Part 2: Assignment 2 – Collection painting


Revisit a medium you’ve enjoyed using. Lay your collection on a black or dark-coloured surface. Shine a dramatic light on your chosen collection and, working on an A1 or A2 format, make a painting which explores your chosen media and brings together your experiments with line and tone.

Review of Part 2 Exercises

The concept of ‘curating a collection’ was a new experience for me in terms of visual art. The act of curation itself was nothing new to me as I had spent a career in curating library and archive collections. However, to apply the same thinking to objects collected in order to create new images from them was new.

The links to the exercises, research notes and sketchbook can be found below. They provide the detail of my explorations and ideas for this part of the course.

The links to Part 2 Exercises 1 to 4 are here:

Exercise 2.1: Unusual painting media:

Exercise 2.2: Large scale line painting:

Exercise 2.3: Painting on a 3D surface:

Exercise 2.4: Painting on a painted surface:

The links to Part 2 Research notes are here:

The link to my Part 2 sketchbook is here:

The enjoyment of this part of the course for me was definitely in exploring and using a variety of materials and painting media. In relation to painting supports I made use of the following:

A disposable palette
A4 canvas block sheet
Aluminium sheet metal
A ‘found’ cap
Wallpaper lining paper (cut to approx. A1 size)
A polystyrene globe
A4 sheets of 300gsm HP watercolour paper

The different media used in the creation of the paintings included:

Djeco Gel pens
POSCA Marker pens
Graphite powder
PITT artist pens
Humbrol enamel paint
Pebéo Cerne Relief tubes
Mixture of coffee and dark soy sauce
Pottery glaze paint
Nail varnish
Coloured inks
Glass paint
White and black gesso paint
Gouache paint
Acrylic paint
Sprinkled ‘ballast medium buff sand’

I did experiment with two other media – T-shirt marker pens and face-painting sticks, but found them both to be unreliable and unable to make distinct enough marks, basically just too messy.

In total I put together 29 curated collections of objects and painted 16 of them, 8 as combination pieces (hats and gloves; boots and crocks; watches and photographs; drawing and painting tools) and 8 as individual pieces (oil paints; crockery; ink cartridges; tapes; buttons; ties; threads; Blues magazines). My favourite works are those painted on non-traditional surfaces – aluminium, hat, polystyrene globe, paper palette, sprinkled sand – mainly because of the extra challenge they presented and the satisfaction of creating something a wee bit different than my usual output.

Continuing with the ‘favourites’ theme, I really got a kick out of using the relief paint and applying the raised media surface direct from the tube. I also found using nail varnish and glass paint gave interesting marks. Of the work created my favourite is the Blues Collection for the quirkiness of curating a collection of a collection.

The Assignment 2 process

Ornaments collection

My choice of collection for this assignment was a selection of household ornaments from my research for Exercise 2.1. This composition was pretty much face on and was not particularly well arranged. The ornaments are a combination of bronze-like and alabaster statues. There is one wood-carved one in this collection which I decided was a bit out of place.

Part 2 Assignment 2 – composition photo

For the assignment I re-arranged the selected ornaments on various sizes of plinths hidden beneath a black cloth draped from top to bottom, placing them in an ascending pattern from bottom right to top left. The composition was lit by two daylight lamps – bottom left and top right – which presented an image of light and shadow.

Part 2 Assignment 2 – first pass

Using a 6B pencil stick I sketched in the ornament outlines and the basic folds of the backdrop material onto an A2 sheet of canvas block. Using coloured inks I then began to layer colour onto the canvas background in washes.

Part 2 Assignment 2 – second pass

Building on the first pass I then blocked in more areas of background ink tones and also some light washes of gouache colouring.

Part 2 Assignment 2 – third pass

Slowly applied ink and gouache in layers began to add substance to the two rear ornaments – ‘Victory’ and the ‘Scythman’.

Part 2 Assignment 2 – fourth pass

With this pass of the canvas I began to introduce different layers of nail varnish and glass paint to add on top of the applied coloured inks.

Part 2 Assignment 2 – fifth pass

In this final pass I added more nail varnish and glass paint in order to pick out a more subtle balance of shadow and highlight. I felt that this last rendition was getting close to what I had aimed to achieve…but it needed something extra…not much…but something?

Final painting

Part 2 Assignment 2 – finished painting

For this final rendition of my collection composition I used my fingers and dipped graphite powder to ‘grey in’ some of the background/foreground patches of cloth. I’m not really sure that this has added anything much to the fifth pass painting, but I am nonetheless reasonably happy with the final painting.

This is very much a mixed-media painting – why? The brief asked for a ‘medium you’ve enjoyed using’ – but I found it difficult to pick a single media above others.

The other factor that influenced me is the idea of layering colours, but also media to create an image. The ornaments are all different and are situated in different nooks and crannies around our home. But seeing them like this definitely adds a new dimension – visually assembled as a collection.

Reflections on Assignment 2

I found the process of layering my assignment collection piece with various elements of media brought out some interesting effects. The original ink washes that I began with soon appeared to be rather flat as I worked on building the piece. I tried gouache wash to add some extra body to the ink in places, but once dry this still seemed flat/dull.

It wasn’t until I started to apply and blend nail varnish and glass paint to the individual ornaments that I began to see some substance to the figures. I could have continued adding layers but decided to stop due to a) time, and b) not wanting to overdo the overall effect by overworking the piece (I think I may have already taken a step too far with the applied graphite powder?).

As I have indicated I am reasonably happy with the finished painting, but if I was to give it another attempt I would want to stick with a single medium I think (not entirely sure which one yet, though maybe acrylic or oil paint). If time was plentiful maybe even doing several renditions each using a different medium would be attractive in order to compare and contrast one with the other.

Specific atists who have influenced/inspired me in thinking about how to represent certain collections are as follows: Lisa Milroy’s Light bulbs (for my buttons collections); Paul Westcombe’s Used paper coffee cups (for my hats/gloves and boots/crocks collections); Peter Blake’s Matchboxes (for my ink cartridges collection); Andy Warhol’s Cookie jars (for my assignment ornaments collection); Dr Lakra’s Album covers and Arman’s Home sweet home II collections (for the idea and arragngement of my Blues collection); and Pae White’s Scarves (for my ties collection).

Also for my Ties collection I took inspiration from George Bain’s Celtic art: the methods and construction. Lydia Yee’s Magnificent obsessions: the artist as collector and the Barbicon exhibition catalogue material was of particular inspiration; and for encouraging me to be more succinct in writing about other artists’ work I acknowledge Gilda Williams’s How to write about contemporary art.

The entire process of curating a collection has been fascinating and I particularly liked combining collections and painting collection on collection (drawing materials on top of painting materials). As well as beginning to explore and experiment with different surfaces – aluminium for example – I have also been inspired by Stewart Beckett’s work painting on mirrored surfaces and techniques such as layering, building relief and scraping back and this is certainly something I want to try out for myself. Another surface I want to try out is Plexiglass as it is lighter/safer than working on glass.

Looking at the course assessment criteria I have the following thoughts on where I have been more successful and where more thought and work is needed:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

I believe that in this part of the course I have begun to develop my use of different surfaces and media for mark making. I like to think that the thought behind the various collections I have curated and the way in which I have arranged and combined elements does demonstrate a building up of my observational and visual skills.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner with discernment.

I haven’t just copied what is before me, rather I have edited my curated collections during the process of creation, almost in a manner of having a conversation with the objects in an ongoing development of my intentions in depicting them visually.

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

This ‘personal voice’ aspect remains somewhat elusive to me at this stage, but I do begin to see areas of practice that I find more interesting than others and that intrigue me and capture my imagination, such as: trying out new materials, surfaces and media; and the process of building and layering different media onto a surface. One aspect I have yet to really tackle is taking away, reducing or scraping back already applied media to reveal patches or elements of the surface that then become integral to the finished piece.

Context – Reflection, research (learning logs).

Research is one aspect of the course that I find enjoyable, but I also find that it can really eat in to the time available for practice. I need to get a bit better at knowing when to stop and to stop following tangents in an ever-expanding search for more information and knowledge.

I believe that my online learning log is managed in a consistent and easily accessible manner.

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
13 December 2014