Monday 26 August 2013

Somewhat Abstracted

Back in the studio, but only for a short time today. More to the point, it was back to acrylic paints. Hmmm.

For the last while I have been trying to finish a larger picture of Skye from Sand, and I've got a bit stuck with it.  It's been done on very nice paper and I'm loth to give up on it.  But I must confess it's a bit overworked. Here it is.
From Sand - Pic 1

 The colour is generally quite good, and some of the effects are good, especially the far away hills, but despite my best efforts, it looks a bit boring. I then thought about cropping the picture to make it better - was the composition wrong? But the best way of cropping would lose the focal point.  So it was back to the drawing board.

I did a new little thumbnail, and then I started afresh. Back to using graphite, gouache then acrylic. I stopped myself when I got to this point.

From Sand - Pic 2
I thought this was quite good, but I wasn't sure.  And this time I was determined not to overwork the picture (as I usually do).  But it does look a bit 'dabby'. So I took another piece of paper and started afresh...

From Sand - Pic 3
Of course, the composition is ever-so-slightly different again, and this time I was trying to focus on abstract values.  I realised that there were similarities between the triangular peaks of the Cuillins and the jaggedness of the dark rocks on the LHS. So I tried to keep focused on these abstract values. Again I stopped before I did too much.

So - which is the best interpretation - Pic 1, 2 or 3?  I've brought them all home to review and at the moment I can't decide.  I think I may like Pic 3 best, but maybe it's just a bit too messy.  Pencil marks are OK, but not if they are in the wrong place.  I need to work harder at achieving a looser painting technique WHICH IS NOT MESSY!  But at least these look a little less boring, dontcha think?

Sunday 18 August 2013

Reflecting on a week of paintmaking

I've learnt such a lot about making paint this week. It is somewhat scientific, and I found that I was thinking back to my studies for higher chemistry many moons ago.  Emulsions and polymers.  I think my favourite has been making and using Egg Tempera, particularly painting with tempera on card.  Here is the one I like best. It was really a test strip, but I like the quality of the finish.

My other favourite from the week is the work we did with beeswax and encaustic.  On Friday we painted over our beeswax pictures with encaustic - a mixture of beeswax and turps, with pigment mixed in.  So my painting of the boathouse ended up looking like this.

I quite like this - and I definitely like the general effects you can get with encaustic.
My other picture - of the dog walker - I changed somewhat radically.  Jill said...why are you trying to do a figure painting when everything in your sketchbook is based on landscape images? So I converted it into a painting of Applecross.
It's not finished yet - still a bit more to do - but it's got some potential, don't you think?
So a great week and great inspiration to take forward.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Our Paintmaking Continues

I've now just completed Day 4 of the Look and Draw course.  Yesterday was Egg Tempura: today was beeswax paint. Quite a contrast!

Yesterday we took the yolk of an egg, pierced this in order to remove the skin, mixed it with a little water, and then added pigment. Most of the pigments we mixed into a paste with a (very) little water  before adding the yolk, but not for the Titanium White which we mixed directly with the yolk (or added into other colours).  We didn't use the whitening.

Some books suggest that there are certain rules to be followed for the making and using of egg tempura, but we learned that this isn't necessary.  We used the tempura paints first on a piece of card and then on one of our gessoed grounds.  I really liked using it directly onto the card and I'm going to investigate whether or not this is long-lasting.  These images show what I managed to achieve on the gesso.  I thought I would focus on a landscape motif, based on a view from the beach at North Berwick looking over towards Fife (one of my sketches). Here was my start.

And here was how it looked after a bit of work - with the island and the Lomonds on the horizon. Sorry about the quality of the photo.  I quite like this.

I had mixed various colours, and thought I'd do an underpainting, but look at looks like a piece of rusty metal.
This, of course, is my masterpiece of the week...haha. I was so pleased with this, I did another panel the same.  Joking aside, I did enjoy using the tempura - it was easy to mix a range of colours and it didn't dry out too quickly.

Today we were using beeswax. I was keen to experience this as I was hoping it might help me to be less precise about my painting style - to loosen up a bit and be more abstract.  It was a lot of fun, but I think it was mainly the fun of experiencing beeswax for the first time.  We added pigment straight into the melted beeswax and applied it to the board (no preparation required).  It was quite random and free - just adding more beeswax layers and then ironing over these or using a heat gun to re-melt the colours. But Jill reminded us that we were making pictures - what on earth was I doing?
I decided on a figure-based picture - was thinking about Peter looking after Poppy today and came up with this figure with a dog (in case it isn't clear - on reflection, maybe the legs of the figure need to be longer.) However, after this I made an attempt at a landscape view. This is based on an image of a boathouse on Jura that I've been working on. I had been thinking about this for an etching image, but here it is so far in beeswax.

Hmm. Interesting. Definitely not my usual style. Where is this going?
Encaustic tomorrow....

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Learning more about Paint

Doing a course with Jill at Look and Draw this week.  It's all about making paint.  It seems you can make paint from almost anything - i.e. pigment plus water, pigment plus glue, pigment plus egg, and so on. I'm finding it very interesting. Lots to make use of in future.

Yesterday we made traditional rabbit skin size and gesso and then used these in a not-so-traditional way.  After sizing the working surface (both sides), we then applied some collage using the gesso.  The gesso acted as a glue and could also be painted over the collage. Then we could draw on top of it and scratch into it. For instance...
This image is based on a sketch I did of a fishing hut in Applecross. There is some collage in this, some sand glued on, and then I have drawn into it with graphite and scratched into it with a blade. I haven't taken this any further yet. I did another board.

This is another image based on Applecross huts - I used collage and charcoal.  I found it similar to drawing into white acrylic and PVA, but the rabbitskin gesso had more transparency. I did like the whiteness and dreaminess, but I decided to use this board for further work.  We made paint by moistening pigment and then adding the size.  This gave very vibrant colours - prussian blue, red ochre, and two yellows.  I worked with these colours and gesso, painting with more of the transparent size, thinking about the greys of the wood and the oranges of the corrugated iron etc. It ended up like this.

I got very excited about using these materials - hope to use them again.
In the meantime, today we used the pigment to make inks, water colours, eggy paints and gouache. And tomorrow it's egg tempura. Then onto beeswax and oil paints! Phew!  (I'm making lots of notes).

Thursday 8 August 2013

Mustn't Forget about Composition!

Back in the studio after a lovely time at Edinburgh Printmakers. Keeping the painting going. It's a little difficult thinking about Wester Ross back in Musselburgh, but the sketchbook helps.  I decided to focus on the sketch I had made of the old fishing station at Ardaneaskan (just to the west of North Strome).
I had done a sketch in ink while sitting on the beach, and I re-drew this in charcoal and graphite.

 Then I decided to do some colour studies.  The day of sketching had been one of those overcast days - a bit threatening, with blinks of sun from time to time. I had been looking west, into the sun, and wanted to try and recapture that look - the colourless look of the shed and the dark tree shape.  I was also very keen on the fishing poles (where the nets used to dry). I've seen these poles in a few places (they're a bit sad, I think, reminiscient of ways of working that have disappeared - and they look a bit like dead trees), and at Ardaneaskan, these poles are intact (amazingly).  Anyway, my first effort, using acrylic and pencil marks, was a similar composition to the sketch, but I've cropped it a bit.

 The composition with the poles is a bit difficult. Also, I thought the palette was a bit red, so I tried again with a slightly different palette - introducing ultramarine.  Quite a different look - more far away, less brooding?
 In my earnestness to capture the beach, I may have overworked this version.  However, it has a nice 'coldness' about it (which was not really the look I was trying to achieve).  Anyway, undeterred, I've tried the motif again, in larger format, and (so far) without the poles.  Have gone back to the red brooding palette.
I decided to introduce an orange (corrugated iron) roof which seems to work quite well.  And I quite like the colour relationships relating to this.  I think the colour is close to what I'm seeking. However, I don't think this is finished yet.  Maybe the composition is not interesting enough without the poles. But I like the angle of the hut better. It's on different paper too, which affects the quality of the mark-making. (Actually, I don't like this paper - it's too rough and raggy.)

But the big decision is the poles - in or out? I'm still not sure.