Final Painting of the Project

I walked around the woodland, absorbing the atmosphere and deciding where I wanted to paint. In the end I decided to paint in the same location that I did my last painting. The height and grandeur of the scene is perfect for the atmosphere I want to capture, and it works well having the same scene focused on for both A1 pieces, since I stood in the same spot for the fist A1 piece I did.

I completed the piece over two nights, working from sunset to darkness. Until it was pitch black.

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I found the work really came together as the darkness came, my process (similar to the A3 pieces) was to work light to dark, adding the richest, darkest, most opaque colours last under torch light. Witnessing the changing light and mood, and not just the scene in front of me but the whole woodland surrounding me, created a piece that I don’t think could be replicated in a studio.

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I decided to use a similar shape of structure for the two pieces, since the shape was inspired by the same scene, it naturally meant the structures took similar shape.

I am very pleased with how the two pieces look together, there is a real sense of light and dark, which is reflected in the two images of the view from where I stood when painting.

I considered having a dark background to the painting completed at night, so when the tape was removed it revealed a black background. However looking at the two pieces next to each other, I realise the same white lines is what ties the pieces together.

A number of artists have been influential in this project, such as Howard Hogdkins (from Lent term but still relevant to this project) and Maria Chevska. But the artist Piet Mondrian (from Lent term) progressed his style in a similar light to my work; gradually moving towards abstraction. His work started as expressive landscapes and eventually settled on extreme abstraction. This pairing back of work is something that I investigated at the beginning of my investigation into woodland, but couldn’t relate to at the beginning of the project. I was very much settled on the idea of describing the world around me in a more literal sense. Now however, I can see that abstract painting offers the potential to capture something deeper and closer to human experience than an accurate depiction of a landscape.

I am happy with the conclusion of this project, I have found my own language with paint, which I would like to continue exploring and refining in the future.

Adding ink landscapes back into my work?

This A3 test in my sketchbook combines an ink painting of woodland, using the technique I developed last term, with the abstract paintings in acrylic layered on top. Normally I paint the acrylic en plein air, but for the purposes of this test I worked in my studio, from a photograph, because the important test here is combining styles and working in the studio meant I could get my idea down much more quickly.

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After completing the experiment, I know that this style is not something I want to explore further now. Perhaps if I continue with this work after the project ends, I could push the idea further but there needs to be a lot of adjustments to the style and method, a lot of time and experimentation, and from this experiment I can’t see it having enough potential to be worth taking forward.

The issue is that the combination of both ink painting and abstract colour leaves the piece feeling very busy. So busy that neither style has space to show it’s full potential. The piece is left feeling messy and confused.

I am glad I did this small experiment, it has shown me that moving forward I want to focus on abstract lines and shapes. I think the reason I brought the ink back was because my comfort zone up until now has been work with recognisable descriptions of the world – not in total abstraction. So I had a calling from past paintings to bring back recognisable shapes into my work. I now know that for this work to be successful I need to embrace the abstraction, since that is where my work is being most successful and has the most potential.

Wire test for line work

I wanted to make a wire sculpture of the shapes I have been adding to my paintings to help me draw lines with angles that create the illusion of depth more effectively. It is hard to tell whether a viewer of my work would be able to ‘see’ the depth of the shapes I am sketching, since I am so invested in the idea. Perhaps I should test the shapes on people unconnected to my project and see what they perceive.

I wanted a small scale piece, that used less wire and was easier to move around. But I realised whilst making it, that working on a bigger scale with the thickness of wire I had would have been easier.

After getting a guide with the wire, I transferred the images to Photoshop and added black straight lines on top. These lines would be my guides when adding shapes to paintings in the future:

Doing this small scale test has helped me to know how I can create the illusion of towering box shapes with simple abstract lines.

(I am going to test these images on people and see how easily they can see the shapes.)

A1 Experiment

This the space I picked to paint in for the next experiment. Before I settled on this spot, I walked around the woods, looking around lots and thinking carefully about what sense of the space I wanted to capture in the work.

I chose this area to paint in because in front of the easel (in the photos above) there was an opening in the trees, allowing a canopy of branches at the top and trees on all sides – reminiscent of the rectangular shapes I am adding to my paintings.

I painted the piece in two sittings, both at similar times of the day, similar weather and in the same spot – I wanted the painting to describe one continuous experience, instead of two very different sittings.

When applying the tape, I decided to apply a few initial areas of colour before putting the tape down. I suspected this would make the white lines feel less stark and flat.

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This is the finished piece, after removing the tape, I am very pleased with the outcome.

What worked well

Adding layers of paint before putting tape down worked really well to add depth to the painting, implying an experience has multiple layers to it, which I think it does – since there is memory, present surroundings, emotion, sound, sight, touch, smell etc. all layered up in any present experience. < Thinking about this now suggests I could be layering more then?

Working over two days worked at creating a more considered atmosphere. The choice of colour and paint marks felt more informed; I had more time to see the piece with fresh eyes and come to better conclusions about what the piece needed to be finished.

The scale worked really well because it meant I could fit more texture, colour and create an atmosphere of space on the paper (which is what I want since the woods have a strong sense of space and height). I used the same size brushes than the smaller pieces, and these sizes I think are suited to A1 scale work (and maybe larger?).

What I’ve Learnt from this piece 

  • Working bigger is more effective.
  • Layering under and over the tape works extremely well – there is potential here?
  • Painting in multiple sittings and taking more time to consider my choices when painting is evidently a more successful method of working.
  • I might benefit from using a more accurate method for adding the rectangular shape to the paper. This would create a better illusion.

What Next 

I need to collect my thoughts and review the project before making any more conclusions about where my work could go. Since the end of this project is fast approaching I need to work towards a conclusion.

Experimenting

Two A2 pieces completed in the woods. I decided to take more time to do these. Instead of quickly applying paint and moving on, I set myself up in a location more permanently. It meant I could pause and consider more between layers, and could take more time to look and be in my surroundings.

These are the two pieces before I added lines. One of the pieces I wanted to test putting tape down on location before painting on top.

I took more time to think about the texture and thickness of layers before applying them. Adding a larger range of thick and thin applications to create more depth.

Due to all these new approaches to painting outside, the style of these experiments seems more successful. I have noticed I am drawn to scenes of clearings in the trees above, and areas of space below the canopy surrounded by trees trunks. This kind of scene seems to give me a good framework for painting, and connects well with the framework of lines I am adding to the pieces.

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After completing the painting in the woods, I made a small sketch of the shape of the structure I wanted to add in ink once back in the studio. I thought about adding the ink outside, but practically, painting them back in the studio seems simpler.

I used a thinner brush than before to add the ink lines, which I think works better because the black doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the painting. Practising on A4 paper before works really well.

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For this second experiment I put down thin strips of masking tape once I had decided where I would be painting outside. The tape underneath creates much sharper, lighters lines that appear to have more structure and sharper corners.

However I do like the immediacy of the ink on top, except it is not as obvious with the ink that I am attempting to draw a dimensional structure.

What next? 

So these experiments have worked really well. I like using both the ink and the tape to create the structure, so they need to be tested more before I choose to only use one.

It might also be worth testing some more structural line drawings using a more technical method, working out which angles work to create the illusion of a three-dimensional shape. Perhaps constructing a model would help with that?

I am thinking that next I should work on a larger scale, perhaps on board so that I can have better setup when painting in the woods.

The larger scale will give me more space to push my abstract colour forward, and more space to paint structures that will have a sense of the height and grandeur I am trying to capture.

 

Experimenting

I spent the afternoon outside, drawing, walking and painting in my sketchbook, finishing with this A2 below. Based on the view I had looking up at the sky.

Because of all the prep work I had done before working on paper, I felt confident with the paint and the setting, and was happy with the outcome. I like how the paint gets more concentrated towards the centre of the canvas. However I still don’t know whether I like seeing the stark white background around the edges, or if it would be better to have the background a colour.

Then, when I got back to the studio I added ink lines to the sketchbook pieces first, and then to this paper piece. Doing some small tests next to it first to work out what shape would work.

Adding the lines back in the studio is a less intinctual way of working, I only had the painting and an image of the woodland scene to base the lines on. Next time I want to try adding the lines immediately after the acrylic has dried, when I am still in the woods.

Overall I am happy with the outcome of the piece, and think is a positive start. I want to try different forms of lines next time, perhaps a thinner brush to apply the ink, or putting tape down before painting so the lines reveal the background.

The method of spending some time in the woods painting and drawing before doing a final piece at the end seems to work well, I’ll continue this method in the future.

 

Artist Clare Maria Wood

I want to look at the work of Clare Wood, specifically her paintings of woodlands. Her use of paint and abstract subject will help me to explore how I can paint abstractly in my work yet still give the viewer a sense of the subject and atmosphere of the scene.

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Her day begins with an early morning dog walk in the woods, where she can immerse herself in the landscape. Then she returns to the studio:

Back in the studio, Clare works intuitively, to begin with, usually on several pieces at the same time, which allows her to see what is working and expand on ideas.She builds layers of paint, drawn marks and collage and scrapes back into the surface to reveal flashes of previous marks and colours, allowing the history of each piece to take centre stage. As paintings develop she then takes a more critical approach, refining and resolving areas while striving to keep the energy of the initial marks.

From Wood’s website.

This idea of working intuitively is an important part of my working process as well. It’s interesting that she works in the studio to create her work. It makes sense, since the paintings suggest a general experience has been captured, instead of a single moment in time. I get the sense of a general experience through the application of paint; the colours and marks generally blend into one another, with broad sweeping statements.

If the paintings were to be inspired by a more specific, single moment, the paintings might have more distinct form to them.

Interestingly all the pieces I have included in this post have names that support the idea that she paints inspired by general experiences. Since the names of the pieces are ‘Winter Woods II’ and ‘Woodland Secrets’ etc. However there is one piece I’ve included here – the bottom, portrait in teals and oranges, which is called ‘Crowing Glory’. As she mentions on her Instagram this piece is inspired by some woodland flowers, a less general subject. And you can tell her subject is more specific because the piece is busier, with more defined shapes and more contrasting colours.

The contrast between general experience and single moments is something I have witnessed in my own work as well, with the colour pieces in my A3 sketchbook.

Perhaps there is a way of playing with this contrast in my work? By layering general experiences and single moments

 

Ink Experiments

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I completed these ink drawings to test using line and angles to create depth in my work. My plan was to keep experimenting with these before layering the lines over and under my abstract colour paintings.

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I used this photograph for experiments 1 and 2.  

At first the lines were quite random, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to capture height using the lines. The first two experiments appear flat and too random because of that. Then I took a step back and thought about how normally I might want to create the illusion of depth in a sketch – the recession of lines to make it look like lines moving into the distance.

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Photograph for tests 3,4,5,6,7. 

I picked a portrait photograph this time, because the trees appear more elongated, making it an easier feature to capture.

I started to simplify the tests here, using less lines but ones that are placed more strategically. I used the lines of the trees and the space of the sky to map out the shape. And this ended up creating these long tunnel like shapes that appear to recede into the distance (test 5,6,7).

These shapes remind me of a closed canopy of trees, which is the suggestion I was intending to create.

So these ink tests have shown potential for creating more dimension in my work. I want to test the shapes layering against the abstract colour work I have been doing.

I want to try applying tape to the paper and painting on top, so once the tape has been removed, the shapes are revealed.

I also want to branch out of my sketchbook, putting more pieces on my studio wall so I can see how the project is advancing.

Artist Maria Chevska

Foremost a painter whose works emerge through the interaction of idea, material, and process, she values the ability to embody the unseen, unique to this medium, yet often expanding its boundaries and its potential agency, through a wider multi-disciplinary practice.

Website: http://www.mariachevska.com/index.htm

I want to research this artist in more detail after discovering her work in the exhibition catalogue from ‘Landscape, Memory, and Place’.

“…applied marks in matte blackboard paint – fragmenting the painting surface. This complexity interested me…to be in dialogue with ordinary things and not only the world of ‘painting’…I thought it had new potential for my practice.”

Paint and Materiality – interview with Maria Chevska.

Painting connected to the world, instead of a blank canvas in the studio, separated physically and emotionally from outside experience – this is why I paint outside, perhaps why I cover the canvas in paint outside, then return in the studio to bring a piece together (referring to early idea in A5 sketchbook).

“painting is an abstraction inasmuch as its very existence signifies what it cannot be.”

‘Interweaving Language: The Art of Maria Chevska’ by Ann Hindry.

“Maria Chevska’s works are about collapsing the past into the present, about letting the body spread out into the world, about collapsing the world into the mind.”

‘Painting as Séance: The recent work of Maria Chevska’ by Tony Godfrey

Chevska’s paintings seem to address the subject of space, of physicality and colour as a carrier of these messages.

The lack of subject in her work is what causes the viewer to notice the space surrounding a painting. It’s the use of texture and line that moves off the edge of the canvas that implies a relationship between the room and the painting.

Chevska’s use of paint to create depth points out the size of the exhibition space, reminding the viewer of the paintings materiality.

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After looking at the work of Maria Chevska I want to experiment with space in my paintings. An important aspect of these woodland paintings is capturing the height and scale of tall trees and big woodland. At the beginning of this project (Lent Term) the most successful ink paintings of woodland were ones that captured the height of the trees. I want to continue to capture this scale, but in a more suggestive and abstract form – looking at using lines and angles in my work might help me to do this.

To begin with I am going to do some simple experiments in my studio, using photos and videos taken from the woodland where I paint, as well as the colour sketchbook paintings, to inspire me.