Big painting adding the structure

Exciting to imagine the sculpture on the painting.

Three stage of translating the sculpture onto the projector. I was about to begin drawing the sculpture free hand on the acetate but then I realised why am I not just printing the image and tracing it?
I did this and it worked like a dream! It meant the traced projection was exactly the right proportions and angles as the sculpture and photograph. I will use this process in the future.

This what the projection looked like on the painting. It was then a matter of painting the white lines on following this projection. For detailed as I went thought and techniques of this painting process see my mini sketchbook.

Finished painting

I’m really happy with the final painting. And it really demonstrates the potential of this new process! This term has really been about finding a process of making sculptures and translating them well onto the canvas, and this painting is a culmination of all my learnings and refinements on this process.

The depth of the dome part of the sculpture was far harder to capture than I expected. But with the help of the sculpture the depth of the paint brushes shows through. Having two layers of domes made up of the curves really shows here because you can see one of the layers is less covered by brushstrokes than the other and so not so high up.

Big canvas painting process

This is the first big painting of this term, but my process and scale etc is all built on what I was doing the term before. There are however a few changes I made to the painting process for this piece which has changed because of feedback I have had on previous paintings, and the want for an easier process.

I had a comment this term when talking with one of the tutors that my colours are a little dull in last terms canvases. He wondered whether my turps was dirty, and I said that it definitely was! I have worked in the past with greeny-muddy coloured turps because I have only had slightly muddy turps to work with and only one pot of it outside with me, which quickly gets even muddier.
The other reason I thought my painting might be muddy is because the palette size I had outside was tiny compared to the size of my brushes.
For this painting I wanted to change my outdoor painting system to address these problems.

The Muddy Turps Problem addressed

I brought two containers for turps to go in this time. And worked with clean turps instead of muddy stuff.

Too small paint palette addressed

Before I had a white tile that I was used to using in the studio or when I didn’t have my massive glass palette:

This tile was hardly any wider than my biggest brush, but it was also extremely heavy and so impractical for carrying outside.

I don’t have a big enough reusable palette for this, but yesterday before I went out painting I had the not so radical idea to use greaseproof paper taped to a cardboard sheet instead! This is a cheap and customisable mock up of the fancy reusable palettes you can buy.
For this I taped two layers of greaseproof paper to the thick card, with the idea that when one layer got too messy I could take it off and have a fresh one beneath. The thick card was also super light! And I could slot it at the back of the canvas when carrying everything outside.

This worked so well!

Before I started painting. These are the colours I used.

You can see ^ the flat palette knife here that I used for the first time outside to clean the palette and mix colours. This worked so much better than mixing paint with a brush. Mixing with a big brush meant all the paint would get pushed inside the massive brush head and I would waste so much paint because it got trapped in there! Mixing with a palette knife was far more controlled and meant I could mix in a smaller paint with less paint wasted.

The mess! After I finished the canvas.

You can see on this image^ that the colours I was mixing hardly mixed because there was enough space for colours to sit side by side. And having two layers worked really well as well.


I did a sketching session before bringing the canvas outside where I wondered through the woods and found the spot I wanted to return to and paint. I picked this spot because the canopy was so dense I could hardly see the sky! And the colour palette was lovely and springy and fresh green. The trees in the foreground were also arranged in a shape that I imagined my most recent sculpture would fit into well.

Doing this pre painting sketching session was very useful because I could explore locations without having to lug the canvas around to do so.

The weather was still, cloudy and warm. It had rained heavily an hour before and so everything looked and smelt lush, and it felt like it could rain again soon, luckily it stayed dry the whole time.

The painting in stages

I tried to apply paint really thickly onto the canvas towards the end of the process. This was due to thinking about the thickness of paint earlier this term. I used lots of Liquin towards the end for thickness and so colours wouldn’t blend together, and used less turps than in the past because turps removes texture and thickness.

The finished painting

The colours are so much brighter than anything I’ve painted before! This is fitting since I painted this in spring. And previous canvases were painted before the everything blossomed etc.

I’m not sure how I feel about nearly all the colours being very bright. I was talking to some people in my studio and they were saying how they liked the pastel colours in my previous paintings, and they seemed to describe the colour palette of a woodland more accurately. I think a good medium would be to use muddier colours but also know how I can achieve brighter colours if I wanted them, and use a larger spectrum of bright and muddy colours:

Overall I’m happy with how this painting turned out. My painting process and been refined and I learnt far more than I thought I would.
Applying thick paint with Liquin at the end of the process, turps at the start and pure paint in the middle. This process works really well and this painting has more texture and depth of marks than ever before (harking back to Howard Hodgkins when I think about paint layering and depth).

It was really fun to do one of these big paintings in a new season. I’m looking forward to adding the structure on top.

Second Paper Mache Sculpture Process

I was writing in my sketchbook that I wanted this final sculpture of the term to be geometric. But when I sketched ideas out in my sketchbook I realised that fan faults are the most iconic Cathedral architectural feature, so this is a shape I need to explore! This shape is both simple and intricate and so I thought it would be interesting to see translated back onto the canvas.

I used super tough wire for the armature of this sculpture and it worked so much better than the thin wire I had been using before! I could manipulate one end of the wire without the other being distorted as well, which made the process of getting straight lines and smooth curves so much easier.

The part I struggled with the most for this stage was attaching lots of layers of wire ends to each corner of the octagon frame. It began easily, using thin wire to tie two ends of wire frame together. But I ended up attatching so many ends to each corner that I ran out of wire, but also each corner got unnecessarily bulky.
It would have been better in retrospect to have more wire, because more wraps of wire made for stronger attachments, but also, instead of making each curve as I went and adding the curves one at a time, it may have been better to make all the curves before hand, and tie them all together at once, attaching all of them to each corner of the octagon frame at once. When I make more structures in the future of this kind I’ll try this method.

I did consider just leaving the wire armature as the finished sculpture. The corners of the sculpture were ugly, but the wire on top did look so smooth and pretty. I knew however that I needed to add the paper mache because that meant I could smooth out the corners and paint it white as planned.

Another reason for adding paper mache that I realise only now having completed the sculpture is that covering up the wire and painting the structure white makes the shape look like nothing recognisable. When the structure was wire, the making of the sculpture was obvious – the maker had bent wire and attached it together to make this pretty shape. But when the wire is covered up and painted, the making process is far less obvious and the focus becomes the mystery and weirdness of the object, instead of the familiar artist’s process that made the object.

Painting the paper mache white removed so much of the surface texture and shadows of the piece. It makes the lines look a lot smoother and refined.

Finished sculpture thoughts and next

I’m super happy with how this sculpture turned out!
Structurally it’s very strong. Using thick wire plus the paper mache and a complex set of structures on top means it is sturdy and stands easily on its own.
Visually it looks best from either looking down on the top or looking up from below. The size of the sculpture means it’s tall enough to be explored from all angles (the size also meant it was big and easy to work with the shapes, too small = too fiddly).
The curves of the arches are a great nod to cathedral architecture but the shape is simple and repetitive, and I’m happy that the shapes created by the curves from above or below are fairly symmetrical.

I can’t think of anything I could have done better at this stage, not because I think it’s perfect, but because I need to see how well the sculpture works in my paintings before I can say. Also this is such an explorative branch of my work – making these sculptures, all I want to say is ‘cool, now let’s make another one.’

Now I focus on drawing the sculpture, first in my sketchbook, then onto acetate, then onto a big canvas!

Using a projector in the painting process

Why haven’t I done this before!?

I was home one evening talking about my work and I was reminded of using a projector to project shapes onto the canvas to get proportions right etc.

SO I found an overhead projector – I chose this instead of a digital one because I can still hand draw the shape I want to project onto the painting.

Acetate proved the best paper (not greaseproof paper which I originally tried). This is the drawn shape, based on a photo of the sculpture and the most successful sketch in my sketchbook.

The I projected it onto the painting and traced the white lines on top! This made my life so much easier omg.

The result is so much more exact than the previous two paintings. I’m going to use this method from now on!

The thing I need to refine now is how I draw the sculpture – how far do I reduce the shape down to single lines? Here I think the structure is too curvy and complicated.

Second experiment drawing sculpture into a painting

First of all I did a series of sketches in my sketchbook, this was the most successful and so I wanted a sketch like this but more refined on the painting.

Turns out it is a lot harder to paint this shape onto the painting than I expected!! Problems with the process of this experiment:
– No ruler used to measure proportions or draw straight lines. When the structures I was drawing were very geometric I used a ruler for everything and it guaranteed nice lines.
– I couldn’t think of any material that I could draw the structure with that was easily erasable when I made a mistake. The easiest was just going straight in with white acrylic paint, and wiping it away when I did something wrong. This is a slow process! And without being able to roughly mark the shape before I fill in the details I went very proportionally wrong very easily.

Problems with the finished painting:
– Structure is very curly and wobbly. The reason my geometric structures worked so well in the past was because they were angular and straight and so were a direct contrast to the curvy random blocks of colour.
– The legs are too thick. They draw too much attention. This just requires more patience for drawing very thin precise lines! Using a ruler would help a lot.

This is such an important part of my painting I need to get this process and drawing right!!!
Improvements for the next test:
– I had a grand idea last night: use an overhead projector to project an accurate drawing onto the painting! This should work far better.
– Use a ruler!
– Use one kind of paintbrush throughout so for now the lines are all the same thickness.

Sculpture drawing at an angle

This went terribly!!!

I did no practice, I just started on the paper – turns out that was not a good idea!

I first mapped out only the lines, following the pattern I made when drawing the sculpture straight on. But the shape didn’t make any sense. So i blocked in the white to see how that would look.

That looked slightly better, but still very terrible.

The I thought well it’s not working so I’ll just add grey shading and see what that does.

I used a white posca pen to do the white, because it is smoother and faster than acrylic paint, for these experiments.

What works

Laying the structure on top and underneath the paint layers. Although this was hard to do because the painting was so dense with brushstrokes and I hadn’t planned it.

White colour. Contrasts well against everything else.

Blocking in areas in white of the shape. Actually works surprisingly well. It makes the shape make more sense as a design. If the sculpture had less blocked areas, filling in with white would be less obtrusive.

What doesn’t

Grey shading. Helps to create dimension, but if the drawing and sculpture is good enough, it shouldn’t need it!

Wobbly legs. Just use a ruler! The more exact the better. For some reason all the things I learnt, such as exactness and measuring from last term went out of the window.

The whole thing! The sculpture is not drawn accurately enough to make sense and so it fails.

The angle of the sculpture and where it is placed. Needs to be planned and considered. Having a less confused painting underneath would help with this.

Scale. The bigger the more all encompassing and vast. But I knew this, and I will be going bigger v soon.


Plan my next attempt! Use digital editing to do so.

Practice drawing the sculpture at these angles in my sketchbook.