Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Wasted Week

By now I thought I'd have a few more paintings to show you but I've been struck with a week of frustration albeit down to my own lack of observation.

The idea was to make a number of paintings based on some of the lessons learned on my last trip to Norfolk. The subject matter was to be based on my sketches and drawings from a trip to Switzerland earlier in the year. Having made decisions about what and how it came to the time when I had to prepare the supports for the work.

I'd decided to make the pictures on MDF board which required preparation by covering them with gesso. To increase luminosity in the ground I put marble dust into my gesso mix and this is where the problems began, although I didn't realise it at the time.

A couple of weeks ago I bought some supplies to make my gesso mix, the marble dust being amongst them. My lack of observation in filling in the order form failed to alert me to the fact that there were different grades of dust and I just ticked the one that said ' Marble Dust Medium'. The order was accurately filled by the vendor and I thought no more about it. Last week I prepared my gesso and treated the boards. A couple of days ago I put up the first board on the easel and began my coloured beginning and this is when I first fully realised the error of my ways. I'd noticed a little more texture and tooth when putting on the gesso but thought to myself that might provide some extra interest in the finished picture, but didn't expect the impact on my brushes as I attempted to place a thin delicate layer of paint as a first stage. Painting on and wiping back ripped the heart out of my brush and my wiping cloth. I was painting on really course sandpaper. The thought of working my way through all the boards with the collateral damage to my collection of brushes had me concerned about both my temper and my bank balance.

There was nothing left for me to do but scrap the boards or rescue them. Rescue became the task and a morning spent with sand paper smoothed the surfaces ready for the application of more gesso. The lessons learned had me off to the art supply store to acquire the stuff I should have ordered in the first place - Marble Dust FINE!

I'm happy to report that the afternoon I've just spent redoing the boards appears to have me well organised with supports that won't shred my brushes. They should be ready for action tomorrow. Now I just need the time to get on with the work.

Every day a learning experience and anyone desperate for some medium marble dust it's sitting in my studio gathering dust and looking for a new home.

Hopefully the next post will have some evidence of artistic endeavour.  

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Return from the Doldrums

Well it's been a while since I tapped on the keyboard and shared my art life with the cyber world. There has been a reason for this, I've been suffering something of a crisis in my involvement in painting. It all harks back to a painting that I began back in July.

I have a number of sketch books and small watercolour notes gleaned from my travels. Some of these relate to time spent in Venice and I had decided to use them as the source for an oil of the traditional view from the Accademia bridge. That's when my troubles began, having something of an idea of the approach I wanted to adopt I set off and having made my 'coloured beginning' suddenly reached an impasse. I couldn't make my mind up as to how to make the next step. To shorten the tale, I spent the next few weeks returning and looking at the lack of progress then going off to study the many variations on this well known subject, produced by myriad other artists, a big mistake. The inertia created by this process has lingered ever since. In fact, I've been questioning my motivation and methods - do I continue the 'Struggle'?

Fortunately, help is at hand. Regular readers will be aware of my admiration for the work done by Martin Kinnear at the Norfolk Painting School and fortuitously I'd booked myself onto one of his courses entitled 'Light and Atmosphere'. I've just returned, having sweated blood for three days and experiencing an elation from a deep involvement in some fascinating exercise and technical skill development. The structure of courses at the Norfolk Painting School is organised to give students access to Martin's immense expertise, both practical and theoretical.

The thrust of the course was to look at three different approaches from different periods in art history and to explore the methods used by prominent exponents of the time.

To begin we produced a study based on the work of Van Ruisdael. Key elements were the working over an absorbent ground, producing a monochrome tempera, keeping darks translucent and lights more opaque before blocking in with thin oil glazes. After this we worked up the picture with more opaque colour mixed with chalk and medium and finally more glazing with  oil paint.   

Study after Jacob van Ruisdael - Oil on MDF 24" x 20"

The following day we moved on to looking at a late period Turner and attempting some of the technique involved in producing the ethereal images of the period. Working over a luminous ground we painted a thin 'colour beginning' in translucent paint. this was followed by more thin luminous glazing before working up the picture with a more turbid medium created with a mix of glazing medium with wax and chalk. The chalk made for swift drying which allowed us to finish off with bright megilp glazes. The resultant texture and depth of colour was lovely to see.

Study after Turner - Oil on MDF 24" x 20"

Our final study was a work by an artist who was new to me, John Francis Murphy, an American tonalist painter. We began with a bright coloured ground and spent some time developing the picture by stumbling in darks and lights ensuring close tonal relationships in areas other than those where real lights were required. We finished by creating saturated impasto using wax and chalk.

Study after John Francis Murphy - 24" x 20"

This was an incredible experience that managed to have me back on track thinking about my art in a much more positive way and hopefully means the beginning of a renewed period of activity. All of these pictures need a little more work to call them finished pieces but I'm delighted with this lot as an output from three days with the bushes and on top of that I've got a new set of techniques to experiment with - I call that time well spent.