These are my preliminary sketches for Assignment 1 – a series of 20 paintings. The sketches are made from my selection of original found images plus some additional images gathered during the course of Part 1.
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Sketchbook pages [see below for each of the individual 28 sketches]
Each sketch was made on a 5″ x 4″ postcard-size panel of 170gsm Winsor & Newton 10.5″ x 8″ spiral-bound sketchbook.
Using A4 or A3 paper, lay an image upside down and, using ink, watercolour, gouache or acrylic, make a 10-minute copy of your image. Do this again with another image. This time make a 20-minute copy.
10 minute image
Upside down ape in tree – blue ink on A4 300gsm HP watercolour paper. Using the found image ‘Life’s a bitch’ (Statics poster card) I found that the flow of the ink using a size 04 Round brush was pleasing to apply. What was also pleasing, and not a little surprising, was that when turned ‘right-side up’ (is there a right-side?) the image was fairly well described.
20 minute image
Upside down school boy – acrylic on A4 300gsm HP watercolour paper. Using the found image of Jules Bastien-Lepage’s impressionistic ‘Going to school’ (Aberdeen Art Gallery print) the coloured acrylic paint was applied in a fairly painterly, expressionistic style, blocking in the main spaces and shapes before spending a bit more time trying to capture the essence of the school boy in the foreground. Trying to capture the facial features from an upside down viewpoint was the trickiest part. The overall effect of my rendition of the figure I think is reminiscent (symbolic?) of the horror I felt (Munch-like) at going off to school each morning – probably not what Bastien-Lepage had in mind when he painted ‘Going to school’ in 1882.
Use A3 paper for this exercise; cartridge is fine but HP watercolour paper is even better. Select five of your found images. Now use your brush as you would a pencil. A long thin brush is useful for this. Get a plate or palette and have any combination of water-based paint and a large vessel of water at the ready.
Now, looking at the images and NOT the paper, paint what you see. Time yourself for one minute. Overlap the images as you go and work quickly.
Do this three times on three different pieces of paper. Make brief notes on the outcomes.
The five found images I chose for this exercise were as follows:
I selected these five as I felt they provided a good mix of lines and shapes for this quick drawing with paint exercise. The media used were InkTense Block ink, Poster, Gouache and Acrylic paints. My brush was a size 04 Round, and paper used was A3 HP 300gsm smooth watercolour.
First attempt. It was quite hard not to look at the paper as I drew, but in the main I managed it, really only looking quickly at the paper to see where I was going to start another overlapped image. I started with the rock formation outline, then the monk’s face, followed by goose girl, ape and school boy.
Attempt number 2. This time I began with the ape in the tree, then turned the paper upside down to draw the rock formation outline and monk’s face, then back around again for school boy, finishing off with goose girl.
Attempt number 3. Started with goose girl, then school boy, followed by side-ways monk’s face, rock formation outline and topped with three different coloured apes. I think I spiralled a bit with this last one as I started to fill in blocks of colour and it did take longer to finish than the first two, more like 2-3 minutes, rather than the c.1min. for numbers one and two.
Attempts one and two are quite rough and ready, while number three is beginning to get ‘polished’. All in all, a fairly tricky exercise and I had to discipline myself not to look at the paper to see how the image was turning out. In the main I managed this with numbers one and two. Number three becomes more ‘polished’ as I say, probably because I peeked (well more than peeked actually) at the paper to capture goose girl and school boy! After telling myself off for ‘peeking’ I did manage to brush off the remainder in quick-time.
Make five postcard-size black backgrounds and five postcard-size white backgrounds, using poster/acrylic paint on cartridge paper, watercolour paper or cardboard.
When your backgrounds are completely dry, make paintings of one or more of your found images – one on a black surface and one on a white. Use the following materials, thinned only with water: • black ink • black acrylic paint • white gouache • white acrylic paint • grey acrylic or gouache.
Don’t forget to make brief notes in your learning log when you’ve completed this exercise.
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Black calligraphy ink on white gesso – reasonably straight forward to apply the ink to ground using a fine round brush, thinning with water to introduce tone and allowing the white ground to shine through for highlights.
Same black calligraphy ink on black gesso this time – quite difficult to achieve anything like a recognisable image. I had to apply a number of washes of the ink to build up enough of an image to appear against the black ground and used a touch of white ink to feature the teeth in the smiling mouth. Not easy.
Black acrylic on white gesso – as with the ink, this was reasonably straight forward to bring out a recognisable image of the three Russian women haymaking. Quickly done.
White gouache on black gesso – surprisingly, several applications of white gouache were required to build an image against the black ground as each one applied seemed to fade into the black. Water was used to thin the paint for some of the background tones and the black ground allowed to peak through in places, especially in the haystack, the two background trees and the eye sockets, mouth and general facial features. Pretty tricky and took some time.
White acrylic on white gesso – seemed an almost impossible task and in essence I found that the only way to really get anything like an image using white on white was through texturing the white acrylic to stand out from the background. Again this took some time to complete with layering wet on dry.
White acrylic on black gesso – the white acrylic had to be layered in order to build the mushroom images as once again each application soon faded into the ground. The finished effect of white standing against black is quite pleasing and I thinned with water to mark in some background wash in an attempt to suggest the forest environment of shimmering spiders webs.
Grey gesso mixture on black gesso – a tricky challenge to depict the sky. The negative space of the foreground trees and sloping landscape was easy enough, leaving the black ground to do the work for me. Trickier with the clouds though using thicker paint and thinner washes and black ground to try and pick out a recognisable image. Not sure it’s all that successful.
Grey gesso mixture on white gesso – Again using the black ground as the techniques to bring out the negative spaces on the foreground and darker patches of the clouds and different washes of grey paint to add texture to the sky.
White gouache on black gesso – several application of gouache were again required to bring out the image from ‘sinking’ into the black ground. In fact the application of the foreground white washes to pick out the reflections in the water were easier and quicker to achieve than were the two boats.
Black acrylic on white gesso – Fairly straight forward application of black on white this time, using the white ground to show through where required to pick out highlights and thinning the black acrylic in stages to lay out the water reflections.
Using your found images, make some small, quick painting experiments using thin paint on small surfaces. Use HP (hot pressed) smooth watercolour paper of any weight.
Remember, the thicker the stronger. You can use cartridge paper for this as they’re only exercises but you’ll find it rolls up because it’s not thick enough to remain flat. Cut the paper into 20 rectangles of roughly A5 size (148×210 cm). These don’t have to have perfectly straight edges.
Use watered down acrylic/gouache/poster/watercolour paint – at least one of each if you have them all – or just use the paints you have. These will be the backgrounds for your paintings and you will return to them when they are dry.
Backgrounds/grounds Paint splodges on three pieces of paper. Paint them however you like. It’s surprisingly hard to make a non-descriptive shape but have a go. Then make two of each of the following surfaces, covered entirely in: • black paint • white paint (don’t just use the white of the paper) • grey • varnish (spray/paint – you might have to wait a while to use this one so prepare it in advance). • very pale watercolour watered down (load the brush heavily) • thin black ink • very thin acrylic or gouache paint.
Paint your image When your backgrounds are dry, use the following materials in any order to make a painting of your found image. Try mixing materials creatively – for example, a matt acrylic or gouache paint onto a shiny background. Make 20 paintings. • black paint • white paint • grey • coloured paint • very pale watercolour (water the paint down a lot but don’t load the brush too much) • thin black ink • very thin acrylic or gouache paint • varnish (i.e. used as a paint to depict your found image).
In total I selected 18 images that I had collected, most over a period of time and some more recently (mainly from photographs I had taken). This meant that to complete 20 paintings, thin and small, I used 2 images twice using different media on different backgrounds.
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The 20 x A5 cartridge paper grounds:
Nice clean lines, shapes and a story to tell – grumpy and fed up!
Smily, happy features – kind of surreal with black on light blue.
Curious peeking through the rock face out onto the sea. Painting negative space.
Minimalist white mark making – the magic of mushrooms in the forest.
OMG – burn out!
The greyness of hard work and routine … keep going.
OMG not again! A technicolour nightmare.
An impressionistic mediterranean feel.
Expressive explosion of light and colour. I like the way the varnish ground peeks through.
Wee boats in the harbour – kind of simplistic/childlike. It was quite difficult to paint against the grey gesso ground as the colours kept seeping into the background.
Thin black ink
Again the effect of the varnish ground peeking through the ink makes for some interesting results.
One of my favourite bands of the 60’s, and our German Shepherd dog was named ‘Salty Dog’ as he loved boats and swimming.
Thin acrylic paint
I think this is my favourite rendition – it just seemed like a natural match of mark making onto ground.
Hard work and routine … but with a bit of colour and hope. Again painting on a darker background proved tricky.
Thin gouache paint
A kind of spectral image – difficult to capture properly against the dark ground.
Animal portrait of dressed Clydesdale at show ground … tired and a bit wilted … imagine the surroundings!
A wee mollusc creeping through the sand-dune grasses.
I was once one of these beasties!
Not much like the original cut and paste photos, but the vibrancy of the coloured ground shines through.
A dramatic coastal scene with the nail varnish shining out in depiction of the remarkable rock stacks. Shows that Caithness is not “the grey coast’ it is known as.