose another workroom scenario: a small manikin used to practise figure drawing, a bunch of paintbrushes in an old coffee tin (a good reflective surface) and a bottle of retarder, posing on a “lazy Susan”. This presents a better mix of lines and angles.
I played around with this a bit, trying out some different positions of the manikin.
I liked the head-on pose in the sketch above. At this point, it was time to draw with the brush. The manikin’s stand detracts from the movement and so I omitted it. I chose a limited palette of yellow ochre and phthalo blue, which produces some greenish neutrals, as well. The lighter ochre was used to draw and then corrections were made with a slightly darker neutral before the darker tones were applied. Afterwards, the position of the manikin appeared wrong – too far forward and on his way out of the image. He seems to be wearing a suit of armour… However, there is a balance of static and moving components in the image which I wanted to hold onto and decided to develop further.
The palette needed to be brighter; I kept the phthalo blue and used its complement, orange. It seemed as if the manikin might be better on the right hand side, given the direction of twist in the body. In the next “painting” in my A4 sketchbook, I used a collaged ground (torn newspaper and orange tissue paper), which created underlying texture, over which a ground of phthalo blue mixed with some titanium white was painted, allowing some collage elements to show through. This image has more diagonals and more movement.There is a sense of the manikin hurrying towards the viewer and the composition fits together much more than in earlier attempts. Too blue – more colour balance needed.
Experimentation with some different textural / collaged grounds in A3 mostly turned out messy and the lack of progress was frustrating. One background I used just to practise drawing the figure with a brush in different positions (acrylic: turquoise green and madder deep on gesso / structure paste / collage):
Maintaining this palette, I tried out an alternative composition on a bookshelf. The little man is carrying a miniature dictionary. The drawing was done in metallic pen. Not sure about this so returned to the collaged / blue-painted image (above).
The palette consisted of phthalo blue and orange, as used in an earlier “tryout” painting / collage. The orange is not a single pigment paint and, being made by mixing brilliant red and medium yellow, produced some greenish neutrals with the blue. This enabled a better tonal range. I tried some alternatives to white as a means of creating tints: including ivory, light beige, Davy’s grey, warm grey and parchment. The image below shows the range of the palette using phthalo blue, orange, the pale colours listed above and a little black. I settled on ivory for its warmth. The page was then reproduced in monochrome to aid in getting the correct tonal balance. I selected the darkest greeny-neutrals for the darkest tones and slightly tinted parchment for the lightest.
Returning to the A3 format and a blue/orange complementary palette, I created a roughly textured orange ground. The original idea was to allow this to show through in places although it ended up being the background. It was tricky to get the right size and placement of the figure. After several attempts, it seemed as if it would be easier to draw it in pencil and then measure out carefully on to the ground. I used a horizontally-placed ruler to mark off strategic points on the painting. The image below shows the painting as well as the A3 drawing that was used to correctly place and size the figure. The foreleg and foot were misjudged. The painting shows a charcoal outline which was used to correct the figure’s dimensions and take it a little further back.
The painting developed over a couple of weeks. Although this wasn’t planned, it gave me time to review previous decisions and to move on from there. The background had some red added to it which gives it a little more depth but maybe it needs a bit of tidying up. A little more of the darkest tone in another place in the image would produce a better tonal balance overall. However, I am quite pleased with this and am now ready to move on. Originally, the figure was intended as the main interest but the brushes now seem to have become as much of a focal point. A feather was added to them for diversity of shape. The bottle in the foreground acts as a place to rest the eye.