I was a bit low after my last plein air outing and the resulting paintings produced (last post). Wanting a change from another landscape, I rummaged among my pile of the incomplete and abandoned paintings in search of fresh leads. This one above was an abstract attempting to recall the wonderful colours seen on a visit to Corsica a few years ago. The trouble was, I wasnt getting the deep blues and clear turquoises I was after and the whole thing looked a bit sombre and so it got abandoned. I decided to lighten it up and add flecks of colour. The process lifted my spirits and it occurred to me that it was like coming back to the familiar, a return to comfort and I thought about the effect of the sight of harbour lights for a crew returning in the evening gloom. So I had a title. The process opened me to similar themes on the subject and to the possibility of repurposing old paintings. I have another one on the go at present.
Being in the middle of projects I didnt have much to show today, so here is a set of old paintings I never put on the blog. I called them The Upside of Down. This was the first I sold. Below is the second one sold.
They came from one picture, it was oil on paper. I treated the ordinary, 90lb watercolour paper with a mix of exterior emulsion and PVA. This prevents the oil from sinking into the paper – rather like rabbit skin gesso. Here is the completed piece with me taking a rest – if you take a nap always put an open book on your lap; you appear productive.
I have my doubts about the vertical lines and because the paper was only 90lb it started to tear with the weight of the paints and gesso. So I cut it up and sold it like pieces of cake.
Here is another cut off the old block which has since found a new home:
I think I sold another one as well and still have a couple more available. It might be an exercise worth repeating. It is a variation on selecting a favourite passage of a painting and developing another from it and also the size allows some big gestures even if a few of them aren’t very nice.
I have been continuing to play with acrylic inks. I completed a painting on canvas using inks and acrylic paint which I was pleased with. It had a floral connotations so have I have been searching for other themes for a new painting.
So I started to look at dance and movement which the ink lines can evoke. So this was the idea behind the top two – though the top one did take on a life of it’s own.
Continuing the movement theme, above, I tried to run the watercolour washes counter to the movements of the acrylic inks.
Another potential theme was the urban environment. The straight lines that the droppers of ink can easily produce convey man made objects.
And of course, I looked at the landscape, but this time I added the ink to watercolour washes rather than the other way around as I had done on the first four above.
Finally another landscape theme on a preprepared watercolour wash, but along with the acrylic inks I added some pastel as well.
I was playing with my pastels, looking at options for an abstract, and turned this pair into something else. Though all the time fighting to keep to the spirit of abstract and not being too descriptive with a view to painting a bigger piece. With the first one I did a similar painting in acrylics some time ago and was pleased with it. The second one, I feel, could be developed by deconstructing it a little and playing the large areas of grey off with the smaller and more intense patches of colour.
I might do a few more, as it happily occupied an hour without any pressure of a result.
At last I committed the recent ink and wash sketches to canvas. From all the sketches, I had an idea of what I wanted to try, but the new surface created a different rheology with both the ink and the paint. The paper I used for the sketches seemed to draw the ink from the dropper allowing for extended lines. This didnt happen on the gessoed canvas and it was hard work creating the flowing lines that I wanted. Splattering the line work with water created far more diffuse effects than I had previously experienced, mainly because the ink sat on the surface and then reacted more dynamically to the water. And before that, the underpainting took a lot of effort to control, particularly on a more extensive surface, so from the start, the colour fields I had wanted were quickly abandoned in the pursuit of simply avoiding mud.
So I finished with this breathless piece which took on a horticultural demeanour as I struggled to control the paint – like herding cats, though at least I wasnt scratched or bitten in the process.
Still playing around with the inks and washes. I am trying to get something to work up onto a canvas. So far I feel the simplicity of the pieces just fail to maintain interest on a bigger scale. I am applying the ink with a pipette but get much more interesting lines with my broken pipettes rather than the ones supplied with the acrylic inks. The one on the right, above, was done with my broken pipette as opposed to the one supplied with the ink on the left. Although I did like the effect of mixing the different coloured inks in the lines on the image on the left , the blue is certainly a less strident colour than the black..
The style and orientation of the lines also bring their own images, such as the grid giving an urban feel on the right above.
So with another difference in orientation of the lines, a more nautical feel emerges which is then reinforced with colour.
Here, above, I`ve tried to add further textures though I dont feel that it has moved the image on much and made it more messy. So I will keep on playing. Fortunately I have a lot of discarded paintings I can work on the back of.
I wanted to try and further develop the ink experiments I showed in a previous blog. Keeping things simple in this new set, I didnt prepaint the paper before inking and also left the ink to dry rather than adding colour whilst it was wet which had resulted in bleeds invading the paint. Though, this time, where the ink appeared dry, when I applied the paint, I still got some bleed, giving interest, but not so that it was overwhelming.
I wanted to leave open paper and be influenced by the lines to give a stained glass effect. To emphasise this I mixed colours in some of the cells to give the impression of light shining through. This one above had a more organic feel to the lines so I limited myself to yellows, blues and greens.
I suppose in contrast this had a more urban feel with the lines in a gridded pattern and they now took on a slightly more subordinate role with the paint crossing intersections. Though, even in this busier piece, I have left a large amount of white paper.
I am thinking of transferring this to a canvas or A2 sheet when I get a design and approach that is worth scaling up.
Recently I saw a documentary on the artist Maggi Hambling. In one scene she was demonstrating what she does in the studio at the beginning of the day. On a sketchbook page she drew freely in ink, using a dropper.
She was able to create a great variety of marks easily. I have done a lot of work with ink and use an italic nib to create broad and fine lines but this has limitations. Hambling’s approach seemed to offer wider options.
Naturally I gave it a go. Above are some calligraphic doodlings. But having a few watercolours around I was soon adding colour.
On this one above I also sprayed the wet ink with water to create other marks. I used acrylic paint on the one below.
Hambling explained that she might work up these quick drawings into paintings. Unfortunately she didn’t give any examples.
In this one above the brush took over and I finished up with what looks to me like birds in a bush.
I then decided to prepaint the paper and leave to dry before adding the ink. This gave another dimension to the possibilities as you can see above.
Though I must admit I was running out of ideas when I worked on another preprepared sheet.
I have used ink in many life drawing sessions, using a dip pen with an italic nib. It is quite a heady process as once the mark is made it is there for good. I took an old life drawing and copied it to see how the dropper compared to the pen when drawing in a more constrained manner – though I used a brush to add some form to the figure. I must certainly give this a go when life drawing resumes around here.
Using the backs of old paintings I wanted to try and create textured watercolour abstracts that avoided the washed out look that results when working with copious amounts of water to create movement and texture.
I had the notion of rusty metal when I selected the colours for this one. Perhaps more contrasting tones and depth could be achieved by adding even more pigment to specific areas – which was the method I applied to reduce the washed out look I described above in all these sketches.
Well, figuration had to creep in with my background and the ethereal rising of lighter tones hinted, for me, at some spiritual mumbo jumbo, so a few figures were cut into the patterns.
And representation made further inroads in this final piece.
All have the seeds for further development and I will stow them away in my sketch book for future reference. It was nice to play aimlessly and see what developed for once. The main purpose was to maintain a good range of tonality amid splashing and spraying and I think I see how I can achieve this.
I didnt have a clue what I was doing when I started this except the notion of attempting a figurative piece. I had a photo of the top part of the figure and I liked the compact pose; the rest just sprung from there.
Playing with washes and colour, with a bit of drawing, and who knows where I have landed. Out of the proverbial and into the fire. Well, having said that, there are aspects I could take and use to better effect. You build up this thing intuitively and then you stand back and think that would be better there, and if only I had used a redder blue here, or lost that line there.
I do miss the life sessions I used to go to, as it was painting on the fly – no time to really think things through – just crash on, and this painting was similar in that respect. I do have sketchbooks full of figures that might be worth developing and applying some of these approaches to. We’ll see. I did have plans to do some life drawing at the start of this shutdown and apart from some sketches this is only the second figurative painting I have managed – I get sidetracked too easily.