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.


Yvonne Harry said...

Hi Mick, its great to hear from you again and what a great bunch of paintings you produced on the course. I am sure it will set you back on the path to enjoying your art. Really glad your silence on line was not due to ill health!

Sophia Khan said...

Wow Mick, these are extraordinary-very dramatic. Night scenes are not easy at all and you have managed to convey them quite well. I simply love the study after Turner, who is one of my favorites-superb! Glad to hear you've picked up some new techniques and are back on your creative ventures....sometimes the best pieces are those we think about the least and do quickest, at least that is how it tends to work for me.

Happy painting

L.W.Roth, said...

Wow Mike! You did absolutely the right thing. To break the spell. These studies are phenomenal. Anybody who can do work like this should never have an impasse again. Frame them. Tack them up in you studio area. Let them be a reminder of what a talented guy to are. Welcome back. I've missed you.

Caroline Simmill said...

Welcome back Mick, sure did miss seeing your paintings. I am glad to hear you took another of Martin's courses I can see how hard you have been working and it is amazing to see what you have achieved in just three days! The Turner is my favorite the colors here are incredible. Thank you for sharing these wee gems. I am wondering if you will stay with the oil painting now or return to your watercolor painting.

Mick Carney said...

Yvonne - Thanks a lot. I think I just needed a break to recharge the batteries. Glad you like the work. I can't speak highly enough of the quality tuition on Martin's courses.

Mick Carney said...

Sophia - Thanks. There's something in what you say. My recent inertia was partly down to too much agonising instead of just getting on with it. The Turner is going to inform some projects that I have in mind so watch this space.

Mick Carney said...

Linda - Thanks so much for the kind words. I do feel that the experience of the last week has given my confidence a boost and I'm looking forward to making pictures again.

Mick Carney said...

Caroline - Thank you. You pose an interesting question with regards to medium. At the moment I have it in mind to work on some of the ideas gleaned in the last week so they become ingrained. That means sticking with oil for a while, but I've no doubt that the watercolour brushes will come calling soon. I got a lot out of the Turner exercise so am looking for it to inspire work that I have in mind. I've just spent the morning gessoing boards to start that work.

Peter Ward said...

Glad you are back in the groove again Mick. I think we've both been suffering if not for the same reasons. Perhaps the `Challenge' can be resurrected before too long.

Mick Carney said...

Peter - Hope everything is settling down with all of your recent upheaval. Hopefully I'm going to get back into some more regular painting and we'll get the opportunity to resume our cordial hostilities.

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