Glazing large canvas, so far

The things I have been struggling with so far:

– Patience! It takes at least 6 hours to dry between layers, which means a lot of waiting.

– Not making the canvas muddy. I haven’t finished with it yet, but at the moment the canvas is very dark and murky. Adding some more vibrant colours on top like a bright yellow or a bright blue, or even a white glaze(?) might brighten things up. Plus I am adding this column of light to the painting so that will increase the brightness of the painting.

– Paint getting caught in the grooves of the dry paint. It adds to the muddiness of the painting and looks kind of weird when you get up close to the painting. To avoid this I need to apply the glaze thinly to the canvas and make sure I spread the paint really thin over the grooves, using a small paintbrush to smooth out places where the paint has collected if necessary.

Painting en plein air today – acrylics!

Since the small acrylic glaze test went well; the colours were radient, the texture of the acrylic paint was fine, I am doing a big painting in acrylics!

This is the first time I have ever done a big painting in acrylics, so I didn’t know what to expect.

The pros I knew going into this was that I would saving money, acrylic paint is a lot cheaper than oil paint, and also it will dry so much faster, which means I can start glazing it much sooner.

What I didn’t expect was that painting in greyscale with acrylics is AWESOME! This is because:
– They dry very fast, so I can layer the paint much more without the paint layers mixing and smushing with each other. This gave me SO MUCH more freedom to paint and re-paint and build up layers without feeling the pressure to get it right in a few marks. This is big. And I think really affected the look of the finished painting.
– I don’t have to wear gloves! And it’s much easier to wash the brushes afterwards (this is minor).
– The paint seems to go further on the canvas. I spend less time squeezing paint out, and more time actually painting!

I painted this on a beautiful afternoon. This was only the second true spring day we’ve had this year. You could tell spring was coming in the atmosphere, in the air. It was very still, with warm yellow sun streaming into the forest, casting shadows across the trunks of the trees and creating dramatic dark and light on craggy branches.
The one difficulty I had was that the canvas was in direct sunlight when I was painting, which meant the colours looked different to how they do now back in the studio. The canvas is a lot darker than it looked when I was painting it!:

It looks so much lighter outside in the woodland sunlight!
Photographed in the studio – looking dark

I filmed my painting process. I find these fascinating to watch back. It reveals my process, especially for this painting which had so many layers. These videos seem part of the finished work, like they should be shown with the finished painting. Especially when the light in the video is so gorgeous!

I just noticed that the timelapse videos track the movement of the sun through the moving shadows on the canvas and trees. That’s cool!

This video will be good to refer back to when I am glazing the painting and want to see what the day was like.

Essay: American Scenery–Thomas Cole vs NASA

I was reading this essay for my dissertation, but there were some interesting points made that directly link to my practice.

Squinting at this picture, we see a technological revolution, using a satellite to climb above the mountain, computers to capture the image, and pixels, not paint, to portray the scene. 

But we also see a decline in passion, a withdrawal from the subjective, a tendency to find beauty in the elegance of mathematics, optical resolution, and orbital mechanics…rather than personal experience, or nature.

Is contemplating art like contemplating the scenery?

Like nature, Cole argues, art affects our heart, our intellect, and our spirit.

How? They help us grasp “the past, the present, and the future—so they give the mind a foretaste of its immortality.”

Writing about my work

I entered my work into a competition and for the application I had to write 500 words about my work. This was more words than I thought! Normally I am condensing writing about my work into a short paragraph or a couple of sentences. When I had the space to really write in depth about my work I found I was articulating things I hadn’t worked through much yet! Here’s what I wrote:

I work to describe the lived experience of being inside woodlands and cathedrals through painting and sculpture. Through these mediums I investigate visual, cultural and historical similarities between woodlands and cathedrals.

To communicate a lived experience I paint abstract woodland landscapes en plein air, that describe both my external senses and my internal experience of the woodland, the paint marks are a balancing act between these two things.

A white lined ‘structure’ is then added to the painting, imitating the depth and height of cathedral and woodland interiors. This structure is intended to imitate the experience of looking up at a great towering roof above you, with the vast space between you and the edge of the structure, be that the tree canopy or the cathedral ceiling.

This white ‘structure’ is first designed and created as a sculpture, drawing inspiration from cathedral architecture such as gothic cathedrals, which have columns and ceilings that mimic the shapes of trees. This sculpture is then photographed, drawn and projected onto the canvas, where the shape is traced. The white lines are intentionally layered over and under brush-marks to create the illusion of depth in the painting.

I hope the viewer of my work feels this sense of being within a great space, but also that the abstract quality of the work gives the viewer the freedom to interpret their own meaning within the scene. Painting these spaces abstractly allows me to describe my individual experience of a space far more accurately than I believe a photo realistic image could. Abstract painting attempts to record the experience of a place that goes beyond what we can see, and records the subjective atmosphere and mood of the space, through colour and gesture.

The aim of the work is to tie wild spaces to culture and heritage in Britain. I hope that the paintings prompt the viewer to consider their place within these ‘structures’ be that natural spaces or religious buildings. My research behind the artwork investigates belief systems in British history; the links between religion or spirituality and woodlands is huge, and so the ‘structures’ in my work play perhaps not just with physical structures, but also structures of belief. In today’s world belief can sometimes feel vast and looming above us, as we navigate the world of politics and conflict, and I hope to acknowledge and process this within my work.

My paintings are also a reminder of the value of being immersed in nature. With wild spaces ever decreasing in the UK, my work aims to remind the viewer of the mindful and healing nature of woodlands and natural spaces.

So it seems my paintings are a form of personal therapy for processing the hectic and divided modern world we live in, of which I hope the viewer can also share in.

Mini glazing acrylic & oils test

I wanted to see what it would look like if I painted the b&w stage in acrylic and then glazed in oils over the top – how would the colours and texture differ from a fully oil paint painting?
I also wanted to test the light shining into the space idea before I did it on a bigger canvas!

I took a photo of the painting each after each layer of glazing (just about):

What works well

The colours are wonderfully radiant. It’s interesting what happens to the glaze on the edges of them. On the edge of the cone of light there is some radiant blue which adds to the atmospheric quality of the painting.

The column of light works, it has potential on the bigger paintings. I can’t wait to add it to a bigger painting I am working on.

It’s amazing how much light and atmosphere this glazing technique can add. Kasia commented that it looks like a traditional painting that has been made contemporary, or something like that. I thought that was interesting! I haven’t thought much about how the viewer might find a connection between the style of traditional old masters paintings and mine. How does that affect how the painting is received and interpreted?

Where the white light overlaps with brushstrokes in places it makes it look as if the light is hitting the edge of the brushstroke:

This was just due to me not being careful with glazes overlapping intended boundaries! A good mistake.

What doesn’t work well:

Adding the collumn of light was a little tricky. The white didn’t go on very smoothly and ended up being patchy in places:

I don’t want this because I want the glaze to look smooth, so that the painting process is removed from the finished cone of light. I want to remove any suggestion of my painting process from the light because that will I think make it look more alien strange and mystical – where did it come from?
I think I had this problem because the glazed layer underneath was still tacky, so the fresh paint got caught on the semi-dry glaze underneath and made a fun dragged texture. More patience!

In a future painting I could add more light and dark to the brush marks caught in the light. When doing it I really forgot that I could add shadows with glazing, and not just highlights! I’ll do that with the next one, it’ll be important for creating depth and a sense of space in the painting and with the light.

There are no white highlights in the painting. Someone in the studio said they liked the white in my older non-glazed paintings (and I agree). I tried wiping away some of the glaze on the greyscale highlights but that didn’t work. So I’ll have to either/and avoid white highlights with the glazes, or add a white glaze at the end? I’ll give it a go next time.


I’m happy with the outcome of this painting.

I want to compare the colours and textures of this with the big painting I am working on which is all done in oils.

I’ll take these learnings with me for the big painting I am working on!

Light Model Photos

To understand how light would hit a space full of brushstrokes I made a model of 3D brushtrokes with the intention of shining a light through a small hole to get something similar to the cone affect of light I want to paint.

I used this wire because it is self supporting, making it great for creating shapes moving upwards that are only supported at the base.

I shaped the wire by keeping in mind the kind of shapes I tend to make on the canvas i.e. long verticle brushstrokes in the middle, squiggly brushstrokes at the top, denser brushstrokes at the bottom.

I then added two mirror brush shaped pieces of paper, gluing them together to either side of the wire to mimic the shape of brushstrokes, and then I painted the brushstrokes with acrylic paint to make them a bit more believable.

I repeated this process a second time, adding the brushstrokes already there to make the sculpture denser:

I knew that for shining a light I could use the structure sculpture and the paper cover I made last term. I cut a hole in the top of this paper cover so that the only place the light could get in was through the top centre hole.

These are the images that this produced!

They look so cool!!! It just shows how light can really affect the atmosphere of a scene. The light at the top of the structure makes the space look holy in my eyes. There is something Godly about the white light shining down. The fact that the brushstrokes are encased in this religious structure frames the light, and created a sense of the holyness being contained within the structure, with the viewer being an observer of this holyness, catching the edges of it.

As for the light play on the brushstrokes, the reason I built this model!, the funnel of light is not as contained and distinct as I would want it to be, but I think I expected that. The funnel of light would had to have had a much stronger light source I think. I can define the funnel of light better when painting.
The gradient of light and dark on the brushstrokes is interesting. Some parts are in shadow and some bits hit the light strongly.
I am surprised by how many brushstrokes near the ground are in shadow.
This line, where some of the brushstroke is in light and some is in shadow is really nice. I want to use this in my painting:

When I was taking these photos I was with (another!) Georgina who also works with 3D brushstrokes. Except her sculptures of 3D brushstrokes are far better then mine because she has been working on her methods for a long while.
We decided together that it would be cool if we put one of her sculptures inside my structure sculpture and shined a light on that. This was the result:

*I have full consent from Georgina to use these photos on my blog*

It looks so cool!! The brushstrokes are so much more believable and otherworldly than mine. The brushstroke mass is a lot denser, so it will be helpful when painting areas of the canvas where the brushstrokes are this dense.
The whole scene looks so strange and weird. But there is also something in it that is familiar?
They shapes of the brushstrokes are not very similar to my painting brushstrokes. Georgina’s are much denser and the direction of them in a lot more horizontal, with shapes wrapping around each other. But nevertheless this was really interesting to do!

This got me thinking about future instillation work. And it has proven that light (and dark) greatly affect the atmosphere of an image/ painting.

I will be referring back to these images lots when I am painting.

Visit to Manchester Art Gallery 26.02.20

I visited to see what was on at the moment. I saw the Jerwood Makers Open.

Thought this body of work was interesting because it is based on forests! The work is by two artists who call themselves ‘Forest + Found’. From what I can remember the work was about expressing the experience of a forest in tactile ways. This is what it says on their website:

Working in both the visual arts and contemporary craft, artists Max Bainbridge and Abigail Booth draw upon a background in painting and sculpture, whilst looking towards a newly developed language of craft. They work on objects independently, to produce installations and displays that form dialogues between landscape, material and process as they navigate the changing context of the maker. Driven by a deep relationship to the land they work with raw materials sourced directly from landscapes in and around the UK.

Considering how tactile the material is is something I have not ever considered in my work and I find this interesting. The material that makes my painting is very independent from the landscape I paint in and am describing the experience of. The idea that the material can carry a message is a new concept to me.
I can’t say the idea of a forest conveyed itself to me through the artwork. The wooden bowls etc do much more so than the fabric paintings. The wooden works carry a sense of location and time with them, since the wood reflects its time of growth, its time of transformation into an object, and its time being the object.
The fabric paintings seem meditative to me, which is intentional according to the website.
Having the two pieces: the wooden objects and the abstract fabric ‘paintings’ next to each other produces an interesting dialogue between the two. Placing a craft object next to a high fine art object is interesting!

In the family play room (which I love) there was this video set up with a bench in front of it:

It was eye-catching. The big projection screen was playing time-lapses of Manchester from lots of different angles and times of day. I wondered if the videos were shot looking out from inside the museum. The angles all differed a lot. Some of big zoomed-out landscapes, some really zoomed in on sidewalks, or of people or looking into windows of buildings.
The TV screen on the left was also of time-lapses, but a grid of ones this time, I was less attracted to this screen.
I don’t know why this instillation was in there, but I think it worked extremely well. All of the other parts of the big family room were playful, childish things like big foam building blocks and tables for colouring (other than the big white amazing dress of display amongst the toys, that was also fab). So in a place for kids and families, having these screens feels different and it seems like a wonderful place for it. Perhaps whilst the children are playing, the adults can sit and watch the videos. In the back drop of childish play people can contemplate the city they are in and the goings-ons in it. I love this. Because that’s certainly what I did! I sat on the bench and watched the time-lapse. The big room filled with a contemplative, playful, collaborative space. Much inspo for curating / making art spaces!

Interesting text from Giovanelli room (photo on phone).

Out of the Crate exhibition

This artwork is constructed really interestingly!:

The way the card is bound together with hole punches and wire tying the paper together. This is really cool! Making this intense, wrapping, moving, coiling, stretching, contracting, swirling sculpture. Both playful and deadly serious.